from Smithtown, New York
Submitted on 01-01-2018
Having never been to San Francisco before, and only consulting with a few people who had been before me, I found myself at the mercy once again of travel sites to help guide me in my search for a hotel in San Francisco. There was also the age old question to answer, which was, ‚??where in San Francisco should I stay??‚?? The two choices were abundantly clear, staying near the famous Wharf area or staying in the Union Square area. Ultimately, we chose to stay in the Union Square area, but I‚??...
Having never been to San Francisco before, and only consulting with a few people who had been before me, I found myself at the mercy once again of travel sites to help guide me in my search for a hotel in San Francisco. There was also the age old question to answer, which was, ‚??where in San Francisco should I stay??‚?? The two choices were abundantly clear, staying near the famous Wharf area or staying in the Union Square area. Ultimately, we chose to stay in the Union Square area, but I‚??ll go into my decision making process later in the review, as no doubt, this was the single most paralyzing decision when making travel plans for San Fran.
My other two requirements, which believe it or not, were pretty tough to find, was that the kids needed to have a pool, so they could decompress later in the day before dinner and us as parents needed a fridge in the room, so we could keep our drinks cold and not have to rely on icing them down every night. As I mentioned before, we also settled on the Union Square area, so more on that below. In terms of search results, the Handlery Union Square hotel popped up and looked interesting. First thing to note, is that the hotel is an independently owned hotel, owned by a Mr. Handlery. So it‚??s not part of a mega chain, not a Marriott, Hyatt, etc. This sort of intrigued me, but also frightened me. Ultimately, I made the choice to stay here. Let me dive in to my experience.
If you decide on staying in the Union Square area, this hotel is literally on the next block over from Union Square, on Geary Street. You can see Union Square plain as day when you walk out of the front of the hotel. From this location you have easy access to Powell Street, which is a half a block down. You can pick up the cable car from the corner, or walk down two blocks to where the Powell Street Cable Car line actually begins. Near this location, you have unlimited options for restaurants, breakfast spots, drug stores, (Walgreens, CVS, etc), Macy‚??s, and the huge Westfields mall. You‚??re also a stone‚??s throw from Market Street, which is San Francisco‚??s main thoroughfare, that leads you right down to the famous clock tower and ferry terminal buildings. We walked this one day on our way to the Exploratorium, and if you‚??re in moderate to good health, it‚??s certainly walkable, if not, the Muni system is easy to navigate as well. In a nutshell, the Handlery Union Square Hotel‚??s location is hard to beat.
Check in took less than a minute. Granted, we arrived well after checkout, around 4pm the day after Christmas, so there was very little activity in the lobby area. Staff seemed friendly and got us through the process very quickly. It turns out that this hotel has a few ‚??zones.‚?? There‚??s a ‚??historic‚?? section and a ‚??premier‚?? section. We were given a room in the premier section, so unfortunately, I cannot describe the historic section for the purpose of this review. Our room was on the sixth floor of the premier section, and I will say, initially, navigating to the elevators in this section is a bit confusing, as you have to go up some steps, past the pool area, then to the elevator bank. If you have large & heavy bags, this can be challenging. Once we were settled, however, I sort of like this section, because if you took the elevator down to the ground floor, you had easy access out the back of the hotel, which brought you that much closer to Powell Street, the cable car, shops, etc. So essentially the hotel faces both ends of the block. Interesting enough, the pool area also has rooms that surround it, kind of like those old motels you see in Florida and in LA, so that‚??s was interesting. Just so you know, if you get one of the pool area rooms, the pool opens at 8am. My kids were out there one day right at 8am, and even though I told them to be respectful, it‚??s tough to stay quiet while playing in a pool. If you like to sleep in, avoid these rooms.
