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New Mexico Stops on the Way

Trading Places in Gallup, N.M. on Historic Route 66

Surrounded by tribal land, Gallup is home to Native American artists and traders.

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.

Historic Route 66 Hotel

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.

El Rancho Hotel in Gallup, N.M.
Here’s the lobby of the El Rancho Hotel (Photo by Anthony Greco via Wikimedia Commons)

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 tourism and marketing manager. “We are all so excited to talk about what makes this place so special.”

Authentic Traders and Artists in Gallup, N.M.

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 NM 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.

Rueben Richards, Navajo at 2018 Gallup Native Arts Market
Rueben Richards, a Navajo, painting at 2018 Gallup Native Arts Market. (Photo: by Cayla Nimmo courtesy City of Gallup)

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 (nativeleather.com).

“It’s a cool western mecca in an old theater,” Lazarz says. “You can go in and see old photos of the theater inside.”

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.”

Farther south, there’s also Nugget Gallery, which has been open since 1988. It features authentic handmade Native American art and is located at 1302 S. 2nd St.

Park Home to Summer Events

Roach Family Dancers at Summer Nightly Indian Dances Program
Roach Family Dancers perform at Summer Nightly Indian Dances Program. (Photo by Jennifer Lazarz courtesy of City of Gallup)

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 rrpadmin@gallupnm.gov. This park is home to rodeos, the Red Rock Balloon Rally and the annual Gallup Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial, which occurs every August.

Gallup offers free summer dances through a program called Summer Indigenous Arts Program: Dances & Demonstrations.  The dances take place outside the Gallup Cultural Center Monday, Wednesday and Fridays May through early August at 7 p.m. The demonstrations will take place on Fridays from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

The Gallup Intertribal Ceremonial will take place from Aug. 4-14, 2022. This year will make the 100th anniversary of the Ceremonial that began in 1922.  It will be a mixture of in-person and virtual events. There will be Native American and Indigenous performances, rodeo events, Ceremonial queen and princess pageants, a juried art show and contest, virtual artisans market, 5k run/walk, a powwow and more.


For more information, visit www.GallupRealTrue.com