San Francisco, California
Cool, $$ (From $199)
In 1948, Jack Kerouac's novel On the Road gave name (and rise to) The Beat Generation, that loose cabal of passionate nonconforming radicals, sexually-awakened hippies, free-roaming hitchhikers, and folks rebelling against the post-war American culture.
Fast forward 71 years, and today's 21st-century beatniks are as vocal, ready for political change, and hungry for spaces where they can express themselves. They're just usually a little more bougie than their boho forebears.
Cue Hotel Emblem, the newest member of the Viceroy Urban Retreats hotel collection, located in the heart of San Francisco's most vibrant neighborhood, where Nob Hill meets Union Square and the Arts District. Throughout the hotel are outlets meant to incite free expression: old-fashioned typewriters in the writer's dens, communal bar tables, a book butler, and beatnik-inspired texts displayed on the hallway carpet and guest room walls. (And there are plenty of, er, actual outlets for the devices that power their lives.) The uncensored modern design and pattern play travels throughout the hotel, becoming a visual map of rebellious American generations past and present. Has the hotel taken this theme to the extreme? For sure. Does it also work? Yes. And while room rates might not fit Occupy Wall Street budgets, they can be as low as $199 per night, which is hardly exclusive to the one percent, especially in pricey San Francisco.
At a Glance
The Vibe: A modern rebel with — and without — a cause.
Standout Detail: The hotel's book butler will deliver nightly reading material from beatnik writers like Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg.
This Place Is Perfect For: Boho-cool travelers on the road, extroverts who love to spark a debate, freelancers, and creatives looking to spend less than usual in SF.
Rooms: 96 spacious and vibrant guest rooms are designed to create a mood of bold and historic charm, with soft, sage green walls mixed with rich wood and luxe burgundy velvet furniture — an ode to the modern art and European design aesthetic. The beds are fitted with Italian linens, and each room comes with a Nespresso machine for morning coffee or late night mud. The walls are decorated with original beatnik literature that starts flows around the room like a stream of moving poetry. Each custom desk is fitted with an inspiration board filled with mementos, photo strips, and quotes from the Beat Generation. Guests are encouraged to leave their own mark behind.
On Site: The book-filled Writer's Cove has a first-come, first-served typewriter. The lobby bar is home to weekly poetry slams and nightly live jazz: Feel free to help yourself to the fresh fruit and snacks. Work and play meeting venue The Den is a flexible space for events and gatherings. Bike are available to explore the downtown area. The hotel doesn't have a gym, but guests get passes to Active Sports Club.
Food + Drink: Obscenity Bar & Lounge, the hotel's ode to the First Amendment, is filled with communal tables to inspire lively conversation among hipster travelers and locals. Get in the spirit with the cocktail program, starting with Beet Generation (a little too on the nose?), made with gin, fresh beet juice, lime, and mint. Bluestone Lane coffee shop — off the lobby and with views of downtown San Francisco — serves artisan coffee and wellness lattes made from Japanese matcha or tumeric.
What to Do Nearby
The hotel's Underground Concierge service maps out six unique self-guided tours around North Beach, the epicenter of the Beat Generation and a mile and a half from the hotel. Explore the very sites that authors Kerouac and Ginsberg found their literary inspiration in the 1950s — and the dozen streets that are now named after the literary greats (Ambrose Bierce, Isadora Duncan, Mark Twain, Jack London) — all of whom spent significant time in San Francisco.
Grab a novel at City Lights, the independent bookstore that put Allen Ginsberg on the map, and grab a pint at Spec's Twelve Adler Museum Cafe (12 William Saroyan Pl., +1-415-421-4112, no website), where news columnists would catch up on underground news and the social center for beatnik rebels. End the day at Li Po Cocktail Lounge — unchanged from the time when Kerouac, Lamantia, and Whalen were regulars, down to the giant Buddha sculpture.