20 Awesome Things to do in Gallup New Mexico

Gallup, New Mexico is more than a stop on Route 66. I was so surprised by the variety of fun things to do in Gallup New Mexico and below I am sharing my favorites.

The town of Gallup sits at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, making it one of the best places in the country for outdoor recreation like hiking and hot air ballooning. In addition to an extraordinary landscape, Gallup’s downtown has an art scene brimming with important cultural experiences. Its history and art make Gallup a must-see for all kinds of travelers. There are also great day trips such as visiting the Navajo Nation Zoo.

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Red Rocky Canyon HIke in Gallup

Gallup is a beautiful town to photograph. From the murals and street art to the Route 66 signage and the gorgeous silver and turquoise jewelry, it’s a really fun town to capture in photos. As you can tell, there are a multitude of things to do in Gallup, New Mexico. Below are a few of our favorites!

Ultimate Guide to Gallup, New Mexico

Top Things to do in Gallup NM

It is the crossroads of United States history and precolonial Native American history. It’s known as the most patriotic town in America and is the American Indian capital of the world.

Below is my guide to a perfect day in Gallup, New Mexico including my favorite things to do, the best restaurants as well as tips, trivia and advice for your Gallup vacation. 

Where is Gallup, New Mexico?

map of gallup, new mexico

Gallup is located on historic Route 66 in northwest, New Mexico. It is the most populous city between Albuquerque, New Mexico and Flagstaff, Arizona. By car, it’s about 2 hours from Albuquerque and this is the best airport to fly to travel to Gallup.

Gallup, New Mexico is about 20 miles from the Arizona border in northwest part of the state and is the halfway point between Flagstaff and Albuquerque on I-40, (the highway that parallels or replaced the old historic Route 66).

Where to find the Best Coffee in Gallup

Gallup Coffee Company

A perfect day in Gallup starts with a steaming cup of joe from Gallup Coffee Company, located in the heart of downtown Gallup. The coffee shop is one of the few in town that roasts it’s own coffee.

The shop also serves espresso, blended beverages, and teas and they make their own syrups. For the more adventurous coffee drinkers, I highly recommend the Bizochito latte, which is made with a special syrup containing anise, brandy, and cinnamon syrup concocted by the Company’s owner, Tiffany Benson.

If you’d like more than coffee to start your day, they also offer smoothies, bagels, and pastries. 

Top Things to do in Gallup NM

After an amazing breakfast at one of the local eateries, embrace what Gallup is known for: its connection to route 66, its historic downtown, and its Native American heritage.

Gallup’s Navajo Nation is the size of West Virginia, making it the largest American Indian reservation in the world. Navajo, Hopi, and Zuni cultures are still a large part of life in Gallup. You can hear the languages of the tribes spoken daily in town, and there is a renewed interest in teaching Navajo children to weave and carry on other important traditions.

The town of Gallup was founded along the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad, and named for a paymaster of the railroad, David Gallup. In addition to the existing Native American population, it was settled by miners and railroad workers. Many of the buildings downtown date to the 1800s through the early 1900s.

As you stroll through the beautifully preserved architecture, you’ll see stores, art galleries, and pawn shops full of Native American crafts and jewelry. Today Gallup remains the main trade center for the Navajo and Zuni tribes.

Find a Route 66 Sign

Route 66 in Gallup, NM

Completed in 1926, Route 66 winds 2,448 miles from Chicago to L.A. Through most of the Western states, Route 66 follows Interstate 40, which eventually replaced much of the Mother Road. In some areas, the remnants of 66 parallel the interstate as a frontage road.

Shopping for Authentic Indian Art & Jewelry

While downtown has its small-town charm, you’ll certainly enjoy simply strolling down Route 66 as well as Coal Avenue. You don’t want to miss visiting a few Trading companies and a few shops that really are a must. But first, a quick lesson about the pawn world in Gallup.

A Pawn Lesson

Turquoise jewelry at a pawn in Gallup, NM

There are over 100 trading posts in Gallup and these are much more than a place to shop.

