Magazine article Sunset
The Other Las Vegas
Connect with the Old West in a small New Mexico town
If you're feeling lucky, Las Vegas, Nevada, is the place to go. But if you're in the mood to drink in Western history with a twist of romance, consider the other Las Vegas, east of Santa Fe. Las Vegas, New Mexico, more than makes up for its lack of neon lights with its architectural treasures. It has more than 900 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places--mostly Victorians and Spanish Territorial adobes--that are easily accessible on a variety of walking tours (maps available at the chamber of commerce).
Las Vegas was founded in 1835 by traders on the Santa Fe Trail. Located on the edge of the eastern plains at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the town became a key stop on the Santa Fe Trail and later host to outlaws, Rough Riders, and silent screen stars. Kit Carson, Billy the Kid, Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, Teddy Roosevelt, and Tom Mix all strolled these streets. The town's history is preserved in the city of Las Vegas Museum & Rough Riders collection.
In 1879, Las Vegas boomed with the arrival of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway. It became New Mexico's largest city, hosting presidents and generals in the Montezuma Hotel--nicknamed "the castle" (today it's home to the Armand Hammer United World College of the American West).
For a winter getaway, the 1882 Plaza Hotel is a great choice--a renovated Victorian that's been restored with an eye toward both historical accuracy and comfort. …