Still deciding on my SF hotel...


Jan 7th, 2004, 06:56 PM
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Still deciding on my SF hotel...

If you saw my previous post, I was ruminating over the Adagio, York, Harbor Court, and Villa Florence. Since it will be our 20th anniv, I have now decided to splurge it up a little. Here's my new set of choices:

Omni-lobby, rooms, service sound great! Campton Place - Some reviews detail less than nice rooms
Huntington Hotel and Spa- not sure, but we won't be spa-ing
Fairmont-can only manage the least expensive room, so I'm worried it won't be right
Park Hyatt - most expensive so far!

Considering we can only manage the standard rooms for any of the above, which would you pick? (I'm leaning towards the Omni, btw)

We'll have four nights in SF, then two in Carmel at the Tickle Pink Inn (a whole other splurgefest!)
teepe54 is offline  
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Jan 7th, 2004, 09:36 PM
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I was recently considering the Fairmont in SF. I have been vey happy with this property at the Sonoma Mission Inn. They also have the Tonga Room at the Fairmont which looks really fun!! Good Luck!! ***kim***
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Jan 8th, 2004, 06:56 PM
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Bumping this up in the hopes that someone else (maybe johncharles?) will respond...thatnks!
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Jan 11th, 2004, 09:47 PM
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Thank you, teepe. It's a pleasure to have one's services in demand.

You certainly have moved up to a different league in your current set of choices--as I'm sure the prices you are looking at attest. Again I urge you to look at the reviews on, where you will find your current group much higher rated on the average than the last--of the 300 hotels they rate, the Omni is ranked #4 based on the reviews they have tabulated, the Park Hyatt is #13, Campton Place #28, the Fairmont #36 and the Huntington #104.

One thing you should know about this group of hotels is that not only are they more expensive as a group, they are also in quieter, more upscale locations. This has its advantages, but it also means that in general, if you have a car, parking will be more expensive; the hotels are less convenient to public transportation, so you probably will be doing amore walking or spending more on taxis; and onsite and nearby dining choices will be more expensive.

I am least familiar with the Omni since it has opened since I left S.F., but I know where it is. I worked in the next block from the Park Hyatt for a couple of years. Both of these hotels are on the edge of the financial district and during the week are probably far more business traveler than tourist hotels. So I imagine that they are excellent values on the weekends and also, especially the Park Hyatt, in areas that are particularly quiet then. The Omni would be a little less quiet (and easier to get to) because it is on both a cable car line and a busy bus line. The Omni is particularly close to Chinatown.

The Park Hyatt is by far the newest building of the four (although the Onmi is a refurbishment which has just recently be completed)although it is in the very oldest part of the city--the Barbary Coast, center of Gold Rush San Francisco. This is now an upscale, gentrified office/showroom area, although many of the buildings are 19th century. It is an interesting place to be, but although quiet, it is actually only 3 blocks or so from the Harbor Court which was my top choice of your last group, and as you remember, I identified that as being in the absolute nerve center of public transportation for the Bay Area and in a "happening" restaurant and entertainment district, so these things are only slightly less true of the Park Hyatt.

While it's possible that the Omni, with which I am not familiar, is even better, the reviews of the Park Hyatt on TripAdvisor are with one exception glowing, and I think that it would rank higher than 13th except for one negative review from a semi-literate reviewer who, it sounds like, may not have posted to the hotel he intended (for instance, he says "there's a reason it's so cheap" which could hardly be describing the quite expensive Park Hyatt, seems to be describing an older building, and says t "the Hyatt nearby is much better.")
It is certainly interestingly located, and I would guess it would probably be the most luxurious of your choices and almost certainly the one with the best service, especially after reading TripAdvisor.

The Campton Place is near Union Square, and actually not far from the Adagio and Villa Florence from your last group, except unlike them it is on the more upscale side of Union Square, away from the Tenderloin. As such, it is quite well located for public transportation and shopping.

The Fairmont and the Huntington are grand old hotels on the top of Nob Hill (on the cable car line, but up a steep uphill grade from everything around.) Both they, and their location, epitomize old money posh in San Francisco. This would be an exciting, if expensive, neighborhood to stay in. The Fairmont, in particular, is one of the country's great old hotels, the mother hotel of the Fairmont chain, a massive stone pile with one of the largest, most impressive and ornate lobbies you will ever see. For many years, it was generally recognized as the city's most prestigious hotel. I remember (I'm giving a hint of my age here) unexpectedly running into Bobby Kennedy on his way in to the Fairmont.
It has a newer tower, whose rooms have spectacular views, and which has a restaurant and bar at the top (the Crown Room)which you should visit in any case for its incredible views, if you do not go to the somewhat lower and older but more famous Top of the Mark across the street. Definitely the Fairmont is a tourist attraction in itself (its exteriors were used for the starring hotel in the old network TV series Hotel) and it would be hard for me to resist staying in it for the excitement of its location, its history, its opulent ambience, and its views. On the other hand, it is by far the largest hotel in your group, and service may not be at the same intimate level as a small luxury hotel. And, if you can only get into the least expensive room, you will probably be in the older, lower portion, more probably without a view and in a very old room (although TripAdvisor indicates there has been extensive recent renovation.)

