“The Inn at the End of the Trail,” on the corner of San Francisco Street and Old Santa Fe Trail, La Fonda
(100 E. San Francisco St., 505/982-5511, www.lafondasantafe.com) has been offering respite to travelers in some form or another since 1607. This hotel boomed in the early years of the Santa Fe Trail and the gold-digging era with a casino and saloon; it hosted the victory ball following General Kearny’s takeover of New Mexico in the Mexican-American War; and during the Civil War it housed Confederate general H. H. Sibley during his short-lived attempt to claim New Mexico for the South.
Lynchings, shootings, and all the other signatures of Wild West life took place in the lobby. In the 1920s, it got a bit safer for the average tourist, as it became part of the chain of Harvey Houses along the country’s railways. Since the 1960s, it has been a family-owned hotel.
The stacked pueblo revival place you see today dates from 1920, and its interior still hums with history—something about the tile floors, painted glass, and heavy furniture conveys the pleasant clamor of conversation and hotel busyness the way more modern lobbies do not. Guests still pick up their keys at an old wood reception desk, drop their letters in an Indian-drum-turned-mailbox, and chat with the concierge below the poster for Harvey’s Indian Detours car-tour service.
Also look around at the great art collection, including wall-size portraits of Kit Carson and Native American dancers, as well as a mural of aSanta Fe Trail wagon train.
La Plazuela restaurant, in the sunny center courtyard, is a beautiful place to rest, and the bar is timeless.
© Zora O'Neill from Moon Santa Fe, Taos & Albuquerque, 2nd edition