Eat, Drink and Sleep Where History Happened Historic hotels, restaurants and saloons in the American West offer travelers welcoming respite, comfort and entertainment.

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Casa de Bandini was built in Old Town San Diego, California,in the late 1820s. In 1869, stagecoach operator Albert Seeley added a second story and converted the home into the Cosmopolitan Hotel. Today, guests can enjoy staying in the fully restored historic inn. — Photos Courtesy The Cosmopolitan Hotel —

On May 10, 1869, the greatest commercial and transportation innovation of America’s first century was completed—the transcontinental railroad. That day, the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads met at Promontory Summit, Utah, to drive in the golden spike to complete the engineering marvel and mark a historic turning point in U.S. history. 

historic hotels true west magazine
The fully restored Cosmopolitan Hotel and Restaurant in San Diego’s Old Town State Historic Park dates back to Juan Lorenzo Bandini, one of the pioneers who settled here in the 1800s. He designed and constructed his grand residence, the largest in Old Town at the time, between 1827 and 1829. Later owners added a second floor, with its signature wrap-around grand balcony, and turned the home into a hotel. The signature bar (pictured below) dates to the 1870s and is the oldest in the city.

The construction of the Central Pacific and Union Pacific ignited rapid growth and economic changes—settlement of the West and establishing many new Western industries, including railroad tourism. Lucky for all of us 150 years later, the railway companies, eager to turn a profit for their owners and investors, created Western tourism—in addition to their mainline profit centers of passenger transportation, settlement and land sales, freight and mail—to pad their profit sheets.

historic hotels true west magazine

In honor of the sesquicentennial of the transcontinental railroad and the creation of the Western travel industry, True West’s travel department in 2019 will highlight the best places to stay, eat and drink across the West.

Kicking it all off, the 2019 True West Ultimate Historic Travel Guide will be updated with recommendations on historic restaurants, saloons and hotels. Anyone who wants to discover a region from the ground up—and immerse in its local history—will enjoy relaxing and soaking up the past in a historic restaurant, saloon, hotel, lodge, inn or guest ranch. The following guide is not intended to be comprehensive but, rather, an inspiration for our readers to  experience history firsthand at local favorites that hosted famous—and not so famous—visitors for the past 150 years. Happy Trails! 

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Stuart Rosebrook

As senior editor of True West Magazine, Stuart Rosebrook oversees all editorial covering Old West travel, firearms and books. He has a Ph.D in U.S. History from Arizona State University, and he owns a multimedia communications business, Quo Vadis Communications, based in Iowa City, Iowa.