I'm going to New Mexico! What should I do?

I grew up in Northern New Mexico and have spent much of my adult life living in and around Santa Fe. I love this area of the globe a great deal and have explored a lot of it over the years. People love to visit New Mexico and I often get questions about where they should visit on their vacations.

I get this question so much I thought I'd better write a blog post about it. Please don't think that that is altruistic of me. It is self defense. I love my home state and I'll happily spend 30 minutes writing someone an email listing all the places they should go. This post is my shortcut for future requests. If you have other ideas especially of fiber-related places to visit in Northern New Mexico, please leave them in the comments. 

Places you should visit in Northern New Mexico in no particular order.

Chimayo

  • Centinela Traditional Arts
    This is the studio and shop of Irvin and Lisa Trujillo. They weave in the traditional Rio Grande style. They are both award-winning artists and Irvin has multiple pieces in the Smithsonian. I can't recall a year that he didn't win an award at Spanish Market (I believe he won at least three this year). I talked about his work a little more in THIS blog post about a tapestry show in Denver. Also THIS one and a visit to Chimayo HERE.
  • Rancho de Chimayo restaurant. Try the prickly pear lemonade and any of the enchiladas.
  • Santuario de Chimayo. While you're there, don't miss a visit to this holy site just down the road from the restaurant.

Santuario de Chimayo

Irvin Trujillo, Saltillo Shroud, detail

High Road to Taos

If you have time to take this route from Santa Fe to Taos, it is wonderful. It is all paved (I think). The winding two-lane road passes through many villages. Some of them like Penasco have art studios that are probably open to the public especially on a Saturday. Find more information HERE.

Mora Mill

This mill is a fascinating place to visit. I haven't been in a few years, but I have heard that they continue to improve their ability to make a yarn to specification. It is a place that you can have small amounts of fleece processed. They do mill tours and they have a large shop selling local weaving and of course their yarn. More information HERE. And my blog post about this visit is HERE.

Mora Mill 2014

Tierra Wools

In Los Ojos: A wonderful place to stop between Espanola and Chama. They sell local weaving, locally grown churro wool, and they have classes you can take. More information HERE.

Chama

  • I used to work in Chama and Dulce. This is a gorgeous part of the state. The Continental Divide runs past and you can jump on the CDT for a nice hike from Cumbres Pass.
  • Ride the Cumbres & Toltec scenic railway.  It is a steam train and it is mighty popular when the aspens are changing.

In Santa Fe

  • SO many good places to eat. For casual dining, try Vinagrette or Bumble Bee Grill.
  • Santa Fe Ski Area: there is great hiking up there in the summer!
  • Summer markets: Indian Market, Spanish Market, and the International Folk Art Market. All are worth visiting. They are also all very very crowded, so plan a hotel 3-4 months in advance.
  • Museums: Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, Museum Hill Museums, Museum of Spanish Colonial ArtPalace of the Governors.
  • Canyon Road: A popular strip of galleries for tourists. You might find a little fiber here if you look carefully.
  • The Plaza. A visit to Santa Fe must mean a trip to the plaza. Look for fiber in various shops, go to Collected Works if you like bookstores, grab some ice cream, or catch a concert. The La Fonda has a nice brunch/breakfast thing and you don't have to be staying there. Also, as a kid we went to Upper Crust  Pizza a lot. They don't have gluten free options so I haven't eaten there in decades. If you do, let me know if it is still good!

Sunflower in downtown Santa Fe. New Mexico blue skies.

Aspens in October, Santa Fe ski area

Indian Market 2013. DY Begay's weaving in her booth with her two sisters Berdine Begay and Berdina Charley

Dixon

  • Romero Farms. My dear friend Emily married a farmer and they grow a lot of excellent food for high-end restaurants in the area. Matt is known for his chili and if you can get any before it is all gone each fall, do it! I don't think you can actually visit their farm, but Matt is at the farmer's market in Santa Fe all year round. He has a huge personality and is an excellent cook. He can usually be found cooking something for you to taste at the market.
  • Go to the co-op for an ice cream. Sit on the porch and watch the village swirl around you. This place is an example of small-town life at its best.
  • Visit Metier Studio Gallery on the main road into town. Irene Smith is a wonderful fiber artist and her shop is full of wonderful weavings as well as a lot of  ceramics.

Bandelier National Monument

A beautiful place to visit. It is up on the mesa near Los Alamos. Take a hike down to the Rio Grande or just explore the history of the pueblo buildings and rooms carved out of the tufa. Information HERE. You can also get a back country permit to visit some hidden treasures. Four wheel drive needed for some of the access roads... or just plan more time and walk!

Los Alamos

  • If you like nuclear stuff, there is a museum. Los Alamos National Labs is here of course. Maybe bring your geiger counter.
  • They have a great public library which often has an art show on the second floor.
  • Fuller Lodge Art Center. This place often has fiber shows including tapestry.

