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As we've all trudged our way through the economic downturn, the word "staycation" has become extremely popular. As a native San Diegan, I've always thought our community to be one of the few that could really qualify as a place worth spending hard-earned vacation time in. Of late, that opinion's been confirmed by several hospitality industry groups.

Last week, U.S. News & World Report put out their list of the nation's best hotels and three San Diego County properties made the cut. The top vote-getter was Rancho Valencia, a luxe 49-suite hideaway nestled in Rancho Santa Fe, that made it all the way to number seven. What's most impressive about that they scored so high despite being a bit dated. Rancho Valencia is currently in the midst of a $20 million renovation that will update their villas and bring forth a completely revamped restaurant concept. It will be interesting to see how they do next year with all of their updates in place. Coming in not far behind at number 13 was The Grand Del Mar, followed distantly, but admirably by The Lodge at Torrey Pines at 141.

For staycationers who are more about hotel amenities (i.e. - hotel bars), industry publication Nightclub & Bar just named The Grant Grill the Best Hotel Bar in America. Located inside the historic U.S. Grant Hotel, this contemporary lounge has flourished under the direction of Jeff Josenhans, a mixologist whose come up with such innovations as a flower-based cocktail list and bottle-conditioned drinks (cocktails stored under pressure in champagne bottles with yeast and sugar) since coming to Grant Grill in 2008.

Saving money on airfare and using it on lush local lodgings and top shelf booze sounds sound to me. Rancho Valencia is located at 5921 Valencia Circle and The Grant Grill is located at 326 Broadway.

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