I recently spent four days in New Mexico and thanks to so many friends giving me such great recommendations, I am giving you travel tips and the best way help you explore the Land of Enchantment.
CAFÉ PASQUAL’S: Pasqual’s was crowded but the good kind of crowded, the vibe of the place was really great. I had mole enchiladas and cuddled up in a corner and people watched. This place gets busy but it’s worth the wait. There is a giant community table in the middle, be open to sitting with a couple of strangers and enjoying a great meal.
DULCE: This is a cozy breakfast spot where the locals hang! Swing in and grab their infamous almond croissant, slice of quiche and cup of coffee.
RAINBOW MAN: Rainbow man is where it’s at! First of all, a shop dog named Rita. YEP! But also a ton of folk art, unique New Mexican art.
TIP: Make sure you ask to see the photographs in the back room! Original Edward S. Curtis photographs of Native Americans hidden in the back.
TODOS SANTOS: One time I was at a party and my friend brought something called a surprise ball. It was in the shape of a ball made of ribbon and one person starts unwrapping the ribbon and a funny toy falls out. You pass it to the next person and they unwrap it until a present falls and then you pass it on to the next person. We were all spilling with laughter because it was never ending and the prizes were so darn goofy. You can get your very own surprise ball here at this really cool chocolate shop. A woman in Albuquerque makes them and they are truly a work of art. I am going to hold on to this bad boy until the perfect party arrives.
SHIPROCK: Listen, this place is expensive, real expensive… but there is a reason for that. Everything in here is vintage and one of a kind textiles, rugs and traditional Native American and Spanish art. It’s upstairs on the second floor and almost set up like a museum with big giant windows, several rooms and wooden floors.
BIG STAR BOOKS & MUSIC: One of the best book shops I’ve seen in a while. Carefully curated, only the best modern fiction authors, good photography selection and great Native American section.
TEN THOUSAND WAVES – if it wasn’t for the massive migraine I got this day, Ten Thousand Waves would be my top activity we did. Ten thousand waves is nestled near the top of a mountain near the Santa Fe National Forest and it’s a traditional Japanese Spa. I had one of the best massages I have ever had and then we had a private soaking bath reserved. The private bath was two hand-thrown Japanese ceramic tea cup tubs outside in your own private courtyard, a sauna, shower and a cooling cedar room.
TIP: Bring your own water bottle! It’s always a good thing to pack especially if you’re hiking a lot but HYDRATE HYDRATE HYDRATE at the spa!
KASHA-KATUWE TENT ROCKS NATIONAL MONUMENT: About a 30 minute drive from Santa Fe, the cone-shaped tent rock formations are the products of volcanic eruptions that occurred 7 million years ago. We like to start our hikes early so it’s not as crowded or hot, the slot canyon hike is unlike anything I have ever seen. You walk through tiny crevasses in between the tent rocks and then hike climb up to the top to see a 360 view of the tents. $5 gets you into the park, bring lots of water.
GEORGIE O KEEFE MUSEUM: $12 seemed a little pricey but I learned a lot about O’Keefe and the museum changes out the work three times a year and we went when she had a lot of her Ghost Ranch work, watercolors and far wide Texas works.
TIP: In a glass case were a few of O’Keefe’s travel boxes. They were old photo paper boxes labeled by the countries and places she visited and inside the boxes were papers and mementos from her trip. Inspiration is everywhere and can’t wait to start my own travel boxes.
INTERNATION FOLK ART MUSEUM: Holy moly. Never seen anything like it. They have three rooms, two temporary and one permanent. There was so much folk art to look at, I mean thousands and thousands of little figures, textiles and paper mache work. I could have spent all day in there.
TIP: They have three temporary rooms and one permanent. Start in the permanent room, The Girard Room. We ended with that and by the time we got there we were already overstimulated and it would have been better to begin with this room and really taken the time to soak it all up.
SPANISH MARKET: We had no idea we were going to be in Santa Fe for the annual Spanish Market but thank you universe for allowing this. Hundreds of booths full of contemporary and traditional local Spanish artists featuring woodcarving, tinwork, retablos, straw appliqué, weaving, jewelry and pottery. A really sweet 10 year old boy had a booth selling his retablos and he struck up a conversation with me and was one heck of a salesman. He was so great at explaining and showing his artwork that I was happy to have bought one of his pieces and support him. His father had a booth on the other side of him and it was really special to see both of them passionate about their art.
TIP: Talk to as many artists as you can, I feel much more connected to a piece of art if I have a backstory or get to meet the face behind the talent. Do a big once around walk before making any purchases or decisions.
RAIL YARD- Sometimes you are sitting in a hot tub at your hotel with a couple of strangers and they mention that some band called The Jayhawks is playing down the street for free later that night. We immediately got dressed and walked down to the Santa Fe Railyard, grabbed a beer from the Second Street brewery and became part of the scene. There were a lot of food trucks and locals soaking up the moments. We ended up on the front row dancing with a bunch of old hippies while trains flew behind The Jayhawks. I guess what I am saying is don’t be afraid to have zero plans during the trip and be open to an adventure. We met a few locals, did a lot of dancing and all because of a hot tub conversation with a stranger.
EL REY INN: This cutie hotel was built in the 40s and is on the historic route 66. It's an all white adobe style buildings with a pool, hot tub and sauna. Comes with breakfast vouchers to eat at the local spot called The Pantry. This place was once considered to be the outskirts of Santa Fe with nothing around it, it's now on a busy street which wasn't my favorite but I loved the hotel itself.
