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Las Vegas New Mexico the Other Las Vegas

I've lived in Arizona for 70 years (Tucson, Glendale, and Sedona). I love writing about Arizona history, antiques, books and travel.

Las Vegas New Mexico Bridge Street Circa 1895

Bridge Street Circa 1895

Bridge Street Circa 1895

Las Vegas New Mexico A Historic Gem

When most people think of Las Vegas (The meadows in Spanish) they visualize neon lights, casinos, noisy slot machines, and the crowded Las Vegas Strip in Nevada, but there is a very different Las Vegas in northern New Mexico. Located in San Miguel County, at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo mountains, Las Vegas NM offers hot springs, a playground for outdoor activities, over 900 buildings on the Historical Register, including two Fred Harvey hotels, and awesome Northern New Mexico cuisine. Las Vegas is located off of I 25, east of Santa Fe and south of Raton Colorado.

Many people tell me that they have never heard of, or have seen, Las Vegas, New Mexico, but if they have ever watched the television series Longmire, then they have seen Sheriff Longmire's office located on the Las Vegas Historic Plaza and many other locations in the series were filmed in Las Vegas and NOT Wyoming where the series supposedly takes place. In fact, according to an ad placed in New Mexico magazine, April 2020 issue, Hollywood has screen history dating to 1913 when Romaine Fielding made a film at the Plaza Hotel. Iconic cowboy Tom Mix was filmed there in 1915. Scenes from Easy Rider, The Harvey Girls, No Country for Old Men, All the Pretty Horses, True Grit, and many other films were filmed in and around Las Vegas.

Once a booming town of the Wild West on the Santa Fe Trail, Las Vegas is being re-discovered as a tourist destination. The town was established in 1835, when settlers received a land grant from Mexico. During the Mexican-American War in 1846, the town was claimed by the United States.

The Fred Harvey Castaneda Hotel

The Castenada is currently under renovation.

The Castenada is currently under renovation.

East Las Vegas West Las Vegas

When the Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad arrived in the Las Vegas area in 1879, to serve the sheep and cattle ranchers, the character of Las Vegas changed again. The train station and rail yard were located to the east of the town plaza, and a "new" commercial district developed. Las Vegas developed into two separate towns with separate governments and school districts divided by the Galinas River. I strongly suspect that the more affluent citizens of East Las Vegas practiced segregation, which has become a "tricky" subject for historians. Fortunately today Las Vegas is united into one town again.

Fred Harvey the hotelier and restaurateur of railroad fame, built the Montezuma Hotel in 1882 a 90,000 sq.ft. hotel/spa located away from Las Vegas for health seeking visitors to enjoy a view of the Sangre de Cristo mountains and to enjoy the hot springs. The Montezuma boasted 270 rooms and had massive dining room that could serve 500 people. Harvey added bowling alleys and a billiard room. A massive lawn was created from top soil brought in by rail. While the guests at the Montezuma were the educated wealthy the town of Las Vegas was home to many of the characters of the West such as Doc Holliday, Jesse James and Billy the Kid. Cattle and sheep round-up times gave Las Vegas a rowdy reputation. Unfortunately, the first Montezuma burned and a second wood frame Montezuma was built. Today the Montezuma is home to the United World College.

Fred Harvey built the Casteneda Hotel near the train station in 1899 where the famous Harvey Girls served meals on fine china and weary travelers stayed on the hotel's second floor. Sadly, the Castaneda closed in 1948 after rail travel declined and the property sat vacant and forlorn looking until it was purchased in 2014 by businessman Allan Affeldt who renovated and operates the La Posada Fred Harvey Hotel in Winslow Arizona. The Castaneda will reopen when the renovation is completed.

El Porvenir Lodge Near Las Vegas New Mexico at the Foot of Hermit Peak

Fred Harvey wasn't the only person to recognize the benefits of the great outdoors and clean air and hot springs in the Las Vegas area.

Fred Harvey wasn't the only person to recognize the benefits of the great outdoors and clean air and hot springs in the Las Vegas area.

El Fidel Hotel in East Las Vegas

Still operating as a hotel near the train station with great Mexican food.

Still operating as a hotel near the train station with great Mexican food.

Things to See and Do During Your Visit to Las Vegas

For History Buffs: Las Vegas has 900 places on the National Historic Register. The City of Las Vegas Museum & Rough Rider Memorial Collection pays tribute to Teddy and the Rough Riders who spent time in the area. The old drug store on the Plaza has a great collection of old medical items on display. Also the Pecos National Historical Park pays tribute to the Santa Fe Trail and the days of the cowboys. Visit Fort Union National Monument.

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For antiques fans: Only two stores that I know of but both are very good. Plaza Antiques on the Plaza and Rough Rider Antiques behind the Castenada Hotel.

Various Art Galleries Check for galleries and art shows at

Book Lovers: Tome on the Range book store on the Plaza. An old fashioned book store with used and new books.

Outdoor Activities: Riverwalk along the Gallinas River. Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge Events. visit Storrie Lake State Park, Sanbinoso Wilderness, Bird watching, Camping at El Porveinr Campground, Fishing, Downhill skiing an hour away at Angel Fire or Taos Ski Resorts, Cross Country Skiing, Hiking, Hunting, Horseback Riding, and Golf.

The only remaining outdoor drive-in theater in New Mexico is the Fort Union Drive-in Theater in Las Vegas.

Special events include: Fiestas include Cinco de Mayo, Fiestas de Las Vegas. Enjoy a rodeo, concerts, the Rough Rider Motorcycle Rally, an ongoing farmers market in the summer, home tours, ghost tours, a Dia De Los Muertos celebration, a garden tour and an Electric Light Parade.

Take a day trip to Taos or Santa Fe which are each about an hour from Las Vegas.

OR JUST KICK BACK and WATCH the STARS and INCREDIBLE BLUE SKY or the stars at night while soaking in the HOT SPRINGS.

Drive to Las Vegas New Mexico or take an Amtrak Train

© 2018 mactavers


Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on May 28, 2018:

I did not know that Las Vegas, New Mexico existed. Thanks for introducing me to it. It sounds very interesting with all of the historic buildings and seasonal events.

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