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 66 classic built in 1936. In the 1930s and 40s, it catered to Hollywood movie stars filming westerns in the area. Today, hotel rooms haven’t changed much since the hotel’s heyday years and 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 trading shops and stores.
On Historic 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.”
In downtown Gallup, you’ll find a stretch of shops on W Coal Ave., the main street, between Second and Third streets worth perusing. Stop first for a great cup of coffee in Gallup Coffee Co. It roasts its beans in its shop, which helped it become the first business in town to become New Mexico True certified, a state tourism program that helps businesses highlight their products that are authentically New Mexican. Then stroll outside to Flux Tufa Works at 211 W. Coal Ave., where Zuni artist Jude Candelaria specializes in custom Native American jewelry and contemporary designs. A fourth generation silversmith, he also is New Mexico True certified.
Afterwards, head to City Electric Shoe Shop at 230 W Coal Ave., which originally opened in 1924. In its early days, locals rode up on their horses to get their shoes fixed with the shop’s electric equipment, says Jennifer Lazarz, Gallup’s tourism and marketing manager. Mayor Louie Bonaguidi’s family opened it in 1924 and continues to run it. Today, this store, three generations deep into ownership, sells more than shoes. You’ll find beautiful leather belts, traditional and modern moccasins, cowboy hats, boots, jackets and more. You can find its shop online, too, at Native Leather.
“It’s a cool western mecca in an old theater,” Lazarz says. “You can go in and see old photos of the theater inside.”
Next door is Crashing Thunder Gallery at 228 W Coal Ave. Check out its leather purses, key chains, wallets and art. There’s also photography and other forms of art inside. And don’t miss El Morro Theatre, also on the block, that was built in 1928 and stands out with its Spanish Colonial-style architecture. It is one of two movie theaters in town and serves as the town’s historic movie theater. You can call ahead to get a tour of the building.
“This whole block is being renovated with stamped concrete, new landscaping and benches,” says Lazarz. “It’s really exciting to have this renaissance.”
On the other side of town, you’ll find Red Rock Park that has three miles of trails that climb about 1,000 feet. There are also two campgrounds, both with water and electrical hook-ups. There are on-site bathrooms and showers, plus picnic areas and a post office. Reservations are required, so call (505) 722-3839 or (505) 863-1368, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. This park is home to rodeos, the Red Rock Balloon Rally and the annual Gallup Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial, which occurs every August. It will be held virtually in 2021.
For more information, visit www.GallupRealTrue.com