La Fonda exterior

Santa Fe is packed full with a rich Native American and Latino culture, mouthwatering New Mexico cuisine, and a stellar Southwestern art scene. On your vacation, a great way to get immediately integrated in the heartbeat of downtown Santa Fe is to check in to La Fonda on the Plaza.

La Fonda roomSitting right across from the 1887 St. Francis Cathedral Basilica, this corner of Santa Fe has had an inn, or fonda, early after the city was founded in 1607. The current La Fonda was built in 1922, right on the same site as the previous inns. In 1925, the new building was acquired by the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway before being leased to Fred Harvey, who turned La Fonda into one of the famous Harvey Houses. The property remained a Harvey House until 1968.

While the property is completing a renovation, I stayed there earlier in the month, and the only evidence I experienced of the construction was seeing the scaffolding outside. At no point did any construction noise disturb my stay. The renovation comprises 164 guest rooms and suites, some of which are already complete. New rooms have hand-painted furniture Southwestern architectural elements, Wi-Fi, plush bathrobes, coffeemaker, safe, hair dryer and Internet TV. Rates start at $129 and vary, depending on type of room and time of year.

I stayed in a separate concierge floor of the hotel, called La Terraza, all scattered about the rooftop terrace, which looks out to the cathedral. Each La Terraza room and suite is unique, but all are light and spacious with hardwood floors. Bath areas are bright with classic Mexican Talavera tiles. Rates for La Terraza rooms start at $299 and vary, depending on type of room and time of year.

La Fonda viewWhen you’re hungry, head downstairs to La Plazuela, the hotel’s original patio, for New Mexico cuisine (open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner). Perch on a bar seat at La Fiesta Lounge or the Bell Tower Bar for a crisp margarita to end your day.

Shoppers have a handful of options beyond the traditional hotel lobby gift shop. All around the outside walls of the hotel are no less than 15 shops—offering French pastries, handmade textiles, jewelry, clothing, gourmet candies and more. Spa options at La Fonda range from massage to wraps, to scrubs and foot treatments.

One of the best ways to discover the history of the hotel is to pick up the brochure at the front desk that has a list of the local artwork decorating the hallways and public rooms throughout the first and second floors. Use that as your excuse to wander around and find your favorite thing. Mine may still be the margaritas, however.

See more at the official website for La Fonda at the Plaza. You can also check prices online at Priceline or Hotels.com.

Article and last photo by Jill K. Robinson of Danger Jill Robinson. All other photos courtesy of La Fonda on the Plaza.