Arriving at the Inn at the Presidio, a former U.S. Army post turned 22-room luxury inn at the northern tip of San Francisco, my family and I thought we had entered a magical forest. It turns out we had: The Presidio is a 1,491-acre national park and historic landmark with 300 acres of cypress and eucalyptus groves (planted by the army decades ago), 11 miles of hiking trails and 14 miles of bike paths, as well as beaches and campgrounds. And yet it’s within San Francisco city limits, a short drive to museums such as the Academy of Sciences and the Exploratorium as well as favorite restaurants and ice cream shops — all high on our agenda. After two nights at the property, we concluded that the location and environs, along with our sprawling suite, could not have been more perfect for exploring Fog City.
A Georgian Revival-style brick building, the main inn features 22 rooms, 17 of which are suites. The suites especially serve families well, each with a king-size bed and a living area with pullout sofa. Our room was elegantly appointed and showcased authentic artifacts; this was clearly a property paying respect to its history and geography. The windows opened, letting in a fresh, fragrant breeze; we all remarked how clean the air smelled and felt. The black-and-white-tiled bathroom was stocked with EO toiletries, a line of botanical-based products. Our 6-year-old loved the citrus scent so much she asked to wash her hair twice in the three days we were there.
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The inn, which is managed by the Presidio Trust in partnership with the National Park Service, has no elevators since it’s a historic building dating to 1903. We didn’t mind, it’s but worth noting in case accessibility is a concern. Several thoughtful touches, such as rocking chairs set along the wraparound porch and an intimate breakfast spread of pastries, charcuterie, fruit, coffee and juice, made the inn feel more like a home than a hotel. In the evenings, local wines and cheeses were laid out in the dining area as a complimentary reception inviting guests to mingle and meet.
We hadn’t planned on spending that much time in the Presidio itself, but when the front desk manager handed us a kid-focused booklet about the area’s walking trails, I knew we were going to love the property and its surrounding woods. The booklet details a fun scavenger hunt for kids (ages 5 and up) to follow as they walk the 2/3-mile Ecology Trail that starts behind the hotel. It asks kids to observe and draw the types of leaves they might see along the way; choose the animals and flowers they see from illustrations of a bee, owl, hawk, banana slug, wildflower and blackberry bush; and identify California’s state rock, serpentinite. Ultimately, the trail leads to a vista that looks out to the Golden Gate Bridge.
We also stopped by renowned land artist Andy Goldsworthy’s site-specific Wood Line installation, which proved to be a quiet highlight of our entire weekend. Along the forest floor of the eucalyptus grove, Goldsworthy created a curving sculpture using eucalyptus logs that invites visitors to walk along it or upon it. Our kids loved balancing and walking on the logs. We talked to our daughter about how this was a form of art using nature, and it sparked a conversation about how art can really be and express anything. Our younger one, meanwhile, collected sticks and leaves galore. It was a spontaneous stop, but a relaxed and memorable one.
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Though the Presidio felt like its own enchanted destination, we were pleasantly surprised how close it was to some of the other attractions we were hoping to visit. We spent one morning at the Golden Gate Park playground and dug into pizza at Pizzeria Delfina in Pacific Heights for lunch before coming back so our toddler could nap. This was a big help in breaking up the day for all of us.
When my husband suggested we stay at the hotel next time we visit the area, I knew we had really found a gem. And we’ll plan to explore more of the Presidio too.
Editor’s Note: Photos by Tanvi Chheda and Inn at the Presidio.
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