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Exclusive | San Francisco: Introduction

Exclusive | San Francisco: Introduction

While the Castro has evolved (to the chagrin of some), the city continues to reinvent itself with new neighborhoods and better and better restaurants.

San Francisco is unique in its broad selection of affordable and quality lodging establishments. With many decent options around $100, a host of small, charming hotel/inn type places and some exceptional and affordable high-end choices, San Francisco is an easy city to bed down in. Most of San Francisco's hotels are concentrated in the major tourist/business zones: Union Square, the Wharf, the Financial District, Nob Hill and Downtown/Market Street. Conventional wisdom puts business travelers in the financial district or downtown, and tourists on the Wharf or Union Square. There are lots of good reasons to flaunt this reasoning (while there is no good reason to stay on the Wharf), and the city is small enough that you can really stay anywhere.

San Francisco has many independent hotels, and three chains of note. Hyatt has three large properties in the city, and strong ties to the gay community. Surpassing Hyatt in room tally, the Kimpton Group, a collection of small, boutique hotels offers affordable rates, tasteful decor and limited but attentive service. Each hotel has a distinctive character, and most capture the essence of San Francisco charm and hospitality. Joie de Vivre hotels have emulated the Kimpton formula, but with a more eclectic group of hotels. From the reverse-chic minimalist Phoenix to the posh Archbishop's Mansion, the Joie de Vivre stable offers wildly different and distinct environments.

Convention business often sells out San Francisco hotels, particularly the obvious Westin/Marriott/Sheraton/Hilton options. Even during convention rush periods, we've found good options, including discounted rates at some of the smaller properties, and a travel agent's computerized search is the quickest way to find them. We have culled our favorite hotels from the above-mentioned chains as well as the independents, and listed them here, highlighting their most appealing features. Parking fees (anywhere from about $20 to $35 per day) can add up quickly; be sure to ask about options when reserving if you're arriving by car.

Hotels are divided into categories of Gay, Luxury, Style, or Value by neighborhood.

CASTRO
The Castro is the place to stay if you really want to immerse yourself in gay street life. Unfortunately, there aren't many options, other than a few B&Bs, and one overpriced motor lodge.

GAY
The Parker House (520 Church St; 415-621-3222 or 888-520-7275; $139+) is the Castro's luxury gay inn, comprising a pair of stunningly restored Edwardian buildings with charming, sunny grounds and a great location close to Castro nightlife and the Mission?s great restaurants. All but two of the 21 rooms feature private baths, cable TV, and voice mail/data port phones. Rates include breakfast and a wine social. Access to the onsite steam room has proven popular with guests.

Inn on Castro (321 Castro St; 415-861-0321; rooms $125+; apartments $165+) offers eight rooms (one with shared bath) behind a stately Edwardian facade. The location is convenient, and the rooms are of a good size and well appointed; the baths have been renovated. Wireless DSL access is available in the rooms. Double-pane windows keep street noise at bay on the front; rooms in the back have sweeping views. Rates include breakfast and complementary soft drinks and coffee. The innkeeper also offers two apartments across the street as well as two on quiet Caselli Avenue nearby.

Sam & Joe L's Castro Suites (927 14th St; 415-437-1783; $200+) consists of two well-furnished apartments. The ground-level unit furnishes plenty of amenities and the second-floor apartment, also well furnished, offers magnificent city views.

24 Henry (24 Henry St; 415-864-5686 or 800-900-5686; $65+) offers five rooms and an apartment suite, some with private bath. The guesthouse is on a quiet street and is designated non-smoking. There's Wi-Fi in the rooms, and a DSL-ready computer in the lobby. The owners also offer the Village House (4080 18th St, at Castro; 415-864-0994 or 800-900-5686; $85+), also featuring five rooms in the very thick of the Castro.

A great staff, reasonable rates, and a central location are among the many attributes of the excellent Willows Inn B&B (710 14th St; 800-431-0277 or 415-431-4770; $109+). It's attractively furnished in dark rattan, and there are eight bath facilities for the 11 rooms. All bedrooms have en-suite wash basins).

VALUE
Beck's Motor Lodge (2222 Market St; 415-621-8212 or 800-227-4360; $93+) commands premium rates for basic rooms because of its prime Market Street Castro address. To its credit, it is clean, has dataport phones, in-room coffee service and cable TV. On the down side, it isn't air-conditioned and the windows only open a few inches. We suppose that?s why so many guests leave their doors ajar. Wink, wink.

Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four

San Francisco: Introduction
San Francisco: Where to Eat
San Francisco: Where to Play/Meet
San Francisco: What to See & Do
San Francisco: Where to Shop
San Francisco: Resources

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff and Wayne Brady

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Joe Okonkwo