Almost every single person who heard we were going to Grand Canyon National Park over spring break gushed about the El Tovar Hotel. We were told that we “just had to stay there” and when they heard we were staying at Yavapai Lodge instead, they insisted that we make time to visit the world famous hotel for a look around or a meal. “Of course,” I said. “Sure thing,” I responded…
On our last trip to Hawaii, we stayed at the historic Volcano House at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, another Historic National Park Lodge, and like El Tovar, there was a lot of hype surrounding the hotel. While it does have spectacular views of the Kilauea Crater and we could see the red glow of lava from our bed (AWESOME), our room was minuscule, the food wasn’t very good, there wasn’t enough parking for hotel guests, and the service left a lot to be desired. But you’re there for the lava, not the hotel.
We stopped by El Tovar to check it out. We walked through the dining room, lobby, and stores, and relaxed a bit in the rocking chairs on the large, gorgeous veranda:
- The hotel is dark and it felt cramped, but it is very beautiful. And, based on the conversations I overheard on the veranda, the rooms, like Volcano House, are tiny.
- Even at mid-afternoon, the dining room was packed, but not all views were of the Grand Canyon and when we saw the candles and white tablecloths, we knew this wasn’t an experience we needed to have. Our family would rather have a quick, casual picnic on the trail that a long, drawn-out fancy meal. We want to do and see too many things to spend more than an hour at a restaurant, which is why we pack all of our own food for road trips like this one.
- I’m not sure if construction was happening or what, but tall chain-link fences were surrounding portions of the area around the hotel.
- There is no parking. I mean none. If you find a spot and need to move your car, you’re done for. When you read about Grand Canyon National Park and you’re advised to ride the shuttle because there is no parking, they’re not kidding.
If you want the nicest hotel at Grand Canyon, you like dressing up and fine dining, you use room service, you don’t mind crowds and noise, and you want to be in the center of Grand Canyon Village, definitely stay at El Tovar — it is a beautiful piece of Grand Canyon history.
But if you’re like us, and barely spend time at your hotel, skip it. All we could think was how happy we were to be staying at Yavapai Lodge West instead (originally because it was the only lodge that had a room available when we booked the trip). It was quieter and away from the crowds, and we had plenty of parking and enjoyed majestic Elk wandering through the property right by our room!
About The El Tovar
El Tovar Hotel opened its doors in 1905 and has since been celebrated as Grand Canyon’s showcase lodge. It sits only 20 feet from the South Rim edge of Grand Canyon. Today, El Tovar is widely considered the crown jewel of Historic National Park Lodges and features a fine dining room, lounge, gift shop, and newsstand, as well as full bell service, a lobby concierge, and in-room dining.
El Tovar was one of a chain of hotels and restaurants owned and operated by the Fred Harvey Company in conjunction with the Santa Fe Railway. It was designed by Charles Whittlesey, Chief Architect for the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway who created the hotel to be cross between a Swiss chalet and a Norwegian Villa. The hotel was going to be named Bright Angel Tavern, but instead it was named after Pedro de Tobar (or de Tovar), reported rumors of a large river in the area and inspired the famous Cárdenas expedition.
Built from local limestone and Oregon pine, the El Tovar cost $250,000 to build and has hosted such luminaries as Theodore Roosevelt, Albert Einstein, Western author Zane Grey, President Bill Clinton, Sir Paul McCartney, and countless others.
The historic Grand Canyon hotel has 78 rooms and no two rooms are alike. There are 12 hotel suites, each one with a unique name, identity and decor. For example the Zane Grey Suite has a sitting room, a balcony, and unique wall art specific to the author. Standard rooms have one queen or one double bed, while deluxe rooms have either one king bed or two queen beds. Suites have a bedroom with either one king bed or two queen beds, and a sitting room. Several also have a porch or balcony. All accommodations at El Tovar are non-smoking and include satellite TV, in-room Keurig coffee makers, safes, telephones, hair dryers, full bathrooms, and air conditioning.
El Tovar Dining Room And Lounge
Located in the historic El Tovar Hotel, the Dining Room is considered the premier dining establishment at Grand Canyon National Park. It features a rustic, gourmet, fine dining experience and wall murals reflecting the customs of four Native American Tribes — the Hopi, the Apache, the Mojave, and the Navajo. The menu is traditional, integrating both international and local Southwest influences and signature items such as the Prime Rib Hash at breakfast or the Salmon Tostada at dinner have graced the menu for decades and become true classics.
The El Tovar Lounge, for those 21 and over, offers a warm, relaxing environment with spectacular views. Here you can enjoy a cool beverage and light meal from the limited menu like the Mozzarella Roulade and Crab-cake Sliders.
Know Before You Go
- El Tovar Hotel, which opened in 1905, is located at 9 Village Loop Drive/1 El Tovar Road, Grand Canyon Village, Arizona 86023 in Coconino County in Grand Canyon National Park.
- Located on the Grand Canyon South Rim, El Tovar features a fine dining room, lounge, gift shop, and newsstand, and offers guests full bell service, a lobby concierge, and in-room dining.
- El Tovar has 78 rooms many of which are suites. Due to the historic nature of the hotel no two rooms are alike, which gives the hotel distinctive charm. There are 12 hotel suites, each one with a unique name, identity and decor.
- Due to the overwhelming popularity of the El Tovar Dining Room, advance reservations are highly recommended for dinner. Hotel guests can make reservations 90 days in advance. Non-hotel guests can make reservations 30 days in advance.
- While jackets are not required at the El Tovar Dining Room, they do urge you to dress appropriately and state that shorts and flip flops are discouraged.
- El Tovar was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974, it was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1987, and the hotel is a major component of the Grand Canyon Village Historic District.
- Walk east to reach Lookout Studio, Kholb Studio, the Bright Angel Trail, and Hermit Road, or west along the Canyon Rim Trail to Hopi House, Verkamp’s Visitor Center, Yavapai Geology Museum, Mather Point, Grand Canyon Visitor Center, and Desert View Drive.
- The Grand Canyon South Rim, including Grand Canyon Village and Desert View, is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
- A free shuttle bus system operates on the South Rim connecting the visitor centers, parking lots, lodges and hotels, historic buildings, museums, and campgrounds with canyon overlooks. The Blue Shuttle serves Grand Canyon Village.