The nearby Huntington, an old and ornate but much smaller hotel, had the reputation of being a place where very wealthy celebrities (in the sixties, Prince Rainier and Princess Grace among them, I recall) used to stay as offering more quiet and seclusion than the larger and flashier top hotels like the Fairmont, as well as having a clientele of less well known old money types. It had a very haughty aura. However, that was long ago, and I have heard very little about it since. TripAdvisor is not encouraging, and I have the sense that it may have gone downhill. I would say it is probably the riskiest choice.

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Jan 11th, 2004, 10:22 PM
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johncharles, your information is so detailed, you should be a travel agent if you already aren't I live in SF and you've enlightened me about these hotels. Thanks!
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Jan 12th, 2004, 02:47 PM
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Thank you again, Johncharles! You have delivered well beyond my expectations....

I did take your advice and checked out, and was pleased to see that the Omni was so well-rated. Also, the Omni was just recently voted as one of the top SF hotels by Conde Nast Traveler

I did call the Fairmont to confirm that my reservation there is in the newer Towers section, so I'm still mulling over that as a possibility. (A few reviews I read on tripadvisor describe a "bait and switch" tactic at the Fairmont--This does worry me abit)

The Park Hyatt sounds delicious, as does the Campton Place. I have eliminated the Huntington, btw.

Well, the rest is up to me---any fodorites with recent experience at any of these properties, please advise!
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Jan 12th, 2004, 08:05 PM
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well, the gym i go to every day is in the fairmont and while all that another poster has written may well have been true of the fairmont before it was renovated (i think 3 or 4 years ago), to me the lobby is always empty and not at all happening. it's large, pretty and formal, but i would say it is in no way the "see and be seen" place that it once was.
i drive past the omni every day. it is in a great old building- it will just be a quiet place to be on the weekends, right on the outskirts of union square in a financial district location. if you are hoovering in a new price range- have you considered the sheraton palace- it has a grand old lobby a great location for shopping and museum going and a really nice elegant indoor pool with retractable roof? i like the broad old fashioned hallways and homey decor as well as the spacious high ceilinged rooms and sparkling marble bathrooms.
also, another place in this range would be the westin st. francis right on union square. if you can get a suite this would be a great way to celebrate (some of their rooms are small).
with the fairmont/huntington- you are high on a hill isolated from everything.
those other choices and the campton are more in the thick of things. the park hyatt is a businessman's hotel. very dark inside and in the rooms. could be a downer for a fun weekend. it's also next to the embarcadero center- dead on weekends. convenient to chinatown and north beach, though.

the harbor court may well be a step down in terms of luxury but it is in the most up and coming neighborhood we have- right at your doorstep you have the brand new ferry building with the weekend farmers market, outdoor tables and all sorts of gourmet treats. there is a brand new walking path that will take you as far as you want on the waterfront- from pac bell park (oops sbc park) and beyond to the mission bay area on one side and right to the fisherman's wharf/pier 39 tourist mecca on the other- all wiuth great views. right nearby you have a choice of restaurants from slanted door to townsend bakery to delancy street cafe- you can use the $$ you are saving on your room to splurge on dinner out. oh and chaya and boulevard are right on your block!
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Jan 20th, 2004, 12:58 AM
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Campton Place, Huntington and The Fairmont are all extremely good choices. The rooms at the Fairmont, no matter if they're the cheapest or not, are still quite lovely and large.

Please note, somebody mentioned that they enjoyed Sonoma Mission Inn. If they knew anything about San Francisco and the Fairmont Hotel, in San Francisco, they'd remain silent rather than removing all doubt. The history, the building, the location, the rooms and the ammenities are as different as night and day.

You can purchase rooms at the Park Hyatt quite inexpensively through Priceline. Go to

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Jan 20th, 2004, 12:14 PM
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The Fairmont is a beautiful hotel. Was just in SF weekend before last but stayed at Mark Hopkins across the street. Visited the Tonga Room for fun and drinks. It's in a great location on Nob Hill. Cable Car goes right by and we walked down to Union Square - though I did worry about falling forward on that steep hill Also within walking distance of China town, just down California to Grant.
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Jan 20th, 2004, 03:41 PM
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Frankly, any 4* hotel on Priceline in SF is a great deal - usually under $70. Our favorite so far is the SF Marriott in SOMA (beautiful, renovated rooms), but the SF Hilton and Grand Hyatt are nice as well and a real bargain on PL. Enjoy SF!
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Jan 20th, 2004, 06:25 PM
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There are so many hotels in San Francisco it really depends on what you're interested in. I've stayed in few during the past summer and am currently working on a review of the Sir Francis Drake. Do you want modern luxury, history, or the coziness of a B&B? If you want to do the tourist thing, you might prefer a location near Union Square or the North Beach area. If you would like something quiet, the Western Addition has some nice smaller hotels in a decent area.

