ABQ is a city with a rich road history. Central Avenue which runs right through the heart of downtown is a great stretch of old Route 66. Restored neon signs once again flash, turning Central Avenue into a corridor of color. Today this historic route is both a State and National Scenic Byway.
Route 66 — Nocturnal Neon and 50’s Kitsch
One of the absolute "Must Experience" attractions in Albuquerque is a drive down historic Route 66. We spent several night cruising the 18 miles of Central Avenue soaking up the kitsch and neon whimsy of the diners, curio shops, motor courts and the motels from the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. Since many of these post war relics are an endangered species and are disappearing, we decided to seek them out and enjoy. Our tour starts at the west end of Central Ave and goes through the heart of downtown and ends at the eastern end of the historic Nob Hill neighborhood.
(Note: You can click on most photos on this page and the next for a larger view.)
What would Route 66 be without a neon cactus? The Westward Ho Motel opened in 1948 … the sign, featuring a saguaro cactus was restored in 2002.
The El Vado Motel with its glorious neon Indian has been beckoning Route 66 travelers since 1937. Originally called the "El Vado Court", this enclosed motor court, built of adobe in the Pueblo Revival style, is considered the purest surviving route 66 motel in the city.
A big ruckus ensued when in 2005 it was slated to be demolished for condos. Fortunately, after a 2 ½ year legal battle, the city has gained possession of the property and is planning to rehab it.
Originally called the "Monterey Court" back in the heyday. After adopting a 100 percent smoke free policy, the neon sign was revised to advertize that it is a "Non-Smoker's Motel."
The El Don Motel with its lassoing cowboy is a Route 66 survivor.
The Original Garcia’s Kitchen not only has a dynamite neon sign, but serves GREAT food at very reasonable prices. Danny kept eating his chorizo omelet smothered with a spicy red chili sauce even though his nose started running and he had to ask for a glass of water.
The Dog House Drive opened in the 1950’s two blocks from its present location. When they moved they brought the sign with them. We stopped not for a “dog” but to stare at the animated neon dog as it wagged its tail and ate the dogs over and over again. Click on the photo to see for yourself!
As we headed into the heart of downtown, we couldn’t help but pounder the fact that In 1937 when Route 66 was realigned, tourists along with trucks and buses were brought straight down Central Avenue through the heart of downtown Albuquerque. This wonderful circa 1955 postcard shows the amazing collection of neon signage along Central Avenue during the heyday of Route 66 in Albuquerque.
Of all the signs we saw, the El Rey Theater is Sherry’s favorite … especially the classic neon clock such as those made almost exclusively by the Glo-Dial Company of Lima, Ohio in the late 1930s. It was built during World War II, and intended as entertainment for the military personnel stationed at Kirtland air force Base.
Located in the heart of downtown, the Maisel Indian Trading Post is a Route 66 landmark. We were intrigued by the traffic-worn Mexican silver pesos at the entrance.
During the 40's and 50's Maisel’s employed hundreds of Pueblo and Navajo artists. It is still a curio shop extraordinaire and Sherry couldn’t resist buying a piece of jewelry. You can click here and here to view interior photos.
It had to have been an amazing sight when motorist saw the ornate 1927 KiMo Theater. This one of a kind Pueblo Deco building was one of the main reasons we visited Albuquerque.
This mural ... The Mother Road ... located in a downtown parking lot, really captures the spirit of Route 66. Click here to view the right side of this incredible mural.
When Route 66 was realigned in 1937, it brought motorists straight into the heart of the historic Nob Hill neighborhood on Central Avenue. This is the epicenter of any Route 66 tour in fact the 2 mile stretch through Nob Hill is considered one of the state’s best preserved segments of the legendary road. Today the area has a retro style with brightly painted facades, vintage neon and a quirky assortment of boutiques and eateries. Click here to learn more.
This vintage Valentine Diner once served Route 66 motorist as the Little House Diner. Today it has been renovated for use as a police substation for the Nob Hill area.
An old Phillips 1940’s 66 Gas station was converted to a diner in 1987. The diner burned to the ground in 1995 but was rebuilt to retain the nostalgic feel of the original diner. Danny couldn’t resist getting one of their famous malts. Here's a view from the other side.
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