Gallup, New Mexico embraces its slogan of Gallup Real True by offering visitors a breadth and depth of amazing adventures, cultural activities, nostalgia, and culinary delights. It just has to be said, so gallop to New Mexico for these fun things to do in Gallup.
While Gallup Real True hosted McCool Travel, please be certain that my message is carefully crafted for my awesome audience so that you can make informed decisions in order to Travel Happy on future trips.
Fun Things to Do in Gallup On Your New Mexico Vacation
Gallup New Mexico is a quick two hour drive along interstate I-40 from Albuquerque airport but there are plenty of scenic, cultural, historic, and delectable places to stop along the way.
GallUP, Up, and Away
The hot air ballooning experience in Gallup is magnificent. There is space for maybe three dozen ballooning teams so a Gallup balloon event is on a smaller scale than the mega Albuquerque fest. Also more convenient and less hectic.
We were fortunate to have ballooning experiences on consecutive mornings, one with a private team and the second with Bill Lee of X-Treme-Lee Fun Balloon Adventures piloting the New Mexico State tourism branded hot air balloon.
It was a magnificent sight flying over Red Rock Park.
Arriving quite early on the first morning, we were volunteered by our Gallup Real True host to assist a couple from Arizona in setting up their hot air balloon. It is a lot of hard work but also a lot of fun. The pay off includes the soaring experience, being in the chase vehicle (which was surprisingly fun), and then the apres ceremony (with the balloonist prayer and champagne!).
Hiking at Red Rock Park
Red Rock Arena hosts rodeos and other events. Balloon rallies launch from the large parking area and campground. The two primary Red Rock Park hikes, both with amazing views, are Pyramid Rock Trail at a total of 3 miles and Church Rock Trail which is a 2 mile loop.
Gallup Flea Market
Saturdays are hopping at the Gallup Flea Market, with thousands of visitors checking out wares from hundreds of vendors, most of them Native American.
Explore America’s Most Patriotic Small Town by foot for the optimal experience. Here are some fun places to visit in downtown Gallup, New Mexico.
— Historic Route 66 District
Walk along the historic route 66 street and shop for turquoise jewelry and native Zuni crafts. Stop in the quirky Rex Museum. Inside the visitor information center there is a display for the Navajo Code Talkers. Gallup Skatepark opened in July 2018 right next to the visitor center.
Gallup’s Historic Route 66: web
— El Morro Theatre
The Historic El Morro Theatre was built in 1928, right about when Route 66 first opened.
— Nightly Indian Dances
Every night at 7pm, from Memorial Day to Labor Day, view authentic tribal Indian dances in Courthouse Square Plaza. The dances are usually accompanied by storytelling, traditional music (drum, rattle, and flute), arts and crafts vendors, and food trucks and stands.
Nightly Indian Dances: web
— Downtown Gallup Wall Murals
You an easily walk downtown Gallup and see the colorful wall murals in about an hour. See this downtown Gallup mural walking tour.
I attended the Route 66 Freedom Ride weekend in July 2018 and it was a blast. Literally a blast, because in one event the balloonists create a Tunnel of Fire for the motorcycles in the Freedom Ride to go through. The weekend also includes the two day balloon rally, a classic vehicle parade, a route 66 themed car show, and GALLUPfest (with performances, food, and vendors).
To see what other Gallup NM events will coincide with your visit, visit the Gallup Real True events page.
Things to Do Near Gallup New Mexico
El Malpais National Monument
Located along scenic highway 53, El Malpais National Monument invites visitors to learn about and explore a volcanic landscape with a tremendous history and variety of flora, fauna, and biodiversity. Several hiking trails and scenic drives allow you to spend as little or as much time as you desire. Also near El Malpais NM is Acoma Pueblo (ancient city).
El Morro National Monument
A little further along scenic highway 53 after El Malpais, when coming from Albuquerque, is El Morro National Monument. The Inscription Trail is the highlight of El Morro NM and you should definitely allow at least an hour to experience it.
