Fun Things to Do in Gallup On Your New Mexico Vacation

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.

Thank you to Gallup Real True for hosting McCool Travel.

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!).

X-Treme-Lee Fun Balloon Adventures: Facebook

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.

Gallup Flea Market: webFacebook

Downtown Gallup

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.

historic El Morro Theatre in Gallup NM
historic El Morro Theatre in Gallup NM

El Morro Theatre: webFacebook

— 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 in Gallup New Mexico
nightly Indian dances in Gallup New Mexico

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.

wall mural in downtown Gallup New Mexico
wall mural in downtown Gallup New Mexico


Gallup Events

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

map of Gallup NM and scenic highway 53 attractions
map of Gallup NM and scenic highway 53 attractions

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 Malpais National Monument Visitor Center
the visitor center at El Malpais National Monument is gorgeous

El Malpais National Monument: webFacebook

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.

El Morro National Monument
El Morro National Monument

Look for inscriptions in the rock wall from Native Americans, early Spanish explorers, and migrating settlers.

Inscription Trail at El Morro National Monument, near Gallup NM
Inscription Trail at El Morro National Monument, near Gallup NM

El Morro National Monument: webFacebook

Zuni Reservation

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.

Zuni tour guide at Hawikku
Zuni tour guide at Hawikku

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.

Zuni pottery shards at Hawikku

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).

walls of Hawikku on Zuni reservation
walls of Hawikku on Zuni reservation

See the mastodon fossils and learn about Zuni culture and history at the small museum in the Pueblo of Zuni.

Zuni museum with mastodon fossils
Zuni museum with mastodon fossils

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.

Sandra’s Place

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.

breakfast at Sandra's Place in Gallup New Mexico
breakfast at Sandra’s Place in Gallup New Mexico

Sandra’s PlaceFacebook

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.

start with margaritas and chips & salsa at Anthony's in Gallup NM
start with margaritas and chips & salsa at Anthony’s in Gallup NM
tasty food at Anthony's in Gallup NM
tasty food at Anthony’s in Gallup NM

Anthony’s Taste of the Southwest: webFacebook

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 in Gallup NM
get your veggies (and burgers and beer) at Coal Street Pub in Gallup NM

Coal Street PubFacebook

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.

funky neon sign for Gallup Coffee Company
funky neon sign for Gallup Coffee Company

Gallup Coffee CompanyFacebook

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.

Ancient Way Cafe in Ramah, New Mexico
eat at Ancient Way Cafe in Ramah, New Mexico

Ancient Way Cafe: web | Facebook

Other Gallup NM Restaurants:

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.

balcony room at Days Inn& Suites Red Rock-Gallup NM
balcony room at Days Inn & Suites Red Rock-Gallup NM

Days Inn & Suites Red Rock-Gallup: web | Facebook

El Rancho Hotel

El Rancho Hotel: web | Facebook

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.

El Morro RV Park and Cabins: web | Facebook

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