Gallup has 20 buildings that are either listed on or have been nominated to the National Register of Historic Places. Some hold trading posts worth visiting. A good place to start is at the Santa Fe Railroad Depot, which also houses the Gallup Cultural Center, at East 66 Avenue and Strong Street (tel. 505/863-4131). Built in 1923 in modified Mission style, it has been renovated into a community transportation and cultural center, with a museum worth visiting, as well as a gift shop and diner. Note especially the exhibits on regional history and the Master's Exhibit of paintings, pottery, and basketry from area Native Americans. The center is open weekdays from 9am to 5pm, often with extended hours in the summer. Across the street, the Drake Hotel (later the Turquoise Club but now abandoned), built of blond brick in 1919, had the Prohibition-era reputation of being controlled by bootleggers, with wine running in the faucets in place of water.
The 1928 White Cafe, 100 W. 66 Ave., is an elaborate decorative brick structure that catered to the early auto tourist traffic. Now it's a jewelry store. Down the street, the Eagle Café, 220 W. 66 Ave. (tel. 505/722-3220), open since 1920, serves diner food in an authentic atmosphere. A few doors down, Richardson's Trading Company, 222 W. 66 Ave. (tel. 505/722-4762; www.richardsontrading.com), has been selling good Native American arts and crafts since 1913.
The Rex Hotel, 300 W. 66 Ave., constructed of locally quarried sandstone, was once known for its "ladies of the night." It's now the Rex Museum (tel. 505/863-1363), a somewhat random display of items from the Gallup Historical Society Collection, but fun for history buffs. It's open daily but with unpredictable hours. Call before setting out.
Gallup's architectural gems include the Chief Theater, 228 W. Coal Ave. This structure was built in 1920; in 1936, it was completely redesigned in Pueblo-Deco style, with zigzag relief and geometric form, by R. E. "Griff" Griffith (who also built the El Rancho Hotel), brother of Hollywood producer D. W. Griffith. Now this is City Electric Shoe Shop (tel. 505/863-5252; www.cityelectricshoe.com), where Native Americans go to buy feathers, leather, and other goods to make ceremonial clothing. It's known to locals simply as City Electric, so called because it was the first shop in town to have an automated shoe-repair machine. It also has a good selection of moccasins and hats. Also visit the 1928 El Morro Theater, 207 W. Coal Ave., built in Spanish colonial revival style with Spanish baroque plaster carving and bright polychromatic painting; it's where locals come to see movies and dance performances.
Sunset Dances -- Every evening Memorial Day to Labor Day, dancers from a variety of area tribes sing, drum, and twirl in a stunning display of ritual from 7 to 8pm. The dances take place at the Gallup Cultural Center on East 66 Avenue and Strong Street (tel. 505/863-4131). Admission to the center and dances is free.
A Nearby Park
Six miles east of downtown Gallup, Red Rock Park, NM 566 (P.O. Box 10), Church Rock, NM 87311 (tel. 505/722-3839; 505/722-3839 for campground), is not part of the New Mexico State Park system, so it doesn't have the fine services you'd expect in those parks. It does have a natural amphitheater set against elegantly shaped red sandstone buttes. It includes an auditorium/convention center, a historical museum, a post office, a trading post, stables, and modern campgrounds.
The 8,000-seat arena is the site of numerous annual events, including the Intertribal Indian Ceremonial in mid-August. Red Rock Convention Center accommodates 600 for trade shows or concert performances.
A nature trail leads up into these stone monuments and makes for a nice break after hours on the road.The park also has a playground, horseback riding trails, and a sports field.
The Red Rock Museum has displays on prehistoric Anasazi and modern Zuni, Hopi, and Navajo cultures, including an interesting collection of very intricate katsinas. A gallery features changing exhibits, often locally made crafts such as prayer and dancing fans, pottery, or weavings. It's open year-round 8am to 4:30pm Monday through Friday. There's a suggested donation of $2 for adults, $1 for seniors, and 50¢ for children.
Also at this site, in early December, is the Red Rock Balloon Rally, a high point on the sporting balloonist's calendar. For information, call the Gallup-McKinley County Chamber of Commerce.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.