It was starting to snow when my sister and I arrived at Santa Fe’s El Rey Inn. Hard to believe in a state that’s famous for its abundant and enchanted “light.” I wasn’t expecting sizzling hot temperatures in March, but I was looking for blue sky and sunshine. I was also looking for a bit of nostalgia.
Located off of the original Route 66, the retro El Rey Inn met my nostalgia yearnings and then some. Independently owned by the same local ownership since 1973, this little inn opened in 1936 as the El Rey Court with 12 rooms. Today, it has expanded and now encompasses almost 5 acres, with currently 86 rooms, located in several buildings connected by pretty paths and landscaped grounds. In the North Courtyard there is a sauna and an outdoor whirlpool near a handcrafted fireplace. Another unit has been transformed into a fitness room for guests– and vending machines and ice machine are in yet another.
Built in the traditional northern New Mexico adobe style, the place in its summer season brochures shows a fiesta of color– with trees, shrubs, sculptures, beautiful potted flowers, tiled wall murals and meandering walkways where birds sing. While I was there, it was too cold for blooms (I did hear a bird sing!), but still I found the property charming, and especially magical at night–when twinkling lights and lanterns were lit and one could imagine the year as maybe 1955?
With the snowfall, perhaps I should have requested one of their rooms with the southwestern working kiva fireplaces, but I had opted for a room in the original courtyard. This is the kind of place where you can actually call and request (with a real person) the room you would like to reserve. (In fact, it’s encouraged on the website!) Best of all—when you arrive, you actually get it!
Check-in was easy—and when I peeked into the lobby adjacent to it, it was cozy with a kiva fireplace, heavy dark beamed ceiling and old photos, plus paintings and a complimentary coffee service set up. If I had had more time, I thought it would be a great place to hang out, sip a cup of morning coffee and write out a free postcard (available at the front desk or in your rooms).
The friendly desk clerk gave us recommendations for where to eat, a city map to point out the places we were hoping to see the next day, along with a map of the inn property. Then she informed us to stop in the office in the morning for a $5 off coupon for breakfast at The Pantry. The popular local eatery is practically next door—and since the hotel was not serving breakfast during the off season, this was their solution. (We did have breakfast at The Pantry and loved it; I would highly recommend it, with or without the $5 off coupon!)
We drove to our room, parking in front of the brightly painted turquoise door—exactly like the kind of motor courts my parents used to stay at when we did road trips back in the day. I still love the convenience of such places: no wandering down long corridors, or having to put on shoes to make a trip to the vehicle when you forgot something.
Our room was spacious with a nice sitting area, complete with coffee table stacked with several New Mexico magazines. There was a small refrigerator, safe, t.v. and coffeemaker. Wi-fi was free and although a little slow, worked well.
Even though the inn is off the busy Cerillos Road, I did not find it noisy, although maybe in the summer time, with windows open, that might be a concern. Two queen beds were comfy, and a space heater wall unit kept the room warm (and there is AC in the summer.)
The bathroom was clean, and simple—with a special basket of pink towels if we wanted to use the whirlpool (the swimming pool was not open obviously) plus the usual hairdryer, magnifying mirror, and basic amenities. I liked the added touches of the towel racks with the ubiquitous symbol of the southwest: the gecko.
I like to peek in hotel desk drawers, and this time I was delighted to find what I’m always looking for: stationery. In a folder, I found complimentary postcards plus several sheets of paper with the El Rey logo and return address, just like the old days, when people actually wrote letters and mailed them in an envelope. With a stamp. So retro.
Room rates start at $109 for traditional standard rooms in the summer season and go up to $240-$295 for deluxe lodge suites (November to April rates start at $93). These are really affordable prices for Santa Fe—although you do have to drive (it’s about 10 minutes) downtown to the Plaza.
Review and photos of the El Rey Inn by Donna Tabbert Long.