Traveladvisor has reviews, but for more details and analysis, I recommend Epinions. If you do a search on San Francisco hotels, you likely find in-depth opinions on the hotels you're considering by people who have stayed there. Here's an URL to help you:
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Jan 20th, 2004, 11:43 PM
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I am a native San Francisican. When I return I like to stay at the St. Francis or Campton Place. Location. Location. Location. The Fairmont is too far away.
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Jan 21st, 2004, 08:41 AM
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Don't know what donnademar means by the Fairmont being too far away. It's just up a very steep street from the St. Francis. We walked past the St. Francis twice on the weekend we spent at the Mark Hopkins which is only across the street from the Fairmont. I think of SF as a real walking town, You start going in one direction and there is so much to look at you end up across town before youknow it. We started at our hotel on NOb Hill and walked down to Union Square for lunch and a view from the St. Francis elevator, then took the cable car to Fisherman's Warf. From there we walked through North Beach, China Town for shopping and then back to Nob Hill to our hotel. Nob Hill seemed like a perfect spot but then sop did pretty much everywhere. SF is pretty compact.
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Jan 21st, 2004, 04:25 PM
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Thanks to all for your input.

Feisty, we would like some luxurious, old-world sort of privacy. (Does this exist?) That, along with the fact that my husband is a smoker tends to eliminate the B & B route.

I've eliminated the Park Hyatt (too business-oriented) and The Huntington (not much recent positive feedback). Still not sure about the Fairmont.

Now I've gone and complicated things further by throwing in the Argonaut because of the bayviews, and great reviews. (I think I am truly some sort of masochist because I really enjoy this sort of back and forth planning)

I'll be keeping you posted.
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Jan 22nd, 2004, 01:19 AM
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I think of the Argonaut as being off-beat, rustic and funky rather than having old-world elegance. Think in terms of old brick, beams and wood plank floors (although our room had wall-to-wall, and was clean and nicely decorated).

The hotel doesn't like to guarantee particular bay view rooms. Luckily, they weren't booked up when we arrived so we were able to have our pick of what was available on the top floor. We definitely preferred the front location, overlooking Hyde St. Pier. The windows are not large and there are no balconies, but the view was more expansive than those at the side where the bay view (with Golden Gate Bridge) was more of a "glimpse." My husband was happy looking at the ships out the window, and I liked the convenience of having the cable car around the corner. The rooms we saw were long and narrow but still spacious enough with either two beds or one bed and a sofa. A suite at the front of the building on the top floor would probably be fabulous.
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Jan 23rd, 2004, 03:14 PM
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You might want to consider the Westin St. Francis. It's on Powell Street and in Union Square. This one was built around the turn of the 20th century in the heart of the shopping district. The Powell & Mason/Bay & Taylor cable car runs right in front of it, in case you're interested in going to Fisherman's Wharf. I haven't stayed there, but I've walked through the lobby and it definitely looks like Old World luxury. Westins also have a reputations for heavenly beds, which is something I have yet to experience. Parking is a nuisance and expensive in this section of San Francisco, so you'd want to avoid having a car if you can.

Across the street and one block north on Powell and Sutter is the Sir Francis Drake, which may be cheaper depending on what kind of deal you can work out. It has been designated a historical hotel. I notice it has received mixed reviews on the internet. I have stayed there and mostly enjoyed it, but then I like these old hotels. The rooms are a bit small and the bathrooms even smaller. The worst part of it was I had to sit sidesaddle when using the toilet because of how poorly it was positioned. However, I was only there for a couple of nights and I dug seeing the original tiles used to decorate the bathroom in 1928. In case it makes a difference to you, the Sir Francis Drake is reputed to be haunted. My biggest complaint about staying there was that the staff refused to tell me any of the stories despite paying $169 p/n for a room. (The haunted room is 1422.)

In the case of both these hotels, this district can be noisy. I highly recommend asking for a room several stories up to avoid this if it bothers you. If you choose the Sir Francis Drake, you'd also want to avoid the floor immediately below the Starlight Room.

If you prefer modern luxury, the W is supposed to be hot, but I never been in it. I believe the Fairmont San Francisco is the first of the chain, but I'm not sure because haven't done the research.

I've also stayed at the Queen Anne, which is in the Western Addition. It has B&B perks without the proprietor looking over your shoulder. What striked me most about it was that the neighborhood was so quiet. It was built before the 1906 earthquake and is reputed to be haunted as well. (As a matter of fact, San Francisco's ghost walking tour meets there.)

...Okay, so now you know the type of places I like to stay at. I haven't heard any such stories about the St. Francis. My guess is it sounds like it may be one you'd like.
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