kbarber

Where to stay when attending SFB performances

28 posts in this topic

Hello SFB regulars!

I'm hoping you can advise me.

I'm planning a trip to see SFB in April and am wondering where to stay. Usually I like to stay within 5-10 minutes walking distance of the opera house whenever I go on a ballet trip. I've been checking tripadvisor and seeing some comments that suggest the area near the opera house in San Francisco may be a bit dodgy, with homeless people and druggies around. I've only been to San Francisco once and that was during the daytime. I remember the "tenderloin" was an area to avoid. I'm just wondering how safe a group of mostly older ladies would feel walking back to a hotel within a 10-minute radius of the War Memorial Opera House after an evening performance.

If you wouldn't advise staying near the Opera House, what area would you recommend, and how would one get to and from the performances?

Thank you for your input!

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You are right about the questionable environs, especially after dark. The city buses don't run very often late in the evening, so they're not a great option either. I recommend you take a cab back to your hotel. This can be as little as $5-10 and is worth it. I like this site for finding out ahead of time what fare to expect:

http://www.taxifarefinder.com/

On the south side of the Opera House, there is a circle drive where the cabs pull up. Stop on your way into the theater and let the concierge know you will need a cab after the performance. He keeps a list and you won't have much of a wait.

For travel during the day, including the trip to the Opera House, I'd strongly recommend buying a Muni Passport, which gives you unlimited rides on the buses, Muni (light rail trains), and cablecars. It's a great deal:

http://www.sfmta.com/cms/mfares/passports.htm

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Hi Kbarber: Welcome to San Francisco.

Even though I only live 60 miles away, when I go to a night performance I’m uncomfortable driving that distance at night , so I stay in the city. Here are the two where I’ve stayed:

The Opal: Reasonably priced for SF, about a 15-20 minute walk up Van Ness, should be OK at night in a group, or you could order a cab from the man in the WMOH lobby. It’s standard issue, bland, a bit of noise (lots of families). I hate it.

The Hayes Valley Inn: This is my home away from home. Two and a half blocks from the WMOH in très trendy Hayes Valley. It’s a quirky, pension-style, family-owned hotel, very reasonably priced (very, very for SF), miniscule but charming rooms, elderly tvs. The downside (for some ; doesn’t bother me) is that the toilets and showers are down the hall (each room has a sink and GFI outlet). The facilities are spotlessly clean and I’ve never had to wait when I wanted/needed either, but it is a drawback for some. Also to keep in mind - no elevators. It’s an old Victorian building, the stairs are narrow and you have to haul your luggage up. There’s a little kitchen for making tea and a sitting room where you can chill with a book. You can’t beat the price/location (takes me less than five minutes to walk there after the ballet and the area is perfectly OK ; plenty of traffic and several nightspots with lots of activity, so you’re never walking alone, even late). Convenient to public transit. In that area, though, if you venture out during the day, do be careful where you go. It’s OK in the immediate area, but check with the people at the desk before venturing too far. They are very helpful and friendly and more than willing to provide advice. In sum, it’s the kind of place where you just have to go with the flow. Love it.

I know others on this board come in from out of town, so undoubtedly you will get plenty of ideas. And don't forget to tell us about your trip.

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Just as a note: a walk up Van Ness is a walk up a hill. I think it looks more formidable than it feels, especially since the Opal isn't that far up, and the grade looks deceptive steep.

While the area towards the BART station does have lots of homeless people around, there are usually so many people heading to the station after the performance that there is safety in numbers.

The best place I've ever stayed is Inn at the Opera, which is about a block directly behind War Memorial. It's very convenient, the only thing you have to worry about is watching out for the cars coming out of a nearby parking lot, and there are a number of restaurants and bars within a few block radius, if you want to get a snack after the show, but want to feel safe walking a few blocks back to the hotel. Since it's part of the Shell Hospitality scheme, with some rooms open to the public -- best available during the winter and spring -- the rooms have microwaves and small fridges.

Otherwise, you have so many options if you're willing to split a taxi. I'm not sure if this is true for the ballet, but for the opera, you used to go to the left side of the lobby (walking into the building) past coat check and sign up for a taxi ahead of time. Then you head to the same place after the performance, and there's a rank waiting, pre-arranged by the house.

