Best Family-Friendly Hotels in San Francisco: Fun for the Whole Fam

By Tom Molanphy, San Francisco Local Expert

Don't let family vacation time intimidate you; travel with the whole crew and stay at a family friendly hotel in San Francisco. Looking to spend time in the company of your kids or relatives without sacrificing privacy with your spouse? Try the The Pickwick Hotel San Francisco or the San Francisco Marriott Marquis in San Francisco.

As you drink in the skyline and the city's sights and sounds, let the whole family create and share the memories from your visit to San Francisco. Family friendly hotels can help remove some of the stress of a group trip so you can focus on time with your loved ones. 

Need a spot for the kids to run and run and run to insure their heads stay on those hotel pillows at night? Take a MUNI from any of these downtown hotel locations to Golden Gate Park, or even a BART over to Berkeley and the entire East Bay, for more parks and greenery that you can imagine.

And since it's outdoors weather almost all year long in San Francisco, there's never a reason to be bottled up in your hotel room - unless, of course, you want to be. And many of these fantastic hotels might convince you to do just that.

10. Handlery Union Square Hotel
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia

Harry Handlery, the founder of the Handlery Union Square Hotel in 1928, said it best when it comes to why this hotel stands out among the rest: "To have every guest not question why they stayed here, but to question why they didn't stay here before." Calling itself the "Premier Choice in San Francisco Lodging," the Handlery is located in always bustling and interesting Union Square in the heart of downtown San Francisco. As a family-owned hotel,the hotel has a very personal and warm atmosphere. Ideally located near main San Francisco attractions, including the world famous cable car right at the corner, the Handlery Union Square Hotel "sets the standard in affordable luxury."

9. Orchard Hotel
Photo courtesy of The Orchard Hotel

In a city where businesses elbow each other out of the way to be not the meanest but the greenest, The Orchard Hotel does set itself apart from the pack. Mixing classic boutique with urban contemporary, these accommodations offer that subtle touch that Mom and Dad want with that durable, practical quality that all family vacations need. Arched openings, vaulted ceilings and stone floorings with luxurious woods and bronzes create an opulent look that never forsakes good environmental stewardship. Valet parking, a concierge, and even an extensive CD/DVD library for those nights the kids just need to be tucked in and zoned out in front of the tube will round out your stay at one of the best family hotels in San Francisco.

8. Fairmont San Francisco
Photo courtesy of Fairmont San Francisco

Like the Westin, the Fairmont will just plain spoil everyone, no matter how young or old. In fact, the only reason it's not number one on this list is that it's probably not a practical option for most families. No matter - even if you don't stay at the Fairmont, bringing your family by the Fairmont, especially during the Christmas holidays to view their amazing gingerbread house, is a grand stop on any San Francisco visit. And be sure to take the family to the Tonga Room, which features its own indoor pond and boat, a treat for kids of all ages.

7. Galleria Park Hotel, a Joie de Vivre hotel
Photo courtesy of Galleria Park

Galleria Park is another Union Square gem, coming in just slightly behind the San Francisco Hilton on Union Square. It's very hard to beat Galleria Park's location, right between the Financial District of San Francisco and the Moscone Convention Center, which offers bowling and a merry-go-round that is always a hit with kids. Crocker Galleria offers top-notch shopping opportunities, and the hotel even has a private park on the third floor. With so many fantastic hotels in the area, it might be the small differences that help make your final decision on your stay. For example, if the environment is important to you, Galleria Park really stands out with its "green-certification" for employing over 45 "eco-initiatives."

6. The Westin St. Francis San Francisco on Union Square
Photo courtesy of Facebook

The Westin St. Francis has incredible San Francisco history and is one of those luxury hotels that will take care of anyone, no matter how young or old. And with a recent renovation, the classic traditional look of the Westin has been kept but upgraded with the most modern of conveniences. What makes Westin a possibility for families is their long-standing tradition to offer the best downtown rates, so, if you have the time, shop around and then bring your best rate to the Westin for them to try to beat or match. With 676 newly renovated luxury rooms and AAA Four Diamond rating, you won't regret your stay at the Westin St. Francis.

5. Hilton San Francisco Union Square
Photo courtesy of Hilton Union Square

It's tough to get more central than Union Square, and location, location, location is doubly important when traveling with family. Instead of trying to cram everyone onto the MUNI or hail a tax cab for six, you can wander from the San Francisco Hilton lobby right up the hill to Chinatown and further on into North Beach. Remember: nothing gets the little ones to sleep at night better than a good walk. And if they happen to still have energy after the hills of San Francisco, Union Square itself is nearby to offer plenty of space for running around - plus world class shopping for Mom and Dad.

4. Fairmont Heritage Place, Ghirardelli Square
Photo courtesy of Ghirardelli

You know the old saying: families that eat chocolate together, stay together. The Fairmont specializes in large one, two or three bedroom residences that allow plenty of space for the family. Residences include a full gourmet kitchen, a living space with large plasma screen TVs, and a comfortable dining area. Open-loft ceilings and exposed red brick contrast beautifully with dark wood floors and inviting spaces to relax with your whole family. Besides being right by Ghirardelli Square, the hotel is also near all of Fisherman's Wharf and tons of family activities. A minimum 3-night stay is required, and the rooms are not cheap, but what's the price tag on a successful family vacation?

3. Hotel Drisco, a Joie de Vivre hotel
Photo courtesy of Hotel Drisco

Built as a luxurious guest house for Millionaire's Row residents, this small hotel offers high-quality antiques, superb mattresses, and incredible views. First-class rooms and suites have TV, CD player, VCR, plush robes, two phone lines, modem, and minibar. Rooms are rivaled only by the level of service, and the staff is well-aware that many, many families choose the Hotel Drisco when they decide to travel all the way to the Bay Area. Daily continental breakfast and evening wine tastings contribute to the experience. Corner suite 304A is popular for its views of Pacific Heights mansions and the bay. No on-site parking.

2. Sheraton Fisherman's Wharf Hotel
Photo courtesy of Sheraton Fisherman's Wharf

If you want to be around Fisherman's Wharf and Ghirardelli Square, but the Fairmont Heritage, our number one option, is a bit out of your price range, then the Sheraton's Fisherman's Wharf Hotel is a superb second choice. With no charge for children 17 and under who share a room with parents, the hotel is extremely thoughtful about the needs of families. And with their signature Sweet Sleeper bed option, you can have a fun sleepover for the whole family. Whether you'd like to explore Alcaltraz, walk the Embarcadero, stuff your face silly with chocolate at Ghirardelli or shop the high-end boutiques at Union Square, the Sheraton Fisherman's Wharf Hotel is a reasonable distance from all points in between.

1. Hotel Nikko San Francisco
Photo courtesy of Hilton Union Square

Hotel Nikko stands out on the list for its blend of "Asian grace and modern convenience." Feinstein's at the Nikko offers big name entertainment acts on a nightly basis, and the Anzu restaurant focuses on local, sustainable California food. One of several hotels within Union Square, the proximity to the Powell MUNI/BART entrance is a mixed blessing: you can hop on a MUNI bus to reach all parts of San Francisco, or board a BART train to explore Berkeley, Oakland and the East Bay. But walking through the now infamous panhandlers around the Powell Station may not be the most enjoyable of family outings.