Eight or nine years ago, before GSA ruined the use of the term, we had a Commander’s Conference at the Marines Memorial Club in downtown San Francisco. Previous to this, conferences were held in some nice getaway places like Reno, but by the time I got a battalion command, they were already looking for cheaper and less conspicuous places to hold meetings with guys in military uniforms running around where the public could see them. To my fortune, I discovered the Marines Memorial Club and hotel.
Legend has it that the Marines had saved up a lot of money in WW2 to run a PX system for the occupation of Japan, when the war suddenly ended. This was back in the day when things were a lot looser with money and the Marines decided that they would buy a hotel in downtown San Francisco so Marines would have an inexpensive place to stay when on shore leave there. They also wanted to memorialize the Marine legend and particularly recognize all the extreme sacrifices and heroism that were made in the war. They still consider this club a “living memorial” to those who serve and have served. Thus, they established the Marines Memorial Fund which bought an old women’s club near Union Square and turned it into a 138 room hotel complete with a great steakhouse restaurant at the top and a large theater at the bottom that could house lectures by eminent speakers.
You can read the complete story here and check out their website. This is a members only club, however, membership is open to all veterans and those currently serving. Membership is $150 a year and you must provide a DD214 to prove you are a veteran. For those, like myself, who are currently on duty the annual fee is only $35. Can’t beat that with a stick! What do you get for this membership? Here is their list:
- Reciprocal Club Privileges at over 190 private clubs throughout the world
- All donations to the Marines’ Memorial Association are fully tax-deductible
- Participation in Club-sponsored social events such as Dinner Dances, Holiday Champagne Brunches, Marine Corps Birthday Ball and New Year’s Eve
- Participation in Club-sponsored special events such as the George P. Shultz Lecture Series
- Eligibility to apply for the Marines’ Memorial Association Scholarship Program
- Participation in the Marines’ Memorial Club’s Frequent Stay Program
- Complimentary subscription to the quarterly Crossroads of the Corps
- Guest Cards for your spouse and children over 21 years of age, entitling them to stay at Marines Memorial Club at membership rates
- The continued existence of the Marines Memorial Club as a “Living Memorial” for past, present and future military personnel and their families
So what kind of rate discount do you get for membership? Try $149-179/ night with suites at $329-369. Regular hotels in this area charge double that! Breakfast is included, as is happy hour, at the Leatherneck restaurant.
Other benefits are a first rate lecture series that makes me wish I lived in San Francisco. General John Allen speaks there next month for example. OK, maybe I am the only one interested in that feature…
For all you frequent flyers/ stayers, they have their own program. Stay 12 nights and get one free. OK, so not as good as Marriott, but it’s better than nothing! They also have reciprocal membership at 190 other clubs around the world. This list and details can be viewed here. This list includes private clubs with hotel rooms in just about any country (22) that you would want to visit. I haven’t tried any, but it will be on my list to do when I retire someday. I’ll bet you could travel the world pretty inexpensively if they are all as nice as the Marines Memorial Club accommodations.
Membership is worth it and pays for itself in as little as one stay in San Francisco. I have had my wife and daughter stay here when they had a little Mother/ Daughter time while I was on my last deployment and they had a great time. Note that with the location being so central you can actually stay there without a car or rent one just for the day from several rental car companies a block or two away. The BART will take you to and from the airport, but it is a good five block hike so maybe not if you have a ton of luggage. Lots of great restaurants within walking distance too. Give it a shot – even if you are not a Marine!