Destination: New Mexico

 

There’s just something about the Southwest, and if you want to get to the beating heart of this region, you’ve got to get yourself (and a BFF) to New Mexico. From the low-key charms of Albuquerque to the gussied-up Old West feel of Santa Fe to the sweeping vistas of Taos, this is a state that’s just right for exploring via road trip. Dressing for your getaway will take some foresight though, thanks to this state’s sunny days and cool nights that are the actual embodiment of #sweaterweather. If you’re considering a run to the border (of New Mexico, that is), read on for a fun guide with a couple of packing tips included that’ll help you make the most of your suitcase and your time on the road.

 

First Stop: Albuquerque

 

 

If you’re flying in from out of town, this is the most convenient (read: largest) airport in the state. It’s all just as well, since from here you’ll be able to get caught up on your time zones and get a little taste of city life before moving on to smaller towns and more remote locations. Make the quirky-cool El Vado Motel on the iconic Route 66 your home base and you’ll find everything you need in one place. This historic beauty was built in 1937 and renovated to recall its mid-century modern heyday, with plenty of the perks that today’s travelers expect, too—because it’s “Wi-Fi or no thank you” in our book! It does get hot in Albuquerque, so if temps are rising, cool yourselves off by taking a dip at El Vado’s picturesque pool. This is the perfect place to debut a new earth-toned swimsuit, made all the better because it matches the location’s sandy hues. There’s no need to travel when it’s time for lunch because you’ll find a unique take on a food court located right in the motel’s front plaza. We’re partial to the offerings from popular spots like Buen Provecho for Latin American specialties and Bosque Burger for a beef patty with all the fixings. A quick note: order inside but sit outside at an umbrella-covered picnic table in the plaza—the servers will bring your order right to you. Once you’ve filled up, head towards the motel’s back area to do some shopping for statement jewelry at Jerrica Nicole Designs and folk-artsy souvenirs at Southwest Cactus, all without so much as leaving your parking spot. Prepare yourself for a mellow night—it’s all about layering a laid-back hoodie over a favorite tee and a pair of jeans. Evenings here tend to end e-a-r-l-y. Like 9:30pm early. Don’t let this stodgy convention stop you from having a great time, though. Pop over to Marble Brewery and sample a host of lagers, IPAs and pilsners all brewed in downtown ABQ. Check the events listings for the evening, too, because the brewery often hosts concerts in the taproom. However, don’t feel bad at all if you do opt to turn in on the sooner side; this only means you might wake up the next morning early enough to spot the city’s famous hot air balloons flying overhead! Before leaving Albuquerque, it’s near-mandatory that you go to one of two places for breakfast: the student-beloved, full-on-kitsch Frontier Restaurant for huevos rancheros if you have a hearty appetite, or the award-winning bakery Golden Crown Panaderia for coffee with a side of oven-fresh sweet empanadas...and maybe their signature biscochitos in a to-go baggie! Hey, if it’s good enough for Guy Fieri, #amIright?

 

Next Up: Santa Fe

 

 

