STAND ON ANY CORNER IN TUCUMCARI and history unfurls in every direction—from the dinosaurs of the Mesozoic period to the city’s railroad heyday and the neon-lit allure of its Route 66 era.
“The area is just steeped in history,” says Tucumcari city manager Paula Chacon. “There are so many layers to all of it.”
Start excavating at Mesalands Community College’s Dinosaur Museum and Natural Sciences Laboratory, where a 40-foot-long skeleton of Torvosaurus, a relative of Tyrannosaurus rex, anchors the world’s largest collection of bronze skeletons and fossils from the Age of Dinosaurs.
The Tucumcari Historical Museum tells the story of the town, which got its start as a railroad hub in the early 1900s. With artifacts packed into a 1903 schoolhouse—and in several displays on the grounds—the museum features dinosaur fossils, Native artifacts, and a 1926 Chevrolet fire truck.
Track eastern New Mexico’s railroad industry at the Tucumcari Railroad Museum in the restored 1926 Mission Revival–style depot. Then put your pedal to the metal at the New Mexico Route 66 Museum, which celebrates more than 400 miles of the Mother Road with historic photos, memorabilia, and vintage vehicles.
Tune to 1640 AM for a self-guided Talking Tour of Tucumcari’s historic buildings. Then shop an array of stores and boutiques for everything from souvenirs and gifts to artisanal goods and clothing. Let one of the local eateries satisfy your every craving and catch a flick at the Odeon Theatre, a restored Art Deco gem from the 1930s. Enjoy a night, or two, at one of the vintage motels or hotels with modern amenities.
“There’s something special about Tucumcari,” says Chacon.
Find more than 100 murals in Tucumcari.
“Tucumcari has a large artist community,” says Connie Loveland, of Tucumcari MainStreet. Murals range from Emily Priddy’s mouse munching popcorn at the Odeon Theatre to The Legendary Road, by Doug and Sharon Quarles, on the exterior of Lowe’s Market that chronicles Tucumcari’s history.