First impression of the room was favorable. We are all the way down at the end of the hall on the sixth floor facing south, and facing O‚??Farrell Street, being able to see right down Cyrill Magnin Street, which leads right to the mall. I thought the road noise might be a problem, but this was not the case. The room had two large double beds, a desk area, a desk chair, a sitting chair, and a dresser area with a flat screen TV on it. The bathroom had a dressing area / makeup area, then the toilet, sink, & tub through the door. The room felt spacious for two adults and two kids and was very comfortable. I noticed a few minor issues with some areas of paint flaking on the ceiling, but that was me just nitpicking. I would pick the room all over again if given the chance. At night, the room remained dark and we could not hear any street noise that affected our ability to sleep comfortably. Lastly, the room did have a small dormitory style fridge, which was good enough to hold a six pack of beer, waters, and other small drinks. There is a soda machine and an ice machine down at the end of the hall next to the elevators.
The pool is heated and is like having an Oasis in the middle of San Francisco. The kids loved it and the desired effect of allowing the kids to decompress after a day of sightseeing was met. The water is warm, the pool is kept clean, and the only downer is that the heat lamps in the pool area didn‚??t seem to be working. However, this wasn‚??t a problem for us. The only problem was getting out of the pool and experiencing a chill before getting into the hotel, since the pool is outdoors and it is December, after all.
For the most part, everyone we encountered on the staff were friendly. Check in staff was friendly, the housekeeping staff was friendly and respectful, and the concierge was super friendly, even though we didn‚??t really use him. There were a couple of mornings we got up early to go out and have breakfast, where we walked past the front desk without a ‚??hello‚?? or a ‚??good morning,‚?? but again, I‚??m being nit picky here. I would rate the staff highly just from other interactions and their willingness to help us, even though we didn‚??t really need it.
I don‚??t believe the hotel has its own restaurant, but it is quite literally attached to the Daily Grill which is right next door and there is an internal walkway to get into the restaurant. We dined here the first night and I must say, the food was very good. Look for my review of the Daily Grill if you ‚??re interested in learning more.
We didn't have a car, but the hotel does have a garage. We used Uber to and from SFO and public transport to get everywhere else.
No place is perfect right? I wouldn‚??t cite anything at this hotel as being a real negative. I‚??m going to be nit picky on a few things, just because there are things to consider. The hotel is a bit like a maze, especially if you get a room in the executive area. However, once you realize this and figure it out, it‚??s easy. As I mentioned, you also have access to exiting the hotel from the south.
So, I said I would explain why I chose to stay in Union Square over staying near the Wharf area. Perhaps this will help you make your decision if you‚??re struggling as I was. It comes down to a few pretty simple things. I chose Union Square because I thought that given all the activities we were going to do, that being centrally located would be the right call. The Union Square area is a bit more urban and if you prefer the city life, shopping, dining in non-chain style restaurants & diners, & more choices regarding the muni transit system, then I would choose Union Square. If you‚??re into being close to the water, chain restaurants, touristy focused shops and restaurants, but also want great views of the Golden Gate bridge or the Bay Bridge, plan to go to Sausalito or Muir Woods, then staying down on the Wharf or even the Embarcadero sections would probably be the call to make. If I ever go back to San Fran, since I‚??ve already done Union Square, I‚??d probably choose the Wharf area the next time around.
There are a lot of hotel choices in the area and the price differences aren‚??t that large. It all comes down to what‚??s your preference. We noticed a lot of great hotels walking around, but while they were beautiful, they didn‚??t meet our criteria. In the end, the Handlery Hotel was a fine choice for us and I would have no problem recommending it to anybody.
A few words of advice:
The one thing I was not prepared for in considering my visit to San Francisco was the amount of homeless people I would see. It was literally quite shocking. The first night while walking around, we probably walked into an area that we should have and it felt a bit unsafe. During that walk, we witnessed rampant drug use, public urination, and nudity. Thankfully, it appeared that my 8yr old kids were oblivious, but it became a teaching moment to our children about life and how some people are less fortunate than others due to circumstances, choices, drug use, & mental health issues. After the initial shock of the quantity, I became used to what I saw, but seeing homeless men in wheelchairs without shoes in the winter, women with infants on the streets, young men and women on the streets doing drugs, it was painful in some instances to see this. The Wharf area has it‚??s share of homeless too, but it was more rampant in the Union Square area. Nobody bothered us, but it is something to consider when making your travel arrangements. Avoid the Tenderloin area if you can.