A Travel Media Showcase Family conference brought me to New Mexico for the first time, along with many friends in the industry. I was wowed by the scenery from the minute I stepped off the plane in Albuquerque. I rented a car and drove, often on historic Route 66, to the city of Gallup. It didn’t take long to find several awesome things to do in Gallup that made my trip really special. Between the skilled craftsmanship, hot-air ballooning adventures, delicious food, and authentic travel, Gallup is a gem.
Between these awesome things to do in Gallup, New Mexico and the friendly locals, Gallup should be on your radar.
Discover the Artisans
Did you know that around 80% of all of the Native American crafts in the world are made right here in Gallup? Neither did I. After visiting several trading post-style stores and a local craft market; I was amazed by the craftsmanship and talent of these amazing artists.
At Perry Null Trading, I found adorable fetishes (small carvings by Native American tribes), jewelry, pottery, rugs, and buckles, mostly made by the Zuni, Hopi, and Navajo tribe members. Tanner Indian Arts, a 4th generation business, had incredible all-natural gem-quality turquoise, hand-woven rugs, and Katsina dolls. Silver Dust Trading Co. is known for Native American beadwork, jewelry, seed beads, and crafts.
On my visit, I met three noteworthy artists: Andy Marion, (3rd generation Silversmith); David K. John (a talented painter); and Penelope Joe aka Pete Yellowhorse (a Navajo storyteller and artist). Not only is Penelope Joe a talented young painter, but she is the granddaughter to a medicine man. Her paintings include animals from dreams and just make you feel happy looking at them.
Fun fact: There are 350,000 Native Americans between Gallup, New Mexico and Northwestern Arizona.
Go Hot Air Ballooning
It should come as no surprise that hot air ballooning in New Mexico is a hot commodity. You can do it in Gallup, and the gorgeous mountains make for the perfect backdrop.
My hot air ballooning experience with X-Treme-Lee Fun Balloon Adventures at Red Rock Park in Gallup, New Mexico was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. Before our ballooning day, our travel writer group had a blow-up mini-festival at the fairground. The balloons were gorgeous in the pitch black night, especially the “True Lee New Mexico” black one.
The next morning I joined 50 or more people to balloon. We had four balloons total and highly trained F.A.A. Certified Commercial Pilots/Instructors to show us the ropes, namely Bill Lee, the owner of the company. We split out into groups of four to five per balloon. I lucked out and got the black one that I’d been admiring since the night before. We soared up and down the terrain, drifting only fingertips away from the mountain edges, for an ultimate birds-eye view of Gallup and surrounding areas. It was surreal!
The Izea (yellow) and New Mexico True (white with a face) balloons joined us. Myself, three friends, and our pilot fit inside the balloon comfortably.
While I am not the adventurous type, I wasn’t the least bit nervous going up in the balloon. I felt confident in pilot Bill Lee, who delivered an impressive experience. The photo-ops were incredible, as was the silence, which surprised me. When we landed, it was like a feather floating to the ground. Seriously, it was that smooth!
If you have been jonesing to try it, Gallup is the place to walk you through the step-by-step process and have a fabulous time.
Eat Delicious Food
I was in Gallup for a travel conference, so our meals were mostly catered. Still, I did get to experience the place I was most curious about in town—Hotel El Rancho. Stroll through the 1940s and 50’s western movie and movie star memorabilia from the icons that stayed at the famous Route 66 hotel. The Restaurant at the El Rancho Hotel serves both American and Mexican fare with an emphasis on steaks, tacos, tamales, and enchiladas.
We feasted on the Ricardo Montalban, a combination platter with an enchilada, beef taco, tamale and tostada. Rice and beans were served on the side. The whole meal was fantastic, leaving an excellent impression on me. If you have the chance to dine at Hotel El Rancho, please don’t miss it.
Our group was also treated to gourmet hotdogs from Burchie’s. My favorite was the Land of Enchantment–an all beef dog topped with green chiles, apple pie filling, and a slice of cheddar cheese. Nom! Chase that with a Biscoff Latte or an Iced Vanilla Coffee from Gallup Coffee Company, a local roaster serving yummy coffees, espresso, teas, and pastries.
Experience Authentic Gallup
Gallup is an authentic travel-lovers ideal city. From the Zuni Pueblo’s traditional Soupai dance and fabulous culture to the local jewelry makers and business owners, everyone and everything has a story. One of my favorites came from visiting Perry Null Trading, a vast trading post with a storage business in the backrooms of the shop. Probably in the two to three thousand range, row after row of horse saddles clung to the walls in an organized and smart fashion.
When the owners of the saddles are at work during the weekdays, they store the seats for safe-keeping in the shop’s warehouse. On weekends, they collect them so that they can ride their horses. Saddles are family heirlooms and are passed down, sometimes for many generations, and each one is unique. From looking at them, the ones most worn left me wondering the stories that those saddles would have if they could talk, though I was even more fond of the blinged out sparkly accessories that were added to some of the more modern ones.
This is just one account of the fantastic history in Gallup, New Mexico.
Need a Place to Stay in Gallup?
The Days Inn & Suites by Wyndham Red Rock-Gallup is near I-40, easy to get to, and affordable. The spacious rooms are clean, with modern conveniences, and the hotel offers a heated indoor pool and jacuzzi. Free Wifi and breakfast are included, plus pets are welcome.
Gallup: Experience Real Travel
Gallup was an excellent first dose of New Mexico travel for me. I loved its originality and the friendliness of its people. I learned so much about Native American art, music, dance, and culture, plus checked off a bucket list item as I soared through the sky in a hot-air balloon.
The awesome things to do in Gallup, New Mexico, from soaring through the skies to learning about the Native American cultures and authentic travel, contribute to your having a travel experience unlike any other in the country.
Gallup Photo Gallery
Thanks to the Gallup CVB for hosting me during my TMS Family conference travels. All opinions are 100% mine and unbiased.
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