There isn’t one Old West, there are many, as different as the Spanish–flavored architecture of San Antonio is to the Victorian facades of Deadwood with locales as diverse as the hearty mountain settings of Meeker, Colorado, to the sun and sea washed streets of Old San Diego. The 18 hotels we’ve selected here each offer a different slice of life in the frontier West ranging from the rustic simplicity, to Gilded Age elegance of the 19th century with 21st century convenience.
You can share historical ties with the literary and lawless, presidents and pioneers, gunfighters, gamblers and ghosts. You can watch a cattle drive, pan for gold, angle for mountain trout, buck-the-tiger’s odds at a casino or just belly up to the bar and enjoy the honky-tonk piano. Your possibilities are as limitless as the frontier itself.
Established in 1887, the Strater Hotel has remained a cornerstone of Durango’s hospitality community for 127 years.
The Mahogany Grille has an outstanding reputation: the pan-fried trout and garlic rubbed rib-eye steak come highly recommended; outdoor adventures such as hiking, rafting and skiing. The hotel itself, though, is an outstanding attraction with what is reputed to be the world’s largest collection of American Victorian walnut antiques. Room 222 has been designated as the Louis L’Amour Room (see Louis L’Amour in inset), featuring the very drop-leaf table where he wrote his Sackett series novels. And with the Henry Strater Theatre, you can book dinner and a show. (Also check to see if the Durango Melodrama and Vaudeville is open.)
800-247-4431 • StraterHotel.com
The Strater is also just two blocks from the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, where you can take a ride to Silverton, or visit Mesa Verde National Park, just an hour away.
Ellis Store Country Inn / Lincoln, New Mexico
If you’re an amateur student of the Lincoln County War, and the Billy the Kid legend, this is the place for you. The Ellis Store was the center of action during the five-day Battle of Lincoln, and you can actually stay in a room where Billy (below) was held prisoner for several days. (We can’t swear that it’s haunted, but some visitors elect to sleep with the lights on.)
This charming B&B is decorated with reproduction antiques and quilts. The Main House is an adobe dating from the 1850s, and the outlying guest houses feature bedrooms with a shared common room. Bonus: each guest room has a wood burning stove.
The setting in the Rio Bonito Valley is spectacular and the sky is so clear at night that you feel you can almost touch the stars.
800-653-6460 • EllisStore.com
The Occidental Hotel / Buffalo, Wyoming
With many original features such as the embossed ceilings and the back bar in the saloon, which was brought in by a wagon, the Occidental, whose structure can be traced to 1880, is stunning. After the Great Flood of 1912 destroyed most of Buffalo, the hotel had to replace all its flooring.
The Occidental also claims the bullet holes are original; they could have been put there by Calamity Jane, Buffalo Bill Cody or some of Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch (above right). Or even any of the Occidental’s more civilized guests—Gen. Phil Sheridan, President Theodore Roosevelt or Ernest Hemingway—could have lit up the bar on a rowdy night. Perhaps no other location in the Old West can boast so many famous guests.
The Occidental is a virtual museum with wall after wall of photographs, historical artifacts and antiques A unique and delightful touch is the collection of antique radios which play shows and music from the 1920s, ‘30s and ‘40s throughout the hotel.
The restaurant is named The Virginian after another frequent guest, novelist Owen Wister. Highly recommended is the specialty of the house, the mouth-watering buffalo steaks.
The Hotel Colorado / Glenwood Springs, Colorado
“The Grand Dame of the Rockies” is the main attraction in a town that originally drew visitors such as Doc Holliday for its vapor baths and pools. Established in 1893, the Hotel Colorado maintains its original motif of 19th century Italian elegance. Its guests have included several presidents, most notably Teddy Roosevelt who, in 1905, made the hotel his base for a three week hunting trip. Another frequent and famous visitor was the “Unsinkable” Molly Brown, whose name adorns one of the hotel’s most popular suites, replete with mementos and photos of her adventures from the Colorado gold rush to the Titanic. There are also mementoes of the Chicago gangsters who came for the gambling during the Roaring Twenties. Aficionados of Western history come for pilgrimages to Doc Holliday (below left) at his burial site in the Linwood Cemetery.
800-544-3998 • TheHotelColorado.com
Eldridge Hotel / Lawrence, Kansas
“The most historic comer in Kansas” is the site of the Eldridge Hotel, which has gone through several incarnations since it’s beginning as the Free State Hotel in 1861. The Free State was burned down twice by Confederates, the second time in 1863 by Quantrill’s Raiders. It was named the Eldridge after Col. Shalor Eldridge, one of the original New England emigrants who founded the city.
The latest restoration harkens back to the hotel’s glory years of the mid-1920s. A recent restoration restored the hotel to these glory years as seen by the dazzling polished wood walls of the lobby and bar.
