When I review hotels, even hotels I really love, it’s extremely rare that I have an experience where I can’t find at least a couple of things that could be improved or that fell just a little short.
But that’s what recently blew me away when I stayed at The Plaza Hotel Pioneer Park in El Paso, Texas. It was only a one night stay but everything about the hotel was on point and I left this property really wanting to spend more time there.
In this review article, I will walk you through this memorable stay and give you some insight into this historic gem of a hotel. As with the vast majority of hotel stays we review here, this was not a sponsored stay.
Table of Contents
The history of The Plaza Hotel Pioneer Park dates back to 1899 when the Sheldon Hotel was opened here.
It served as an unofficial headquarters during the Mexican Revolution and it’s where President William Howard Taft stayed during his historic meeting with Mexico’s President Porfirio Díaz.
Unfortunately, the hotel burned down in 1929 but entrepreneur Conrad Hilton had plans to build an even bigger hotel.
Things got off to a rocky start as the stock market crashed just days after construction but Conrad pushed on and opened the new high-rise hotel in 1930 with its famous art deco design.
It was actually the first high-rise Hilton hotel and you can still find signs of that like the original Hilton logos found on the elevator doors.
High profile guests were drawn to this El Paso beacon over the decades including Elizabeth Taylor, who lived in the hotel during the filming of the 1956 blockbuster, Giant.
After some ownership changes, El Paso businessman Paul Foster purchased the property in 2008 as part of a greater effort to revitalize Downtown El Paso.
A lot of work was done to restore the hotel to its original art deco glory and it was re-opened in 2020 after major renovations.
The independent hotel now houses 130 rooms and suites and you’ll find traces of its past along with inspiring local artwork as you explore its wonderfully restored corridors.
The Plaza Hotel Pioneer Park is located right in the heart of Downtown El Paso. It’s just across the street from another historic hotel, Hotel Paso Del Norte (full review).
You’ll find San Jacinto Plaza adjacent to the hotel which during the holidays is beautifully lit and a good spot for grabbing some hot cocoa.
Other nearby sites include: the El Paso Museum of Art, the Plaza Theatre, the Judson F. Williams Convention Center, the Abraham Chavez Theatre and Southwest University Park.
And Mexico? It’s only eight blocks away.
Parking and Check-in
The hotel offers valet parking for a modest $25 + tax and comes with unlimited in and out access. If you want to use self parking, that’s available at 100 East San Antonio Avenue for $20 + tax with unlimited in and out access.
Our check-in experience was top notch.
We arrived around 2:30 PM and were greeted by the friendly valet staff and then taken care of by the front desk. Without any hiccups, we were given a room key and then on our way to the 16th floor!
I was first struck by the beautiful historic elevators and hanging art installation meant to mimic the night stars.
You’ll notice there’s an old post office mailbox between the elevators. During renovations, they opened the chute and found old letters from the 1930s. You can find those letters on display in the lobby and see what some travelers were writing about almost 100 years ago!
The hotel uses a modern touchscreen app to operate the elevators which is an interesting juxtaposition to such historic elevator doors. But this trend of seamlessly merging the historic with the modern is something that they do very well at this hotel.
The Landmark Suite
This stay capped off a long road trip from Arizona to Southeast Texas and back so we were really looking forward to being able to enjoy one night at a nice luxury property.
So we decided to book The Landmark Suite.
The hotel has six of these and they are very well done and spacious with 755 square ft.
Your first enter the entryway where you will find an impressive half bath with plenty of space and even a nice view.
Just by the decor, lighting, and countertops of the half bath, I really could tell the room was going to live up to expectations.
Next, in the entryway you’ll have your selection of snacks and alcohol from the minibar if that is your thing. From Grey Goose to Don Julio, you have a pretty good selection of liquor and tequila.
They also offer a Nespresso machine when many hotels simply go for a basic coffee maker.
Below that, you can find juices and soda in a mini fridge along with wine and champagne.
You’ll then enter the corner-room living area of the suite which offers a luxurious feel with burgundy and champagne and cream furnishings. A large 55 inch TV hangs on the wall surrounded by comfortable seating for a handful of guests.
Although it was just Brad and I and Elroy (our corgi) on this stay, I really got the sense that the suites would be great for larger groups congregating for things like weddings and other special events. It’s just a really nice place to hang out.
Speaking of our pup, the hotel went out of their way to provide accommodations for him including a dog bed and food and water bowl. We got the sense that the hotel was truly “pet friendly” and not just an “accepts pets” hotel.
You’ll then make your way into the work area, which sort of forms a junior suite with the bedroom.
There’s a workstation with a comfortable chair and a couple of nice touches.
Connect your phone to the Bluetooth speaker (easy to do) and you’ll be surprised how loud and quality this sound will be from this small Tivoli speaker box.
I liked the custom stationary found on the workstation as you rarely see both pens and pencils furnished and I’m always a fan of a well-branded property.
Across from the desk is another couch with some interesting wall decor placed above it.
