Made in New Mexico: film locations in Santa Fe

Film tourism is hot, and not just for the big screen. When a popular TV shows is shot in a specific city or town, fans plan trips around the location. This isn’t new. Years ago we visited Roslyn, WA the setting for the fictional Cicely, AK in the quirky Northern Exposure. We felt like we were part of the show. Everything was there but the moose strolling down the street.

Breaking Bad put Albuquerque on the film tour circuit. These days, fans come to see where Walter White and company made their meth and lived their lives. While Santa Fe and the surrounding area doesn’t have a long-running TV show bringing people here to tour locations, there are many film locations in Santa Fe and the surrounding area. The current TV show, Longmire, which is developing a following, films mostly in Las Vegas, NM and on a Santa Fe sound stage. The new WGN show, Manhattan about the WWII Manhattan Project debuts on July 27th. We hope it’s the next Breaking Bad!

If you are a movie and TV buff and want to visit film  locations in Santa Fe, here a few to check out.

Bonanza Creek Ranch

Bonanza Creek Ranch western town, photo Steve Collins

Bonanza Creek Ranch western town, photo Steve Collins

A slew of movies and TV shows have been shot on this working ranch south of Santa Fe. There’s even a permanent old west town set up there. The current Seth MacFarlane film, A Million Ways to Die in the West, was largely shot here. The powerhouse cast for this light-hearted film also includes Charlize Theron, Amanda Seyfried, and Liam Neeson.

The Johnny Depp box-office bomb, The Lone Ranger, was shot at the ranch and other locations throughout NM and the southwest for over a year. We’d often see mobile dressing rooms and other movie-related trucks heading out of town to nearby locations. There was star spotting all over town during the filming. Manhattan, is also being shot here in a specially built village.

Between shooting projects, the ranch offers tours. You can visit the western town and other locations there such as the Astronaut Farmer house. We’ve taken the tour and sent clients on it. It’s fun for film buffs and fans. You just want to get the right guide; we can help with that.

Meet Madrid

Madrid New Mexico

Maggie’s Diner, Madrid, NM, photo Steve Collins

Have you seen Wild Hogs? This film, whose stars include John Travolta, Marisa Tome, and Tim Allen, about a group of middle-aged, middle-class bikers was shot here during the summer of 2006. If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll recognize Madrid, a former ghost town that was reclaimed and turned into an art destination. The only remnant of the sets that were constructed to transform the town is the façade that was Maggie’s Diner. Behind the façade is a shop offering biker gear and memorabilia. Today, thousands of bikers pass through the town on Route 66 tours or just to see the set of this light biker film.

The Crazy Heart phenomena

Evangelo's, photo Steve Collins

Evangelo’s, photo Steve Collins

This crazy, heart-warming film that won Jeff Bridges an Oscar was shot in and around Santa Fe. Some locations include Bishops Lodge Ranch Resort and Spa, The Santa Fe Opera, Evangelo’s bar as well as a few houses around town. The last scenes in the film include Colin Farrell singing the Academy Award-winning song The Weary Kind from the stage at the Santa Fe Opera. You can visit many of the film’s locations.

Farther afield

Las Vegas, NM

Longmire's Absaroka County Sherriff's Office, photo Steve Collins

Longmire’s Absaroka County Sherriff’s Office, photo Steve Collins

They’ve been making films in,Las Vegas, NM since 1913, when the city was a busy railroad hub. Cowboy star Tom Mix fell in love with the area and made a number of his westerns here. The list of movies shot here is long. It includes the cult classic, Easy Rider, The Avengers, Crazy Heart, The Lone Ranger, and even a Breaking Bad episode. The current TV hit Longmire is mostly shot here. A few years ago, while walking around the town’s historic plaza we spotted a sign on a vintage doorway reading “Absaroka County Sheriff”. It confused us; LV’s in San Miguel County. Puzzled, we questioned a local man working on a sculpture in the adjacent park. That was our first encounter with this popular contemporary western, starring Robert Taylor and Lou Diamond Phillips, now in its third season. Filming is an important industry here. Las Vegas even has its own film commission. You can pick up the Historic Las Vegas Film Tour Guide at the Visitor’s Center in the Amtrak Station. Read more about film locations in Las Vegas.

Ghost Ranch

Spielberg and Lucas had this road built for "Indiana Jones and the Chrystal Skull", photo Steve Collins

Spielberg and Lucas had this road built for “Indiana Jones and the Chrystal Skull”, photo Steve Collins

This former dude ranch turned conference center, famous for being the home of iconic American artist Georgia O’Keeffe, has been the location for many film shoots over the years. They even have their own location manager on staff. You can tour many of the film locations here on Saturday mornings from April through October.

As you drive up the dirt road to the main building where the tour meets, look for the log cabin on the right. It was Curley’s cabin in City Slickers. Once you get to the tour site, you’ll where films were shot including the place where Daniel Craig wakes up at the beginning of Cowboys and Aliens. Other films shot here include The Missing with Cate Blanchett and Tommy Lee Jones; the 2007 remake of 3:10 to Yuma with Russell Crowe and Christian Bale; The Astronaut Farmer, All the Pretty Horses, and Silverado with Kevin Costner, Kevin Kline, and Danny Glover. The list of films shot here goes on and on. Perhaps the most unusual shoot here was the opening scene of Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull a collaboration of Stephen Spielberg and George Lucas. They had a one-mile long two-lane, black macadam road constructed for the film’s opening sequence. These two sticklers for authenticity made sure it looked exactly the way it would have in the 1940s. They had the road distressed to make it look old and had the center line repainted a few times before they were satisfied. There have also been several made-for-TV movies shot at the ranch including the mini-series, Lonesome Dove which featured Robert Duvall, Tommy Lee Jones and Angelica Huston (and its sequel Comanche Moon) as well as the the Lifetime channel’s Georgia O’Keeffe, starring Joan Allen and Jeremy Irons. Many TV commercial and still photo shoots have taken place at Ghost Ranch.  You’ll find tour information here.

Tour Northern New Mexico film locations

There are film locations all over the Santa Fe area- a scene here, a scene there and you can visit a lot of them. The New Mexico Film Office launched the New Mexico Film Trail last year. You’ll also find a list of films made around Santa Fe here. Film and TV buffs; come visit New Mexico and see where some of your favorites were shot. If you’re interested in a private film tour, contact us.

 Have you been to film locations in Santa Fe or northern New Mexico?


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2 Responses to “Made in New Mexico: film locations in Santa Fe”

    October 12, 2019 at 3:59 pm #

    My wife and I have just completed Route 66 (insofar as it exists) on a Harley with an Eaglerider group on a tight schedule and had the great pleasure of visiting this place after an overnight stay in Santa Fe.
    Tommy, caretaker and resident (and lovely black dog - Jesse James(how about that!) with his squirrel toy - with a crippled front paw) was a wonderful host (looked like he had walked straight out of ZZ Top) - so interesting and a real cool and very nice guy.
    I spent too much time talking to Tommy about music (which he had a background in) and missed out myself in our all-too-short stop in seeing the inside of the buildings, which my wife did/photographed.
    If you get the chance you must see this place.
    Tommy, if you ever make it across the pond to Liverpool, England, you must be our guest and we’ll show you around the places we talked about.

    • Billie Frank
      October 13, 2019 at 7:20 am #

      Glad you enjoyed your visit at Eaves Ranch. We’ve seen it from the road. Last time I called and asked them about tours, they told me they weren’t doing them. I’ll have to check again. Bonanza Creek is much larger and has more set areas to visit. They’re both great resources for film buffs.

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