The fifth floor, particularly Room 506, has had numerous reports of unregistered visitors, including flickering lights and opening and closing doors.
While in Lawrence check out the Watkins Community Museum, managed by the Douglas County Historical Society, and the old Lawrence Public Library building houses an exhibit on the Bleeding Kansas era.
800-527-0909 • EldridgeHotel.com
Stockyards Hotel / Fort Worth, Texas
The Stockyards Hotel is famous for offering its guests the “chance to escape into a Texas kind of world” since 1907. And you’ll know you’re in Texas when you step into the lobby, which is bigger than some hotels.
If you’re a fan of vintage trains, you can catch the Grapevine Vintage Railroad at Stockyards Station, and for the ultimate cowboy experience, there’s the World’s Only Daily Cattle drive, which is twice a day.
As you might expect, the Stockyards District is home to some of the best steakhouses in Texas which, by definition, means the best in the world, especially the Hunter Brothers’ H3 Ranch. There are more great saloons than you can take in on one visit; the saloon in the hotel with the famous “saddle bar stools” is Booger Red’s while the White Elephant always has some live smokin’ Country Rock. Oh, and Billy Bob’s Texas bills itself as “The World’s Largest Honky Tonk”—we haven’t seen them all but Billy Bob’s was sure big enough for us. Other attractions include the Saturday Night Rodeo at the Cowtown Coliseum and the Pawnee Bill Wild West Show.
Among the hotels satisfied guests were Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow (above far left). Ask for Room 305 if you don’t mind the water in the bathroom turning on and off for reasons that has never been explained.
800-625-6427 • StockyardsHotel.com
The Crockett Hotel / San Antonio, Texas
Built on the site of “Crockett’s Palisades”—to the right of the Alamo chapel as you’re facing it—the Crockett Hotel could honestly advertise that you can sleep where they fell. The current six story building was originally built in 1909 with a seven-story west wing added in 1927. A 1982 renovation maintained the hotel’s historical integrity.
No one who comes here will need to be reminded of the history. The Chapel and Long Barracks are practically outside the hotel’s front door. You can tour the Chapel and visit the museum in the Barracks that contains paintings, artifacts and weapons from the era. A later addition to the complex has a diorama that re-creates the Alamo (inset) as it stood at the time of the Texas Revolution.
In addition, the Gateway to the Riverwalk and an upscale shopping mall is just across the street. A trolley tour takes you to the sights, including the highly recommended River San Antonio Cruise. And at 8:15 p.m., there’s a nightly ghost tour.
210-225-6500 • Texas CrockettHotel.com
The Vendome / Prescott, Arizona
The town that can claim Virgil Earp as a marshal is a thriving city of 40,000 with, as it proudly reminds you, a “small town feel.” The charming Vendome where Tom Mix (above) stayed, was built in 1917 and has 20 guest rooms, each with a different style ranging from Victorian to Western to contemporary. There are two wonderful wraparound porches perfect for relaxing and enjoying the mountain air (as well as the libations from The Fremont Bar (named for former territorial governor John C.).
There may not be a lovelier town in the West to stroll around in, from Whiskey Row’s saloons and shop to the historic Courthouse Square. The remarkable seven-building Sharlot Hall Museum offers a feast of pioneer and American Indian artifacts. And Prescott is less than 70 miles from Sedona.
928-776-0900 • VendomeHotel.com
Bullock Hotel / Deadwood, South Dakota
The “Jewel of Downtown Deadwood” was built in 1895 by Deadwood’s first sheriff, Seth Bullock (inset), after the 1894 fire, which wiped out much of the town, on the site of his original hardware store. Despite a couple of fires and subsequent renovations, the Bullock has kept its original elegant 19th century Victorian atmosphere.
And this is as close to the real thing as you can get, with the hotel still maintaining 28 of the original 63 rooms. The history of the hotel as well as everything else in Deadwood is documented at the Adam’s Museum.
According to local legend Bullock still walks the hotel’s corridors, particularly the second and third floors. (Though, ladies seeking the ghostly image of Timothy Olyphant, who played him in the HBO series, might be disappointed.)
Nearby attractions include the Buffalo Bodega Gambling Complex and at the right time of year you can catch a rodeo at Days of 76 Rodeo Arena.
Gold, gambling and gunfighters—what more could you ask for?
800-336-1876 • HistoricBullock.com
The Meeker Hotel / Meeker, Colorado
The Meeker is unique among our hotels in at least one respect: it’s the only one where the founder was killed on the premises. Charlie Dunbar and Susan Wright started the Meeker in an adobe building, a former military barracks, in 1884. A professional gambler, Dunbar was fatally wounded during an argument about a poker game. The current hotel is built on the site of the original adobe.
