Southwest road trip to New Mexico highlights
Last month I had the pleasure of joining my parents on a road trip through the Southwest — starting in Colorado and ending in New Mexico. The southwest, specifically, New Mexico, has been on my bucket list for years and I’ve found it’s quite an underestimated place to visit. While I went into our road trip with a laundry list of things to see and do, it was so fun to spontaneously come across local gems in each city we visited. Although we only had four days to explore Taos, Santa Fe and Albuquerque, we got to see and so many things. I actually felt as though a long weekend or a week is the perfect amount of time to cover those three places. In fact, I could have honestly stayed in Santa Fe the whole time — it was my favorite the three cities we visited.
There are so many sights to soak in, shops to stumble into and amazing (and spicy) food and drinks to enjoy. And I’m here to share my attempt at a condensed highlights list of Taos, Santa Fe and Albuquerque with you then you can let me know if I’ve convinced you to add New Mexico to your travel list! Happy travels!
Taos is a high desert city in New Mexico known primarily for being a ski town. It’s also known for its historic adobe buildings such as Taos Pueblo which are some of the oldest Native American inhibited homes to exist. We only spent one night in Taos and honestly, because of its smaller size, it’s totally doable to get through in a day if you’re visiting in the off-season of skiing.
Stroll the main square + stop into Common Threads: We stopped off for bites and wine at a wine bar (I’d also like to mention New Mexico surprised me with their good wine) and began exploring the main square. We shopped around and came across an artisans market selling jewelry, art, clothing and textiles. I also stumbled my way into Common Thread, a Taos-based textile/fabric shop and couldn’t leave without some hand-weaved cocktail napkins.
Visit Taos Pueblo: Since Taos is known for Taos Pueblo, a historic adobe site, we ventured over to explore the grounds. Note: it does cost money to get onto the grounds. If you’re a history buff, you’ll really enjoy wandering the grounds and seeing the various old structures and homes that some people still live in! I for one loved the colorful doors.
My personal favorite and a place I’d visit any day of the week. Santa Fe is a magical city and was next up on our list of a night spent in Taos. I’d heard incredible things about Santa Fe being a creative hub filled with fun restaurants, rich history and incredible shopping but you really have to go experience it for yourself. There are so many fun districts and places to wander and explore I could have easily spent a week in Santa Fe. We ended up loving it so much we came back for a second day!
Go to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. You don’t have to be an artist to appreciate this museum and the incredible work of Georgia’s. She was an incredible woman with a love for the desert and it really comes out in her work. Her museum is located near the main square (Santa Fe Plaza) so it’s totally walkable to other places.
Grab lunch at The Shed, but expect a wait. I’d heard rave reviews about grabbing lunch at The Shed, a restaurant specializing in New Mexican cuisine that is located in the heart of the plaza. Since we were there on a weekend we endured quite the wait (over an hour) but once we we were seated outside with margs in hand, all was well in the world! Prepare to experience some spicy food — if you don’t want spice, avoid the salsa and anything with the chiles.
Shop around the plaza. After we refueled with some food we decided to wander around the plaza to shop. It’s really easy to navigate and you also can’t miss the two city blocks of the Palace of the Governors where the Native American artisans sell jewelry and homewares. I got myself a turquoise ring as a souvenir (it was on my must-buy list while visiting New Mexico) and was even able to get a lower price than offered. The street vendors also sell awesome items for great prices — my parents ended up getting a steer skull for a killer price and we even were looking at hides and pottery. The only downfall of Santa Fe is it will make you regret flying with a carry-on.
Stop off for a wine flight at Gruet. We indulged in a wine flight at Gruet and were happily surprised with all of the options! Gruet is located inside the historic Hotel St. Francis in downtown Santa Fe and specializes in sparkling and still wines. Their tasting room is on the smaller side so expect to cozy up and enjoy your flight.
Stop by Shiprock Santa Fe. I definitely recommend visiting to 1) swoon over the interiors and 2) grab an Instagram picture or five…is Shiprock Santa Fe. This gallery contains so many gems of New Mexico containing art, interior decor, textiles and more from a variety of featured artisans. I could have spent all day in here looking at all the various items and honestly, was dying to take home one of these custom blankets!
Head to Canyon Road. We ventured out to Canyon Road, what is considered the art district of Santa Fe and it’s street blocks on street blocks of art galleries and shops. It’s such a fun place to explore. Wear good walking shoes, there are some uneven paths and roads you’ll have to endure to get to the various galleries.
Grab margs at La Reina. Per lots of Pinterest travel guide recommendations, La Reina was the place to go for margs and a funky atmosphere. Situated inside El Rey Court, a Santa Fe Hotel (I’d likely stay here next time I visit) it has a fun vibe, killer drinks and awesome staff.
Dinner at Coyote Cafe & Cantina. Although I have no photographic evidence to prove that this meal was indeed incredible, trust me, it’s worth the hype. If you’re looking for an upscale dining option with a killer rooftop patio or indoor dining room, depending on your style, this is the place for you. The menu is vast but has options for if you’re feeling like sharing or enjoying an entire dish to yourself. Make a reservation if you’re visiting on the weekends, it gets really busy!
Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. We may or may not have woken up at 3am to road trip from Santa Fe to Albuquerque for the balloon fiesta. If you are thinking about planning your New Mexico trip around this event, I’d recommend doing so. Just get your tickets ahead of time! Also, anticipate higher prices and Albuquerque hotels being booked up if you wait until the last minute — so plan accordingly. Due to the wind the day we went to the balloon fiesta, none of the balloons were able to take flight which was disappointing but I still have to say, seeing hundreds of balloons blown up and glowing was still a magical thing to experience. It also made for unbelievable photos.
Brunch at Los Poblanos Inn. I had read all about this place and was so excited to grab brunch here after an early morning at the balloon festival! Although we didn’t stay at Poblanos Inn, I’d recommend looking into it for lodging. The grounds were beautiful and we loved Campo, the breakfast restaurant on site. Everything was farm to table and so fresh. Hands down, one of the best eggs benedicts I’ve ever had.
Go wine tasting at Casa Rodena. As I mentioned before, we were so happily surprised with how delicious we found the New Mexico wine to be! We loved this beautiful winery — the grounds were absolutely stunning and we loved getting to sit outside and enjoy a glass of wine together.
Visit The Yards. We were in Albuquerque the day of the farmers market so we headed over to The Yards, an old railyard that is turned into the local market every week. I was swooning over the glass-stained windows and all of the industrial vibes.
Go shopping at SPUR LINE SUPPLY CO. This shop is AMAZING! I kept saying how I wished we had one in Seattle. Honestly, we sort of ran into this place while looking for things to do in Albuquerque and I’m so glad we stopped off to explore. It’s a beautifully curated store with clothing, beauty products, home goods, plants and art — there’s even a large airstream trailer in the middle of the shop! Needless to say, it’s a great place to shop and snap photos.