Trading Posts, also called pawn shops, have a totally different meaning in Gallup. Pawn shops are a Navajo banking system. Most Navajos don’t trust banks or safety deposit boxes. They place their most valuable items and family heirlooms in the safety of a vault in a pawn shop for safety. They are not pawned for money and resold, but stored securely. A silver belt with turquoise can be worth $15,000. To secure this treasure in a vault at a pawn shop might cost $2 per month. The owner could then remove it for special occasions and then return it to safety.

Let’s Get to the Shopping!

Gallup is the heart of Native American jewelry. You’ll find traditional American Indian art, beads, feathers, and handmade rugs. There are also items for sale that are used in American Indian ceremonies. Many pawn shops/trading posts also sell jewelry, cowboy boots, clothes, art, turquoise and pottery.

Turquoise, which is more valuable than diamonds, is mined in the Southwest, making it hugely popular and widely available. That being said, be careful what you buy. Some shops may try to sell you cultured turquoise instead of natural turquoise. Cultured turquoise is man-made, and as a result, the color is more uniform throughout the stone. Natural turquoise generally has different shades and is more durable than cultured turquoise.

Silver Dust Trading Company

Silver Dust Trading Company in Gallup

Located on Route 66 (locals call this Front Street or Main Street), Silver Dust Trading Company is a must visit. The current owner is Donovan Ferrari and this wholesale and retail shop was founded by his mother. This store focuses on trading as well as retail and wholesale jewelry. It is known as one of the best bead shops in the Southwest. The store is divided with one side showcasing mostly beads and the other side has a variety of beautiful items for retail sale.

On the other side of the store are beautiful rugs that are made throughout the Southwest. You can also find feathers, jewelry making supplies and traditional American Indian items for ceremonies.

Silver Dust Trading Company in Gallup

You’ll also find beautiful handmade jewelry. They have quite a collection and some beautiful turquoise pieces.

Silver Dust Trading Company in Gallup

You’ll also find some really unique art pieces.

Silver Dust Trading Company in Gallup

Silver Dust Trading Company even sells hand-beaded stethoscope covers (see below on the left).

Silver Dust Trading Company in Gallup

Richardson’s Trading Post

Richardsons pawn in Gallup

Richardson Trading Post has been open for 104 years, making it the oldest pawn shop in Gallup.

Richardsons pawn in Gallup

They offer free tours by appointment only, lasting from one and a half to two hours. You can book an appointment any day except Sunday between 8am to 3pm. This tour is extremely informative and I suggest you take it before you visit other trading companies and pawn shops. You’ll learn so much about the craftsmanship of pottery, jewelry, rugs, and more. It will provide you with context and a greater appreciation for the artistry and cultural significance of everything you’ll see in the shops.

Rug room Richardsons pawn in Gallup

Richardson Trading Post has the town’s largest collection of antique Native American rugs. You’ll find 15 types of rug patterns in their showroom. Depending on what you want, the prices can range from $300 to $300,000.

Richardsons pawn in Gallup

Richardsons pawn in Gallup

Richardsons pawn in Gallup

The shop also has pottery with varieties painted specifically to each tribe’s traditions, in addition to jewelry and kachina dolls. Kachina dolls are traditionally made with the root of a cottonwood tree and dressed to depict different spirits.

pottery at Richardsons pawn in Gallup

Ellis Tanner Trading Company

Outside of downtown, is another trading post well worth a visit. Ellis Tanner Trading Company still functions very much like early trading posts with a pawn shop, a jewelry store, a general store, and a place for locals to sell their goods. Ellis Tanner is the fourth generation of the Tanner families who have traded in Gallup. Seth Tanner, his great grandfather, started trading in Gallup when he traveled West to settle the region with Brigham Young.


If you’re looking for some good old fashioned, American cowboy clothes, Zimmerman’s is a must. It is located in one of the oldest buildings in town and was opened in 1913. They specialize in Western wear including cowboy hats, boots, and affordable concho belts.

City Electric Shoe Shop

mocassins from electric city in Gallup

City Electric Shoe Shop was started in 1924 and has been in the same family for three generations. They make moccasins on the premises and are the only moccasin manufacturer that actually make moccasins in the United States. They make about 11,400 pairs of moccasins per year, in addition to the other leather goods they produce including belts and cowboy boots. City Electric Shoe Shop also repairs booths and leather supplies.

cowboy boot repair in Gallup, New Mexico

Insider Tip: There is so much history in Gallup. Make sure to take a moment in each store you visit to ask how long the store has been open and their family history. As you see by what is already shared above, many of these stores have been in one family for multiple generations.

