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Guest Post: Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe, New Mexico


March 5, 2013 by Amanda

Today’s guest post comes to you care of Santa Fe expert Billie Frank. Billie is a freelance travel, food and features writer based in Santa Fe, New Mexico. A former print journalist, she now writes for digital magazines and blogs on the Internet. Her blog, Santa Fe Travelers, is a treasure trove of information on the oldest capital city in the US. Billie is also co-owner of The Santa Fe Traveler, a trip-planning and tour business. You can find Billie on Facebook and on Twitter.

It can be glamorous to live in a state that appears on the top 10 list of US film locations. While Santa Fe gets less action, there’s often the possibility of a celebrity sighting to look forward to. Some of the most recent ones were last summer when Johnny Depp was around town shooting The Lone Ranger, playing a Tonto who falls 180 degrees from the one I grew up with on TV. We’d know they were shooting in and around Santa Fe when we’d see movie trailers traveling local roads on their way to locations and casting calls for extras on the Internet. Can you imagine coming for a visit and ending up in a movie? It’s possible!

We visited Bonanza Creek Ranch, location of many film and TV shoots, just before Cowboys and Aliens (a film that was shot there) had just opened in theaters. The working cattle ranch has a range of sets including an Old West town complete with typical buildings from a 19th-century wild west town. We toured most of it with ranch owner Imogene (pronounced, Ima Jean) Hughes. A feisty woman of a certain age with boundless energy, she was an enthusiastic tour guide just loaded with stories about the celebrities she’s met since 1985.

We toured the jail, the saloon, the hotel and other buildings that had been used in a lot of films and TV shows. Some of the films that were shot here include the 2007 remake of 3:10 to Yuma, Into The West, All The Pretty Horses, Appaloosa and Young Guns. Besides the town, we also visited the “Pond House,” where the Billy Bob Thornton film The Astronaut Farmer was shot.

We went to see Cowboys and Aliens the next day. It was pretty amazing to see the town of Absolution, a place we’d walked through the day before, come to life. The movie got mixed reviews, but coming from Santa Fe and recognizing the locations made seeing it great fun. The alien space ship location was Plaza Blanca in Abiquiu, a place we’d visited before. It’s Georgia O’Keeffe’s White Place that she immortalized in a number of paintings.

We visited the Bonanza Creek Ranch with our grandsons (and their parents) again last summer. The highlight for them was getting to be in an “old west” jail cell. It was a blisteringly hot day and we were with the official guide (not Hughes), and, sadly, it was not as magical as the first time.

There are other film locations to see when visiting Santa Fe. You can visit sites that were in films such as Crazy Heart, Wild Hogs and City Slickers, to name a few. And you might even spot a famous face on the street or in a restaurant. You never know who’s on location in Santa Fe!



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