If you can get past the portmanteau “staycation,” taking a mini-vacation in San Francisco can actually be pretty fun. We may silently chide tourists for congregating around Fisherman’s Wharf, buying last minute Alcatraz sweatshirts as the fog rolls in, and blatantly saying “San Fran” without any hint of shame, but playing tourist in San Francisco can reveal a side of the city normally reserved for visitors. Below are some key places to stay if you’re looking for a getaway that requires neither a car nor a plane.
My home neighborhood of the Castro is technically in the city, but it lacks the bustling energy that downtown San Francisco has perfected, which I had failed to appreciate until sipping wine in the jacuzzi tub of the Hotel Zelos. Once I stayed here it all made perfect sense why tourists flock to the downtown/Union Square area — easy access to public transportation, shopping all around, and restaurants galore. Although leaving the hotel to eat may not be necessary, as the deliciously chic Dirty Habit lays claim to the fifth floor of Hotel Zelos, impressing visitors with the punniest names in the cocktail game (Aloe Be Thy Name is my personal favorite, taste-wise.) This spot is a great pick for locals seeking luxury and convenience all in one.
12 Fourth St, 415-348-1111.
Westin St. Francis
This 100-plus-year-old hotel is in the heart of Union Square, and after only two years in business served as temporary shelter for the survivors of the 1906 earthquake, and still holds a place in the heart of San Franciscans to this day. The trick for locals staying here is to request a room in one of the original 450 rooms, which maintain many of the design elements typical of the San Francisco of yesteryear (read: tiny bathrooms). The St. Francis is easy to get to, close by to restaurants (including Michael Mina's Bourbon Steak on the first floor), and full of San Francisco history in every corner — perfect for any enthusiast of the city. Or in the case of my family, it makes for a lovely, centralized place to staycation while doing holiday shopping.
335 Powell St, 415-397-7000.
This historic hotel has graced San Francisco with its presence for 114 years, providing a boutique place to stay for visitors with a to-see list that heavily emphasizes nearby Japantown. It was spared from the devastation of the fire in 1906, making it the longest operating hotel in the city. Though it has of course been refurbished over the past century, the Hotel Majestic maintains the old school charm of San Francisco, and is a fun getaway for locals who live in any other neighborhood. As a bonus, it’s also said to be haunted by Lisa Schmitt, descendent of the family who originally built the hotel. So if ghosts are your thing, who knows, she might just visit your room.
1500 Sutter St, 415-441-1100
Days Inn San Francisco at the Beach
How often do you actually hang out around the beach? Unless you reside deep within the avenues, your answer is probably, “none to rarely.” Take a break from the San Francisco you’re accustomed to and hole up at the Days Inn where you can hop across the street for a visit at the San Francisco Zoo, or wait until the sun goes down so you can sit around a bonfire in the sand at Ocean Beach. Here you’ll be the first to witness the thick fog rolling into the city, and if you’re newer to S.F., you may enjoy pondering the nearby Doggie Diner Head looming above motorists.
2600 Sloat Blvd, 415-665-9000
Inn at the Presidio
The Presidio has been decommissioned for over 20 years, but everything about it still speaks to its military origins. Having a chance to stay overnight in one of the most unique landscapes within San Francisco is both informative and fun, especially for locals who could use a splash of nature without having to cross any bridges. Visitors can enjoy walking beneath the largest congregation of eucalyptus trees outside of Australia — no koalas, sorry — while learning about the role San Francisco played in military operations throughout history. Plus, the clean, modern rooms are none too shabby, either!
42 Moraga Ave, 415-800-7356