True fans of the full Route 66 tour, and anyone interested in the art and architecture (and food!) of the American Southwest, will want to make the trip to the state capital, Santa Fe. The original Route 66 alignment ran north from Albuquerque along the I-25 corridor through Las Vegas, then curved back south from Santa Fe along what’s now US-84, to rejoin I-40 west of Santa Rosa.
The best sense of this old route across old New Mexico comes just north of Albuquerque, at the historic town of Bernalillo. Route 66 here follows the much older El Camino Real, which linked these Spanish colonies 400 years ago. The heart of Bernalillo contains two great stops, poles apart from each other in ambience but together capturing the essence of the place. First of these is ancient-feeling Silva’s Saloon (955 S. Camino del Pueblo, 505/867-9976), whose walls, coated in layers of newspaper clippings, old snapshots, and other mementos, form a fabulously funky backdrop for a cold beer alongside cowboys, bikers, and other characters. Just up the street is the stylish Range Café (925 S. Camino del Pueblo, 505/867-1700), where a spacious dining room has good “New New Mexican” food (try the bread pudding!) and a sophisticated, big-city air.