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New Mexico
Old 05-03-2012, 08:48 PM   #1
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New Mexico

I have never been to new Mexico so we are looking at going there next year . We would fly into Albuquerque then take the train or drive to Sante Fe and probably take a day trip to Taos . Is New Mexico mountainous ? We live in Florida so we are used to more flat land . Do we absolutely need a car in these areas or could we do public transportation ? Any recommendations for what to see , where to stay ,etc. ? Also what time of year to visit ?
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Old 05-03-2012, 09:22 PM   #2
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Is New Mexico mountainous ?
Here's a terrain map of Northern New Mexico. The Rocky Mountains extend down into the state from Colorado: Albuquerque, New Mexico - Google Maps

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Do we absolutely need a car in these areas or could we do public transportation ?
Not having a car will limit what you can see to mostly urban areas - and there is much to see outside the 'big city'.

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Any recommendations for what to see , where to stay ,etc. ?
We like Albuquerque better than Santa Fe or Taos. Those areas are very nice - and very expensive. Check out Old Town Albuquerque, Sandia Peak and, if you can time your visit for October, The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

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Also what time of year to visit ?
We prefer Spring or Fall unless you want to stay in the mountains to ski or escape the summer heat.
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Old 05-03-2012, 09:24 PM   #3
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You will need a car to visit the pueblos. I highly recommend visiting the Sky City at Acoma Pueblo. It is the oldest continiously inhabited city in the USA. They give a nice tour. At the end we had a very young girl walk us around to some of the vendors and we bought several small items of Indian craftsmanship. (You cannot wander about alone.) Then we walked down to the visitor center on the ancient access trail (a bit treacherous, but worth it.)
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Old 05-03-2012, 09:24 PM   #4
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I have never been to new Mexico so we are looking at going there next year . We would fly into Albuquerque then take the train or drive to Sante Fe and probably take a day trip to Taos . Is New Mexico mountainous ? We live in Florida so we are used to more flat land . Do we absolutely need a car in these areas or could we do public transportation ? Any recommendations for what to see , where to stay ,etc. ? Also what time of year to visit ?

My Dad grew up in NM and said he would never live there again because it was so windy. Now having said that I think it is a beautiful state with many large mountains. Yes you will need a car to explore. I particularly like the northern part around Chama. There is a scenic steam train that originates from there. Because of the higher elevations, while it does get very warm during the day in the summer, it cools off at night.

Like all of America, the towns in NM have grown significantly and not for the better in my opinion.
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Old 05-03-2012, 09:59 PM   #5
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fall is better than spring, usually less windy. if you plan on attending the balloon fiesta make your air travel/hotel/car reservations early. make sure you ride the sandia peak tram & have dinner 2 miles high at high finance at the top of the tram. also checking out carlsbad caverns is well worth the 5 or so hr drive from albuquerque.
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Old 05-03-2012, 10:25 PM   #6
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Tent Rocks is extremely interesting for rock formations. Located midway between Alb and Santa Fe and west of the freeway.
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Old 05-04-2012, 12:47 AM   #7
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Tent Rocks is extremely interesting for rock formations. Located midway between Alb and Santa Fe and west of the freeway.
A definite +1 recommendation for Tent Rock park! I have been there twice, and still managed to miss the turn...Here's a Google Map (the "A" on the map is the parking lot) The last turn is onto Indian Service Route 92. If you miss that turn (I've missed it before), you'll reach Cochiti Lake in about a mile or two. If you see a large lake, turn around and head back. You might need to switch to satellite view and zoom in to see the roads better.

Also, every Labor Day weekend, the Northern part of Albuquerque hosts the annual State Wine Festival (the link is for last year's festival -it hasn't been updated yet for 2012). It may surprise you, but there are over 20 wineries in the state of NM (many semi-sweet wines, but some drier ones as well). In addition to the wineries having booths, there are tons of crafts and food vendors as well, plus some music to go along with it. Just $15 or so gets you in for unlimited wine sampling.

The only catch is that it is a popular event. Go as soon as it opens, buy your ticket ahead of time, and if you sample a wine and really like it, buy it right away. If you make notes and try to go back later on, you'll usually have to wait in line, and lose quite a bit of time that you could have spent sampling.

The Sandia Tramway is the world's longest suspended cable tram! Incredible views, and an incredible journey up to the top of the mountain (where there are also hiking trails, a restaurant, and museum).

Old Town is a great place with 150+ restaurants, shops, and sights.

