They call New Mexico the Land of the Enchantment because you will become enraptured with its culture, architecture, scenery, and cuisine. New Mexico offers a wide variety of options for the traveler. Whether you ski in Taos, visit the numerous National Monuments, Indian ruins, pueblos, or spend time in Old Town Albuquerque or Santa Fe, there is always something interesting to see and do.
There is something very peaceful and spiritual about the landscape as one observes the rock formations driving from Arizona to New Mexico and towards Albuquerque. It is as if New Mexico’s past echoes through its canyons or along the Rio Grande River. The southwestern vibrations immediately engulf your presence.
One can travel along the Turquoise Trail, a scenic route along Highway 14 between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, visiting small towns such as Madrid, a town that takes you back to the 70s when artists and craftspeople brought this ghost town back to life. Historic Route 66 traverses parts of New Mexico, and one has a glimpse of days gone by as they follow its path. Finally, one can taste wine from the vineyards that make up New Mexico’s budding wine industry.
Although wine has a long history in New Mexico dating back to 1629, today, wineries are now popping up all over New Mexico with a good portion being in the vicinity of Albuquerque. Many of the wines, especially the reds, are lighter in style and not as full-bodied as many California wines.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Albuquerque, New Mexico’s largest city, was founded in 1706 as a Spanish colonial outpost. Today it is a sprawling city, but as one will find, it takes about 10 minutes to get to everything you want to explore.
Five Things to do in Albuquerque
1. First and foremost, the colorful and spectacular Balloon Festival in October is one of the highlights of Albuquerque. Those wonderful New Mexican skies with the low rolling clouds are filled with hot air balloons for days.
2. Visit Albuquerque wineries.
Gruet, one of the more well-known wineries, has a Blanc de Noirs Sparkling Wine that is dry and refreshing. Gruet’s Pinot Noir is also one of the better choices of this varietal. If you are a lover of sparkling wine, this winery is a must.
Casa Rondena is named after a town in Spain called Ronda. The Rondena is a musical form of Flamenco that originated in Ronda. Owner John Calvin’s journeys took him to this town to learn Flamenco guitar. He fell in love. As a builder, his winery takes advantage of the Spanish architecture of Spain. Find a very inviting atmosphere to spend a couple of hours sipping wine and enjoying the setting.
Sheehan is a small boutique winery, but the fervor and passion of Sean Sheehan’s wines come through with each sip. Think California Garagiste meets New Mexico. This winery is for the true oenophile, and Sean’s goal is to make New Mexico wines known.
3. Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Organic Farm was originally a dairy farm, but in 1932, New Mexico’s most famous architect, John Gaw Meem (who created the “Santa Fe Style”) redesigned it. Today the property is a lavender farm, inn, and restaurant. Dining at Campo is a must. It is open only for breakfast and dinner, and you cannot go wrong with either meal. If you are looking for one of the best breakfasts around, you have to try the restaurant.
4. The Turquoise Museum is housed in a castle that intrigues one because it does not fit into the New Mexico landscape. Once inside, explore the history of turquoise and how it is mined. It is an unexpected treat visiting this museum.
5. Learn more about the culture of Native Americans from New Mexico at Indian Pueblo Cultural Center as well as lunch at the Pueblo Harvest.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Santa Fe is a mecca for art and music lovers because it is culturally a very rounded city with excellent restaurants, incredible art, and great museums. Of course, during the summer, there is the Santa Fe Opera in the open-air amphitheater and the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival.
Santa Fe became known as an art community/art colony in the 1950s. Artists, writers, and actors frequented the city. At the time, Santa Fe was reminiscent of Paris was during the 1920s when you heard stories of Hemingway or Picasso visiting the many cafes.
Five Things to do in Santa Fe
1. The art scene is a predominant aspect of the culture and scenery of Santa Fe. Stroll along Canyon Road visiting all the galleries. You’ll find Southwestern art, contemporary art, and modern sculpture interspersed along the way. Head down to the Railyard to find more galleries, or wander around the plaza to get a feel for the town center.
2. If you have not been to any of the museums in Santa Fe, you must visit the Museum of International Folk Art. This museum, located on Museum Hill, houses the largest collection of folk art. You can spend hours looking at all the intricate displays from all over the world.
3. Georgia O’Keefe made her name in New Mexico as she developed her style for painting the voluptuous flowers and desert landscapes. A visit the Georgia O’Keefe Museum is a must for any visitor.
4. Visit during the summer to enjoy both the performing and visual arts, including the Santa Fe Opera which performs operas such as The Barber of Seville or The Magic Flute. The Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival is another must-see during the summer. During the day, catch the Santa Fe Indian Market in the Plaza.
5. Explore the many restaurants that offer Santa Fe’s Southwestern Cuisine with the main staple of chiles. From the eclectic Café Pascal’s in Santa Fe with its folk artsy interior to the elegance of Geronimo to the casual demeanor of Sweet Water Café, a locals hangout for breakfast or lunch, you’ll find delicious dishes to please everyone..
There is something in the air for art lovers every step of the way during a visit. Let New Mexico inspire the artist in you.
Note: Common to the travel industry, this writer was hosted on many activities in Albuquerque and Santa Fe. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure.