50 San Francisco Hotels for under $100
Phillips, Jeff, Sunset
Leave your heart but not your wallet-these hotels, inns, and B & Bs are bargain bedrooms by the bay
There are myths about visiting San Francisco that are as persistent as its morning fog. One is that there are no great hotels in the city offering rooms for less than $100 a night. Here we have 50 that prove otherwise. * This is good news for travelers who have watched San Francisco's room rates rise to among the nation's highest. According to Robert Mandelbaum, director of research at PKF Consulting, which tracks the hospitality industry, San Francisco has the fastest-growing hotel room rates of any major city in the nation, with a 12 percent increase the first half of this year alone. A stay at any of the city's four-star hotels now costs at least $200, and a basic double room at the Ritz-Carlton-the top San Francisco hostelry in the latest Zagat Survey: U.S. Hotels, Resorts fs Spas-will set you back a cool $275. * But in a recent Sunset survey of 300 hotels, motels, inns, bed-and-breakfasts, and even a youth hostel, we turned up a number of surprisingly good values. Each of the places listed below offers rooms this time of year for less than $100, single occupancy, not including taxes or parking. * We stayed-anonymously-at our top picks, and subjected all 50 selections to a rigorous, 10-point inspection. We found that many of our top-tier lodgings are true gems. Rooms range from spacious to dinky; some have shared baths down the hall. And parking can be a block or two away But each property is one-of-a-kind-some in historic buildings, others with hot tubs, cool gardens, or cozy parlors. * The lodgings in our lists of "Other Good Bets" generally lack such frills. Yet all are clean and comfortable. And with the money you save-well, there's a whole city to spend it in.
This is the gilt-windowed, traffic-throttled heart of San Francisco. Big-name department stores surround the square; boutiques line Post and Sutter streets. The theater district straddles Geary Street, Chinatown is a few blocks north, and at Powell and Market streets, the little cable cars begin their climb....
Beresford Arms. Families couldn't find a better downtown base. Double rooms at this recently refurbished hotel start at $99, but the Beresford also has 38 suites with kitchens, which, at a top rate of $160, beat the usual family plan of renting adjoining rooms. 701 Post; (415) 673-2600 or (800) 533-6533. 96 rooms from $99, but ask about discounts and be certain your reservation isn't confused with the hotel's nearby sister property, Beresford Hotel (see "Other Good Bets"). Continental breakfast; valet parking $15.
Cartwright Hotel on Union Square.
Guests still ride the original, ivy-painted elevator dating from the hotel's opening in 1913, and rooms are clean and comfortable. Nintendo games play on the TV in every room, but air-conditioning is on the first two floors only. 524 Sutter; (415) 4212865 or (800) 227-3844. 114 rooms from $89. Continental breakfast; parking 18.
Commodore Hotel. A Gen-Xers home away from home, the Commodore's lobby bristles with angular, neo-deco furniture; the Red Room bar (its name says it all) will help you regain your bearings over a cocktail. Despite its trendy aura, the hotel is quiet; refurbished rooms offer basic amenities, and most are amply sized, though bathrooms are small. 825 Sutter; (415) 923-6800 or (800) 338-6848. 112 rooms from $89. Parking $14.
Cornell Hotel. M. and Mme. Claude Lambert have run this charming French country-style hotel for 30 years. Each floor is decorated with reproductions of work by a famous artist, and rooms are large, quiet, and fresh-smelling with-surprise-cedar-lined closets. Thick towels and a hair dryer are provided in each bathroom. Don't miss breakfast in the tapestrylined restaurant, Jeanne d'Arc, where a $22 fixed-price four-course dinner is also served every day except Sunday. Ask about the weekly package including breakfast and dinner. 715 Bush St.; (415) 421-3154 or (800) 232-9698. 52 rooms from $90. Full breakfast; parking $13.
Marines' Memorial Club. To be a true San Franciscan is to know about secret spots like the Skyroom Restaurant on the 12th floor of the Marines' Memorial Club-few places are better for a dusky drink than this cozy aerie. City visitors can improve on the experience by actually staying at the club. If you find military memorabilia off-putting, this isn't the place for you. But the prices are reasonable, and the rooms would pass any drill sergeant's inspection. 609 Sutter; (415) 673-6672 or (800) 562-7463. Members must be activeduty or former military personnel. Membership costs $60 a year. Member rates for the 137 rooms start at $75 for a double ($10 extra Fri-Sat). The comparable rate for nonmembers is $110. Street parking.
Maxwell Hotel. Maybe it's the jazzy black-and-red color scheme, or the theatergoers parading smartly past the lobby windows. Whatever it is, the Maxwell has a Manhattan snap to it-Manhattan, say, around the time of Lullaby of Broadway. You expect wisecracking bellhops, and Joan Blondell as the hotel telephone operator. Be aware, though, that the number of $99 rooms is very limited, and while pleasant and clean, they may not have been lifted to the level of their more expensive neighbors down the hall. 386 Geary; (415) 98)2000 or (888) 734-6299. 153 rooms from $99. Parking $17.
A WORD ABOUT PRICES
A word of caution about the room rates in this article: By the time you read this, they may have changed. They may be lower. Or higher. Hotels are turning to computerized pricing systems to maximize occupancy by manipulating price. Within an hour, one chain hotel quoted us three different rates for a standard room.
In San Francisco, November through March is low season. which, except for major holiday weekends, offers the most lodging availability and the lowest room rates. Downtown business hotels have greater availability on weekends, while neighborhood inns tend to fill up on weekends and may charge higher rates or require two-night stays.
Rates we quote are published "rack rates" for November, but nothing is absolute.
OTHER GOOD BETS
Allison Hotel. Functional hotel with tiny rooms. 417 Stockton St; (415) 986-8737 or (800) 628-6456. 87 rooms from $59 with shared bath, $89 with private bath. Continental breakfast; parking $15.
Amsterdam Hotel. Rooms on the third and fourth floors are renovated with reproduction antiques-but still look a little plain. 749 Taylor St.; (415) 673-3277 or (800) 637-3444. 34 rooms from $79. Continental breakfast; parking $13.
Andrews Hotel. Ride an antique elevator up to tiny but nicely done rooms with minuscule bathrooms. 624 Post; (415) 563-6877 or (800) 926-3739. 48 rooms from $89. Continental breakfast; parking $12.
Beresford Hotel. West-facing rooms on upper floors are lighter; some rooms need paint, and furnishings are getting a little tired. 635 Sutter, (415) 673-9900 or (800) 533-6533. 114 rooms from $99. Continental breakfast; parking $15.
Fitzgerald Hotel. Small and plain; some rooms are dark even at noon. 620 Post; (415) 775-8100 or (800) 334-6835. 40 rooms from $59. Continental breakfast; parking $10.
Golden Gate Hotel. Really a B & B with some garden-view rooms; pets by arrangement. 775 Bush; (415) 392-3702 or (800) 835-1118. 25 rooms from $65 with shared bath, $99 with private bath. Continental breakfast; parking $12.
Grant Plaza Hotel. This Chinatown hotel's small, spare rooms are a deal; request a roomier corner unit or a room on the renovated sixth floor. 465 Grant Ave.; (415) 434-3883 or (800) 472-6899. 72 rooms from $59. Parking $11.50.
Nob Hill Pensione. A hangout for European travelers, who don't balk at lodgings with bathrooms down the hall. 835 Hyde St.; (415) 8852987. 40 rooms from $50 with shared bath, $70 with private bath. Continental breakfast; parking $10. Stratford Hotel. Bare-bones but done with elan. 242 Powell; (415) 397-7080 or (888) 504-6835. 102 rooms from $45 with shared bath, $65 with private bath. Parking $13.
IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD * Macy's, Saks, Nordstrom
*Union Square holiday ice skating and decorations
*Grant Avenue, Chinatown
* Powell-Mason cable car line
* Classic meal: Pancakes at Sears' Fine Foods
* North Beach/ Fisherman's Wharf
Stretching from topless joints along Columbus Avenue to the waterfront attractions of Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39, this neighborhood is one of the liveliest in town. The Beat generation's bohemian heart still pulses in North Beach. Angle down to the wharf area and you'll find that it still has the feeling of a carnival midway, and is still the only place in town where you can buy a crab cocktail to go.
Pensione d'Assisi. The saintly name is but one indication that this new Europeanstyle pension had an earlier calling. Built in 1908 as a rectory for an adjacent church, the Assisi offers plush rooms, a charming roof garden, and, with Caffe Trieste just across the street, easy access to lattes. 610 Vallejo St.; (800) 5531900. 10 rooms from $90 with shared bath. Continental breakfast; parking $20.
San Remo Hotel. The rooms are a bit small. And the walls a little thin. And the bathrooms shared. But what this 1906 Europeanstyle pension has are history and geography (it's within walking distance of Fisherman's Wharf and North Beach). Rooms are homey and clean, and bathrooms-water closets with wood wainscoting and sparkling brass fixtures-have been restored to perfection. The guests are mostly young and European. 2237 Mason St.; (415) 776-8688 or (800) 352-7366. 62 rooms from $50 with shared bath, $100 penthouse. Parking $8.
Travelodge Hotel at Fisherman's Wharf. Location, location, location. It's why you'd stay here, steps from the bay cruise tour boats, the sailing vessels at Hyde Street Pier, and Pier 39. The hotel is standard Travelodge: clean, quiet, fairly spacious rooms with coffeemakers and cable television. Splurge a little and you'll even get a bay view. 250 Beach St.; (415) 392-6700 or (800) 578-7878. 250 rooms from $89. Parking $6.
OTHER GOOD BETS
Columbus Motor Inn. Rooms are spacious but furnishings show wear. Suite at $120 is a great deal for a family of four. 1075 Columbus Ave.; (415) 885-1492. 45 rooms from $82. Free parking.
IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD
* Ferry to Alcatraz
* National Maritime Museum
* Ghirardelli Square
* City Lights Books
* Coit Tower
* Beach Blanket Babylon at Club Fugazi
*Classic meal: Opera and espresso at Caffe Trieste
The real reasons to hang your hat in this neighborhood of Beaux Arts landmarks are the elegantly restored opera house, the symphony hall, and the new Main Library. Although most lodgings are in the seedy Tenderloin District-not recommended for an after-dinner stroll-this area is handy to the Van Ness Avenue/U.S. Highway 101 traffic corridor.
Atherton Hotel. First, the warts: noisy street-facing rooms, a surly night clerk the evening we visited, some bathrooms so small you can't change in them, and inconvenient parking. But this restored 1927 period piece can also be quite charming, with more spacious deluxe king-bed rooms still less than $100 and an English pub just off the comfortable lobby. 685 Ellis St.; (415) 474-5720 or (800) 4745720. 75 rooms from $69. Parking $12.
Phoenix Hotel. We might not recommend this wildly redecorated 1950s motel to an elderly aunt. Anyone else would probably love the place. Our neo-Googie tropical fantasy room boasted yellow walls and purple carpet; outside, a fauvist swimming pool dominates the motel courtyard. Weekend noise levels from live music at the Backflip restaurant can be pretty high. 601 Eddy St.; (415) 77&1380 or (800) 2489466. 44 rooms from 589. Continental breakfast; free parking.
Ramada Plaza Hotel International. Chandeliers sparkle in the plushly carpeted lobby, and upstairs, airy rooms have tall ceilings, lace curtains, and simple, upto-date necessities. Alas, step outside and this gritty stretch of Market Street offers convenience but not charm. 1231 Market; (415) 626-8000 or (800) 227-4747. 458 rooms from $89. Parking S10.
OTHER GOOD BETS
Abigail Hotel. Aging elegance; small rooms decorated with antiques and bright linens. 246 McAllister St.; (415) 861-9728 or (800) 243-6510. 61 rooms from $89. Street parking. Albion House Inn. Very attractive rooms in spite of narrow halls and stairs; lovely dining-living room area for relaxing. 135 Gough St.; (415) 621-0896 or (800) 625-2466. 8 rooms from $95 midweek. Full breakfast; parking $8.
Best Western Americania. Inviting Southwestern feel to nice motel in rough-edged neighborhood; exercisE room and heated pool. 121 Seventh St.; (415) 626-0200 or (800) 4445816. 143 rooms from $94. Free parking.
Essex Hotel. A great deal that Europeans have known about for years; stately lobby, and simple but pleasant, recently remodeled rooms. 684 Ellis; (415) 474-4664 or (800) 4437739 in California, (800) 453-7739 outside California.100 rooms from $49 with shared bath, $69 with private bath. Parking $11.
Super 8 Hotel. Surprisingly atmospheric chain hotel, from the lobby grand piano to the marble fireplace; small but functional rooms. 1015 Geary St.; (415) 673-5232 or (800) 777-3210. 101 rooms from $79. Valet parking $15.
IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD
* Guillaume Tell at the restored War Memorial Opera House
* San Francisco Symphony at Davies Symphony Hall
* Classic meal: Celebrity-gaze at Stars
Ask about discounts. If you aren't a member of AAA, AARP or a frequent-flier program, ask for a corporate rate.
* Plan ahead. But not too far-two months for big hotels or chains and for midweek stays at small inns. (Weekend inn stays may require more notice, as do holiday stays everywhere.) At large chain hotels, you may land better rates by skipping the central reservation tollfree number and calling the hotel direct. Request a written confirmation.
* Lombard Street and the Marina
Lombard Street is San Francisco's motel row for one reason: the Golden Gate Bridge. Come off the bridge and follow the signs to downtown and you quickly end up on noisy, trafficky Lombard, where you'll find a couple of classic roadside gems among the grubby mediocrity. You're close to great dining and shopping on Union and Chestnut streets and to family attractions like the Exploratorium.
Edward II Inn. This nicely updated B & B was built to house visitors to the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition. English country furniture fills the rooms, and the rumble of buses woke us up just before the clock radio went of 3155 Scott St.; (415) 922-3000 or (800) 473-2846. 32 rooms from $74 with shared bath, 594 with private bath. Continental breakfast; limited parking for $9 (reserve).
Fort Mason Youth Hostel. You'll bunk with six people you don't know. You'll wash a dish or two. But the setting is stunning and the clientele is a cross section of the young and the restless from all over the world. Fort Mason, Building 240; (415) 771-7277. 150 beds, S16. Continental breakfast; free parking.
Marina Motel. This 1939 vintage Spanish-style apartment complex near the Palace of Fine Arts has a secluded, flowerfilled courtyard that almost obliterates the din of Lombard traffic. Rooms are simply furnished-friendly rather than fussy For an extra $5 you can get a room with a kitchen, so buy a bag of groceries from Lucca's deli on Chestnut and pretend you're a resident. Each of the units has its own private (but small) garage. 2576Lombard; (415) Cl-3430 or (800) 346-6118. 38 rooms from $65.
OTHER GOOD BETS
Comfort Inn by the Bay. It's that ugly building at Lombard and Van Ness, but rooms from the sixth floor up have breathtaking views of the Golden Gate. 2775 Van Ness; (415) 928-5000 or (800) 228-5150. 138 rooms from $99.95. Continental breakfast; parking $12.
Lombard Motor Inn. Firm mattresses and surprisingly nice views of the bay or Pacific Heights from the second and third floors. 1475 Lombard (at Franklin); (415) 441-6000 or (800) 835-3639. 48 rooms from $68. Free parking.
Marina Inn. A pleasant B & B whose drawback is lack of parking-nearest public garage is 3 1/2 blocks away. 3110 Octavia St.; (800) 274-1420. 40 rooms from $55. Continental breakfast; parking $9.50.
Star Motel. This Lombard Street icon was probably quieter when it was built in the '50s, but what a cool sign! 1727 Lombard (between Octavia and Laguna); (415) 346-8250 or (800) 835-8143. 52 rooms from $69 (winter rates). Free parking.
IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD * Fort Mason cultural center
* Marina Green kite flying
* Exploratorium science museum at the Palace of Fine Arts
* Union Street shopping
* Classic meal: View-filled vegetarian at Greens
* Holiday packages. The San Francisco Visitor Information Center's free Holiday Events Calendar lists hotel packages that include everything from parking to Nutcracker ballet tickets. Call (415) 391-2000.
* Last-minute reservation help. Call (888) 782-9673.
* Out in the neighborhoods
There are good reasons to base at least part of a vacation away from San Francisco's main tourist centers. Perhaps the best is total immersion in San Francisco's neighborhoods, whose charms are immensely varied: the Latin accents of the Mission District, the Asian accents of Japantown, the picturepostcard views of Alamo Square and the Presidio, the flower-power nostalgia of the Haight, and the mists and crashing waves of the Sunset and Richmond districts.
Chateau Tivoli (Alamo Square). This 1892 "painted lady" (pictured on pages 92 and 99) once beguiled legends of literature (Mark Twain) and music (Enrico Caruso), and now pampers mere mortals who want a bed and some breakfast. A couple of the inexpensive rooms (Isadora Duncan's is the prize) share a bathroom, where a gnome-size shower over the claw-foot tub requires a cruel amount of tucking. Be sure to admire the hotel's ceilings-they're a delight. 1057 Steiner St.; (415) 776-5462 or (800) 228-1647. 11 rooms from $90. Continental breakfast; street parking.
Dolores Park Inn (Mission). The brochure promises "affordable Old World charm," and the Dolores delivers-with cozy rooms (most with shared baths, all with one shared telephone) and a largely European clientele. 3641 17th St.; (415) 621-0482. 3 rooms from $79 with shared bath. Two-night minimum stay. Continental breakfast; free parking.
Grove Inn (Alamo Square). The inn's simple Victorian-inspired furnishings may remind you of Grandma's house. Of course, Grandma didn't live on a bus line, and though the buses make the city accessible, things can get noisy. Otherwise, the Grove is comfortable and friendly. Owners provide plenty of information and reading material for guests, and serve a filling continental breakfast. 890 Grove St.; (415) 929-0780 or (800) 829-0780. IS rooms from $70 with shared bath, $95 with private bath. Two parking spots.
Hill Point Bed & Breakfast (inner Sunset). Tucked alongside UCSF on a brick-paved cul-de-sac, the Hill Point offers a retreat from city din-or more accurately five retreats, since the inn comprises several converted houses. Some rooms have stunning views of Golden the rooms in two adjacent houses range from tiny to grand, all are comfortably furnished with antiques. Toward sunset, we climbed a shaky spiral staircase to the rooftop deck for a stunning 360 deg view of the city; the next morning we sipped our coffee in the English garden next to the hot tub. The only drawback is needing to watch where you walk in this neighborhood after dark. 943 S. Van Ness Ave.; (415) 641-0188 or (800) 359-0913. 21 rooms from $85 with shared bath, $115 with private bath; ask for a 15 percent Sunset discount. Continental breakfast; parking $10.
Ocean Park Motel (outer Sunset). A 1930s streamline moderne motor court sleek enough to sail into the nearby Pacific, the Ocean Park features simple, shipshape rooms grouped around a lush interior courtyard. Drawbacks? Way out west in the outer Sunset District, you're far from the major tourist attractions, save for the beach (two blocks west) and the zoo (just across the street). And the rooms lack telephones. (There are two pay phones.) 2690 46th Ave.; (415) 5667020. 24 rooms from $50, rooms with kitchenettes from $60. Free parking.
Seal Rock Inn (outer Richmond). The Seal Rock clings to a hill above Lands End, peering out over Sutro Heights Park to the crashing Pacific. The inn itself is a scrupulously maintained '70s-style motel with spacious rooms done in soothing beiges. Rooms with full ocean views are pricier but in wintertime still come in under $100. 545 Point Lobos Ave.; (415) 752-8000. 27 rooms from $86. Free parking.
Stanyan Park Hotel (Haight). Built in 1904 on the southeastern edge of Golden Gate Park, this Victorian-style hotel lies within easy walking distance of restaurants, shops, museums, and 1,000-plus acres of green space. The period decor is tasteful, and the standard rooms, though small, are comfortable and quiet. 750 Stanyan St.; (415) 7511000. 36 rooms from $89. Continental breakfast; parking $5. Gate Park. Though clean, the carpeting and furniture in our room were ready for replacement. Street parking can be difficult; ask about space in the owner's driveway one block over. 15 Hill Point Ave.; (415) 753-0393. 20 rooms from 550 with shared bath, $ 75 with private bath, $95 for suites with full kitchens. Continental breakfast.
Inn San Francisco (Mission). The inn's hosts boast that this gracious 1872 Victorian is the oldest building in the city now being used for lodging. While
OTHER GOOD BETS
Alamo Square Inn (Alamo Square). Only one guest room falls under our $100 limit, but this inn-which joins Queen Anne and Tudor homes in wedded bliss-is beautiful. 719 Scott St.; (415) 922-2055. 15 rooms from $85. Full breakfast; free parking.
Andera Inn (Mission). Very pleasant Spanish feel to small standard rooms. Rooms with private baths are spacious, though some face a noisy street. 2434 Mission St.; (415) 282-0337 or (800) 9679219. 12 rooms from $69 with shared bath, $99 with private bath. Continental breakfast; overnight parking $5.
Best Western Miyako Inn (Japantown). The Miyako lures Japanese tourists and others with clean, functional rooms and bilingual desk clerks. 1800 Sutter St.; (415) 921 4000 or (800) 528-1234. 125 rooms from $87. Parking $7.50.
Casa Arguello Bed & Breakfast (Presidio). Walk-up row house with homey, slightly funky feel, close to Sacramento Street shopping and Clement Street dining. No telephones. 225 Arguello Blvd.; (415) 752-9482. 5 rooms from $59 with shared bath, $79.50 with private bath. Two-night stay (or one-night $11 surcharge) required on weekends and holidays. Continental breakfast; street parking.
Days Inn at the Beach (outer Sunset). Anonymous but spacious new rooms; near zoo and ocean. 2600 Sloat Blvd. at Great Highway; (415) 665-9000 or (800) 325-2525; 33 rooms from $65. Continental breakfast; free parking.
Laurel Motor Inn (Presidio). Classic, nicely maintained '60s motor inn near Sacramento Street shopping. 444 Presidio Ave.; (415) 567-8467 or (800) 552-8735. 49 rooms from $78. Continental breakfast; free parking.
Monte Cristo (Presidio). Historic 1875 building on busy but convenient stretch of Presidio holds pleasant but not plush B & B. 600 Presidio; (415) 931-1875. 14 rooms from $63 with shared bath, $78 with private bath. Continental breakfast; street parking.
Red Victorian Bed & Breakfast (Haight). Retro-funk rooms with names like the Summer of Love attract hippies of all ages. Tres Haight: be sure to check out the meditation room. 1665 Haight St.; (415) 864-1978. 22 rooms from $86 with shared bath, $120 with private bath. Continental breakfast; street parking.
IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD
* Sunset and Richmond: Lands End hiking, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco Zoo
* Mission District: Mission Dolores, mural art
* Haight: Golden Gate Park, '60s nostalgia
* Presidio: Presidio historic buildings, museum, hiking trails
* Classic meals: Food with attitude at Flying Saucer (Mission), microbrew with a view at Beach Chalet (Richmond)…
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: 50 San Francisco Hotels for under $100. Contributors: Phillips, Jeff - Author. Magazine title: Sunset. Volume: 199. Issue: 5 Publication date: November 1997. Page number: 92+. © 1999 Sunset Publishing Corp. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.