Best hotels for families, including affordable options in this notoriously expensive city
A family-friendly hotel bathed in California sunshine with a bay view? Yes, it's possible. But we also know where the more affordable gems are in this notoriously expensive city to keep your family on budget. And they're all are uniquely Californian.
2 New Montgomery St.
Established decades before San Francisco’s 1906 earthquake and then rebuilt in 1909, the Palace was once the largest luxury hotel in the world. Your family can enjoy this hotel’s unique history along with highlights from a recent renovation including a family-friendly indoor pool. The Palace’s location is prime for vacationers who want to be in the heart of the city. Take a stroll east to enjoy waterside restaurants and shops at the bustling Ferry Building or head west to San Francisco’s ultimate shopping destination, Union Square. The Palace is near local and regional transit systems, MUNI and BART. Bringing your own car? Look into the hotel’s complimentary parking package when you book. Starts at $223/night.
2/White Swan Inn
845 Bush St.
This bed and breakfast-inspired hotel offers funky décor, free breakfast, and a mini fridge stocked with all of the water that you’ll need to make it up and down those famous San Francisco hills. Guests rave about this conveniently-located, Union Square area hotel. Shopping is just a few blocks away, while the cozy décor makes staying indoors attractive, as well. Bring freshly baked cookies up to your room every afternoon and warm yourself in front of your own gas fireplace; yes, each room boasts a working fireplace. Deluxe rooms are large enough to accommodate four guests. Starts at $229/night.
496 Jefferson St.
The sea lions that bask on the piers lining Fisherman’s Wharf delight San Francisco visitors year-round. The waterfront’s Argonaut Hotel places your family within barking distance of these Bay Area natives and other must-see attractions. The hotel is located just a short walk from chocolate lovers’ Ghirardelli Square, the ferry to Alcatraz, cable cars, and wine tasting at The Cannery. Your little ones will feel valued at check-in when they’re invited to choose a toy out of the front desk’s treasure chest. The nautically-themed guest rooms and suites can easily sleep four, and an in-house restaurant makes breakfast easy. Starts at $329/night.
KidTripster Tip: A site as common on the wharf as the sea lions is shivering tourists in shorts and San Francisco emblazoned sweatshirts. Take it from a native, pack pants and long sleeves along with your shorts, even if you’re visiting during the summer.
4/Hotel del Sol
3100 Webster St.
Funky, fun, and fabulous! You don’t get more California trendy than this 1950s motor lodge-turned-boutique hotel. Add an explosion of bright colors, a garden oasis (complete with a hammock) and heated pool, and you’ve found this fun family stay. Hotel Del Sol is located in San Francisco’s Marina District, where the blue sky over the nearby Marina Green is dotted with so many kites that you’ll be tempted to fly one yourself. Take a short drive to the Presidio to visit The Walt Disney Family Museum or simply take in beautiful vistas of the Golden Gate Bridge. Union and Chestnut streets are a short (flat) walk to restaurants and boutique shopping. Or you can brave some of the city's steepest hills to Pacific Heights and enjoy views of beautiful homes and the San Francisco Bay. Take a break from your busy day back at the hotel with milk and cookies that are served each afternoon in the lobby. Up to two children (under 12) stay free of charge with existing beds. Rooms with two doubles are available as are adjoining rooms. Family suites even have bunk beds, kitchenettes, board games, and toys. Starts at $199/night.
5/Fairmont Heritage Place, Ghirardelli Square
900 North Point St.
One of the best luxury options in the city for families (and not just because it's only a few yards from some of the world's best ice cream and chocolate) is this Fairmont property in Ghirardelli Square. Huge, one-, two-, and three-bedroom units deliver all the comforts of home including a full kitchen, an in-room washer and dryer, and free DVDs to watch on a 40-inch flat-screen TV next to a gas fireplace. In some units, fold-out couches are available in the living rooms and bedrooms. Want the royal treatment? The hotel will put together an itinerary for you prior to your arrival for a fee. You may order groceries, as well. You’re within walking distance to Fisherman’s Wharf, Fort Mason (a venue for big San Francisco events), and don’t forget the chocolate! Starts at $774/night.
6/Sheraton Fisherman’s Wharf
2500 Mason St.
There are countless reasons to visit San Francisco, including the comfortable weather. But for some kids - and adults - a vacation is not a vacation without swimming. That brings us to the Sheraton Fisherman’s Wharf, where a heated outdoor pool can satisfy that vacation craving. Kid-friendly fun outside of the hotel is just a block and a half away at Pier 39, one of the city’s top tourist attractions. Guest rooms can easily sleep four, and the hotel offers complimentary cribs. Rollaway beds, microwaves and mini fridges come with a nightly fee. Starts at $256/night.
7/Hotel Drisco Pacific Heights
2901 Pacific Ave.
Stay off of the beaten path and in one of the most upscale neighborhoods when you check into this boutique hotel. Families rave about Hotel Drisco’s service, safety, and comfort. I didn’t grow up in Pacific Heights, where the hotel is located, but I attended school in this neighborhood. It remains one of my favorite areas to visit with nearby playgrounds, beautiful walks, and views of the San Francisco Bay atop some of the best hills in the city. If you are planning to drive up and down those hills (one of my thrill-seeking daughter’s favorite activities), keep in mind that street parking is your only option at this hotel; in the evening, it’s not hard to find. Starts at $424/night.
8/Best Western Corte Madera Inn
56 Madera Boulevard, Corte Madera
Huge family suites can sleep a family of six at this affordable hotel, north of San Francisco. Deluxe rooms are smaller (and cheaper) and fine for a family of four. With a large, heated, outdoor pool, two Jacuzzis, a fire pit, and free breakfast, you may not care that you’re not staying in the city. The hotel is located across the Golden Gate Bridge in a family-friendly area with plenty of shops and restaurants. If you’re interested in the outdoor activities like hiking and sailing or just want to enjoy a quiet spot outside of the city, this hotel is a good, less expensive option. Starts at $161/night.
9/Claremont Hotel & Spa - A Fairmont Hotel
41 Tunnel Rd., Berkeley
Head east of the city for this family-friendly hotel with spectacular views of the San Francisco Bay. The Claremont Hotel and Spa is the perfect launching point for visiting UC Berkeley. Our neighbors took their two teenaged boys here and loved it. The beautiful grounds once surrounded the sprawling home of a gold rush tycoon, who built his wife a castle that she’d always dreamed of owning. After fire destroyed the original structure, a replica was built and eventually turned into a spectacular resort. Two pools, outdoor tennis, and childcare are available. Starts at $379/night.
KidTripster Tip: If your family craves warm weather in the summer, the East Bay is more likely to deliver it than San Francisco.
342 Grant Ave.
This Kimpton property is sure to delight kids of all ages but may interest your teenagers the most with its unique décor and convenient location. It’s just steps away from Chinatown’s Dragon Gate entrance. Send your older kids souvenir shopping while you enjoy the complimentary wine tasting in the lobby each afternoon. If you’re planning to get your teens their own room, this hotel is a good choice, because there are only a couple of suite options available. Starts at $237/night. A native of San Francisco, journalist Jocelyn Sigue now lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and daughter. She’s always looking for an excuse to return home to that California sunshine.