El Tovar is regal hotel of the Grand Canyon’s South Rim. Constructed in 1905 by the Santa Fe Railroad to promote the firm’s transportation services, the hotel was named after Spanish explorer Pedro de Tovar, who led a 1540 expedition to this area.El Tovar is the type of hotel most people envision when they think about a national park lodge. It is a large wood-and-stone four-story structure that commands a hilltop vista on the canyon rim. The two-story lobby is complete with log beams, a large stone fireplace, and comfortable sofas and chairs for chatting with other guests. Several verandas and a large covered front porch have chairs for relaxing in the early morning or after dinner or an evening walk. A mezzanine with an overlook of the lobby has tables, stuffed chairs, a television, and a piano. Complimentary coffee and tea are provided here each morning for hotel guests. No elevators are in the building, but bell service is available to assist with luggage. A circular drive directly in front of the hotel entrance can be used for registration and baggage drop-off, but parking near the hotel is limited.
The El Tovar has welcomed many famous guests, including Paul McCartney, who visited in fall 2001. With his room booked under a company name, the former Beatle spent the first night on the third floor in room 6474. The hotel upgraded him to the El Tovar Suite for the second and last night of his stay. Late one evening McCartney began playing the piano on the mezzanine until other guests, unaware the famous singer/songwriter was staying at the hotel, complained to the front desk about the noise. Instructed not to reveal that Mr. McCartney was staying at the El Tovar, employees were forced to ask that the famous musician stop playing. If the other guests had only known.
El Tovar offers 78 rooms in 5 classifications. Like many historic hotels, rooms in the same classification are of different sizes and shapes. Seven suites were renovated in 2010 and an extensive renovation of the remaining rooms is being planned for 2013 with a possibility of closing the hotel for a period of time. Rooms are attractively decorated and have heat, air-conditioning, refrigerator, coffeemaker, telephone, CD player/radio, television, and a hair dryer. Siting of the hotel results in only a few rooms having a canyon view. The least expensive lodging at El Tovar is a Standard Double with 1 double bed in a small room. Standard Queen rooms are also generally small but offer a variety of bedding options that includes 1 queen, 1 king, 2 doubles, and 2 queens. Deluxe rooms are larger and offer either a king or 2 queen beds with a small sitting area. Two Deluxe rooms, 6463 and 6465, have small balconies with chairs.
Suites in the El Tovar are named and decorated to a particular theme. For example, the Zane Grey Suite is decorated western style with movie posters, several of the author’s books, and framed first edition book jackets. All 12 suites have a bedroom with either a king or 2 queen beds, a sitting room with chairs and a couch (some convert into a bed), a full bath, and a dressing area. Four View suites each offer stunning canyon views and have a large porch with tables and chairs. The 2 third-floor View suites are smaller but offer more privacy from their porches than second-floor View suites. Eight Nonview suites on the south end of the hotel rent for slightly less than View suites. Four Nonview suites have a porch and 2 have a Jacuzzi (the Roof Garden Suite has both). Porches off the Nonview suites offer some views of the canyon, but not on the scale of the more expensive View suites.
Most of the things you will want or need during a trip to the Grand Canyon are available at or near the El Tovar. The ground floor has gift shops, a lounge, and an elegant dining room. The dining room fits perfectly in a national park. Murals on the walls reflect different Indian tribes, and a number of tables offer diners a view of the rim. A small private dining room with a capacity of up to 10 persons is available at no charge with a 72-hour advance reservation. The lounge has a bar and windows that overlook the canyon. Travel information is available, and tours can be booked at a small tour desk in the lobby. Service at El Tovar is a cut above that found at the South Rim’s other lodging facilities. For example, room service is available from the El Tovar dining room, and mints are placed on your bed each evening.
Location: Center of Grand Canyon Village, directly east of Kachina Lodge and just up the hill from the train depot.
Season: Open year-round.
Food: A dining room off the hotel’s lobby serves breakfast ($6-$14), lunch ($8-$19), and dinner ($18—$31). Alcoholic beverages are available, and reservations are recommended for dinner. A lounge offering appetizers and a limited menu is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Less expensive food service is within easy walking distance.