Monday, November 25, 2013

Argonaut Renovates A New Chapter

Ten years or so ago, finding a place to stay right off Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco was limited. Most of the hotels are at least a block or two off Jefferson Street, with one or maybe two exceptions.

But all that changed when Kimpton Hotels opened the Argonaut Hotel in 2003, a boutique with 252 guest rooms and 13 suites. It literally extends the reach of the Jefferson Street experience to the Aquatic Park and beach just west of the San Francisco Maritime Museum. And although some might still consider this a bit of a trek, the walk can be pleasantly vibrant depending on the time of year.

The destination is worth it too. During the past decade, the hotel has undergone several renovations and, more recently, a redesign. While Kimpton decided to keep the quirky nautical theme, exposed brick walls, and wood-beam ceilings, there is a freshness the hotel hasn't felt in some time.

It seems to have spilled over into service expectations too. I remember when the hotel was proud to earn three diamonds from AAA. Nowadays, the hotel boasts four. People who stay here love it.

The Argonaut shares a history with the Haslett Warehouse.

Argonaut Hotel, San Francisco
The original building, which is occupied by The Argonaut now, was once the largest fruit and vegetable cannery in the world. It was a massive four-story brick and Douglas fir timber construction that was built between 1907 by the California Fruit Canners Association (a.k.a. Del Monte). Operations ceased during the Great Depression and it became a warehouse.

It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975 and transferred to the National Park Service in 1978. And in 1988, the warehouse was included as part of the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, which includes the historic fleet at Hyde Street Pier, the Maritime Museum, and the Maritime Library. Kimpton has a long-term lease on the property, which supports the park.

This is also why the Visitors Center and Interactive Museum is located on the property. The 10,000-square-foot space has dozens of displays and artifacts that retell the wharf's rich history. Some of the museum exhibits are interactive, including the sensory "A Walk Along The Waterfront," which incorporates sound effects from the wharf's golden era to tell the story.

The atmosphere is casual, modern and quirky. 

Argonaut Hotel rooms
The interior design team did a great job balancing modern amenities with an over-accentuated nautical theme and the historic exposed brick walls, large timber beams, and warehouse doors.

The motif is big and bold, somewhere between breach house and cruise ship. The carpeting is striped, unexposed brick walls are paneled, and the fabrics mix and match reds and navy blues that pop against off-white. Some rooms have oversized leather ottomans. All of them have yoga mats.

Other standards include complimentary wireless flat screen televisions, work desks with Eames-style chairs, and surprisingly soft, comfortable beds. Some of the rooms offer views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, and the historic ships at Hyde Street Pier. Others provide views of the city, landmarks like Coit Tower and the Transamerica Pyramid. I stayed in a room with a single king.

The Argonaut keeps good company within walking distance. 

The most immediate attraction is The Cannery, which is a waterfront marketplace as rich as many found up and down Jefferson Street; and Ghirardelli Square, another area market. Hyde Street Pier, which is where several historic ships and one submarine make up an impressive floating museum, is located across the street.

A little further away, past all the shops and fish markets, is the always popular Pier 39. There are plenty of places to catch a bite, but the Blue Mermaid Chowder House & Bar works on any night you aren't up for a walk. The concept there is what they call Barbary Coast heritage and Gold Rush nostalgia as envisioned by Steven Connolly. It serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The Argonaut Hotel Livens Up San Francisco At 8.4 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

The Argonaut Hotel has come along way since it opened ten years ago. It just keeps getting better. The staff is friendly, the service is on point, and even the guests are more approachable. I even recommend the hosted wine hour from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. Aside from enjoying complimentary wine, the hotel is well suited to guests who mingle rather than retreating to their rooms.

There is always so much to do in San Francisco, with Fisherman's Wharf often described as a destination unlike any other in the city. For details and booking information, start by comparing specials against top travel deals at It deserves a couple of days to explore on its own.
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