“You’re going where?” my parents asked when we mentioned our Summer plans.
“Aren’t there wildfires there? Is it safe to visit?” a friend questioned.
“Why New Mexico?” we heard again, and again.
When deciding where to vacation this summer, we choose a road trip to Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Our friends and family seemed to think we were nuts.
Sure, it’s a long drive – about 12 hours from San Antonio to Albuquerque. But we’d bought a minivan in December and thought it would be a great chance to put it through its paces. And yes, we confirmed, there were wildfires burning in the state but they weren’t near Albuquerque or Santa Fe.
When I was a kid, our family took road trips all across the country every summer. And, because my dad was in the Army, I’d lived in five different states, one different country, and I’d visited at least six different countries all before I was 15.
Prior to this trip, our kids had only seen flat San Antonio (OK, and a bit of the Texas hill country), the sparkling lakes and green expanses of fertile farmland in Indiana, and the beaches of the Texas Gulf Coast. But they’d never seen mountains.
On my list this summer is to expand my children’s view of the world. And what better way for them to gain perspective of how big the world truly is than to see a mountain range stretching mile after mile after mile, while towering more than 10,000 feet above them?
Turns out New Mexico is really cool. Here are a few reasons why:
1. The Weather
It’s hot in New Mexico during the summer just like it is in Texas. While we visited, the thermometer hit 100 degrees or close to it every day. But it simply didn’t feel as hot as it does in San Antonio. The reason? Humidity. During our week in Albuquerque, the humidity never got above 10%. In San Antonio during that same time, the humidity hovered between 40-60%. That may not seems like a big difference but trust this quite-possibly (ack!) perimenopausal woman – IT IS.
Humidity is the difference between enjoying a seasonably warm all-day visit to the zoo without breaking a sweat (Albuquerque) and melting into a puddle of nasty, sweaty sludge before you even leave the house (San Antonio).
2. The Sandia Mountains
They’re the reason we made the trek in the Family Truckster. Stretching 17 miles from north to south and reaching over 10,000 feet at its peak, the Sandia Mountains are the range visited most often in the state (thanks, Wikipedia!). They are a stunning scenic backdrop to a cornflower blue sky punctuated perfectly by white, wispy clouds. It would not be untrue to say I have a crush on them.
3. The Cuisine
Red or green? That’s the first thing they’ll ask you in any New Mexican restaurant. Green chiles are roasted and peeled before being added into a sauce. Red peppers are dried and then ground.
I tried both sauces over cheese enchiladas at El Pinto, an Albuquerque favorite, and couldn’t decide which I preferred because they were both deliciously spicy but in different ways. The chiles in the green sauce were coarsely chopped giving the sauce body as well as fresh-roasted and almost fruity flavor. The red sauce was thinner but spicier, more robust in its heat. Want to try them yourself without leaving San Antonio? El Pinto sells their salsas and sauces at Central Market and Costco.
One of the other things that’s different between New Mexican food and Tex-Mex is that New Mexicans call crispy tacos “folded tacos” and what we call flautas they call “rolled tacos.” I was happy our server cleared that up because this Texas gal was a bit confused.
4. The Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort
Nestled in a small valley just a few minutes away from the busyness of the little town of Bernalillo (which is about 20 miles north of Albuquerque), sits the Hyatt Tamaya Resort. Once you turn onto the street that leads you to the resort, the sounds of strip malls and traffic fade away and you’re transported to a tranquil spot with gorgeous views, wild jackrabbits that delighted our kids, three pools (complete with ever-important poolside service), tasty BBQ, golf, spa services, horseback riding, a day camp for kids, and more.
The Hyatt was the perfect home base for our New Mexico adventures because it’s close to Albuquerque without feeling like you’re in the middle of a city and the drive north to Santa Fe was only 40 minutes. Whether relaxing by the pools or playing checkers in the lounge, we enjoyed expansive views of the Sandia Mountains.
5. The Turquoise Trail
If you visit New Mexico and don’t take a drive up the Turquoise Trail, which leads from Albuquerque to Santa Fe, you’re missing out on an experience of a lifetime. This 50-mile scenic byway is a New Mexican treasure with views of majestic mountains, valleys, and the old mining towns in between.
Tip: If you stop in the town of Madrid to shop, eat, or sight-see, you may be surprised to find mainly (Only? That’s all we found!) port-a-potties instead of bathrooms. For those of us who are used to those facilities from Fiesta or festivals in San Antonio? No biggie. But my kids were kind of freaked out. 🙂
There is so much beauty and a never-ending list of things to see and do in New Mexico. This is, by no means, an exhaustive list. In future posts I’ll share some of the other places we visited, especially those of interest to families.