Belen is a town in centralNew Mexico, 30 miles south of Albuquerque. Belen was founded in 1740 as a small Spanish settlement. Nearly a century ago the town became the center of railroad operations in New Mexico, creating its nickname "The Hub City".
Belen is just off Interstate 25, with three freeway exits. However, there are a couple of more scenic back roads that run parallel to I-25 east of the interstate. The nearest major airport is in Albuquerque.
Another great way to get to Belen is to take a train. A commuter railroad, the New Mexico Rail Runner Express, connects Belen to Albuquerque, Santa Fe and some of the other small communities along the Rio Grande. The Belen station is located near the intersection of Reinken Avenue and Wisconsin Street, across the railroad tracks from the Harvey House Museum (putting you within walking distance of most of Belen's interesting sights). The train runs with limited service daily.
Main Street is the principal north-south street through Belen, connecting to the two I-25 exits on both ends of town. Traveling further in either direction, Main Street becomes a state highway running parallel to I-25. Reinken Avenue is the main east-west road through Belen, starting at Main Street and running east over the railyard, crossing the Rio Grande, and ending at a north-south state highway connecting to places across the Rio Grande.
There's no public transportation in town. However, parts of Belen are quite walkable, especially the "downtown" area along Reinken Avenue between Main Street and the railyard, which is where you'll find most of Belen's historical structures. It is also within walking distance of the Rail Runner station.
Belen Harvey House Museum, 104 North First Street, +1 505 861-0581. Tu-Sa 12:30-3:30PM, Su 1-3PM. Once part of the old Harvey House restaurant chain established along the Santa Fe Railway, the building now holds historical artifacts from the region, with many items related to the Fred Harvey Organization and the Santa Fe Railway. There's also a model train layout in the building. If you like watching freight trains, the museum is located on the west side of the Belen Railyard, which sometimes sees nearly 100 trains a day. The museum's porch (which is always open) offers a shady spot to sit and watch. Free.
Belen has a number of historical structures, including the Felipe Chavez House and the Belen Hotel, both of which are on the National Register of Historic Places. The Valencia County Historical Society, based in the Harvey House museum, has further info and some walking tour maps.
P & M Farm Museum, 478 Jarales Road, +1 505 861-0581. In the nearby village of Jarales, with hundreds of antique items showing farm life in 1800s and 1900s New Mexico. Small fee.
Anna Becker Park, between 3rd and 4th streets on Reinken Avenue. A city park in the central area of town. A local farmer's market takes place here on Fridays (4:30pm-7pm) July-October.
For outdoor opportunities, the nearby Manzano Mountains have numerous hiking trails and campsites. The Cibola National Forest has several sites in the mountain range (with a ranger station in the town of Mountainair), and the Manzano Mountains State Park is located on the other side of the range, 16 miles northwest of Mountainair.
Three state wildlife areas are located south of Belen, with bird-watching and seasonal hunting opportunities. The Belen Waterfowl Area on Jarales Road, a couple miles south of Belen, the Casa Colorada Wildlife Area is across the Rio Grande on SR 304, 8 miles south of Belen, and the Bernardo Waterfowl Area is on US Hwy. 60 in-between the Rio Grande and I-25 about 25 miles south of Belen.
Circle T Burgers, 625 East Reinken Avenue, ☎ +1 505 864-2929. 11AM-7PM. This quaint little burger joint serves excellent burgers with local green chile and fresh ingredients. They also do great french fries and milkshakes and fresh baked cupcakes. Well worth the stop.$3-$10. edit
Some of the memorabilia inside Harla May's
Harla May's Fat Boy Grill, 700 Dalies Avenue, +1 505 864-2211, . Located in the former Onate Theater, with the old "Onate" marquee sign still standing and a still functioning movie screen inside. The restaurant has a historical ambiance with tons of old memorabilia and serves fantastic and occasionally rather creative burgers, such as the Hawaiian burger - pineapples, bacon, onions, and green chile!
Pete's Cafe, 105 North 1st Street (across the street from the Harvey House Museum), +1 505 864-4811. Mexican and New Mexican food. $5-$15.
Rutilio's New Mexican Foods, 455 North Main St, +1 505 864-0093. Great New Mexican food.
Belen's accommodations are mostly your typical chain motels. Main Street has a few motels (including a Super 8), and there's a small collection of places to sleep just west of the Camino Del Llano I-25 Exit (Belen's 2nd freeway exit), including a Holiday Inn Express.
One exception to the chain motels is the Hotel La Mirada, 2200 Camino Del Llano (located near the Camino Del Llano I-25 Exit), +1 505 864-1900, . A local bed & breakfast with 10 unique suites, a spa, and very friendly staff. A decent RV park (the only one in Belen) is also located on the grounds. $65-$150 (RV sites $35).
Lodging in Belen may be hard to find around early October, when the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta occurs.
Socorro is about 45 miles south on I-25. Beyond Socorro is the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, which is definitely worth a look, especially in winter.
The Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument is near the small town of Mountainair, a 45-minute drive southeast. Three separate sites (Abo, Gran Quivira and Quarai) preserve the ruins of mission-era churches and Native American sites. The visitor center is in Mountainair.
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