Where to have Lunch in Gallup

Angela's cafe in gallup, new mexico

Gallup’s food is in influenced by Native American and Mexican cuisine and New Mexico’s famous green chile is always available.


There are lots of great options. If you want to go simple or fast, head to Blake’s for “fast food.” The Southwestern burger joint is known for burgers with fresh ingredients and was named “World’s Best Green Chile Cheeseburger” by National Geographic.

Earl’s Family Restaurant

For a more quintessential Gallup meal, head to Earl’s Family Restaurant on Historic Route 66. It has been around since 1947 and has been a local favorite for years, offering a combination of Navajo, Mexican and traditional American diner specialties. Some of the best items on the menu are the Navajo tacos and the green chile.

Earl's restaurant in Gallup, New Mexico

Angela’s Cafe Con Leche

For soups, salads, and sandwich options, head to Angela’s Cafe Con Leche. This cafe is located inside the Gallup Cultural Center and is the perfect place to stop for a quick lunch or a light breakfast. Their baked goods are also dangerously enticing.

Angela's cafe in gallup, new mexico

Afternoon of Culture in Gallup

Downtown Mural Walk

In the early 2000s local artists were commissioned to tell Gallup’s story with a series of murals. You can find these on different buildings throughout downtown. Most murals are within a three block radius, between 1st and 4th street, and Route 66 and Mesa Ave. You can pick up a map of the mural walk at the chamber of commerce at 106 W. Highway 66.

street art in gallup, new mexico

art walk in gallup, new mexico

street art in gallup, new mexico

Rex Museum

Res Museum in Gallup

The Rex Museum illuminates Gallup’s rich history. The museum, which was at different times a brothel, a hotel, and a grocery store, is located on route 66. It illuminates the history of the region and its people before settlers arrived as well as details about the mining and railroad construction that led to Gallup’s existence as a town.

Cultural Center

The Cultural Center is in the Santa Fe Train Depot and is run by the Southwest Indian Foundation. It’s in the same building as Angela’s Cafe Con Leche, and serves as a community gathering area for forums and lectures. It highlights the area’s rich and diverse culture. There are exhibits on trains, weaving, sand painting, crafts, and Historic Route 66. There are also storytelling events and Indian Dances during the summer months.

Visit the Flea Market

If you are in town on a Saturday, the Flea Market is a must. Located at 340 North 9th Street, you can find everything you might expect and a whole bunch more at this market. The flea market is known for its wonderful food as well as well as arts, crafts, cowboy boots, spices, herbs and more. The market has some beautiful artisans as well as people who are selling a mixture of what feels like garage sale knickknacks. You’ll also find livestock and pets (dogs, rabbits) for sale. The flea market is known as a place you can barter, trade or pay in cash.

Some of the must-try Native American foods are the wood-fired bread, tamales and fry bread.

UFO Film Festival

Chuck Wade has been hosting a UFO film festival for over 14 years. During the festival you can watch UFO-related films and documentaries and attend live presentations. Chuck is also know to review UFO crashes in New Mexico and present analysis of debris from the crashes.

Outdoor Fun: Hike Red Rock Park

There are over 4 miles of trails, with easy to moderate levels. There are amazing views, picnic areas, and beautiful rock formations. You can spend a full day hiking or do a short walk to many spectacular vistas.

The beautiful red rock transports adventurers into an environment unique to the Southwest, and there is easy trail access for hikers of all skill levels.

The photos below were all taken with no more than a 30-minute flat walk into Red Rock Park.

Red Rocky Canyon HIke in Gallup

Red Rocky Canyon HIke in Gallup

Red Rocky Canyon HIke in Gallup

Red Rocky Canyon HIke in Gallup

Red Rocky Canyon HIke in Gallup

These trails offer little to no shade, so bring a hat and plenty of water when you visit.

Hot Air Ballooning

X-treme-lee fun balloon adventures

Gallup holds the second largest balloon rally in North America. 2018 was the 43rd anniversary of the Red Rock Balloon Rally in Gallup. There are 200 balloons at the rally.