The Meeker Hotel is famous for its hardwood floors, hand stitched leather chairs and custom-forged wood-burning stove; the walls are filled with photographs of past guests, including Theodore Roosevelt and actor Gary Cooper (opposite page, at top). And you’ll never forget the enormous elk and mule deer trophies, a few of which have been looking down on travelers entering the lobby for more than a century.
This is the place for you if you’re looking for something out of the main stream. The natural beauty of the area is stunning.
While you are in town, don’t miss the White River Museum and Range Call Rodeo, the oldest rodeo in Colorado, which features a re-enactment of the infamous Meeker Massacre of 1879, during which warriors from the Ute tribe killed settlers and the town’s founder, Nathan Meeker.
855-878-5255 • MeekerHotel.com
“Just the sweetest hotel that ever was” proclaimed Buffalo Bill Cody when he built the hotel in 1902 and named it after his daughter. The hotel was expanded in 1929 and 1977. When Cody needed a break from the constant mooing of his thousand head of cattle at his TE Ranch, he headed to one of the two suites and office he kept at the Irma. One of the most distinctive features of the Irma is the spectacular cherry wood bar, a gift from Queen Victoria.
From June to September there are free performances by the Cody Gunfighters (just about the best team of re-enactors around), summers feature the Cody Nite Rodeo and of course Yellowstone is a short drive away.
800-745-4762 • IrmaHotel.com
Hassayampa Inn / Prescott, arizona
In 1927, the Hassayampa Inn was founded in Prescott as the latest, most sophisticated, motor hotel along the “Hassayampa Trail,” the new U.S. Highway 60-89 from Phoenix via Wickenburg to Prescott and Ash Fork. The hotel belongs to the National Register of Historic Places, and has a history as colorful as its name, rooted in the 19th-century panorama of Prescott’s frontier history. The hotel, named after the river that the Walker Party followed from Wickenburg to discover gold in the Prescott area in 1863, was conceived as a retreat, where travelers would emerge refreshed and renewed.
Prescott, a then popular stopover on the Western circuit, was known for its brothels, saloons and opium dens around then-notorious Whiskey Row. A fine hotel was needed, and civic leaders, recognizing the boon to the town’s image, encouraged citizens to buy shares in the project for $1 each. More than 400 of them did, and their names are still commemorated on a wall outside the Hassayampa Inn’s Arizona Room.
The Inn has welcomed numerous famous guests over the years including Presidents, entertainers and socialites. Notable Western stars include Tom Mix, Will Rogers, Tom Selleck, Sam Elliott and Steve McQueen (below left, in foreground), to name a few.
1.800.322.1927 • HassayampaInn.com
Hotel Jeffrey / Coulterville, California
If you’re taking the family to Yosemite, a stop at the Hotel Jeffrey in Coulterville on the newly designated Historic Highway 132 is a must. About a half hour ride from the Park, the Jeffrey boasts the oldest working saloon in California with one of the few remaining sets of “batwing” doors
The 19 guest rooms and splendid Victorian dining room have been host to two types of guests: normal—including Mark Twain, Teddy Roosevelt and early American preservationist John Muir (latter two shown below) and paranormal. At least 17 ghosts have been identified roaming the halls, and only a couple of them have been reported as unfriendly. (The hotel offers ghost detecting kits, but best to reserve in advance.)
Built in 1850, the Jeffrey notes that it is not a luxury hotel and is a combination hotel and B&B which is closed at night. Each room is distinctively decorated and children are welcome.
Coulterville is in the heart of northern California’s gold country and gold can still be found in the creek that runs through town. Gold panning is a favorite activity, but if you want to see what pans out for you, reserve in advance.
209-878-6461 • HotelJeffrey.com
The Cosmopolitan / San Diego, California
The Cosmopolitan can trace its lineage back to San Diego’s “Old Town” in the late 1820s, when one of the town’s pioneers, Juan Lorenzo Bandini, built a large single story home for his wife and two daughters in a Spanish Colonial style with muslin ceilings, adobe walls and a brick-lined patio La Casa de Bandini, as it was quickly known. After Bandini’s death, a man named Albert Seeley bought the house, expanded it with a second level with a Greek Revival theme and built a bar and a billiards room. He also added the Cosmopolitan most famous and distinguished feature—a grand balcony that wrapped around the entire second story, overlooking the town square.
In 1928, Old San Diego became a backwater and the building deteriorated; a grandson of Bandini restored it, adding electricity. Today, the Cosmopolitan is one of the jewels of Old Town, featuring a restaurant that serves some of the best Mexican and seafood in the city. Don’t miss drinks in The Saloon Bar, which features an 1870 bar (above right) that Wyatt Earp allegedly bought from an Idaho bar for his in Tombstone, but after the O.K. Corral, it was never used. Found in storage 130 years later, it is the centerpiece of the authentic period restoration of the saloon.