I'd suggest the Archbishop's Mansion if you're only going to be around for a short visit and are willing to take a taxi home. It's also in the direction opposite of City Hall, only about a 10-15-minute walk, but it's a deserted walk that I don't like taking alone at night, although it is fine during the day. The building is very interesting and unusual. I'd stay there again in a minute if I were traveling with someone or meeting a local with a car.

Another option if you don't mind taking the bus over and a taxi back is Union Square, which, unfortunately, doesn't seem to be a category on Trip Advisor. There are restaurants everywhere and a gazillion people around no matter what the hour. Getting there is, at worst, a few block downhill walk, a crosstown bus, and then another, short downhill walk. (Unfortunately, bus service is spotty for the return trip, and a taxi split a few ways is a much better option.) There are a number of good hotels in the area -- I got a great deal from Expedia one year at The Orchard, and this past June stayed at Cornell Hotel de France, which I liked very much.

I usually check for availability and price out Inn at the Opera, and then go to Expedia to see what's going at a good rate. Then I read reviews to find clean and no comments that the walls are paper-thin and make a decision.

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If you wouldn't advise staying near the Opera House, what area would you recommend, and how would one get to and from the performances?

Thank you for your input!

I've lived in SF and just north of SF for many years, so I can definitely say that it is best to just take a taxi from the hotel/motel/B&B, and then after the performance, wait in the taxi line at the War Memorial, and chat with others about the performance.

As you are "mostly older ladies", then it is best not to try to hoof it around the city center. SF isn't really a walkers city, in my opinion. Though I certainly did a whole lot of walking on those hills and city streets back in the day. But it is exhausting (and who wants to be covered in perspiration at the War Memorial?). I used to have to hurredly walk a block from a parking structure to 1 Market Street where the work office was, and one can work up a sweat that way. And it was just the one city block!

I HAVE stayed at the Kabuki Hotel at Japantown and taken a taxi from there to the War Memorial - it is considered a short distance from Japantown, and the driver charged a flat fee for the imposition, but to actually walk the distance would have been a bummer - especially on the return late at night.

Which program will you be attending?

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I've stayed at the Kabuki Hotel, too. I didn't love the walk back alone, because there weren't many people around between Van Ness and the hotel, but it was doable in ~20 minutes.

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I've stayed at the Kabuki Hotel, too. I didn't love the walk back alone, because there weren't many people around between Van Ness and the hotel, but it was doable in ~20 minutes.

I stayed at the Kabuki because I used to go to Japantown a lot, as I like Japanese arts and crafts. I love the Kinokuniya Bookstore, and Genjii Antiques too when it was still in business. The Kaubki is fairly cheap by SF standards, and it has room service for those in a hurry. Not bad at all (as they've recently remodeled rooms), but not great either. For that you've got to pay another $75 or more a night.

I recommend using a service like Orbitz to find a deal:

http://www.orbitz.com/hotels/United_States--CA/San_Francisco.hd4468/

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Fortunately/unfortunately I usually am staying with friends/relatives when I'm in SF, but I second whomever said not to rely on MUNI after an evening performance. I've been "stranded" before, and since we didn't sign up for a cab at intermission had a heck of a time trying to hail one in the surrounding area since they are all headed to the cab line (think we ended up walking the whole way home in frustration, which was not ideal). During the day though it's a breeze, and taking Bart/MUNI in and a (pre planned) taxi out is a very, very easy option if no hotels in the area work for you.

If you do end up staying in the surrounding area of the Opera House, plan one of your meals at Brenda's...it's fantastic!

And, if you've never been to the Opera House I would strongly suggest avoiding the back section of the orchestra unless you're on an end. I have never been able to see over the heads of people in front of me.

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Another option is VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner), which lists apartments that people rent out by the night or week. Some have two-night minimums. Friends used it last Spring when they visited to see the SFO Ring.

I'm glad to hear it confirmed that the taxi sign-up is for the ballet, too.

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The Museum of Performance and Design is worth a visit. It's just one block to the north of the Opera House on Van Ness. Hours are very limited, but they have some interesting displays.

http://www.mpdsf.org/

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And, if you've never been to the Opera House I would strongly suggest avoiding the back section of the orchestra unless you're on an end. I have never been able to see over the heads of people in front of me.

