Avoid the Herd: 10 Best Hotels near the Cow Palace

By Tom Molanphy, San Francisco Local Expert

With so many conventions year-round in San Francisco, there's an overwhelming number of hotels to choose from - not to mention "AirBnB" accommodations that the tech crowd have made popular. And with all the money rolling into San Francisco lately, the city's usual slate of tech conventions like Apple and Oracle have made making a reservation in downtown proper not only hard, but expensive.

If you're in the Bay Area for a conference or to see a show at the Cow Palace, don't shortchange this old-school area for the fancier and better-known hotels in downtown San Francisco. If you don't feel the need to be in uber-hip, trendy accommodations, the hotels below are just as comfortable - and even closer to the airport.

And just because you aren't staying smackdab in the middle of downtown doesn't mean reaching downtown is a problem. BART is close to most of these hotels, which will take you directly downtown, as well as across the Bay in case you want to explore Oakland or Berkeley. And although the wine country tours of Sonoma and Napa are farther north, don't overlook the fantastic beaches and overall beauty of the Peninsula, just a short drive south of these fine hotels. 

10. Airport Inn
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Airpot Inn promises exactly what its name implies: this is a place to stay near the airport. If you need a fancier accommodation or someplace more plush, check availability of hotels closer to San Francisco. But be prepared to pay for it. But if your main concern is someplace to put your head after a long day of business meetings or adventures in nearby San Francisco, Airport Inn will do the trick. Really good choice for those business travelers who have an unsettled schedule and might have to get to the airport at a moment's notice. With rooms under $100/ night - a bargain for the Bay Area - you'll get what you pay for.

9. Mission Inn
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Of all the hotels in the Cow Palace area, Mission Inn is for those who put budget above all else. This is simple, bare-bones accommodations. (When a hotel showcases that each room comes with an iron board, you know these quarters are spartan, to say the least.) That being said, Mission Inn is clean, and the staff is friendly. It's a convenient location between the airport and downtown. Ideal choice for families traveling on a budget, as the hotel rollaway beds and cribs are available upon request. All guest rooms are non-smoking. Bottom line: with rates as low as $80/night, The Mission Inn gives you exactly what you pay for.

8. Travelers Inn
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For those who travel for business or pleasure on a regular basis, the Traveler's Inn model may already be familiar: build a standard hotel and maintain it with integrity. Sounds simple, so it's a wonder why there isn't a larger selection of acceptable hotels...! All the necessary amenities are offered: Complimentary high-speed Internet access, Satellite HD TVs, In-room microwave and refrigerator, Alarm clock radio, Iron/board and coffee maker on request, Electronic door locks, Telephone with data port, Complimentary business center, all-in-one printer/copier/fax, and Free parking. The establishment is family owned and operated, and they really do go the extra mile to make your stay as enjoyable as possible.

7. Homewood Suites SFO Airport North
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The Homewood Suites in Brisbane, an up-scale suburb of San Francisco, offers pleasing accommodations with scenic views of the vast San Francisco Bay. Homewood shares the same advantages and amenities that the other hotels strategically located between the airport and San Francisco also offer: studio or one-bedroom suites that feature sleeper sofas in a separate living room; fully equipped kitchen with a refrigerator, microwave, two-burner stovetop, dishwasher and utensils. Accessible and non-smoking rooms also available. Homewood Suites SFO Airport North also won the coveted 2013 TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence Award, an honor bestowed to establishments with outstanding traveler reviews on TripAdvisor, the world's largest travel site.

6. Hampton Inn Sfo Daly City
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For those who have been to Hampton Inns at other spots in the country, Hampton Inn Daly City offers the same efficient and professional experience as their other locations. Besides the basic amenities, perks include 858 sq. ft. of meeting space for those business travelers; On the RunĀ® Breakfast Bag, available Monday through Friday, a quick, healthy meal to go; and premium cable program on a 37-inch flat screen HDTV. Eighty-six guestrooms with accessible and larger 'study' rooms available, and the use of the gym/fitness center is for all guests. If you want a clean, simple, dependable place to stay, make it a Hampton night.

5. Residence Inn San Francisco Airport/Oyster Point Waterfront
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Residence Inn is a division of Marriott. If you've stayed at a Marriott before and enjoy the service, you should expect the same standard at this location. a Complimentary evening social adds a nice California touch. Clean and modern rooms, featuring free high-speed internet, 37" LCD HDTV, and "luxury bedding" (crisp linens, thick mattresses, custom comforters, fluffy pillows.) If you travel often, consider singing up for the Marriott Rewards Program, which offers significant deals based on the points you accrue. Conveniently located to the airport with shuttle service downtown. If you want to stay at a professional chain of hotels that offers a personal touch, check into a the Residence Inn SFO/Oyster Point.

4. BridgePoint Inn Daly City
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Conveniently located just five miles south of San Francisco, the Bridge Point Inn in Daly City symbolizes what most of the hotels near the Cow Palace have to offer: no-fuss, down-to-earth accommodations for those business and vacation travelers who don't need the crowds and fuss of downtown San Francisco hotels. The Bridge Point Inn offers two types of rooms: standard Guest Rooms and Deluxe Rooms with a jacuzzi tub. Both rooms include refrigerator, hairdryer, iron and ironing board, and free wireless Internet access. Complimentary breakfast is also included, as well as a 24-hour front desk, wireless Internet access in public areas, handicap access and free incoming and outgoing faxes.

3. Radisson Hotel San Francisco Airport Bay Front
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The Radisson Hotel San Francisco Airport Bay Front is a good option for those Cow Palace conventioneers who want a little bit of San Francisco chic and elegance without actually having to stay in downtown San Francisco. The lavish Executive Level Hotel Rooms include the standard amenities but up the comfort level with a Private floor key access, a Sleep Number bed a Welcome snack. The Business class rooms are marvelous, too, featuring "Leisure Time Maximizers" like a one-drink voucher per night and "The Wall Street Journal" delivered right to your room. And for those nights you want a taste of San Francisco without fighting the crowds of San Francisco, spend a luxurious evening at Xebec, the onsite restaurant.

2. El Camino Inn
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This small but clean Inn is the classic "airport hotel," which means it's mainly about location, location, location. If you're a traveler who doesn't want to worry about a long or complicated commute to the airport that might add unnecessary stress to your trip, El Camino is the choice for you. With SFO only a 10 minute cab or shuttle ride away, you'd have to sleep in the airport to get any closer. For those who don't mind a short walk and prefer public transportation, El Camino is within walking distance of the Colma BART station, which provides direct service to SFO.

1. Alpine Inn And Suites
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Self-described to have "the easy elegance of Paris and the eclectic style of San Francisco," this "magical inn" does a good job of redefining what an "airport hotel" can be. This hotel offers all the usual amenities (continental breakfast from 7:30am-9:30am everyday; wireless Internet access; Starbucks coffee in Lobby; daily room servicing by the Clean Team; 24-hour front desk; and Free parking)but does it with a dash of Parisian style that really sets it apart from other hotels in the area. The hotel offers some fun tours, as well, such as the "Insider's San Francisco" tour that includes a cable car ride and a stroll through the Japanese Tea Garden.