Featured on New Mexico vehicle license plates is the tagline, Land of Enchantment, touting the area’s allure. La Fonda On The Plaza in Santa Fe might be the Land of Enchantment’s beating heart. Travelers to this mystic land have come for eons and leave their traces. In the deserts and mountains of this region are curious petroglyphs and pictographs that indigenous people left for us to puzzle over. What’s not puzzling in the Santa Fe area, is where to stay.
Built in 1922, La Fonda’s soaring adobe structure looks as though it’s been there forever.
A bit of history
The famed hotelier Fred Harvey once presided over the La Fonda and charmed those who stayed here with professional waitresses in the notable restaurant onsite. The Harvey era ran until 1968 when Sam and Ethel Balen purchased the La Fonda. Current general manager Ed Pulsifer told me, “The Balen’s managed it for the next forty years. After Sam and Ethel passed away in 2008, their daughters turned to longtime friend and attorney Jennifer Kimball to be the CEO. In October 2014 the daughters sold La Fonda to Jennifer Kimball and her brother Phillip Wise.” The current owners have continued the legacy of maintaining an incredible southwest art collection, excellent dining, and comfortable rooms.
La Fonda’s location put you steps away from the Plaza. Getting here is relatively easy by car, train, or air. Valet parking is available if you decide to drive to Santa Fe, or you can come by Road Runner Commuter rail from Albuquerque if you don’t need a car. Choosing a room can be difficult as there are so many choices. There are standard guest rooms, dog-friendly rooms, luxury rooms, and a concierge level for over-the-top luxury.
For the budget-minded guest, try a standard room with a street view towards the south. A standard room is not roughing it by any stretch of the imagination. You get a king-size bed, a large armoire for clothing storage, fridge, microwave, robes, Nespresso coffee maker, hand-painted headboard, original artwork, room safe, and gorgeous hand-painted tiles in the shower.
Get the full southwest experience with a west-facing room or suite. Wither room choice will captivate you with stunning sunsets over far away mountains. These rooms are from 1922 and 1929 construction and offer the best in comfort and views. The Terrace, built in 1998, is the newest wing of La Fonda. This is La Fonda’s concierge-level, with upscale rooms and services.
For onsite dining, La Plazuela serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Try their huevos rancheros for a stick-to-the-ribs meal incorporating the exotic flavors of New Mexico. Local chiles bathe the eggs beans and posole in a delicious sauce that will wake up your taste buds and get you ready for a day of exploring.
Lunch and dinner items include grilled portabello for the vegetarians, green chile meatloaf, fajitas, and tacos also grace the menu. In the La Fiesta Lounge, try a bowl of tortilla chips with queso dip to pair with a craft beer, margarita, or a glass of fine New Mexico wine.
The La Fonda also has a full-service spa with a hot tub and swimming pool. After a long day of bicycle riding, hiking, skiing, or mountain climbing, a one hour massage and a soak in the hot tub are a wise choice.
Meetings, special events, and family reunions at the La Fonda are popular. The Lumpkins Ballroom offers 6,560 sq ft/609.44 sq m of authentic art and décor. The large light fixtures are made of metal and glass and are priceless works of art. The walls feature ancient designs from plates discovered in archeology digs in the area. Add to this elegance a modern A/V system and professional catering, and you have an excellent place for an event for up to 700 persons. There are 9 other event spaces can accommodate parties of 12-250 guests.
What's in the area
What makes the La Fonda a winner for new and returning guests is the proximity to so many great shops, museums, restaurants, the Plaza, and bars. Wine lovers will enjoy Herve Wine Bar for delicious appetizers and local New Mexico wines. For breakfast, don’t miss Tia Sophia’s blue corn pancakes or a spicy breakfast burrito. The owner, Nick, lived in Japan and likes to speak Japanese or talk about that experience with customers.
For dinner, try Café Pasqual’s for down-to-earth fare in a cozy corner near La Fonda or Geronimo for some of the best fine dining anywhere. If you love gluten-free baked goods, try Bread and Butter Bakery in Mule Alley where cakes, cookies, and other treats will satisfy even non-gluten free customers. They also have regular gluten bread worth trying.
If you want to learn how to make delicious New Mexico-style cuisine, consider enrolling in a class at the Santa Fe School of Cooking. A mere two or three hours spent at the school will teach you how to make either spicy sauces, tacos, tamales, relleños, or other delicious Southwestern fare. The Santa Fe School of Cooking has been teaching professional chefs and regular folks how to make South Western food for over 30 years.
There are several museums near the La Fonda worth noting. The New Mexico History Museum, Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, New Mexico Museum of Art, and Pablita Velarde Museum of Indian Women in the Arts are worth checking out. Further afield is Meow Wolf, a fantastic visual and hands-on art experience on the west side of town.
In the middle of it all
There’s no doubt Santa Fe has so much to offer both leisure and business travelers. Staying at the La Fonda on the Plaza puts you right in the middle of all the action. Come see why they call this state the Land of Enchantment.