I avoid the entire Orchestra section. The seats seem old with worn springs, so you sink way down into the seat - a big problem for short people! If you can swing it, aim for the Grand Tier or Balcony Circle. The front rows of the Dress Circle are also good. Here's a seating chart:

http://sfwmpac.org/operahouse/oh_pdfs/oh_seatchart.pdf

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And, if you've never been to the Opera House I would strongly suggest avoiding the back section of the orchestra unless you're on an end. I have never been able to see over the heads of people in front of me.

I avoid the entire Orchestra section. The seats seem old with worn springs, so you sink way down into the seat - a big problem for short people! If you can swing it, aim for the Grand Tier or Balcony Circle. The front rows of the Dress Circle are also good. Here's a seating chart:

http://sfwmpac.org/o...h_seatchart.pdf

Thank you everyone for your very helpful advice. As for seating, what they currently have available for the performances I'm interested in are rows F-G of the orchestra for one performance and row M back for the other (the two mixed programs in April), or if I don't take orchestra I'd have to go for row C of the Grand Tier. Normally I prefer sitting closer than further away. What do you all think about the orchestra seats that are available?

Also Helene, thanks for the info about Inn at the Opera, which I had been looking at already as it seems it's about 3 minutes walk from the opera house so it seems unlikely something untoward could happen in that space of time and distance, correct?

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The problem is the orchestra has almost no rake and the seats are not spaced unevenly (to prevent someone's head right in front of you)--coupled with the crummy seats that California describes, the orchestra is problematic if you are shorter, or have a short torso (like me!). Last time I ended up standing, though an usher did offer to find me another seat when I mentioned the problem, because otherwise I was just sitting and listening to music (though I've also sat and not been too bothered). Obviously people sit there all the time, but I agree that a little bit further back and higher would be my ideal in this particular auditorium (and I usually prefer watching from closer/in the orch as well). But take a look at some photos of the interior and make your own decision!

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To get to Inn at the Opera, you go through the exits on the North side (to the left of the front entrance), pass the stage door to your left, where there will be lots of people after the show, and walk about a block to the Inn. Those streets are well lit, and there's a very busy parking garage right before the Inn. I've never seen a panhandler on those blocks after the show: there's enough foot traffic, but not enough to distract them from the City Hall/BART area our the front door, where the odds are much better. It's when you're a few blocks past the Inn (if you kept walking) that things are quiet and feel deserted, which, if I were with someone else, wouldn't be an issue for me. There's also a fancy restaurant in the Inn, so that there are people around finishing late meals.

They have a very nice continental breakfast in the mornings, which is usually included, except for a tip for the wait staff.

They usually have a two-day minimum, and the last few times I've been down, it's been for an overnight, and I didn't qualify for a room. It's the first place I look, though, because it's so convenient after the show.

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A friend just emailed me this:

I stayed downtown San Fran, at the Whitcomb Hotel as it was walking distance to the Opera House. Every San Fran native said to stay by Fisherman’s Wharf. I personally wouldn’t stay downtown again. There are a lot of mental health patients out in the day and they do drugs and smoke up right on the grass in front of the government buildings. I am used to this sort of stuff growing up downtown Toronto, but the difference is they are so high they will come so close to you to talk as they have no conception of personal space. On a good note, at night the police is out in full force and there are no homeless people or druggies out, but by the morning they are all there again – it was the oddest thing!

Any comments?

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A friend just emailed me this:

I stayed downtown San Fran, at the Whitcomb Hotel as it was walking distance to the Opera House. Every San Fran native said to stay by Fisherman’s Wharf. I personally wouldn’t stay downtown again. There are a lot of mental health patients out in the day and they do drugs and smoke up right on the grass in front of the government buildings. I am used to this sort of stuff growing up downtown Toronto, but the difference is they are so high they will come so close to you to talk as they have no conception of personal space. On a good note, at night the police is out in full force and there are no homeless people or druggies out, but by the morning they are all there again – it was the oddest thing!

Any comments?

I once tried staying at the Holiday Inn-Civic Center on 8th St., right around the corner from the Whitcomb. Never again! Market St. is okay during the day, as you have a lot of people and traffic around, but you definitely want to take a cab back from the Opera House to either hotel. Fortunately, that's only about $5. After dark, swarms of people you would find frightening are all over the sidewalk. San Francisco has what seems to be the worst homeless problem I've seen in any major American city.