You’ll find that the suite combines a West Texas feel with historic 1930s patterns and local artwork in a very complementary way. You’ll also have no shortage of outlets wherever you go.
Then there is the king bedroom.
Once again, well done with an elegant color scheme of champagne, cream, and burgundy accents.
It’s home to an ultra comfy mattress with high quality sheets and bedding.
I usually struggle to get good sleep on a one night stay because it takes me a couple of nights to get acclimated to a new bed and surroundings. But this was one of those rare occasions where I got some great rest.
One side of the bed has the Arne Jacobsen-designed alarm clock and on the other side you’ll find the phone along with two interesting water bottles.
If you’re looking for the outlets, they are inside of the end tables. Just pull out the top drawer and you’ll see them.
It was nice having the 55 inch TV with Chromecast.
The bedroom also has a spacious powder room with good lighting, mirrors, and plenty of counter space.
This is also where you will find the slippers and Matouk robes for those headed to pamper town.
One thing I haven’t even mentioned yet are the smart features in the room.
Motion sensors will turn on the lights as you make your way through the room, which made us feel right at home since that is how we have set up our living space.
Powered blinds and shades, operated from controls on the wall, easily reveal sweeping views from your room or quickly shut off the light if you need to.
Then there is the bathroom. Like everything in the suite, it’s spacious.
You’ll find a double sink counter with beautiful mirrors, light fixtures, and marble-clad counters.
I loved the Brizo fixtures found in the bathroom and the H20Kinetic massage and handheld shower heads. And of course, quality (and plush) Matouk towels could be found along with Le Labo bath products.
Dining at Ámbar Restaurante
In order to make the most of our one night stay, we opted to have dinner at Ámbar Restaurante and I’m very glad that we did for a couple of reasons.
First, if you are into the history of the hotel it’s a great place to check out because you’ll once again get a great sense of that history as you get seated at a table located on the original flooring of the property.
Second, the service and dining were top-notch at this unique wood-fired Mexican restaurant.
We kicked off the dining experience with a virgin Mojito and Brad went with the Divorcee, the signature cocktail with cilantro.
And then we were faced with a major culinary decision. Our server insisted that we should try out the bone marrow the hotel is known for.
I’d seen the bone marrow pop-up before in my research on the property but I didn’t necessarily think I’d be trying it when we stayed because it just seemed a little bit “primitive” for my liking.
But we are always trying to not back down from new experiences so it didn’t take much for us to agree to give it a shot.
Scooping out goopy marrow from the core of a large bone may make you feel like a caveman and have you second guessing your life choices.
But when you pair it with the grilled bolillo and spice it up with some salsa macha, it’s not hard to down the marrow at all — you might be surprised about the flavor it packs. (Bone marrow is also a super food in case you were wondering.)
As for the main dishes, I went with what was essentially a beef fajita dish and Brad went with a tenderloin steak. We left extremely satisfied with our meals and just enjoyed the overall dining experience. In fact, we returned for breakfast the next morning and had another satisfying meal.
If you are a drinker then you will obviously want to check out the beautiful bar area.
It’s home to one of the largest tequila selections on the continent where bartenders have to harness in to retrieve some of the bottles. Housed in a large historic atrium, you almost feel like you’re visiting some sort of agave cathedral and perhaps you are.
The hotel also puts on special tequila tastings where you can learn how to sip tequila and pair it with food items.
The rooftop terrace
While the hotel does not have a pool, they have a beautiful rooftop terrace area where you can grab drinks and select food items. It’s located on the 17th floor and it is where you will find the bar, La Perla.
Beautiful archways showcase the hotel’s renown Pueblo Revival Art Deco architectural style and it’s a great vantage point being the highest outdoor viewpoint in El Paso.
One of the cool facts about the rooftop terrace is that it is the former area that made up the hotel’s old penthouse. It’s where Elizabeth Taylor stayed during the filming of one of her movies that took place in Marfa, Texas.
We ventured up there around sunset and enjoyed a beautiful desert sunset with memorable views of the Franklin Mountains, surrounding El Paso area, and even out to Mexico. The plaza lit up beautifully below us.
The fitness center
The hotel has a state of the art fitness center. (You may need to ask around to find the stairs down to it because it was a little bit difficult for us to find but you’ll be pointed in the right direction.)
Inside you’ll find free weights, treadmills, machines, elliptical, and some floor space to get things done.
One thing that stood out is they had one of those mirror work out apps that I don’t think I have seen in many hotels yet.
I may be a little bit biased because of how much I enjoy staying in historic properties but this hotel is truly a gem.
It’s hard not to compare it to the Paso Del Norte because they are so close to each other and are both iconic historic hotels that were recently renovated.
I don’t know if I can choose between the two because I loved both but I do think that the Plaza Hotel stood out to me in that I could really feel the history when staying here. I think this is a tremendous venue for groups who want a place to congregate and of course tequila fans could not do any better.
I would not hesitate to recommend the hotel.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, and CNBC.