Taking advantage of some super cheap Alaska Air airfare, I booked a trip to New Mexico for the extended President’s Day weekend. Although I’ve driven through New Mexico, I have never actually had time to check out the towns or natural environment. Winter is off-peak time, and it was quite chilly (in the 40’s), however, Albuquerque and Santa Fe are so colorful and full of life that even a little brisk air can’t dampen its dynamic spirit.
After doing some research, I decided that we would stay at Tamaya Resort because it is in between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, and closer to the hiking I was interested in.
The Tamaya Resort is actually located on a 27,000 acre Indian Preserve, so there are many ancient protected sites across the land. There are three golf courses on the property with gorgeous views. However, if your ball goes into ‘Indian Land’, you have to leave it. A new twist on ‘hazards’ in play!
The hotel has a great assortment of restaurants, hiking, pools, horseback riding and even free s’mores to roast at night at the fire pit. As the resort is about thirty minutes away from Albuquerque, it’s best to stay on property to eat. Thankfully the restaurant choices are great and you won’t be disappointed.
On our first full day in town, we hiked at the Tent Rock Monument. Kasha-Katuwe or Tent Rocks National Monument is located 40 miles southwest of Santa Fe, New Mexico.
This is a ‘must do’ hike! It’s about 1.5 hours north of Albuquerque, and it can get crowded on weekends so try to do it mid-week. The cone-shaped tent rock formations are the products of volcanic eruptions that occurred 6 to 7 million years ago and left pumice, ash, and tuff deposits over 1,000 feet thick. Tremendous explosions from the Jemez volcanic field spewed pyroclasts (rock fragments), while searing hot gases blasted down slopes in an incandescent avalanche called a “pyroclastic flow.”
Since we had plenty of daylight left, we decided to make the 30-minute drive to Old Town Albuquerque for dinner.
Downtown Albuquerque is quaint and there’s lots of fun shopping, old beautiful buildings, and restaurants. We whole-heartedly recommend the Church Street Cafe. What appears to be a tiny restaurant in the front, stretches way back to a huge open (and very old) room with high ceilings and a giant fireplace. The original structure was built in the 1700’s, so not only are you going to have great food, but you get to eat inside amazing history to boot!
All of the food is good and they offer authentic New Mexican cuisine. As a food blogger, I dropped the ball here. I take pictures of EVERYTHING, but honestly, everything was so good, I simply ate it all and immediately. Although there are a ton of choices, please make sure to order something that you can have ‘Christmas Style’. This involves having two types of sauces -red chili sauce and green (hatch pepper) sauce. We thought the local chunky hatch pepper sauce was TO DIE for, so don’t miss out! All meals are served with sopapillas and honey. Sopapillas are similiar to Indian Fry Bread, but lighter and fluffier. They are basically little puffs of heaven on a plate.
You’ll notice many of the shops and buildings have dried chilies hanging from them. I really grew fond of them and wondered what my neighbors would think of me if I hung chilies out from my California Coastal Ranch house.
On day two, we took the Tamaya Resort free shuttle to our nearest train station. Everything went smoothly and we jumped on the Railrunner train to Santa Fe. The ride is only one hour long. There is no food/bar car, and it’s somewhat utilitarian, however, you can’t beat the price. It’s only $9 each way and it’s a relaxing way to enjoy the views and vistas of the New Mexican landscape.
After we hopped off the train, we walked south a couple of blocks to an indoor farmer’s market. It’s a bustling market (even in off season) with organic, farm goods and handmade items. This is also where I had major trip regret! THIS glorious place is where I should have purchased all my souvenirs and gifts for friends at home. I envisioned having a huge day and thought I’d stop by before we boarded the train later in the day. HUGE MISTAKE as it was closed!
This is THE spot to buy fresh spices, soaps, sages, chili wreaths, weavings and more. It’s also a great place to grab a fresh snack of Hatch Chili Bread or fresh cold-pressed juices. I so blew it.
There is a free bus that is included with the rail fare. It’s not intuitive as to where it stops, so ask someone at the train station before you wander off. Once you do figure it out, the bus takes a loop around town.
Our first stop was the Oldest Building and Oldest Church in the United States. Yep! That’s right. Suck it East Coast! The oldest house and church were established in 1645, so this beats the eastern record!
The Oldest House actually has a gift shop in it, which confused me. After all, if it’s so old, why are we not delicately poking our heads in vs. looking at tourist swag? However, the shop actually has some nice authentic local items and it’s worth looking at.
The Oldest Church was pretty inside but you’ll notice the roof slants. Hey, we all slant at a certain age. Unique Gift Alert – It was not uncommon for Mexican settlers to use Milagros. They were little tin shapes used in prayer. They would be selected based on what energy they would want to focus on to in their life. For example, a heart would mean love, angel wings, wishes to a dead relative, animals symbols were used in prayer in farming. I think these are super cool, and lo and behold you may BUY some in the gift shop. They are cheap, unique and you can pick your own Milagros to pray with, or make a fun vision board.
We shopped for a bit and looked at the vendors selling turquoise and silver jewelry on blankets in the main plaza. There’s some beautiful work, but don’t expect to find anything super cheap. For the most part, you will meet the artisan who created your piece, so if you’re looking for something special, it would be a nice gesture to shop here and support locally made items.
We loved our weekend visit to New Mexico! People were so friendly and kept asking us where we were from. When we said we were from San Diego, they were suprised and said many from my area don’t make it out. They asked if we were there for business. No! We explained that we simply wanted to check out the beautiful high desert landscape and they were so pleased!
There’s so much more to explore in New Mexico, (Taos, Carlsbad Caverns, etc.) so I know we’ll be back!