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Walnut Creek Magazine

Go With the Fisherman’s Wharf Flow and Play Tourist at Hotel Zephyr

Apr 07, 2017 04:29PM ● By Fran Miller


We Bay Area residents can get a bit snobbish about our favored San Francisco locales. Mention the Presidio, North Beach, or Golden Gate Park, and we smile with delight. Allude to Fisherman’s Wharf, and we doth protest – maybe a little too much. Millions of tourists can’t all be wrong. There are reasons that the Wharf is San Francisco’s most popular attraction, and despite our best efforts to steer clear, it beckons with a magnetism that is hard to resist. Why? Because, simply put, the area is great fun.

Hotel Zephyr's game room

Take to heart the saying ‘If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,’ and jump in on the merriment. Dismiss your preconceived notions, go with the full tourist flow, and stay overnight in the heart of the Wharf action at Hotel Zephyr, an animated spot that embraces its sea-faring location and is optimally located for exploration. Hotel Zephyr opened in 2015 after a multi million-dollar overhaul (it was a Travelodge and a Radisson in its previous lives) and is a perfect spot for guests of all ages. Every nautical motif is captured in the stylish décor curated by Seattle-based Dawson Design Associates: fishnet enrobed lights hang in each room, seagull stenciled pillows adorn the beds, cargo containers serve as entire walls, rope spools and metal barrels are repurposed as tables, and canvas chairs are stenciled to resemble buoys.

Hotel Zephyr waterfront double

Rooms (361 of them) are more than adequate, with nearly half featuring walk-out patios with Bay views. On the city side, guests enjoy Russian and Telegraph Hill vistas. Backgammon boards, Keurig coffee makers, green ethos EO bath products, and mini-fridges round out the in-room amenities. But it’s the communal spaces that set this hotel apart. A 1,610 square foot game room features pool tables, table shuffleboard, and ping pong. The 8,000 square-foot patio lounge and event space – dubbed ‘The Yard,’ in homage to nearby Alcatraz – entices all guests to head outside where life-sized games such as Connect Four and Jenga await. A giant ventilation pipe serves as a tubular ping-pong table, computer refuse is turned into a towering campfire, metal pipes become a fountain, and a giant red periscope is more than sculptural detail. It actually works, and is trained towards the Bay. Four large fire pits provide warmth on chilly San Francisco nights, and excellent live music is featured on Wednesday and Friday evenings. An 18-foot custom-built vintage style camper serves-up to-go breakfast items, coffee, and beer, wine, and snacks in the evening. It’s all great fun.

Hotel Zephyr's 'The Yard' at dusk

Fog Harbor Fish House dining room

And though you might be content to enjoy the spoils of the hotel, you’ll want to explore. Repeating your ‘go with the flow’ mantra, head to Pier 39 for people watching, shopping, and eating. Don’t miss Fog Harbor Fish House – a fine dining seafood spot camouflaged by its touristy digs. Every table has a view of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz, the cocktails are classic, and the seafood is superb. Grab a loaf of famed sourdough at Boudin Bakery and take a walk to the Tin Cannery and Ghirardelli Square. Prefer a quicker pace? Book a Segway tour with The Electric Tour Company and let an amiable tour guide lead you up – and down - some of the city’s steepest hills. Smile and wave as looky-loos laugh and point; they’re just envious of the obvious good time you’re having. Enjoy perhaps the most touristy Wharf attraction with The San Francisco Dungeon interactive experience that recreates some of the City’s most famous and infamous moments. It’s funny, scary, educational, and totally entertaining (and rated at a PG-13 level.)

Electric Tour Company Segway tour down Lombard St.

As you head back to your comfy Hotel Zephyr home base – admit it. You had a blast. The energy emanating from the throngs of tourists experiencing San Francisco for the first time is contagious. Now, maybe you ‘get it,’ this Wharf craze. Hotel Zephyr certainly does.

HOTEL ZEPHYR, 250 Beach St., 415-617-6565,

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