In Taos

  • Mabel Dodge Luhan house is a wonderful place to stay. The secret to getting a room there is this: call late. I mean, try when you make your plans and maybe reserve a back-up room somewhere. But they hold back all of their rooms for their conferences until a month before. Then any open rooms are released. Since their conferences are small, this means there are usually extra rooms you can rent. So you're most likely not going to get a room until a month before unless you happen to hit one of the few periods where they don't have a small workshop happening. (Mine is in January so check THIS page of the website for the next one!) You'll also want to read more about the history of this place. It was a gathering place for artists in the early 1900s. I'm especially enamoured of any of Lesley Poling-Kempes' books like THIS one. Her books about Abiquiu and Ghost Ranch are also great.
  • Weaving Southwest: actually in Arroyo Seco a ways north of Taos. If you want to try a walking loom, take a class from Teresa Loveless.  She is the granddaughter of the great Rachel Brown. THIS blog post has some photos of what their shop looks like now.
  • Food: Excellent food at The Love Apple (not cheap though). For more regular fare, try La Cueva. It looks like a total dive, but the food is fantastic and they have lots of gluten free options.
  • Walk around the plaza and the John Dunn shops.  There is a book store and a yarn store a little farther north on the main street.
  • Taos Wool Festival. First weekend of October. Lots of wooly fun!
  • Taos Gorge. It is worth driving out to the gorge. If the weather is nice, take a stroll along the rim. The bridge is a very long way over the water.

Taos Wool Festival; first weekend in October

Taos Ski Valley

If you want some amazing hiking, go to the Taos Ski Valley.  All the trails are straight up, but they are fantastic. An "easy" one is Williams Lake. My favorite is Gold Hill. If you go to William's Lake, eat at The Bavarian (check to make sure it is open in the summer or if you're a skier, ski in). The lodging there is often much cheaper when there isn't snow, so consider staying a day or two.

New Mexico has some big mountains. Go hiking!

Gallup

This is my hometown. It is a great place. Don't argue with me about that.

  • Downtown jewelry shopping. Get a taste for the trading posts
  • Mountain biking: popular spots for this all over.
  • Mary Walker works with Jennie Slick to teach Navajo weaving around the Navajo Nation. She now has a store in downtown Gallup.
  • Red Rock State Park. Hike to the top of Pyramid Rock.
  • Visit Zuni, a village south of Gallup. Their jewelry and artwork is wonderful.

Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge

I love to go and watch the sandhill cranes in the winter. Socorro is a sweet little town, so grab a hotel room so you can watch the cranes take off at first light. Pack some very warm clothes. It is colder than you think at 6 am in December even in New Mexico. Information HERE.

Albuquerque

  • Albuquerque is the largest city in New Mexico. You'll likely fly in and out of it.
  • Nob Hill. Some good restaurants and a very nice yarn shop. The Yarn Store at Nob Hill.
  • Old Town. Great place for a wander through small artsy shops.  Eat at Vinagrette (same owners  as the one in Santa Fe but easier parking) or grab some Mexican food at any of the local options.
  • Open Space Visitor Center and Gallery. I had a show here in 2010 and they often have fiber featured. They usually have a very nice art show or two plus displays about local wildlife.
  • Petroglyph National Monument. Right outside of town.

Chaco Canyon National Historic Park

  • This is an astounding place.  It is one of my favorite places on the planet and that is because it is so stark. The mystery of those massive great houses and the deeply dark night sky can only be experienced with a little time. So camp there if you can. It is really hot in mid-summer, so try for shoulder seasons.
  • Take a ranger tour there, but also wander to the more outlying great houses on your own.
  • If you can spare the time, spend a few days. It takes time to calm down enough to experience this place.

Ghost Ranch

  • The Piedra Lumbre is another favorite place. Visit Bode's store in Abiquiu and then head up the hill to Abiquiu Lake. Let your dog swim or take a dip yourself and then go to Ghost Ranch.
  • Yes, this is Georgia O'Keeffe country. "Her" mountain, Pedernal looms over the landscape.
  • This is a ranch that is run as a conference center. You can take week-long classes there in everything from spirituality to watercolors. But you can also just stop by and tour the archaeology museum where there is frequently a fiber show hanging.

Kitchen Mesa at Ghost Ranch

Espanola

  • Visit the Espanola Valley Fiber Arts Center.  This non-profit does a lot of teaching in traditional and contemporary fiber art. Support them if you can!
  • Mesa Prieta Petroglyph Project. This one is near and dear to my heart. I lived on this preserve for three years and got to know my landlady, Katherine Wells in my time there. She bought this land and donated most of it to a conservancy when she realized that the entire place is covered with petroglyphs. She writes about that in her excellent book, Life on the Rocks. The project has grown a lot since I moved away and I think they do fairly frequent tours.

El Rito and Ojo Caliente

  • I lived in the tiny community of El Rito for several years when I was attending the Fiber Arts program at the college there. More HERE though the interview with Fiber Art Now has a broken link. Find that HERE. The program is now closed, but the village is wonderful. Just about the only public place to eat is the best Mexican restaurant anywhere, El Farolito. Anything they serve is good and don't miss the chocolate milkshakes. They don't have a website but if you go to El Rito, you can't miss it.
  • Just over the hill is Ojo Caliente, home of the rather famous hot springs. They have a nice hotel and the springs are amazing. Things have changed somewhat since I lived there--they've done lots of renovation and it costs more now. But if you want a relaxing and beautiful spot to land that includes some excellent soaking, Ojo is for you. Hike up the mesa behind the springs to an unexcavated pueblo. The hotel can give you directions.

El Farolito. Best Mexican food you'll get anywhere. Go to El Rito to eat here.

What are your favorite places to visit in Northern New Mexico? Add them in the comments!

Please note that this post is about places in the northern half of the state. It would take another whole post to tackle the southern half. New  Mexico is big ya'all.