Look for inscriptions in the rock wall from Native Americans, early Spanish explorers, and migrating settlers.
Zuni people consider themselves luckiest of Native American tribes, since they experienced no Trail of Tears or forced displacement events. The Zuni oral history goes back 100,000 years and fossils from a killed mastodon were found less than two miles from the First Encounter site. We were honored and fortunate to be guided around Zuni land by a tribal religious leader and archaeologist. Here is Zuni tour information.
The First Encounter (Hawikku) between Zuni and Europeans was at the eight story massive complex that Coronado stumbled into. McCool Travel tip: Hawikku was the largest of the mythical and legendary Seven Cities of Gold (Cibola). The “gold” is actually mica used in the pottery and walls, which sparkled in the sunlight.
From atop Hawikku, downhill is a wall remnant from a 1629 church, the first church built on US soil. In another direction is the Zuni river, which connects to Little Colorado River to Grand Canyon—where the Pueblonian Indians trace their beginnings (Mother Earth womb at Rippon Falls).
See the mastodon fossils and learn about Zuni culture and history at the small museum in the Pueblo of Zuni.
Places to Eat in Gallup New Mexico
When dining in Gallup NM, your biggest decision will be green or red. Chili sauce that is. On your burger, burrito, omelette, or pretty much anything you order. Or request Christmas style to sample both options.
This is a great cozy diner along historic Route 66. Sandra bought the place after working here—formerly called Plaza Cafe—for 15 years. She completely renovated the interior but the place still retains a retro diner charm. Amazing food.
Sandra’s Place: Facebook
Anthony’s Taste of the Southwest
To satisfy your fajita, tostada, margarita, and chips and salsa cravings, head for Anthony’s in Gallup, New Mexico.
Coal Street Pub
I do have to admit that I needed an infusion of fresh vegetables after the amazing burritos and other green chile sauced items I ate for a few days in New Mexico. Coal Street Pub to the rescue! While I fondly remember a fresh salad, Coal Street Pub offers a nice selection of beers (and other drinks) and really good burgers. P.S. we went to Coal Street Pub two nights in a row!
Coal Street Pub: Facebook
Gallup Coffee Company
Wedged into a space next to the El Morro Theatre, check out the cool walls. Order fun craft drinks like their Honeybush Latte, naturally caffeine free and good for an evening treat.
Gallup Coffee Company: Facebook
Ancient Way Cafe
On our way into Gallup, the Cimarron Rose (see below) innkeeper said we simply MUST eat at Ancient Way Cafe. Well, it did not work out on the westward segment but we made sure to stop on the trip from Gallup back to Albuquerque. So glad we did. Ancient Way Cafe has amazing food and even better desserts.
Other Gallup NM Restaurants:
- Jerry’s Cafe
- Don Diego’s
- Oasis Mediterranean Grill
- Camille’s Sidewalk Cafe
- Route 66 Railway Cafe
- Flavour Savour
Where to Stay in Gallup NM
Cimarron Rose B&B
A peaceful retreat along scenic highway 53. So close to the interstate but also so far. The hummingbirds alone make this place worth staying but Susan provides amazing hospitality and a luscious pantry (of items for sale). Breakfast is made to order and hand delivered. Ancient fossils a short walk on their 43 acres.
We stayed in the cozy Cimarron suite, with a kitchen, private patio where we sat and watched amazing hummingbird action for hours (or at least many minutes!).
Cimarron Rose B&B: Facebook
Days Inn & Suites
Conveniently located along historic Route 66, Days Inn & Suites in Gallup offers balcony rooms with a nice view of the mountains, a free continental breakfast for guests, and an indoor pool. Note that there are two Days Inn properties in Gallup. This location is further east and closer to the interstate and Red Rock park.
El Rancho Hotel
El Morro RV Park
Located along scenic highway 53, about an hour drive from Gallup, El Morro RV Park may be worth an overnight stop. They rent cabins, in addition to RV and camp sites. The fabulous Ancient Way Cafe (see above) is here and it is close to El Morro National Monument.