New Mexico is the land of enchantment, and to see it best, you will want to drive to its most compelling locations. Begin in the north center of the state and make your way southward, to see these wonderful places that are sure to become your personal favorites.
Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad
Take a ride on the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad, a 3-foot narrow gauge railroad that covers the sixty-four miles from Chama, New Mexico to Antonito, Colorado. The steam trains traverse the 10,015 feet high Cumbres Pass and wind through the Toltec Gorge, offering fabulous scenery as they cross the state borders eleven times. This longest and highest narrow gage railroad in the USA is a shared project of the states of New Mexico and Colorado and New Mexico, there are a number of travel options, including half day trips and sunset trips. Most popular are the Full Day Trips, that stop at historic Osier, Colorado, for lunch. The Thanksgiving dinner is what to order for lunch. The trains run between the end of May and October.
Next, take Route 64 and drive to Taos, which draws visitors from all over the world to the remarkable Taos Pueblo a World Heritage Site. This is a living community as well as an ancient settlement. Ancestors of the current residents have lived here for more than a thousand years. Located at the base of the magnificent Taos Mountain, the setting is absolutely gorgeous. Admission is $16.00 per person. Some of the pueblos are small shops. Remember you are guests here, and follow the instructions on the various posted signs, regarding photography and what areas are private. Also plan ahead to be sure that it is open.
Additionally, Taos offers attractions including the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, a dramatic, elegant steel deck high bridge across the Rio Grande Gorge. It is often the setting for motion picture filming and may look familiar to you from its role in movies. The bridge was completed in 1965. The span is 1,280 feet in length.
Taos is also home to the Millicent Rogers Museum, where you can see prehistoric pottery, modern jewelry, and discovery the heritage of the Native American, Hispanic, and Anglo arts of the Southwest. Millicent Rogers collected superlative turquoise jewelry which is on display, including the “Tab Necklace”. The museum’s permanent collection also has wonderful Maria Martinez of San Ildefonso Pueblo pottery. While in Taos, dine at La Cueva Café for Mexican and Southwest specialties. Have the Plato Combinado which included a taco, chile relleno and enchilada. Or visit Bella’s Mexican Grill for the Chile en Nogada or shrimp enchiladas.
Los Alamos, NM
From Taos, via Route 570 and Route 68, head for Los Alamos and the Bandelier National Monument, a thirty-three thousand acre preserve the homes and territory of the Ancestral Puebloans. Highlights include the Alcove House and Bandelier Rock. If you enter the park before 9 a.m., you can travel about in your own car; later, and you must travel by shuttlebus. Early arrival means having some of the trail time to yourself. As well as the main loop, consider doing the Falls Trail as well; pace yourself and you will be rewarded with wonderful views. The Tsankawi Trail is a bit more challenging, but highly worthwhile. Now, take Routes 4, 502 and 285 to Santa Fe.
Santa Fe, NM
Santa Fe (the name means “Holy Faith”) is one of the oldest cities, and the oldest state capital, in the USA. It was a bustling city of more than a thousand inhabitants at the time when only a handful of Pilgrims celebrated the first Thanksgiving. Faith has long been part of the city evidenced by one of its most beautiful landmarks, the Cathedral Basilica of St Francis of Assisi. Built by Archbishop Jean Baptiste Lamy between 1869 and 1886 in the Romanesque Revival style. The interior seems light filled and spacious, thanks to its round arches and Corinthian columns and truncated square towers. Visit the Museum of International Folk Art and take the free docent led tour. The Museum was founded by Florence Dibell Bartlett in 1953; she came from Chicago, and fell in love with New Mexico in the 1920s. Located on Museum Hill, its collection showcases artifacts from around the world.
Next, you should also visit the New Mexico Historic Museum, presenting the culture and history of New Mexico. There are exhibits about the Spanish Mission era and the Wild West, the Fred Harvey restaurants and hotels, the influence of Sephardic Jews. Admission price includes the Palace of Governors. For art gallery shopping or window shopping, as well as delightful dining and lodging options, head for Canyon Road. If you enjoy dramatic open air performances, visit the Santa Fe Opera House. For dining, splurge at Geronimo, which some people consider the best restaurant anywhere. Yes, it is pricey, but they are famous for their elk, scallops and banana cream pie. Or go to Rawal’s Raaga, for authentic East Indian cuisine such as chicken korma or the chicken tikka masala with rice and the stuffed potato naan bread.