Las Vegas New Mexico is small city located about 65 miles east of Santa Fe and about 75 miles south of Taos. The city of Albuquerque is about 125 miles to the southwest. Most tourists who visit this part of the state will go to those three more famous cities, all of which have a great many cultural, historic, and scenic attractions. However, Las Vegas NM has its own very colorful history and a number of attractions making it well worth a visit.
Las Vegas New Mexico was the last Spanish colony in North America. The land was granted to a group of settlers by Mexico in 1835, and they laid it out it traditional Spanish-Colonial style with various buildings surrounding a central plaza. These buildings, which were intended to be used as fortifications in case of attack, radiated outwards. Today, this central plaza and the building around it are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In total, 900 buildings in town are on this list. New Mexico was declared a state in 1877 during the Mexican-American War. One of the most enjoyable things to do here is to stroll the streets to look at the fascinating old buildings.
The town of Las Vegas NM grew and prospered as a vital stopover for wagon trains on the Santa Fe Trail that stretched from Independence, Missouri to Santa Fe. When the railroad came in 1879, the town prospered even more. In addition to prosperity, the railroads brought more notorious characters, including Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp, Jesse James, and the Durango Kid. Hoodoo Brown, known as "the baddest cowboy of them all," formed his Dodge City Gang here. This is also the site of Teddy Roosevelt's first Rough Rider reunion, which he held here due to the number of men from the area who joined his famous regiment. You can view photographs, artifacts, and memorabilia from this era at the Rough Rider Museum.
Las Vegas New Mexico is still a train stop, but now for the Amtrak Southwest Chief that travels between Chicago and Los Angeles. This method of transportation can be exciting, and the journey from Los Angeles leaves at 6:15 p.m. and arrives the afternoon of the following day. If you want to explore in the surrounding area, you may want to disembark that morning in Albuquerque where car rentals are readily available. Attractions in the area include the Santa Fe National Forest, which is only five miles away and boasts breathtaking landscapes and a number of outdoor activities. On the other side of Santa Fe National Forest is the pilgrimage church of Chimayo and Carson National Forest. Just north of town is Storie Lake State Park where there is boating, windsurfing, fishing, and other water sports, as well as camping.
If you want to fly here, the most convenient airports are in Santa Fe and Albuquerque. The local airport only services small commercial jets and private aircraft. You can find some good Las Vegas hotels, including the historic Plaza Hotel right in the center of town at 230 Plaza Park. Built in 1882, it is beautifully restored, and is on the National Register of Historic Places. This is where the Rough Riders first met. Rooms and public areas are furnished with the elegance of its former Victorian era.
Image: littlebirdie (flickr)