After breakfast and before hitting the road, bring on all the road-trip vibes by putting on a boho-style peasant top, revving up the engine and getting ready for a big day. Prepare to be dazzled all the way to Santa Fe during a one-hour drive on the Turquoise Trail, a scenic byway that passes through some cute small towns and lots of gorgeous vistas reminiscent of those old Western movies in the best possible way. Once you’ve arrived, it’ll be retail-therapy-o’clock, so park near Santa Fe plaza and prepare to stock your inner cowgirl’s closet. There’s Southwestern tchotchkes galore (we’re talking chili pepper wreaths for days, folks) but the real find is a pair of Western-style boots. If you’re down to drop major coin, head to Lucchese for heirloom-worthy investments, but tighter budgets will appreciate a visit to Double Take for a pre-loved pair of cowboy boots that have the added benefit of being already broken in. In need of some culture? Walk over to the Georgia O’Keefe Museum for a well-curated selection of this American art legend’s paintings (psssst: she lived in New Mexico for years—where else would she have found those cow skulls to paint?) and other interesting info about her life. Keep to the center of town and check out historic sites like the Palace of the Governors and nearby Loretto Chapel, or take a spin around Canyon Road, an adorable and walkable street that’s chock full of Southwestern art galleries. By this time, you’ll be ready for a change of clothes and an espresso, so check into your hotel and slip on something with a Western slant: we recommend a plaid shirtdress accented with a tasseled belt and those new boots you just bought. Top it all off with a jaunty hat and a fringed cardigan and you’re ready for anything. Hotel-wise, the options are plentiful and range from ultra-luxe boutique hotels on the plaza like Rosewood the Inn of the Anasazi to hipster haunts like the El Rey Court further from the tourist hubs. We’d recommend the Hotel St. Francis, the city’s oldest hitching post, for its proximity to Santa Fe’s main attractions without being directly in the eye of the storm. Another box ticked for the St. Francis Hotel: the sparkling wine purveyor Gruet has an on-site tasting room here. (honestly who would’ve thought that New Mexico is home to this well-known vineyard? But it is!) Toast yourselves and try some special vintages to start the evening off right. If you’re desperate to try some special Southwest flavors, walk over to the rooftop spot Coyote Cantina, the cooler little sister of the elegant Coyote Café downstairs. It’s got a chilled-out vibe, with lots of colorful street art-style murals and muchos tacos, always a winning combo in our book. Another option is the spendy-but-worth-it Radish & Rye, with farm-inspired cuisine that’s a locavore’s dream. A menu tip: start your meal with the fried green tomatoes and pimento cheese. If you’re not too beat, now’s a good time to do a nighttime tour of Meow Wolf, an immersive experience that’s part art installation, part haunted house and part party. Seriously, just take our word for it—you need to be there yourself to “get it.”

 

Onward To Taos

 

 

Tearing yourself away from Santa Fe will be hard, but there’s nothing like the natural beauty of Taos. Take the scenic route, called the High Road to Taos, to peep mesas (aka: flat-topped mountains) interspersed with wide open plains, along with plenty of lookout spots that are perfect for impromptu photo shoots. It feels a little wilder and a little freer here—maybe it’s the altitude or maybe it’s the attitude—either way, go right ahead and lose yourself in this outdoor wonderland. This is when you’ll be glad you packed an extra tunic-length sweater (preferably a slouchy one that looks good over athleisure leggings) since Taos’ high elevation means it gets cold enough here for skiing in the wintertime. Start off on the right foot with a quick breakfast at Elevation Coffee, where you can get an expertly crafted café Americano or a cappuccino with gorgeous foam art in the most low-key of settings. After that, you’ll want to get active with the Rio Grande at your doorstep and hiking galore; it’s like playing a real-life version of pick-your-own-adventure. Try booking a trip down the Taos Box, a famous white-water rafting passage, with Los Rios River Runners. This outfit is well-staffed with experienced guides who’ll get you through the rapids with maximum exhilaration and minimum drama. Plan to bring along a one-piece bathing suit if you’re visiting in the spring, summer or early fall. You’ll be able to top it off with a wetsuit if it’s chilly or wear it as-is if it’s warm out that day. Afterwards, take a stroll to get your land legs back (that’s a thing, right?) around historic Taos Plaza. This is the place to pick up Southwestern specialties like braided belts and bracelets at Taos Leather Cordón y Cuero, a fine leather workshop and boutique, or quirky knick-knacks at FX18, a funky favorite known for its imminently giftable wares. Plan to bed down at the historic Taos Inn, affectionately referred to as the living room of Taos by residents for its chill demeanor and central location. Once you’ve settled in and freshened up, wow those taste buds with a dinner full of local organic ingredients at The Love Apple, possibly the most charming restaurant in town; it’s situated in an adobe-walled former chapel—cue the swoons. If the weather’s good, ask to sit outside in the courtyard where you can smell the fresh air and the delicious scents wafting out of the kitchen at the same time. Once your tank has been refilled, make your way back to the Taos Inn’s famed Adobe Bar. Here’s where you can catch some live music, drink potent margaritas (theirs are known to be the best in town) and possibly participate in a line dance or two. Remember that things wind down on the earlier side here too, and even the popular Adobe Bar is shuttered by 10pm. However, there’s a little secret we’d like to let you in on: it’s called the freaking cosmos, people. The best way to stargaze is to drive out to the mesa, near-ish to Taos Mesa Brewing’s mothership brewpub, which is practically in the middle of nowhere. If you distance yourself far enough away from the lights, you’ll be able to see a mind-boggling display of stars in the midnight sky…and out here, the only “last call” is morning light.

 

For more ideas about what to bring on your New Mexico road trip, get inspired with oh-so-right pieces from Cupshe here.

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