GHOST RANCH: The drive from Santa Fe to Abiquiu was my absolute favorite, it’s a little over an hour drive and nothing but beautiful landscape the whole way. Georgia O’Keefe lived at this ranch in the 40s and was inspired by the scenery and often painted bits and pieces from here, especially the Pedernal mountain where her ashes were spread. I love this quote from O’Keefe at the age of 98, “When I think of death, I only regret that I will not be able to see this beautiful country any more, unless the Indians are right and my spirit will walk here after I’m gone.” The ranch is now used as a retreat but for $5 you have access to 8 different hiking trails, a pool and a fossil museum. For extra there is a dining hall to grab lunch and O’Keefe tours.
TIP: When the volunteer of Ghost Ranch tells you how to get to the most popular trail, ask her instead which one is her favorite! She told us that the Mesa Trail was her favorite because it was less traveled and you felt like you were by yourself.
The mesa trail actually has several different trails that eventually connected so you have the freedom to pick and choose, we didn’t pass a single person on this hike and had a perfect view of the famous Pedernal flat top.
TIP: Stop by the grocery and pick up some seasonal fruit before hiking! Our favorite reward after a long hike is to pick the best vista and enjoy a juicy peach! :)
LOVE APPLE: WOWWWWWWW! LOVE APPLE! YES PLEASE AND THANK YOU. A Love Apple is what the French call tomatoes. This restaurant is inside an old white chapel with candle light, wood floors and bowls of tomatoes and fresh flowers everywhere. A heart is carved into the old wooden blue door when you enter. I had mole tamales with a fried egg, local beer and an apple crisp and calabacitas.
TIP: When you have a dish that’s new to you but a local cultural dish, jot it down so you canfind the recipe and make it when you’re back home to help you remember your trip! We immediately wrote down calabacitas and can’t wait to cook it up.
MARSHALLS GREAT NOODLES: We arrived in Taos and were starving! Two guys were cooking up noodles in an outdoor noodle cart and we immediately grabbed a bowl of curry noodles with fresh veggies. Super good and not to mention they had a really cute dog.
MESAS EDGE: My heart was set on finding the perfect turquoise ring to celebrate my 30th trip around the sun while in New Mexico. There is a lot of fake turquoise out there and can be hard to tell the difference. I went into this really simple and beautiful shop full of Navajo jewelry and was drawn to this one case. I immediately fell in love with Orville Tsinnie’s designs and the owner was covered in Orville’s pieces himself and had been wearing most of them for 30+ years. Orville, who is in his 80s, is considered the most prolific Navajo jeweler, his work is featured in museums and books. I decided on my first heirloom piece and I love the idea of wearing his art for decades and passing it on. When shopping, you can easily buy a lot of junk jewelry but there is nothing better than supporting an artist who finds the importance in quality materials and craftsmanship.
TIP: When purchasing an heirloom piece, take your purchase and the papers of authenticity and take a photograph of them together to keep records of your inventory.
MANBY HOT SPRINGS: We did this hike at 6 am, it’s a ten minute drive from downtown Taos and a half mile hike down to the springs along the Rio Grande River and it’s really really beautiful. Don’t worry, there are four different springs so when the toothless meth heads from Florida show up, you don’t have to bathe with them. This was one of the prettiest hot springs I have been in, steam was coming off the water, a beautiful view of the canyon walls and river flowing.
TIP: Don’t forget a towel and go early! We were able to see a herd of Bighorn Sheep because we were the only ones on the trail.
GORGE BRIDGE: After the hot springs, take a short drive up the road to the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. You can park and walk to the middle of the bridge and look at the 700 foot drop down to the gorge. It’s a very famous suicide spot and there were ribbons hanging on the railings with the names of the victims next to crisis hotline phone booths. Just walking out to the middle was unnerving and not for those who have vertigo.
HISTORIC TAOS INN:The historic Taos Inn was dreamy and quiet but a stones throw from downtown. The Inn had a really great restaurant, Doc Martins and live music every night. Our room came with a gas fireplace and was nestled next to a courtyard in Helen’s House, which offers the most solitude. The historic Inn is comprised of several different houses dating back to the 1800s.
TIP: I love collecting stationery from hotel rooms! Great simple memories of your stay.
Take the scenic road back to Santa Fe, taking you through the Carson National Forest and stop in the town of Chimayo.
Rancho De Chimayo: Grab lunch here! This restaurant that has been standing since 1800’s, the wait might be long but it’s worth it so make sure you give yourself enough time to try it out.
TIP: On your drive around New Mexico, pull over at the local produce stands and pick up a few ristras (the hanging red chilis) They represent good luck and you can hang as décor or slowly use for cooking. Have them wrap it up and carry on the plane, they make great gifts for those back home.
El Santuario de Chimayo: This sanctuary is a Catholic Church nestled in the desert known for it’s healing powers. Visitors come from all over hoping for a miracle and take a small amount of the “holy dirt” found in the little room in the church. The chapel is full of thousands of photos of people who need prayers and healing. Be respectful, a lot of people there are looking for answers and there is a lot of sadness in the chapel. Stop in the gift shop first and grab a little jar to put your holy dirt in or bring your own. Be respectful, light a candle and look at all of the crutches, wheelchairs and braces lining the wall.
LET THE ADVENTURE BEGIN!