El Rancho – Home of the Movie Stars

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El Rancho Hotel sign

A historic hotel along Route 66 once frequented by movie stars

Historic Route 66 is lined with quirky old hotels, nostalgic diners, gas stations, old neon signs and tourist attractions. Some are vacant and sad-looking. Others are still operational and playing up their connection to the road that was once the major route across the United States. The historic El Rancho Hotel along Route 66 in Gallup, New Mexico is still very much operational. During an overnight stay in Gallup at a different hotel, our hotel clerk directed us to El Rancho when we asked for restaurant recommendations. We discovered a unique and interesting place known as Home of the Movie Stars.

Front of El Rancho Hotel
Front of El Rancho Hotel

Entering the two-story lobby with its heavy beams, mounted trophy heads and Navajo rugs felt like stepping back in time.

El Rancho Hotel lobby
El Rancho Hotel lobby

El Rancho opened in December 1937. It was built by the brother of movie magnate D.W. Griffith. It was the headquarters for over 15 films made between 1940 and 1964, including Desert Song, Streets of Laredo, Rio Carnival and The Hallelujah Trail

Lobby and staircase at El Rancho Hotel
Lobby and staircase at El Rancho Hotel

A circular staircase leads to a second level balcony gallery featuring autographed photographs of movies stars and Southwest art.

Autographed photographs
Autographed photographs on the second level


movie star photos
A sampling of movie star photos

The restaurant decor resembles a Mexican cantina. It features both Mexican food and American standards. Each dish is named after a movie star. My steak was cooked perfectly. My husband enjoyed his tacos. The salsa was very hot.

I cannot say anything about the quality of the rooms. I did not see them. Each one is named after a star who stayed at the hotel. The gift store on the main floor has a great collection of Indian art and jewelry.


El Rancho
Vine growing on outside of El Rancho Hotel


El Rancho

As you exit the hotel a sign wishing you Happy Trails says All Our Guests Are Stars

Have you been to El Rancho Hotel in Gallup? have you visited another interesting and unusual hotel along Route 66?

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  1. I wish I would have made a pit-stop to see this when I did my cross country trip last year. The hotel looks very retro.

    1. We saw it and went inside. It felt to me that it was crowded with spirits. Besutifully decorated. I have totally regreted that we didn’t spend the night!!!!

  2. Hi Donna – What an interesting old Hotel. I’m a big fan of history and of old movies so this place would have been right up my alley. Would love to have gotten a peek at the inside of the hotel rooms. 🙂

  3. I absolutely love the interior. It reminds me a bit of the interior at the La Fonda Plaza Hotel in Sante Fe. Then again, I love anything remotely tied to southwest decor.

  4. This is so campy and cool! I’ll have to remember this if I get out that way. Just looking at all the pictures of the old time stars would be great fun!

  5. I live right on Route 66 and never knew this was there! Funny how the things in your own backyard go unnoticed until someone comes to visit. Thanks for opening my eyes. Next time I go through Gallup, I’ll stop and have a look.

  6. Hi Donna, what a wonderful place to discover. I’ll bet you stop there on your return journey. You must have spent hours there just checking things out. I love those old time movies and stars.

  7. Have to admit I had never even heard of El Rancho home of the movie stars. The whole concept is so American and that’s truly delightful in the sense that it really illustrates part of your culture.

  8. Would love to take a longer ride down Route 66. I’ve only seen a small piece of it in Albuquerque. The hotel looks great. Nice pix.

    1. I’ve only driven small bits of Route 66 too – a bit in New Mexico, a bit in Arizona, and a bit in California. Even in that little bit, I saw many interesting “relics” of its past along the sides of the road.

  9. Hello Donna.

    Nice post with great pictures. What an amazing hotel with a long history. Many who are fan of old movies will be visiting this place. I feel it is really a place worth sharing. Hotel seems amazing with lot of pictures. I am happy to know that El Rancho is home of the movie stars. The names of rooms after stars. WOW!

  10. I’ve been to Gallup – too bad I didn’t know about El Rancho because it looks like just the kind of place I like to explore. I’ve made a note of it so maybe next time. Thanks!

  11. It is a gorgeous hotel. I am glad it did not get destroyed to make room for some shopping mall or a part of a motel chain. We loose to many of our traditions and historical sites.