Parking: $20 per day in nearby garage
BART: Powell station (six blocks)
Could this be true? A hotel with a fun and funky soul located just two blocks from Union Square, with rates way under $100? Indeed it is. Your first clue is the etched wooden sign, complete with lucky horseshoe, hung over the entrance to the Dakota Hotel: "Kick off your boots and stay awhile." At rates as low as $50 per night, nearly anyone can afford to do just that.
Here are some things the Dakota is not: plush, depressing, sleek, grim, formal. Here are some things you won’t find at the Dakota: a weight room, a concierge, uniformed personnel, a bellman, a stuffy attitude. What you will find is a young and cheerful staff, a clean and comfy place to lay your head in one of 40 basic rooms, and a short, short walk to your sightseeing destination or the public transportation to get you there.
The lobby is clean and simple. A large map of the world pinned to the wall testifies to the international character of the budget travelers who find their way here. The hotel shows its age in the most delightful ways: thick ridged mahogany moldings, 1920s light fixtures, and best of all, a gen-yoo-wine birdcage elevator, the kind with a sliding glass-paned door and then an inner folding metal gate, letting you watch the floors slide by as you ascend to the thrum and whine of the motor. True, as a method of transport it’s pretty slow, not so much once you’re in it, but when you’re waiting for it. The Dakota advises how to handle this on little signs affixed to the wall by the elevator on each floor: "EXERCISE. Use the stairs when possible. It’s good for you." The Dakota is what it is, with an insouciant shrug and a smile.
Don’t let the hallways, painted a startling shade of salmon pink, put you off. The rooms are a standard off-white and simply furnished, with firm and bouncy mattresses. The amenities are limited to a TV with remote control and a small fridge and microwave, to make those longer stays even more affordable. The bathroom is small and 1920s cute, with a small sink tucked into a corner of the room and a clawfoot tub. As the single-pane windows front on busy Post Street, be prepared for some traffic noise – light sleepers may want to bring earplugs.
Rates run between $50 and $99, depending on season and availability--expect to pay about $65.