SAN FRANCISCO, A PERENNIAL TOP-OF-THE-LIST destination for both domestic and international travelers, is seeing a boom in the hotel industry, with high occupancy figures and the debut this month of an InterContinental property. Hotels in the Bay Area (which consists of nine counties) were running just shy of 80 percent occupancy last September, while in San Francisco the rate spiked to 87.6 percent, highest in seven years. The City by the Bay has also done some new and improved tourism offerings.
Foodies will be happy to hear that the San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau has expanded its successful "Dine About Town" program, previously held just in January. This year it will also run June 1-15. More than 100 of San Francisco's finest restaurants will serve up three-course, prix fixe menus for $21.95 at lunch and $31.95 for dinner. See a complete list of participating restaurants online at www.onlyinsanfrancisco.com.
This past September, the city's newest public space and outdoor arts venue was unveiled. The former Jessie Street right-of-way, adjacent to the historic Old Mint building, has been transformed into Mint Plaza (www.mintplazasf.org), a pedestrian-only area that came with a price tag of $3.5 million. The 18,000-square-foot portion of Jessie Street showcases new restaurants and cafés offering both indoor and outdoor dining, farmer's markets and street fairs. The space will also have regular arts and cultural programming, including music festivals and alfresco cinema.
Later this spring, the Contemporary Jewish Museum (www.thecjm.org) will open its new 63,000-square-foot facility. The expansion will allow the museum to present an array of programming including art exhibitions, live music, film screenings, lectures and educational activities.
Where to Stay
The 32-story, 550-room InterContinental San Francisco is poised to open February 28. Construction started in 2005 on the $200 million-plus property, the largest hotel to be built in San Francisco in almost 20 years. The hotel is adjacent to the Moscone Convention Center in the South of Market area (sometimes referred to as SoMa), a hub for museums, performance spaces and nightlife.
Dining and drinking at the hotel can be done at a street-level restaurant and bar that wraps around the corner of Fifth and Howard streets in an L shape, and at a restaurant with a grappa bar, show kitchen, fireplace and outdoor seating.
Guest rooms start on the seventh floor, and floor-to-ceiling windows in guest rooms and suites provide views of the city, the bay and the Golden Gate Bridge. Optimal views are attained at floors 15 and above. Guest rooms feature natural wood, glass, marble accents, plush bedding and large work areas. Agent Advice
The hotel has 14 suites, including the 2,000-foot Presidential Suite. The bi-level suite has an indoor fireplace and two outside terraces with an outside firepit. The second-level master bedroom has circular windows and a TV that rises out of the floor.
Clients will find a full-service fitness center, indoor swimming pool and a spa with 10 treatment rooms at the InterContinental. For clients traveling on business, the property has more than 43,000 square feet of flexible meeting space.
Staff is still coming onboard. For the time being, travel agent inquiries can be directed to Gail Gerber, director of sales and marketing ([email protected], 415-616-6622).
A short walk from the Moscone Center and the financial district, the 553-room Hotel Nikko San Francisco (www.hotelnikkosf.com) is often referred to as a Japanese-style oasis in the heart of the city. Look for the property to open a full-service spa with 10 treatment rooms later this year. Meanwhile, guests can use the hotel's health club, which has an atrium-enclosed pool, outdoor sundeck, meditation rooms, saunas and shiatsu massage rooms.
The Plush Room, a famous San Francisco entertainment venue known for its cabaret and comedy, has moved from its old digs to the Nikko and had its first show there last month.
For picture-perfect views, opt for the hotel's Imperial Club rooms and suites on the 22nd through 24th stories—the top floors of the hotel—which have the best bay and city views. These rooms also have added amenities, such as complimentary Wi-Fi, secure key access to the floors and Vibe TV in the bathrooms (it's viewed through the bathroom mirror). Imperial Club guests have exclusive access to a lounge, where they will find continental breakfast and afternoon cocktails, hors d'oeuvres and complimentary wine and beer. Private concierge service and free access to the Club Nikko Health Club are also available for Imperial Club guests.
The hotel's Japanese Suites are highly favored; these have double beds and an Asian ambiance and décor. Families would do well booking a Deluxe Room with double beds; these will accommodate two adults and two children. There are four sets of connecting rooms (1022 and 1023, 1222 and 1223, 1422 and 1423, 1622 and 1623).
For hungry guests, the hotel's Anzu restaurant serves up Japanese fare. Menu highlights include Smoked Black Cod and Shiso and Garlic-Crusted Rack of Lamb. Each Sunday, Anzu presents the Smooth Jazz Champagne Brunch, with local radio station KKSF broadcasting live from the restaurant.
The Nikko is a popular venue for weddings. Contact Faina Akselrud, wedding sales manager ([email protected] , 415-394-1184), for more information. Agents can direct other inquiries to Matt Lewis, director of corporate sales ([email protected], 415-394-1150).
The Hyatt Regency San Francisco (www.hyatt.com) is in the Guinness World Records as having the world's largest atrium lobby. The 17-story lobby was featured in the classic disaster flick The Towering Inferno, and the elevators were showcased in Mel Brooks' Hitchcock spoof High Anxiety. The largest waterfront hotel in San Francisco, the Hyatt Regency, stands across the street from the historic Ferry Building.
Among the hotel's 802 rooms, those that garner the most requests are Bay View Balcony Rooms. These have king beds with floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors that open out to a balcony with bay views. There are also 45 suites.
Good options for families are the hotel's 50 connecting rooms. The Hyatt Family Plan, available for families traveling with children 18 years and under, provides an adjoining or connecting room (based on availability) for half the price of the first room booked.
The Hyatt Regency's famous revolving Equinox Restaurant closed last June, but for dining, guests can head to the atrium-level Eclipse Café, known for its popular luncheon trios that include a choice of entree with two other options, including a variety of soups and salads.
A busy time for the hotel is the fall convention season. Travel agent inquiries should be directed to Suzanne Folsom ([email protected]) or John Radgoski ([email protected]) in the hotel's sales department (415-788 1234). Going Green on Blue with Adventure Cat