I have family members who always stay in the Fisherman Wharf's area, and there are several national chains there with good rates. But there is a pervasive fishy smell in that area. You also have the problem of derelicts on the sidewalk that can be scary after dark. And this would be a long cab ride after the performance.

I much prefer anything in the immediate area of Union Square. There are several major chains, as well as boutique hotels. If you shop around a bit and look for their AAA rates, prices aren't so bad. (I've never tried the Inn at the Opera, but might look into that in the future.) You need to take a cab back, but it's half the distance of Fisherman's Wharf. During the day, you are right on the cable car line, which is always fun.

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Union Square is a great area with lots of choices, and it's where all of the major department stores are and a very short BART ride to Embarcadero, a five-minute walk to the Ferry Terminal, where on weekend days there is a big outdoor market around the building and inside, some wonderful places to eat. I love to go there before matinees, and then take BART to Civic Center, a few long blocks to the Opera House.

For what it's worth, I think Fisherman's Wharf is overrated.

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I stayed at the Opal (mentioned above), and I thought it was fine (our room was clean, and you enter using a card key, dirt cheap), although it is up the hill, but I stayed there with an 80 year old female friend of mine (mention this so you can gauge whether it is for you), and she had no problem walking to and from the opera house with me. She loved the walk and was forced by her daughter to give up high heels recently otherwise we would have taken a cab. However, there is a seedy element on some of the side streets and even on Van Ness at night but especially behind the hotel. I arrived at 1am and caught her leaving the hotel for food (she flew earlier than I did). I almost had a heart attack when the clerk said she just left to go hunt for food on the streets behind the hotel. It is not exactly the best area for an 80 year old woman to be wandering around by herself at 1am, but she is fearless. During the day we felt totally safe including the side streets and behind the hotel, although we did have a couple of times when people wanted money, but I just said, "No," each time and they didn't bother us after telling them no. This was Summer 2011. Maybe the area has gone downhill even more since, but I would stay there again since it was so cheap. I am a 6 foot tall 45y.o. man though, so I am less scared than others might be. My 80 year old friend seemed to like it and wasn't frightened at all either, but she is that way. She finds everything an adventure. I just give all this info so you can gauge whether it is a place for you. I found it to be a very convenient location. Yoga, various restaurants, near Japan Town, near China Town (sort of a walk), near the opera house, near good coffee shops!!!!

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The average panhandler in San Francisco is by US standards the most initially aggressive I've encountered since NYC pre-Giuliani, but they're generally loud and more in your personal space than actually dangerous, and I don't remember ever having one reject a flat, "No." Walking up Van Ness, you'll encounter a few homeless people and panhandlers, especially since there's critical mass on the street after an event, and it's a smart place to be. But it's like being in Times Square in NYC, because WM lets out directly to the street, with no Lincoln Center Plaza or Seattle Center to buffer it from the heart of the city.

The reason there are so many homeless people on the street is that, for the most part, the climate is such that people don't freeze to death or die from tremendous heat if they live on the street. The same is true in the Pacific Northwest, where the climate is relatively mild, even if it's wet for months at a time. It's not like NYC or Toronto where the temperatures are life-threatening for months at a stretch.

Because I travel alone so much, I, personally, would rather be in a populated, well-lit part of town with some homeless people around than dark, deserted areas. I find it much less stressful.

The only thing I minded about the Opal was a slight industrial smell in my room, probably from whatever they used to clean. Otherwise, it was very clean, the bed comfortable, and the Wifi reliable. It's an uphill walk, but on a comfortable part of the grade.

I think there's now a 24-hour, or at least a very late-night diner, within a few blocks Van Ness.

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I'd recommend the Inn at the Opera. Its across the street from the Opera house, not too pricey and has a good breakfast. It reminds me of the Hotel Opera in Copenhagen: same location, price & breakfast!

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A friend just emailed me this:

I stayed downtown San Fran, at the Whitcomb Hotel as it was walking distance to the Opera House. Every San Fran native said to stay by Fisherman’s Wharf. I personally wouldn’t stay downtown again. There are a lot of mental health patients out in the day and they do drugs and smoke up right on the grass in front of the government buildings. I am used to this sort of stuff growing up downtown Toronto, but the difference is they are so high they will come so close to you to talk as they have no conception of personal space. On a good note, at night the police is out in full force and there are no homeless people or druggies out, but by the morning they are all there again – it was the oddest thing!

