Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
The high-style "lifestyle" chain delivers, as usual, with sleek, hipster-luxe amenities plus a few locally inspired design touches.
Starwood's W franchise has staked its name on bringing a hyper-sleek and at times painfully hip boutique approach to the masses. In the 10 years since this 404-room San Francisco outpost opened its doors in the arts district of SoMa, the property has shaken off some of its clubby, too-cool pedigree and consciously appropriated a more locally informed, Californian spirit. The design aesthetic pays homage to the Bay Area's large Asian population -- the conceit is actually called Gateway to the East -- and is visible in an array of small touches.
Of course, vestiges of the self-consciously trendy vibe are still very much in evidence, from the subtle, seasonal fragrances that infuse the lobby and elevators to the well-curated indie-pop tunes that pump throughout the public spaces. The three-story octagonal "Living Room," (renovated in 2012) known in non-W-speak as "extension of the lobby," is outfitted with a working fireplace, chatting on cell phones, typing furiously on laptops (presumably availing themselves of the free Wi-Fi).
Rooms continue in the same playful, design-conscious vein but don't sacrifice comfort or quality for style. The signature W beds -- accompanied by an optional and extensive pillow menu -- are excellent, and bathrooms are big, bright and stocked with toiletries from the well-regarded Bliss Spa on the hotel's 4th floor. A variety of upscale and modern touches include a huge, bright work desk, 32-inch plasma TV, extensive DVD lending library, exhaustive minibar and iPod dock.
If it's boutique character you're after, there are plenty of other options available at every price point, from the budget-friendly GOOD Hotel to the pricier Clift or Hotel Triton in the nearby Union Square area.
This corner of San Fransisco's SoMa arts district might well be called the Museum Mile; quiet by day and barren at night, but a few blocks' walk offers plenty of dining and nightlife options.
Smack dab in the middle of the SoMa arts district, the W is a culture vulture's dream. It shares a block with the SFMoMA and is a five-minute walk from the Museum of the African Diaspora and the Contemporary Jewish Museum. It's across the street from the Yerba Buena Performing Arts Center and Gardens and catty-corner from Moscone Convention Center.
The neighboring blocks were until recently derelict buildings but, despite the economic downturn, have seen a profusion of new high-rises condos and corporate offices within a four-block radius. They're now (somewhat sparsely) populated with tourists, students from the nearby Academy of Arts University, and area desk jockeys during the day -- but on weeknights it's a ghost town. Thirsty revelers willing to hoof it a bit will find a suitable array of nightlife options -- including the rock bar New Wave City and gallery-cum-club 111 Minna.
Bright, light-filled, and tricked out with (mostly) state-of-the-art technology
Airy, light-filled, and featuring brand-new, state-of-the-art technologies, the 300-square-foot standard "Wonderful Room" is roomy enough, with two queen beds, a generous backlit work station, a cushy electric blue day bed, and (in some cases) views of the SoMa district and Bay Bridge. The furniture is all light blonde wood and white leather with snatches of color, contributing to the bright, cheery vibe. "Eastern" decorative embellishments like cloud-shaped mirror decals, a Buddha night-light and China Girl coin holder provide visual stimulation.
The generally impressive range of amenities has a couple of flaws. The 24-hour gym, rather unappetizingly dubbed SWEAT, is small; and two of the three elliptical machines I tried had some sort of malfunction (one had a loose, squeaky foot pedal; another had fuzzy reception on the embedded TV). Security in the pool area is lax and there's no attendant.
The 5,000-square-foot Bliss Spa on the 4th floor has garnered awards for being the best day spa in San Francisco. It's uniformly hip and, true to the brand, tends more towards youthful quirk than traditional upscale luxury. Guest rooms all come with the Bliss Spa menu, but it's wise to plan ahead and book a treatment in advance, as the hotel's BIP service doesn't guarantee you'll nab an appointment.
Not particularly family-friendly, the W chain is unapologetically geared toward Gen Xers and, provisionally, their well-behaved progeny.
In the words of the hotel's management, the W is "not a family-focused hotel," and indeed, with the exception of free crib rental, there are very few amenities that cater to families traveling wtih kids. The indoor pool is small and seems to attract a decidedly adult, party-happy crowd. However, as the original clientele of the W brand has aged and started breeding, the hotel has seen an uptick in guests traveling with young'uns. Though there are no special allowances for families to speak of, the funky design flourishes unique to the San Francisco property will likely appeal to children.
W Cafe is the casual option at the W, with tasty food and affordable prices; Trace serves sustainable, locally sourced food in an upscale atmosphere.
Trace, an upscale eatery influenced by the sustainability movement and focused on bringing locally sourced food to the table, opened in mid-2011. In fact, all dining at the W has made sizeable efforts to be sustainable. All menus are created based on seasonal availability; the Living Room Bar's award-winning wine list features over 200 organic or biodynamic wines, and all coffee served is organic.
An outpost of the generally solid "lifestyle"-focused chain, the W San Francisco in the SoMa art district offers clean, airy rooms, and above-average amenities in a whimsical, stylish setting. But despite efforts to seem boutique-y, the W is still a big, national chain at the end of the day, and the approach is less about personal touches than overall atmosphere.