Right in one of the downtown drags in Fargo, North Dakota, there’s an art deco hotel which fits perfectly with the denizens of the neighborhood. Old men on old loud, old style motorcycles trade lanes with hippy kids on roller blades and loving couples with matching afros taking an early summer stroll. This is it for the Hotel Donaldson; its kitschy interior and sizable rooms are an excellent addition to your list of places to stop the next time you’re through the area. The Hotel Donaldson has seventeen suites, one bar, one restaurant, one gym, and infinite vacation possibilities when you’re next through Fargo.
When my wife and I descended on the Hotel Donaldson it was following a seemingly endless drive from the Sioux Falls area of South Dakota. In reality the trip was only three hours; in practice the long, flat stretches of road seemed far longer (we were warned!). When we finally did arrive to the Hotel Donaldson the late afternoon sun was struggling to keep anchor in the sky overhead and we felt about as steeped in history as one possibly could. The Hotel Donaldson is on Broadway in Fargo; Broadway in Fargo feels like a page ripped out of the history books circa 1954; buildings are low and at an imposing three stories the Hotel Donaldson is perched comfortably in passive dominance over its close neighbors. From our second floor room, there was much to see. There is a blue and white plastic lettered sign out one window which reads “R O Y A L Jewelers;” still another sign across the street which reads “RADIO On Broadway.” I mention these facts only to give the reader context; the Hotel Donaldson fits right in with this neighborhood; this section of Fargo definitely has a personality; the Hotel Donaldson is not your average hotel.
The insides of this hotel are immaculate; this is partly because the Hotel Donaldson is constantly undergoing renovations and changes. The Hotel Donaldson was an old building bought in 2000 and put through three years of meticulous renovations in its ascension to its current status. The Hotel Donaldson is constantly revamping itself; an added gym in the basement, the restaurant and bar on the street level; and this is evident in many other regards as well.
With all this reinvention though come challenges. The Hotel Donaldson serves a wine and cheese hour from 5-6PM to get guests in the mood and relaxed for their evening. My wife and I heartily enjoyed the Hotel Donaldson’s selection of wine, cheese, and breads. One thing we did notice is that just outside the main lobby area where the service was, there were a few tables and chairs set up on a small patio. How lovely! So we queried and the gent at the desk confirmed that we were in fact allowed to lounge on the patio. When we got out there, we saw a blanketed layer of dust from the street below. We had sat down before really acknowledging what it was and when we got up; we both realized our backs were dirty! I worked in a hotel for a number of years and I know the constant demands of guests but you would figure that a quick mop from their back room or even a couple minutes from housekeeping could clean this up in the dusty season. Conversely, if keeping the patio dust free is too much of an annoyance, you would hope that your staff would alert guests to the situation on the patio and sit-at-your-own-risk. Unfortunately, neither of these scenarios ensued.
The Hotel Donaldson is a very clean hotel on the insides and the fact that our room was largely quiet most of the night was indeed refreshing. However one thing did bother me when I started winding down for the evening. As I’d said our spacious and well appointed room was on the second floor; just above the bar area down below. The bar and restaurant appear to take up the full ground floor of the property. So around 11 PM (Sunday night) when my wife and I began to turn things off and get ready for bed, we were troubled by the continued noise. We quickly hopped on to the Hotel Donaldson website to see that the bar and restaurant closed around 11. However by now it was ¼ after the hour; most of the cars that had been out front had left and I flashed back to my days working in restaurants; how we’d take the time after closing to socialize, be rowdy, and most importantly of all, drink the free well drinks that our bosses would turn a blind eye to. For a beat I thought that my dear, sensitive wife was just being sensitive so I turned everything off and laid on the bed myself. “Thunk-thunk-thunk…” from downstairs; I alighted to the front desk and a different gent was there; I queried as to the closing time of the bar (full well knowing when it closed).
“Do they hang out down there after work?”
The front deskman chortled and replied that the staff downstairs often did stick around; however, he claimed; he thought they were still open! So he went to his sheet and corrected himself; “Huh, they should be closed now.” Of course! Well could you just ask them to keep the volume down? He was nice enough and scurried off to remedy the situation – it did get significantly quieter after making the request – however guests staying on Fridays and Saturdays on the second floor should be aware of the situation – or they should get downstairs and join the revelry.
Sleep at the Hotel Donaldson was had quite well; the king sized bed and plain comforter reminded me of home; it was true bliss. We awoke early and struggled to get on with the day; my wife pushed me into the shower and I stepped inside. This shower was a beast I was not entirely prepared to handle; the far third of the bathroom was just an area to stand behind a full glass door. It reminded me of a decontamination unit; however the luxury features like heated granite floors (we couldn’t find a control for the heat) and a rain shower head corrected that thought. The shower ended up being not too scary at all and I dried off with one of the Hotel Donaldson’s oversized towels and headed straight for the coffee in the lobby. I was surprised to find blueberry scones, mini peach muffins, hard boiled eggs, yogurt, granola, and OJ in addition to the java.
We hurriedly dined and headed on our way; out of the lovely town of Fargo, North Dakota and on to our next adventure. The Hotel Donaldson is a great option for those who are tired of the same old/same old. So if you’re looking for a spacious comfortable alternative to the high rise luxury hotels in the city of Fargo, but you don’t want to give up on quality, the Hotel Donaldson will do quite nicely.