The Grand Hyatt San Francisco is located on Stockton Street, just steps from Union Square. It’s the perfect place to stay if you’re looking for the tourist experience or just want to take advantage of the city’s shopping scene. The Powell BART station is just a few blocks away and if you want to venture out further, the area is crawling with Uber drivers. New Year’s Eve rates topped $600 per night, but my out of pocket cost for two rooms was just 40,000 Hyatt points and $0.
The lobby of the Grand Hyatt is warm and welcoming, with three seating areas furnished with comfortable couches, fireplaces, some interesting art installations, and a huge Christmas tree. It felt more like a ski lodge than a hotel in the middle of a city. While Hyatt will be implementing free wifi worldwide starting in February 2015, the Grand Hyatt is already offering this perk to all of its guests.
The set up at check-in was odd, with a desk that branched out in three directions and computers at the end or in the middle of each branch. It made for a really awkward place to stand during check-in. The elite check-in area also kept rotating between two small side tables. As a result, I received some dirty looks from non-elite guests when I inadvertently cut the wrong line, thinking I was skipping ahead to the Diamond/Platinum check-in desk.
I arrived at 1 PM, not at all expecting the two rooms to be available right away. The agent did his best to accommodate us anyway and got us checked into one room, explaining that the second room would be ready in the next hour or so. The next hour turned into 6 PM, at which point the manager took care of it and reduced the room rate by 50%.
Grand Club King Room
The King room had a nice layout, with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the bay and a hallway that lead to the bathroom, vanity area, and closet. I didn’t pay attention to the bathroom amenities. When it comes to bath products, so long as the shampoo doesn’t dry out my hair, I don’t care who makes it or how fancy the label is.
The floors were made of what I assume was laminate, which may sound like a bad idea for a hotel room, but it gave the space warmth. Plus, when the floors do eventually scratch, it won’t look as bad as a stained carpet, so thumbs up to Hyatt on that design decision – which I’m sure they appreciate, coming from a design expert like me.
To the left of the entrance was a large desk and entertainment area. The chair by the window was literally the most comfortable I’ve ever sat on. The only negatives were the freezing temperature and the lack of power outlets. There were two on a wall near the desk and one by the window – however, it was embedded into the floor in a way that made it impossible to plug in a Macbook adapter, so it was pretty much useless.
Grand Club Double Room
The Double Room was equally spacious and had the same great view and bone chilling cold temperature as the King room. Even with the thermostat set at 84 degrees, nobody got a wink of sleep that first night because it was just too damn cold. A maintenance worker came by to check it out and explained that the heater was working fine and that the cold wind from outside was responsible for the chill. On the second night, the wind had let up and the room did get significantly warmer, so I guess he was right.
Grand Club Lounge
The Grand Club Lounge is located on the 32nd floor, two levels above our rooms. Before my stay, a few readers had reported that the lounge was open 24/7. I’m sad to report that the hotel has implemented a new policy, closing the lounge at 9 PM. A front desk agent later told me it was because of one particular family. Five of them stayed in a single room and the sixth person decided to crash in the lounge. It seems like an extreme reaction to one incident, but if you’re wondering why the club is no longer open 24 hours a day, you’ve got some random family to thank for that.
The Grand Club Lounge had two TV’s, playing silent coverage of the AirAsia crash until someone changed the channel to the Stanford football game. The team had been staying at the hotel the previous night and I passed them as they got on the bus to Santa Clara, police escort in tow.
The lounge doesn’t look spacious at first sight, but it was large enough to accommodate all of the Club guests, even during the busy evening hors d’oeuvres. Aside from plentiful seating, the Grand Club Lounge also features a small room with computers and a printer for guests to use.
The spread was generally decent – not as extensive as what the Hyatt Regency San Francisco offers, but definitely better quality. For breakfast, there was a huge spread consisting of fresh fruit, pastries, a watery egg dish with generous selection of toppings (cheese, chives, ham, bacon, etc.), bagels, smoked salmon, hardboiled eggs, yogurt, and different breads to choose from. Drinks were plentiful, with four kinds of juice (orange, pomegranate, and grapefruit), three types of milk, and a coffee machine that pumped out mediocre lattes (Tip: Add a packet of hot chocolate mix to the lattes to make them less bland).
At 5 PM, the staff put out appetizers and snacks. There was always a bowl of fresh fruit, cheese, a plate of vegetables, hummus, along with a main dish. On the first night it was drumsticks that were so large, they resembled turkey legs from a Renaissance fair, along with a plate of apricots topped with cream cheese and tomato bits. On the second night, it was spring rolls with ratatouille on crackers. Everything tasted good and sufficed as a meal.
At 7 PM, the appetizers were replaced with desserts – usually an assortment of cookies, pound cake, and small bite-sized cakes and chocolates. There was always a rush over the cakes and once gone, they were not replenished. The service at the lounge was exceptional, in keeping with my usual experience at Hyatt club lounges. Attendants walked around chatting with guests, encouraging them to get more food, and letting them know when they were getting ready to clear out.
New Year’s Eve
Around 9 PM on New Year’s Eve, we headed down to the lobby, where the hotel was having an event open to all guests. The staff had set up a large projector showing the New Year’s Eve countdown on CNN. Families had gathered to watch one hit wonder Meghan Trainor give a final performance before fading into oblivion, while Anderson Cooper squirmed and laughed uncomfortably in response to Kathy Griffin’s racy jokes. One Direction performed a song that was both childish and mature beyond their years, and it was nice seeing Jenny McCarthy be employed.
There was a table nearby with complimentary refreshments, noise makers, party hats, glasses of champagne, and fruit punch for the kids. There was also a popcorn machine nearby that guests helped themselves to. Once the countdown ended shortly after 9 PM, the lobby cleared out and we sat around the fireplace for a while before heading out ourselves.
We walked through a deserted Chinatown, down to Embarcadero, which was packed. Vendors were grilling hot dogs on aluminum foil pans and protesters gathered in the area near the Hyatt Regency, surrounded by police officers. They weren’t protesting as much as they were practicing their breakdance moves. That, combined with the occasional homeless person jumping out and screaming at strangers made me a bit uneasy. The cold wasn’t very comfortable and I thought of the Hyatt Regency with its warm lobby and direct view of the Ferry Building. Apparently so did every other person in town because the hotel was completely sectioned off and bouncers were only letting in guests with keycards.
Remembering the staff’s comments about our rooms having direct views of the fireworks, we decided to head back to the Grand Hyatt. We made it just in time for the fireworks….which were not visible from either room. If you strained your neck and pushed against the window hard enough, you could see specks of light, but it was hardly the direct view we were promised. We headed up to the gym, another place that was supposed to have views, and found the same thing: Specs of light here and there, with the fireworks largely blocked off by the towering buildings ahead. Ultimately it wasn’t much of a loss since San Francisco needs to step up it’s fireworks game anyway. Ever since watching the Christmas Eve fireworks show at Darling Harbour, I’ve been underwhelmed by what the Bay Area puts together each year.
If you’re looking for a place to stay in San Francisco on New Year’s Eve and want to catch the fireworks show while avoiding the cold, the Intercontinental Mark Hopkins and Hyatt Regency are good options. Award availability may be tough to come by, so you’ll need to book ahead or keep checking as the date approaches, in case of last minute cancellations.
Overall, we had a wonderful stay at the Grand Hyatt San Francisco and I look forward to returning soon. I would absolutely recommend the hotel to anyone visiting the city.
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