With streets steeped in history and architectural treasures, Las Vegas, New Mexico is a city frozen in time. Back in its glory days, when the railroad first arrived in 1880, Las Vegas was sometimes described as the “Wildest of the Wild West,” and that mystique still permeates the atmosphere of the city today. Plan a visit to experience this special charm for yourself.
Get a feel for the city’s history with a self-guided walking tour of its five main historic districts. Las Vegas has more than 900 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, including its City Hall and Carnegie Library. Completed in 1892, City Hall was the first municipal building in New Mexico. The Carnegie Library was established in 1904 and is the first—and only surviving—Carnegie Library in the state. Influenced by Spanish colonists and European immigrants, the architecture of these buildings and others like them demonstrate the confluence of cultures and traditions that emerged here over the course of so many years.
Today, various hotels, shops, and restaurants occupy many of these historical structures. Immerse yourself fully in the past and book your stay at The Historic El Fidel Hotel, which was recently renovated with modern hotel amenities but still embraces its century-old history. Even older historic lodgings can be found at Castañeda Hotel (opened in 1898) or Plaza Hotel (opened in 1882). During your visit, wander the shops along Bridge Street and the Las Vegas Plaza, where you’ll discover unique antiques and art. Hunt for treasures among the troves at Roughrider Antiques and Plaza Antiques, or pick out a piece to add to your art collection at galleries like El Zócalo Cooperative. When you’re ready to take a break, you don’t have to go far for good eats—while you walk the Las Vegas Plaza, stop by Traveler’s Café, Prairie Hill Café, or the nearby Skillet for some hearty New Mexican fare. Take advantage of the beautiful weather and picnic outside in the Historic Plaza Park, which offers a shady spot to relax and soak in views of the city’s historic buildings.
Movie makers like to take advantage of these buildings as well, using their facades as a realistic portrayal of the Wild West in films and television shows. Las Vegas has a rich film history dating back to the days of the silent film—some of the first silent films made in the Southwest were shot in Las Vegas. More recently, the TV shows Longmire, Roswell, and Outer Range were filmed here and in the surrounding area, as well as many celebrated movies such as Easy Rider, No Country for Old Men, and Red Dawn. You can visit famous filming locations on a Southwest Detours walking tour through the city. Or catch a film yourself at Indigo Theater, which calls the historical Baca Building on Bridge Street home. For a more nostalgic experience, drive over to Fort Union Drive-In, an old school outdoor movie theater that shows new and classic films alike.
With beautiful mountains, lakes, and grassy plains, the area surrounding Las Vegas is the perfect place to commune with nature while you’re visiting. Boasting 8,672 acres and three unique overlapping landscapes, the Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge is a haven for outdoorsy folk of all kinds. Whether you prefer to hike or birdwatch, you’ll find an abundance of diverse wildlife while traversing the vast wilderness of this state park. Look out for magnificent animals like migrating sandhill cranes, resident bald eagles, elk, badgers, turkeys, and more. For a truly healing experience, head six miles northwest of Las Vegas to Montezuma Hot Springs. Made up of 20-30 thermal springs, this natural spa offers relaxation and rejuvenation out of doors—take a soak in the pools of mineral-rich water and enjoy views of the former Montezuma Castle nearby, now a United World College.
Plan your trip to Las Vegas, New Mexico, today!