Can you imagine how beautiful it looks here when there are that many balloons floating through town? You can also book a hot air balloon ride with X-Treme-Lee Fun Balloon Adventures. Bill Lee, the owner, and hot air balloon pilot offers rides yearround. This was one of our favorite experiences in Gallup!

Most flights last between 1 to 1.5 hours, but the entire experience lasts 3 to 3.5 hours. This is because part of the hot air balloon experience is preparing for the flight. I have to be honest, I thought we’d show up and hop in the balloon and take off. Turns out watching and helping in the process is quite comforting and fun!

www.scenicballoonrides.com or call 505-979-2012

Great Things to do Near Gallup

Navajo Nation Zoo and Botanical Park

Navajo Nation Zoo

Only 30 minutes from Gallup, is the Navajo Nation Zoo and Botanical Park in Window Rock, Arizona. This is the only tribally owned and operated zoo, and all of the signs are in both English and Navajo. Most animals are orphaned or rescues. Animals are here because they need a home — they have been injured, orphaned, or confiscated.

The Navajo Nation Zoo and Botanical Park seek to conserve native plants and animals and to spread awareness of their cultural significance in terms of Navajo beliefs. Many animals are important to the Navajo, and you can see the most sacred, the Golden Eagle, at this zoo.

Window Rock & Code Talker Statue

Also, nearby the zoo is Window Rock. This is located on the Navajo Reservation and open to the public. Whether you take the drive for the beautiful scenery and to simply view Window Rock, or you want to hike to the peak, this should be included in any Gallup itinerary.

Window Rock, Arizona hike

Also, at Window Rock you’ll find the Code Talker statue. The statue honors Navajo Marines who served in WWII. The code talkers were critical to U.S. military efforts because of the use of their native language as a code to communicate in battle. You can visit to see the statue only, or also do a hike to the Window Rock arch.

Code talker statue in Window Rock

For Dinner

After an afternoon of exploring Gallup, head to dinner. Again, you have loads of options! El Rancho Restaurant is a great option if you’d love to visit one of the most famous hotels on Route 66.

In the1930s El Rancho Hotel & Motel was home of the stars with such notable guests as Doris Day, Gene Autry, Jane Fonda, and John Wayne. The hotel, which opened in 1937, is full of memorabilia, and photos from it’s heyday when many Westerns were filmed in the area. It was a base for many movie productions during this time period. The El Rancho Restaurant offers beautiful decor and a Southwestern and Mexican-inspired menu.

Outside of the downtown area, a great Italian restaurant option is Fratelli’s Bistro.

After a spectacular dinner, there are a variety of ways to end your evening in Gallup. There is live music most nights, but if you want somewhere hip that the locals go, there is no beating the El Morro Theater. This historic theater has 460 seats and has been around for 90 years. It hosts a variety of events throughout the year and has current films playing daily.

Best Hotel Options in Gallup NM

Gallup, New Mexico has a range of hotels to suit different tastes and budgets. Here are some of the best hotels in Gallup for a tourist vacation:

Overall, there are many great hotels in Gallup for tourists to choose from, whether you’re looking for a historic hotel or a modern hotel with all the amenities.

Camping In Gallup

Gallup, New Mexico offers a range of camping options, from RV parks to primitive campsites. Here are some of the best campgrounds in Gallup NM:

  • Red Rock Park: This park offers both RV and tent camping sites. It has a beautiful red rock canyon that offers scenic views, hiking trails, picnic areas, and playgrounds.
  • McGaffey Campground: This is a primitive campsite with no hookups. It is located in the Cibola National Forest and offers access to hiking trails, fishing, and mountain biking.
  • Zuni Campground: This is another primitive campsite located in the Zuni Mountains. It offers tent and RV camping, as well as access to hiking trails and fishing.
  • Gallup KOA: This is a well-maintained campground with full hookups and amenities such as a swimming pool, playground, and laundry facilities. It is located just off I-40 and offers easy access to local attractions.
  • Coal Basin Ranch: This is a private ranch that offers camping, hiking, and horseback riding. It is located in a remote area and offers a peaceful and scenic camping experience.

Wrapping it up!

Gallup is a town filled with Native American shops, historic hotels, and landmark restaurants. If you simply drive through on your way to other parts of New Mexico or on your way to Arizona, you are truly missing out!

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