New Mexico January 25, 2017
New Mexico Has Its Own Las Vegas And You’ll Want To Visit
Las Vegas. Everyone who hears that name immediately imagines a glittering desert city crammed with casinos, buffets, and people looking for a good time. Only New Mexicans realize that there is another Las Vegas, that actually predates the one in Nevada and it’s right here, in the Land of Enchantment.
Located 65 miles east and a bit north of Santa Fe, our Las Vegas also once had a wild reputation. The town was a travel hub: first on the Santa Fe Trail and, later, when the railroad passed through town. For a time, Las Vegas was one of the most significant cities in the American Southwest.
The railroad attracted outlaws and the kind of businesses that catered to them. During the space of one month, 29 people were shot to death!
Locals were appalled and vigilante groups began hanging criminals from the windmill in the Plaza… until this practice was discontinued over concerns about water pollution!
By the late 1880s, Las Vegas was a much more respectable place.
Many buildings from the town’s early days remain intact. You can step through the different eras in the course of just one block.
More than 900 of Las Vegas’ structures appear on the National Register of Historic Places. The same definitely can’t be said for Nevada’s Las Vegas - there are only 59 in the entire county surrounding the city.
Stop by the Carnegie Public Library (500 National Avenue). Andrew Carnegie funded thousands of these libraries and his patronage started the library system that we have today.
Also visit the Amtrak Station (500 Railroad Avenue), which dates back to 1899.
When the railroad came to Las Vegas, the train route ran a mile outside the existing center and buildings sprung up around it, which is why the town has a “new” and an “old” section.
Nearby, you’ll find the Hotel Castañeda, an old Harvey House hotel and New Mexico’s oldest Mission Revival Style building.
In the meantime, if you’re looking for a historic place to stay, check into the Plaza Hotel (230 Plaza Street). It’s rumored to be haunted by a past owner!
Las Vegas’ architectural diversity made it a favorite of Hollywood location scouts.
Las Vegas isn’t lacking for natural beauty. Storrie Lake State Park lies at the edge of town. It’s an under the radar spot that offers good boating, fishing, and other recreational activities. (Highway 518, Mile Marker 3.5)
Alternatively, explore the Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge, a grasslands area that contains short trails and offers opportunities for spotting animals, especially birds. Fall is the best time to visit because that’s when the sandhill cranes descend on the refuge. (It’s located on State Highway 281.)
For a guaranteed animal sighting, head over to Victory Ranch, a farm where you can view adorable, fuzzy alpacas. Hours are varied and seasonal.
For more info.
Locals all know about the Montezuma Hot Springs, a collection of pools that are literally by the side of the road above the Rio Gallinas.
Sometimes you have the (free) hot springs almost to yourself; other times, the place is packed with kids or people looking to party like they’re in Las Vegas, Nevada. If you’re lucky, you can soak your troubles away as you gaze through the trees at Montezuma Castle. This massive edifice is now a college that owns the hot springs. (The springs are on Hot Springs Road.)
What do you think? Has the unique history, well-preserved architecture, and natural beauty of New Mexico’s Las Vegas won you over?
New Mexico has several towns that are brimming with history. Check them out