Any comments?

I'm not very big on Fisherman's Wharf - strictly a "lowbrow" tourist trap. ;)

You might want to visit nearby Ghirardelli Square or The Cannery for the shopping. But as others have mentioned, Union Square, and further away, Union STREET, are great for boutique shopping or window browsing.

One of the standouts regarding SF is the incredible number of excellent restaurants, and bars too, for that matter. For a city of its physical size, there's every conceivable cuisine to sample, block after block. And SF is a capital of the organic cuisine world. Jardiniere, right beside the Performing Arts Parking structure, is well known, and may still be good.

http://www.urbanspoo...rby-restaurants

I've also heard good things about Inn at the Opera.

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I did have a pleasant stay at the Regency Hyatt on Union Square and another stay at the Fairmont where I got an amazingly reasonable rate for my room by clicking on a variety of "discounts" for San Francisco and then putting a code right into the Fairmont's web page. The Fairmont is near the top of Nob Hill so you defnitely would not want to walk up there...I bought a muni pass and enjoyed taking the Cable Car back to the hotel from Union Square and my other walking sojourns. And I agree---you do want to have a ride in a cab after the performance. After my daughter was settled in San Francisco I'd stay at her apartment in the Mission/Noe Valley; she had a car so we'd drive back there at night despite its convenience to the BART.

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If you haven't already booked your hotel reservation, Inn at the Opera is having a special for new reservations only with a two-night minimum, between 21 November and 31 March except for the following blackout dates:

31 December

31 Jan-2 Feb

10-12 Mar

http://www.shellhospitality.com/blackfriday/inn_at_the_opera.php#iao

I'd check all of the travel websites for Thanksgiving sales.

I'm not sure when you're planning to attend, but they're also offering a $50 certificate for all stays in January, with an expiration date of 1 December 2013.

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If you haven't already booked your hotel reservation, Inn at the Opera is having a special for new reservations only with a two-night minimum, between 21 November and 31 March except for the following blackout dates:

31 December

31 Jan-2 Feb

10-12 Mar

http://www.shellhosp...e_opera.php#iao

I'd check all of the travel websites for Thanksgiving sales.

I'm not sure when you're planning to attend, but they're also offering a $50 certificate for all stays in January, with an expiration date of 1 December 2013.

Thanks for the heads up notice! I went ahead and booked a couple nights for one of the programs I'll be seeing. ;)

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I realized that I should now report on my own experiences staying at hotels in SF (now that I'm an out-of-towner, and all my friends live somewhere around SF, not in SF).

I've now been a guest at both the Inn At The Opera, and the Chancellor Hotel on Union Square - both are resonably priced (for SF) and have good locations, but for different reasons. The Chancellor is right near a corner of Union Square - a major shopping district of the city. And the cable car (going north towards Ghirardelli and Fisherman's Wharf) stops at the corner near the hotel. The standard room was modest in size, but cozy, and they have a pillow menu from which to choose any type of pillow. ;) A small refrigerator but no microwave that I recall. It's an old SF building, so the layout will seem a bit funky, but the rooms have been modernised in their decor. Clean. There is a trendy new restaurant on the premises (not inexpensive). A taxi ride to the War Memorial Opera House is in order from that location, but not terribly expensive (I think it was about $8).

The Inn At The Opera is exactly that - literally next door to the SF Ballet building and about 100 yards from the War Memorial side entrance. So, if you don't want any issues with getting to the ballet, and don't want to pay for taxis/buses, then it's the only place to stay really. Small and cozy as well. Another old SF building that retains a certain oddness - the old stairs creak, and it's somewhat difficult getting in and out of the elevator (which doesn't hold many people). That's where I kept running into Maina Gielgud who was staging Suite En Blanc for SFB. Makes sense that guests/visitors to the company stay at the Inn at the Opera. There's no restaurant on the premises, but the Sage Cafe is around the other side of the block and all the ballet people (and the school's students) go there - they do serve some kind of breakfast food as I remember, but are mainly an Asian-fusion cafe, with great smoothies (in other words, very eclectic). Otherwise, there's always food at the War Memorial.

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