New Mexico October 21, 2017
Here Are 10 Must-Stops Along Route 66 In New Mexico
Traveling Route 66, the famous Mother Road, from Chicago to California has been a rite of passage since 1926. But did you know that 535 miles of the 2,450-mile route ran right through New Mexico?
Though no longer an official road, you can still follow the Route 66 Scenic Byway across the entire state, east and west. From the east, the route starts in Glen Rio and primarily runs parallel to Interstate 40, until it exits the state past Gallup, through Manuelito. However, older parts of the route swing up through Las Vegas and Santa Fe. For whichever path you follow across this historic road, we’ve lined up a few must-stops along the way.
During these uncertain times, please keep safety in mind and consider adding destinations to your bucket list to visit at a later date.
1. Blue Swallow Motel (Tucumcari)
Blue Swallow Motel
transports you back to the height of Route 66’s popularity, and the days of sock hops and poodle skirts. This traditional motor court is a perfectly preserved slice of the past, with period-appropriate amenities.
2. Tucumcari Ranch Supply (Tucumcari)
Among the hardware and feed at
Tucumcari Ranch Supply
you'll find a curious array of trailer parts, western wear, tourist kitsch, and the requisite rusty treasures. The biggest surprises, though are the bakery (with an extensive donut menu) and the lip-smacking good, Watson's BBQ.
3. Comet II (Santa Rosa)
In a poll among Route 66 enthusiasts, this little throw-back diner was voted one of the top 20 places to eat along the entire Mother Road. Started in 1929, Comet has been in the same family for generations. It's known for its made-from-scratch Mexican fare featuring Puerto del Luna green chile. The Comet was originally a drive-in, but it hasn't had carhops since 1994 when the original Comet burned down, thus the name Comet II. (By the way, the
Route 66 Diner
, in Albuquerque, was on the Top 20 list too).
4. The Singing Highway (near Tijeras)
A stretch of Route 66, near Tijeras, is unlike any other section of the Mother Road. You don’t need to turn on your radio to hear music. The aptly-named
actually sings "America the Beautiful" as you drive over it!
5. San Miguel Church (Santa Fe).
Before 1938, when the road was re-aligned, Route 66 ran through Santa Fe. Along the route was the San Miguel Church,
America's oldest church
. Dating back to 1610, the original adobe walls and alter were built by the Tlaxcalan Indians who accompanied Don Juan Onate from Mexico.
6. KiMo Theater (Albuquerque)
The KiMo Theatre has been an Albuquerque landmark since it opened in 1927. It's oddly ornate Pueblo Deco style is evident from the street, but the real treat is the interior, with a cacophony of significant Pueblo symbols including birds, rain clouds, buffalo skulls with glowing eyes and swastikas – a Navajo symbol for happiness. The name KiMo, by the way, is said to be a combination of two Tewa words meaning "mountain lion" or "king of its kind".
7. Kelly's Brew Pub (Albuquerque)
If you eat on the patio at Kelly's Brew Pub you will be looking right out over old Route 66. Not only that, but you will be dining in the former home of the Jones Motor Company, a service station and car dealership. Built in the Art Moderne style, the Route 66-era garage was designed to attract customers and was one of the first westbound icons along the route. When Kelly's purchased the building many of the original design elements were restored.
8. Whiting Brothers (Moriarty)
Once upon a time, Whiting Brothers gas stations and hotels dotted Route 66. In New Mexico, the Whitings had either motels or gas stations in Gallup, Tucumcari, Moriarty, and between McCartys and San Fidel. The special thing about the Moriarty station is that it is the last operating location among the iconic chain. Today it is locally known as Sal & Inez's Service Station, (and doesn't sell gas), but the iconic red and yellow Whiting Brothers sign (refurbished in 2014) still beckons travelers.
9. Richardson's Trading Company (Gallup)
Richardson's is one of the oldest and most respected old-school trading posts around. You will find everything here, from kachina dolls and headdresses to Navajo wool rugs, buckskins, and pottery from several tribes and pueblos. Also a long-standing pawn shop, this is a good place to pick up decades-old treasures.
10. El Rancho Hotel (Gallup)
Opened in 1937 by R.E. Griffith (brother of film director, D.W. Griffith), as a base for movie operations, El Rancho was a premier hotel of its time. Offering excellent service and proximity to "wild west" vistas, the hotel hosted Hollywood stars, like Errol Flynn, Katherine Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart and John Wayne when they were in town shooting. When folks started taking I-40 instead of Route 66, the hotel started to decline. However, when the hotel was facing a wrecking ball in the 1980s, a southwest businessman bought the hotel and restored it to its original shine.
Have you traveled Route 66 in New Mexico? What are your favorite stops and attractions? We want to know.