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It’s game on at the Hotel Zephyr

Shipping containers are used as walls.Ellen Albanese for the Boston Globe/Globe Freelance

SAN FRANCISCO — It’s not all fun and games at Hotel Zephyr on San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf — but mostly. From magnetic dart boards and backgammon in the guest rooms to an outdoor lounge with life-size games of Connect Four and Jenga, every space invites guests to lighten up and play.

Formerly the Radisson Fisherman’s Wharf, Hotel Zephyr opened last summer following a $34 million renovation. Occupying a full city block, the 361-room hotel is built around a large central courtyard (called the Yard, in a nod to Alcatraz), with a funky, nautical, occasionally steampunk design. In the nearly 10,000-square-foot outdoor space, repeating circles and seating in circular configurations suggest portholes. A fountain emerges from a jumble of metal pipes. A glowing “campfire,” one of four fire pits in the Yard, turns out to be discarded computer parts arranged to create a metal sculpture. An oversize ventilation pipe becomes a platform for “tube ping-pong.” Is that giant red tower a periscope? Why, yes, it is, and it affords a view of San Francisco Bay beyond the hotel’s four-story façade. In a game room off the Yard, guests play ping pong, pool, and table shuffleboard.


The creative design is the work of Seattle-based Dawson Design Associates. The designer imagined a story built around a San Francisco merchant ship captain who traveled the world, then returned to his home port with items to repurpose, said Jill Plemons, director of sales and marketing: cargo containers that form walls of common areas, waterfront signs bent into chairs, metal barrels and wood spools turned into tables, stenciled canvas chairs that look like buoys. All of the art and the furniture were created by local artists, she said.

As inviting as the play spaces are, sooner or later you’re going to have to hang up your paddles and sleep. Our third-floor room on the bay side had a balcony from which we could see ferry terminals, the bustling waterfront, and Alcatraz. The ship-and-shipping theme appeared here as well, with old maps of San Francisco on the walls, and fishnet-wrapped globe lamps hanging from the ceiling. But the room, in soothing shades of gray and cream, still had a sleek, modern feel, with plenty of power ports and a smart TV, as well as a small fridge and Keurig coffee maker. The navy-and-cream-striped bathroom was small but functional, with good lighting and plenty of storage under the sink.


City-view rooms offer vistas of the Coit Tower and Russian Hill. A variety of room configurations include family-friendly options such as suites with Murphy beds, and connecting rooms. The hotel has a small fitness center and on-site parking.

Still in the works is a food and beverage service, which will be offered in an 18-foot custom-built camper in the Yard. Designed after a vintage Shasta trailer, the camper will stock coffee and grab-and-go breakfast items in the morning and beer, wine, and snacks in the evening, Plemons said.

In the meantime, guests will find plenty of dining options in the neighborhood, including such spots as Fog Harbor Fish House on adjacent Pier 39 and the legendary Boudin Bakery across the street — sourdough croissants for breakfast, anyone?

HOTEL ZEPHYR, 250 Beach St., 415-617-6565,

Ellen Albanese can be reached at