About 4 or 5 hours from Albuquerque, and shorter from points north, Durango makes a great long weekend trip combining the beauty of mountains and rolling hills dotted with cattle and horses, with fascinating hotels and old west history (and opportunities for family fun).
Start the weekend with a stay in the genuine Old West Strater Hotel. Built in 1887, it was luxury then, and still is, but with the Old West theme that greets you at the door. Louis L’Amour Sackett’s novels were written at the Strater. It is said to have the largest collection of American Victorian-era walnut furniture in the world.
The beautiful hand-printed Bradbury and Bradbury wallpapers really make the rooms stand out, and the public areas are enhance by windowed niches that contain antique collectibles. Enjoy a drink and live music in the Diamond Belle Saloon. As befitting a saloon, gun fights break out regularly and spill out to the street as the local lawman takes on the outlaw. 7:00pm Monday, Wednesday, Friday throughout the summer. Take an afternoon break and reserve the hotel’s private jacuzzi (no extra charge).
As you walk the streets with shops from kitsch to art, have your photo taken in costume atThru The Lens Old West photos. We went with the outlaw and the saloon girl and I’m hoisting a very lady-like Derringer (unfortunately, only a reproduction).
See the slideshow below for more scenes of Durango and Silverton
Next morning, take the historic train up to Silverton on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. (or drive – the San Juan Skyway is justifiably famous for its beauty and photo opportunity vistas). Silverton could be a set for the Old West. Once described as a gritty little mining town with Victorian pretensions, it nonetheless has real western charm, and real Victorian houses. Take a stagecoach ride down one of the main streets, walk the dirt streets or along the wooden sidewalk of the building dating back to the 1800s. Wall plaques on the buildings indicate the date constructed. If you time your visit Silverton also offers a staged gunfight on 13th and Blair Streets, Thursday – Saturday.
If you have the time, do the ghost town thing braving dirt roads and switchbacks with a rented jeep, or taking a tour.
Finish up back in Durango with dinner and a Western music show at the Bar D. The food may not evoke a standing ovation but the music will. Different nights offer different shows, but the one we saw combined great guitar picking, famous impersonations, and humor, and ended with the patriotic melodies including American the Beautiful.
For more train-themed activities, explore the train museum behind the depot. Both kids and adults will enjoy the free museum. But if you really love historic trains can take a guided tour of the railyards ($5 if you bought a ticket to the train, $10 if you haven’t).
For nonwestern fun, walk along the town’s Animas River, enjoy the shops on Main Avenue, raft or kayak the river that runs though town.
Getting around Durango: Free downtown trolley goes through most of Main Avenue so park your car and ride the trolley or walk the small town streets.
The drive to Durango from Albuquerque will take about 4 hours.
Learn more about Visiting Durango
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