The town of Gallup can be found in northwestern New Mexico, about two hours west of Albuquerque and three hours east of Flagstaff. Route 66 runs right through the center of town, which makes it a place that many road-trippers stop for a meal or an overnight rest between sightseeing adventures.
After spending three nights and four days in Gallup last month, I would describe the town as unpretentious. The people we encountered were down-to-earth, welcoming, and deeply invested in their town. They didn’t hesitate to speak with pride about the eccentricities of their land. If Gallup was a person, she would be comfortable in her own skin, with a natural, sun-kissed beauty; no cosmetics or fancy clothes necessary.
WHAT TO PACK
Gallup is a high desert town, which means plentiful sunshine no matter the season. Expect warm (but not humid) days and cooler nights. You’ll want to pack layers for temperature swings, which are characteristic of the desert.
WHERE TO STAY
When it comes to where to stay in Gallup, you have somewhat slim pickings. In a town of about 22,000 people, don’t expect to find large-scale resorts with lazy rivers and waterslides. Your best bets as of the time of this writing would be: Best Western Plus Gallup Inn & Suites or Hampton Inn & Suites Gallup.
We’ve also heard good things about the USA RV Park in Gallup. If you happen to be traveling with a recreational vehicle, consider this campground, which has an American Flag themed outdoor pool, a playground, and long pull-thru spots. Active military stay free all year long!
THINGS TO DO
If you have young children, Gallup is not the first place that comes to mind when you think of “kid-friendly travel.” You won’t find amusement parks, movie theaters, or splash pads. That being said, there are definitely things to do with your kids if you are up for an adventure and you know what to look for.
Hike at Red Rock Park
You can choose between two trailheads at Red Rock Park – Pyramid Rock or Church Rock. Both are under two miles and offer views of the red rocks. Hiking is one of the very best things you can do in any new city or area because it allows you to experience the natural terrain and landscape. As with any hike, be sure to plan accordingly by dressing for the weather (layers are best), hydrating well, wearing sun protective clothing/hats, and bringing water along with you.
Explore Downtown Gallup
Stop first at Gallup Coffee Company, a surprisingly hip coffeeshop with (I’m venturing a guess!) the best coffee in town. The coffee has its own roaster and the smell that reaches your nose as you enter is divine. I didn’t start drinking coffee until my early thirties, but I now consider myself to be a bit of a snob when it comes to searching out quality. I mostly drink my coffee “black” so it has to be good, not just “sugared.” Gallup Coffee Company hit the bull’s eye and I would definitely recommend stopping in here if you’re on a quest to find good local coffee on your road trip. Get a latte for yourself and apple cider (topped with whipped cream & caramel!) for the kids.
Under a mile away, you’ll find Glenn’s Bakery. Although we didn’t stop at the restaurant in-person, we did have an opportunity to sample their donuts after a hot air balloon ride and they were quite good.
You’ll also want to snap photos next to the murals around town. Downtown Gallup is Instagram-central for the city. If you’re looking for fun backdrops to post on social media, this is it.
Next, step into Tanners Indian Arts or City Electric Shoe Shop, where you’ll find a wide selection of cowboy hats, jewelry, and boots. If you would like a pair of moccasins (whether locally or nationally made), you’ll find them here. Fair warning – the baby moccasins are hard to resist!
If you’re visiting in the summer, make it a point to be in the downtown area at 7:00pm to observe an Indian dance. Free and open to the public, the dances take place nightly between Memorial Day and Labor Day! A memorable experience with music that will move you!
We the People Park
If you enjoy a bit of local quirk in your travels, you may want to swing by We the People Park for some photos.
WHERE TO EAT
If you came to New Mexico in search of tacos, burritos, enchiladas, and other New Mexican fare, you’re in luck. You’ll find these dishes everywhere. There are plentiful options so go with the best reviews on yelp and trip advisor.
Our family enjoyed dining at the Route 66 Diner on our way out of town. It’s a small 50s themed red-and-white diner, serving up hamburgers and French fries – along with New Mexican cuisine. A strange combination, to be sure. Our waitress, however, was lovely and wonderful with children (she even provided free chocolate pudding samples after our meal) and the food hit the spot. This is an especially good pick if you’re “just passing through,” but are tired of chain fast food joints.
HOT AIR BALLOONING
Everyone thinks of Albuquerque for hot air ballooning, but it’s really a statewide pastime. Gallup, for example, hosts the Red Rock Balloon Rally every December. The rally is located at Red Rock State Park and you’ll see over 150 balloons if you go. Best of all, admission is free and parking is only $5! A local resident told us that if you volunteer to help “crew” a balloon, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to go up – FREE! No guarantees, of course, but it’s worth a shot. Plus, the experience of seeing the balloons up-close is magical in and of itself.
If you’re not coming for the rally, but would still like to fly the friendly New Mexican skies in a hot air balloon, contact X-Treme-Lee Fun Balloon Adventures. The owner, Bill Lee, is an enthusiastic and experienced pilot with plentiful knowledge about the local area.
Have you been to Gallup, New Mexico with kids?