Las Vegas is about 60 miles east of better-known Santa Fe, along Interstate highway 25. There is Amtrak rail service via the Southwest Chief, the main Amtrak line across the southwestern United States. The nearest major airport is in Albuquerque, about 110 miles away.
Drive, walk, bike, do what comes easily. The town is small enough to have no need for public transportation.
Las Vegas was an important waypoint on the Santa Fe Trail, and later on the railroad across the Southwest. There are over 900 structures listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In the central area of town, it seems almost every single building you see is significant in some way. Walking tour guides are available. Here are some of the highlights:
The Plaza, where Las Vegas was founded in 1835. Today it is a shady park with a gazebo, surrounded by historic structures. On the north side of the plaza is the Plaza Hotel, a railroad-era hotel which remains a fine place to spend the night in Las Vegas. Across the street from the southeast corner of the plaza is the old First National Bank.
Railroad District, where the Las Vegas train station is and so much of the city's growth centered around it. The Mission Revival La Castaneda Hotel, an old Harvey House hotel, is definitely worth a look.
Lincoln Park, a local park surrounded by lots of beautiful old homes.
Douglas/6th Street District, once the central business area of Las Vegas, today there's plenty of interesting buildings here like the Bank of Las Vegas, the Old City Hall, and the Masonic Temple.
Carnegie Park, an area of town centered around Carnegie Park, which has a Carnegie Library that was modeled after Thomas Jefferson's home, the Monticello. The surrounding blocks are filled with old Victorian homes.
City of Las Vegas Museum & Rough Rider Memorial, 727 Grand Avenue, +1 505 454-1401, . Tu-Sa 10AM-4PM (10AM-4PM Sundays May-September). Exhibits on local history, the Santa Fe Trail, and Theodore Roosevelt's Rough Riders, who held reunions in Las Vegas. Free.
North of Las Vegas on SR-65 (Hot Springs Blvd) is the town of Montezuma and the Armand Hammer United World College of the American West. On the campus is the gorgeous Montezuma Castle, which was built as a railroad hotel and served a number of purposes before becoming part of the United World College campus. Unfortunately, it is not open to tours unless you have special permission. But even if you can't get inside the building, it's worth the drive up to at least see it.
Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge is just south of town and adjoins a larger state wildlife preserve. There are viewing platforms and a few short trails. Best visited in late fall and early spring, when migratory birds are passing through; winter can be bleak and summer hot, and the resident population of wildlife isn't as great as the number of seasonal transients.
Experience the quant and charming shops within the Old Town, Downtown, and Railroad Historic Districts. These areas provides many small home-town shops, antiques, book stores, and coffee shops.
Blackjack's, 1133 Grand Avenue, +1 505 425-6791. Acceptable steaks, etc., for dinner 7 nights a week.
Hillcrest Restaurant, 1106 Grand Avenue, +1 505 425-7211, . A 50's diner with great food.
Byron T's Saloon, 230 Plaza Street, +1 505 425-1455, . Located inside the historic Plaza Hotel is this bar named after the resident ghost.
Plaza Hotel, 230 Plaza Street, +1 505 425-3591 (fax: +1 505 425-9659), . Enjoy the Victorian atmosphere with elegant antiques and exquisite architecture. The amenities offered include the Landmark Grill, an in-house restaurant, the old west Byron T's Saloon, spa massage treatment, guest computer and wireless high-speed internet access, pet friendly rooms, room service, and free parking.
Fort Union National Monument, about 30 miles east of Las Vegas via I-25, preserves the ruins of a major military installation along the Santa Fe Trail. There are interpretive exhibits and a 1.6-mile trail among the ruins. Day use, 7 days a week (closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years); $3 fee, Park Pass applies. There are no services near the monument.
Historic Route 66 (the "original" version) passed just southwest of town. Check its itinerary page for ideas on things to do as you move on from Las Vegas to your next destination east or south.
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