Perusers of the paranormal will be interested in the episode of the Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures series that featured Suites Four and Five, the rooms where Bandini lived for years.
858-342-6808 • OldTownCosmopolitan.com
The Sentinel Hotel / Portland, Oregon
Recently renamed and reopened as the Sentinel Hotel, the elegant, luxury hotel is located in the heart of Portland’s historic district in two early 20th century buildings: the Seward Hotel (1909) and the Elk’s Lodge (1923). Noted Oregon architect William C. Knighton designed the hotel in a Viennese-influenced Early Modern and modified Arts and Crafts style that remains one of Portland’s most important architectural landmarks.
At the center of Portland’s commercial and social network for decades, after WWII the hotel went on a slow decline (and abandonment as a hotel) until it was completely renovated and reopened in the 1990s, expanding and conjoining itself with the Elks Lodge next door. The hotel, which has been extensively updated since 2012, has incorporated the Elks Lodge’s unique 7,500-square-foot Governor Ballroom with 40-foot Corinthian-columns, the frescoed Renaissance Room and black-walnut lined Library into the public venues.
Diners’ can enjoy Jake’s Grill, a downtown favorite since 1994, located in the lobby of the original Seward Hotel. The Jackknife Bar just opened this spring as a classic redux of a vintage hotel lounge swinging with downtown nightlife. Enjoy the luxury rooms after an evening enjoying Portland’s nightlife, but don’t wander too long in the hallways—you may meet up with the spirit of a young girl killed accidently in the hotel a century ago.
888-246-5631 • SentinelHotel.com
The ST. James / Cimarron, New Mexico
The St. James was built in 1872 when Abraham Lincoln’s personal chef, French-born Henri Lambert moved to Elizabethtown, New Mexico, to prospect gold. Lambert’s failure was to prove fortunate to travelers when he took the little gold he had found and opened a restaurant and saloon in Cimarron. The Lambert Inn was later renamed the St. James. The food was great, but some of the guests didn’t live to enjoy it. There were so many gunfights in the early years that town’s people would ask “who was killed at Lambert’s last night?” In 1901, when Lambert’s sons replaced the ceiling in the dining room, they found more the 20 bullet holes.
Wyatt and Morgan Earp and their wives stayed there on their way to Tombstone, and other famous guests included Bill Cody, Clay Allison, Annie Oakley and Black Jack Ketchum.
In 2009, during extensive renovations, the outside deck and lawn were walled into a courtyard and a fountain added. The food is excellent, and the downstairs has a museum-like collection of photographs of famous guests. Visitors can stay either in the historical section of the hotel or in the modern addition. You can book Room 16, which Wyatt Earp may have stayed in on his way to Tombstone. The St. James is famous for having one of the highest numbers of ghost sightings of any Old West hotel.
888-376-2664 • ExStJames.com
St. George Hotel / Volcano, California
You’ll find this historic hotel slightly off the beaten path in Amador County in the Sierra Nevada Foothills of California in the town of Volcano, the “Gem of the Mother Lode.” Volcano is one of the original Gold Rush towns in the Mother Lode and is known to having California’s first theater group, debating society, circulating library, private school, astronomical observatory and, legal hanging
Listed on the national Register of Historic Places, the St. George was one of the first three-story buildings in the State, the main hotel having been built in 1862. The Hotel, built by B.F. George, was named “The St. George” to “thwart the demonic Fire Dragon.” The first two Hotels on the site (Eureka in 1853 and Empire in 1859) were destroyed by fire. The Hotel was known in the late 1800s as the best Hotel in the County.
The St. George’s original architecture and ambiance offer guests a feeling of serenity and simpler times. Depending on who you talk to, it is rumored that ghosts roam the second and third floor of the hotel, with one room specifically being haunted.
209 296 4458 • StGeorgeVolcano.com
Tahoe House Hotel / Virginia City, Nevada
For period restoration circa 1860 (the original was built in 1859, the year the world found out there was silver nearby) it’s hard to beat the Tahoe House Hotel in Virginia City. Guests can choose from 14 handsome rooms—five with balconies—as well as a Carriage House suite and a Garden Room.
If you don’t strike it rich in Reno (20-minute drive) or Lake Tahoe (about 45 minutes), you can still relive the days of the Comstock Lode at the Tahoe House. The restored old Western bar is one of the best in the country, and Squeek, their piano player, is renowned as the Val
Cliburn the honky-tonk piano.
The Tahoe House is also a great stop for hikers, mountain and road cyclists, rock climbing and paragliders. By the way, if you see a nattily dressed fellow in a white suit who looks like a young Mark Twain (opposite page, bottom inset)—be sure to say hello to the ghost of Mr. Clemens.
775-847-5264 • TahoeHouseHotel.com