LESS THAN A MILE from The Mystic lies El Rey Court, a landmark white adobe building with softly contoured walls. The place has been a mainstay since it opened in 1936 as a 12-room motor inn on the original Route 66. Through the decades, the popular motel expanded with an outdoor pool, hot tubs, and the incorporation of the neighboring 1950s Alamo Lodge in the early 1990s.

A new chapter began in 2016, when Jeff Burns and Matt Comfort took ownership and renovated the roadside motor court into a trendy hotel with 86 rooms and plenty of Southwest chic. They opened La Reina bar, a cool, casual gathering space. The watering hole’s focus on tequila and mezcal pairs perfectly with live music, offered Wednesdays and Sundays, and seasonally outside on the lawn accompanied by made-to-order wood-fired pizza. The hotel’s Swim Club makes a big splash with guests as well as locals lucky enough to snag a pass. (Last year’s passes sold out.)   

from left Enjoy the southwest vibes of the double queen room; The exterior of the Queen room. Photographs courtesy of El Rey Court.

“El Rey has always evolved,” says Nick Hall, guest experience manager. It started as a motor inn when people were eager to drive their new cars. In the 1950s, when Americans were becoming wealthier and spending more money on their travels, the pool was added. “In the seventies, it became a garden property, to set it apart,” Hall says. “You can see that progress just continuing. Nowadays, we get this beautiful mix of people from Japan, France, and Romania hanging out beside Santa Feans enjoying the music. It shows how El Rey has kept up with the changing times.”

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