To immerse yourself in some classic Route 66 culture as well as a strong Native American arts scene, stop in Gallup, N.M., home to 1,000 artists and a long history of being a vibrant trading post for Native American arts.
Start your adventure off at the rambling El Rancho Hotel, a true route classic built in 1936. In the 1930s and 40s, it catered to Hollywood movie stars filming westerns in the area. Today, hotel rooms are named after stars like Ronald Reagan whose autographs paper the walls on the second floor. Stop at the 49er Lounge, arguably the best-stocked bar in town, that’s popular with locals and travelers alike.
Before leaving the hotel, visit Ortega’s Jewelry Store, which sells Native American crafts and jewelry handmade by local artists. It’s a good place to get your feet wet in a small store before heading out to the city’s larger stores.
On Route 66 lies Richardson Trading Co., which has been in business for nearly 100 years. With its creaking oak floors, vintage and contemporary Native pieces and nearly 3,000 handwoven Navajo rugs, Richardson’s is a museum in itself. Stroll a little farther to Bill Malone Trading Co., where longtime trader Bill is on hand to answer your questions.
“We really encourage people to go in and talk to the traders,” says Jennifer Lazarz, Gallup’s acting tourism and marketing manager. “We are all so excited to talk about what makes this place so special.”
If you are in town sometime between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day weekend, watch a free Native American dance performance at the Gallup Nightly Indian Dances, which take place every evening, two blocks off Route 66 in Courthouse Square.
For more information, visit www.GallupRealTrue.com