From Japantown to Union Square, here are five fantastic properties with atmosphere to spare.
'Hood Japantown, which is gaining buzz. Fillmore Street, a chic boutique shopping area, is a few blocks northwest.
First Impression The exterior looks normal, but the lobby has vending machines that sell anime toys and T-shirts.
Rooms Each of the 125 rooms has beanbag chairs, glow-in-the-dark desk blotters, and Japanese-cartoon murals. Two video-game suites have six-foot screens and PlayStation 3 consoles.
Plus On Tuesday nights, the restaurant offers all-you-can-eat shabu-shabu (diners dip meat and vegetables into a bubbling hot pot).
Minus Tomo is becoming popular with families, meaning you may find yourself joined by lots of small children.
Info 1800 Sutter St., 888/822-8666, hoteltomo.com, from $139.
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SIR FRANCIS DRAKE HOTEL
'Hood Union Square, the city's tourist-friendly shopping district.
First Impression: When it opened during Prohibition in 1928, the hotel had room panels that let the staff deliver hooch to guests. Despite a renovation, the hotel has retained much of its glamour, and doormen still wear beefeater uniforms.
Rooms Many of the 417 rooms are small, but they have features like curved walls. Perks include a pet-friendly floor and yoga kits you can borrow.
Plus The Sunday brunch features a rollicking drag show. (When in San Francisco...)
Minus The atmosphere can be frenetic, whether it's due to tour groups checking in piles of luggage or post-work partyers jostling their way to the lobby bar.
Info 450 Powell St., 800/795-7129, sirfrancisdrake.com, from $139.
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'Hood Near the theater district, but bordering the still-sketchy Tenderloin area.
First Impression The Beresford is one of the city's oldest grande dames--it was built in 1911--with original woodwork and period furnishings, such as a writing desk in a parlor off the lobby.
Rooms Several of the 114 rooms were just refurbished, adding crown molding and colonial-style door frames. Hallways are lined with photos of popular city sights.
Plus The White Horse Tavern & Restaurant, known for its generous filet mignon, is a favorite with theatergoers.
Minus The "friendliest hotel in San Francisco" motto is a bit of an exaggeration (we're talking to you, front-desk clerks).
Info 635 Sutter St., 800/533-6533, beresford.com, from $89.
ORCHARD GARDEN HOTEL
'Hood Steps from Chinatown and North Beach, a historically Italian area, and home to the iconic City Lights bookstore.
First Impression Everything is earth-friendly, from the fluorescent bulbs in the hallways to the soy ink used to print your bill. The beige-on-beige lobby was constructed from recycled cement.
Rooms The 86 rooms are done in muted greens and beiges, with headboards of sustainably grown maple. Even the toilet paper is recycled paper.
Plus High-tech amenities include Wi-Fi, iPod docking stations, and (continuing the eco theme) key cards that turn on the electricity when you enter a room.
Minus Leaf patterns cover the walls--and anything else you can slap foliage on.
Info 466 Bush St., 888/717-2881, theorchardgardenhotel.com, from $189.
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GALLERIA PARK HOTEL
'Hood Where the Financial District meets Union Square, next to the Crocker Galleria mall.
First Impression Renovated in March, the hotel's grand lobby is a mix of styles, with an art nouveau fireplace, '30s portrait sketches in pearly frames, and Victorian crystal skylights.
Rooms The 177 rooms feel luxurious, with gossamer curtains, leather headboards, and clocks with MP3-player hookups.
Plus A third-floor outdoor terrace and landscaped jogging track connects to the shopping center.
Minus The hotel's restaurant is under construction. Walk one block north to Belden Place instead; Cafe Bastille has jazz on Friday nights.
Info 191 Sutter St., 800/792-9639, galleriapark.com, from $149.
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