San Francisco has long attracted visitors from around the world. Its stunning panoramic views and iconic attractions are reason enough to go: Alcatraz, cable cars (don’t call them trolleys), the Golden Gate Bridge and Golden Gate Park, Ghirardelli Square/Fisherman’s Wharf (especially the sea lions at Pier 39!), and the pastel boxlike houses packed in, shoulder-to-shoulder, along the legendarily hilly streets. Families visiting the famous city would do best at these eight hotels, deemed by our hotel investigators to be the best picks for those traveling with children.
One of the city's most distinguished hotel's, the Ritz may not provide the most thrilling atmosphere for children, but its range of kid-friendly services and amenities is second-to-none. The hotel's Ritz Kids program includes a welcome packet with a coloring book and a scavenger hunt kit, plus a card and treat placed in the room. Interconnecting rooms are available, and cribs and rollaway beds are free. Kids' menus are available at the hotel's American restaurant, Parallel 37, and sumptuous, skyline-view space, The Lounge, where afternoon tea is served. The room-service menu also features a special section for kids. At Parallel 37 and The Lounge, kids get a free snack before their meal. The Ritz is located in safe Nob Hill, though vagrancy and panhandling are common, as throughout San Francisco. Also, Nob Hill is hilly -- steeply hilly. If you're a walking family, and your kids are too young to trudge back up, and you're not keen to push them up in a stroller, you might prefer a hotel closer to sea level.
The best luxury option 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 in Ghirardelli Square), the Fairmont's huge, residential-style one-, two-, and three-bedroom units truly deliver all the comforts of home -- a full kitchen with Sub-Zero and Wolf appliances; an in-room washer and dryer; free DVD rentals to watch on a 40-inch flat-screen TV next to a gaslit fireplace. More importantly, foldout couches in the living rooms and bedrooms available with two twin beds make sleeping arrangements easy.
The Four Seasons has beautiful rooms on the 5th to 17th floors of a SoMa skyscraper, along with top-level service. Its huge and quiet rooms are ideal for families, and its central, relatively flat location makes getting around with kids easy (as opposed to the Ritz). This is a business-focused hotel, but it makes a good effort to accommodate kids, offering free cribs and rollaways, children's and babies' toiletries, kid-size robes, and little extras like free milk and cookies on arrival. Items like coloring books, board games, and age-appropriate DVDs are available. Rooms can be childproofed prior to arrival, upon request, and kids' menus are available at the restaurants and through room service. Babysitting can be arranged through the concierge with 24 hours' notice, but be aware that the hotel's pool (located at Equinox Sports Club in the same building) is only available for guests 16 and older.
With its "treasure chest" full of free toys and a Nintendo Wii console in the lobby and nautical-themed guest rooms, the Argonaut is a great family option. The hotel is across the street from the waterfront at Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco's most tourist-friendly area, and right next to the Cannery at Fisherman's Wharf, an outdoor shopping and dining complex. But it is out of the way of the area's thickest crowds. It's also one block from Ghirardelli Square, and located near the docks where ferries leave for Alcatraz, Sausalito, and Tiburon. The terminus of the Powell-Mason cable car line, which connects areas like Union Square and Nob Hill, is about two blocks away. The hotel provides discounts to the local Ben & Jerry’s, See’s Candies, and National Park Store, and on the weekends, guests can go on a guided tour of the historic waterfront with a National Park Ranger.
The 26-room, mid-range White Swan Inn in San Francisco’s Nob Hill district offers a cozy and intimate atmosphere, with rooms featuring fireplaces and ample sitting areas. The inn is a romantic getaway for some, but families with children come here as well due to the many nearby attractions; the hotel is within walking distance of Union Square, Chinatown, the Sea Lion Center, Ripley's Believe It or Not! Museum, among other famous sites. From the White Swan, it is a 13-minute walk to Fisherman's Wharf, which features many water activities on boats and cruises.
The relatively affordable Suites at Fisherman's Wharf is ideal for self-sufficient families in town for longer stays. Though room decor is nothing to write home about, visitors have praised the beds as well as the abundance of cooking equipment in the small-yet-full kitchens. On the flip side, guests have also noted the lack of air-conditioning (though there are ceiling fans) as well as the occasional slight lapse in cleanliness. All rooms have flat-screen TVs, dishwashers, and coffeemakers; some have balconies. The location is central and convenient, in close proximity to Ghirardelli Square, Fisherman's Wharf, Nob Hill, and Lombard Street (cable cars and buses are nearby, too). There is a big roof deck with sweeping views of the city and Bay, along with Alcatraz, and many dining and shopping options surround the hotel. However the central location can be noisy and the parking lot is on the small side.
For an affordable and comfortable family-friendly option near high-end Union Square, you can't do better than the Handlery. This classic San Francisco boutique hotel has one of the few, and one of the best, outdoor pools in the neighborhood. Plus, for about the price of a small standard room elsewhere, families visiting the Handlery can upgrade to a large, 450-square-foot Club-level guest room with a balcony or patio. The hotel offers free cribs and rollaway beds for a charge, and its room service menu includes options for kids.
Fully renovated in 2015, the Hyatt Centric has all the perks expected of a chain hotel: plenty of 24-hour amenities, free Wi-Fi, and on-site dining and parking. The hotel's family appeal is simple: It's just two blocks from the kid-friendly fun of Fisherman's Wharf, it has a heated pool (and hot tub), and families can sleep comfortably in rooms with two double beds. In-room amenities are on par with other upscale hotels in town, and include large flat-screen TVs, mini-fridges, coffeemakers, and electronic safes large enough for a laptop.