I was finally able to visit the downtown portion of Tucson, despite it only being a short two-hour drive away. While down there, it was my privilege to stay in the historic Hotel Congress, truly a centerpiece of Arizona history.
One of the hotel’s claims to fame is that it was the spot where gangster John Dillinger last stayed before being caught by Tucson police. Story goes that he and his gang had rented out the third floor (which is now closed off to many patrons) and was having a grand ol’ time when a fire broke out in the hotel. He and his boys fled, but they had to leave behind their guns and treasures on the third floor. When the firemen arrived, they paid one off to run into the hotel’s inferno to retrieve their goods. This did not go unnoticed, however, and the local police had to chase Dillinger down before eventually catching him across town. The bar downstairs now has a wonderful whiskey drink called a Dillinger Sidecar #2 to honor that historic day.
In your bureau drawer there is a small book with information about the hotel (as well as a $5 drink offer; make sure you ask the front desk and mention the book!). One of the first pages states that the hotel is a loud hotel and they are not joking! On the one side, you will be directly above their bar/performance area, where there are concerts until about 2 AM. If you are on the other side of the hotel (the side I stayed), across the street is a big club with a rooftop dance floor that will blast music until 2 AM as well. Since the windows are still historic, they are not very well weather- or sound-proofed, so be prepared to hear impromptu chanting from drunken crowds leaving the club with crystal-like clarity.
The hotel itself is beautifully preserved: Everything just oozes history. As such, they also like to keep their rooms historic as well. You will have one bed, a wall-mounted AC/heating unit, small closet, dresser, and bathroom with an incredible soaking bathtub that is a joy to use (it also has a shower head, fear not!). Everyone who worked there seemed to really be into what they are doing as well, particularly the bartender who served us. Even if you don’t stay the night, the Hotel Congress is a wonderfully whimsical place to enjoy a drink or hang out with your friends. They also have a long table in the lobby where you can play backgammon or chess; just ask the front desk for the pieces.
Overall, it was a wonderful piece of history to be a part of. I loved the historical aspects and how well they seem to have preserved the spirit of the hotel. If you’re looking for a quite place to stay and catch up on sleep, this is not the place for you! If you don’t mind having a bit of a restless night, or are there in Tucson to party, it can be a good place to rest your head for a few hours.