There are even public (free) and commercial spas containing natural hot springs around Santa Fe (a short drive from Albuquerque). A few random websites listing both spas and free public hot springs:

SwimmingHoles.info New Mexico Swimming Holes and Hot Springs rivers creek springs falls hiking camping outdoors
Best Hot Springs in New Mexico | Best Hot Springs New Mexico
New Mexico Hot Springs/Mineral Baths

There is also some great white water rafting on the Rio Grande, ranging from Class II up to Class IV. You can catch several rafting companies in Taos (1 1/2 hr North from Albuquerque) for a 1/2 day, full day, or even a multi-day camping expedition.

One caveat: I just spent an overnight in Albuquerque this past Tuesday night. Apparently, there has been a problem with moths in the city recently, due to the intensely cold week last year (like below zero) that was waaaaay below normal, which killed off many of the moths' natural predators (wasps, etc.). As such, there's currently a high population of moths in parts of Albuquerque. I'd still plan a visit, but just be aware you might run into a few during your time there.
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Old 05-04-2012, 10:07 AM   #8
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As others have said, you certainly want a car.

We've written eight different blog posts on the areas around where you're planning to go. You might find them helpful, you'll definitely find them here: Everywhere Once | Category Archive | New Mexico
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Old 05-04-2012, 10:10 AM   #9
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Apparently, there has been a problem with moths in the city recently, due to the intensely cold week last year (like below zero) that was waaaaay below normal, which killed off many of the moths' natural predators (wasps, etc.).
Hmm, moths or wasps? I think I'll take moths.

We spent a week in the mountains out there in 2009, and we're looking to spend another 10 days there in August. Exact itinerary and dates aren't known, but the higher up (and cooler) the better...
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Old 05-04-2012, 10:13 AM   #10
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I have never been to new Mexico so we are looking at going there next year . We would fly into Albuquerque then take the train or drive to Sante Fe and probably take a day trip to Taos . Is New Mexico mountainous ? We live in Florida so we are used to more flat land . Do we absolutely need a car in these areas or could we do public transportation ? Any recommendations for what to see , where to stay ,etc. ? Also what time of year to visit ?
We went on a car trip to New Mexico in 2003. Enjoyed Taos and Santa Fe but didn't stay in Albuquerque (may have missed some things there I guess). We liked the art galleries, especially in Santa Fe where several galleries are located. There is a Georgia O'Keefe museum which we were disappointed to find closed for restorations (open now).

Some of the cloudy formations in New Mexico are particularly beautiful partly because the winds pick up dust and cause a yellowing effect.
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Old 05-04-2012, 10:56 AM   #11
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I highly recommend the Hot Air Balloon Festival which is around early October. It is incredible to see 600+ balloons. Enjoy!
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Old 05-04-2012, 11:53 AM   #12
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We live just east of Albuquerque. The "wind" in April/May can be an issue, although it's not like it's every day. And it's not like it slows you down too much. Having said that, I would also choose October and try to fit in the Balloon Fiesta. You might want to keep a flexible schedule and not say "this one day is balloon day" as quite often they have to cancel certain events due to too much or too little wind. Do a little research (or ask the hotel) on how to pick up one of the shuttle buses, as driving into the balloon park is very busy.

You must have a car, imo. Yes, the train from ABQ to Santa Fe is great and fast, and you could do that if your hotel in ABQ is near one of the stations (anywhere downtown is near the main station). But parking in Santa Fe isn't too bad, there are a few good lots around, and then you can walk into the city. To really see Santa Fe, I would move and get a hotel there - you could spend 3 days minimum in SF (Site Santa Fe area/Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, the Plaza and Cathedral area, and Canyon Road area). Two days is plenty to see Taos itself - it's not that big.

However, if you want a car rental week the same week as Balloon Fiesta the reserve a car a year in advance! That week cars are hard to find and 3-4 times the price. The first year we came to ABQ for the Balloon Fiesta, we couldn't even get a car that week unless we paid $500+ for it! On Sunday, when everyone left, it was no problem and really cheap, like $150 or so! So we got the bus and walked for a few days, and got the train to the Balloon Fiesta park, and then got the car rental the following week for our trip to Taos.

On average, ABQ is much cheaper than Santa Fe; Taos is in the middle. If you wanted more of a road trip, the four corners (Durango, Pagosa Springs, etc) is only about a 4-hr drive from ABQ. Nice drive too.

When in ABQ, there are some nice art galleries in Old Town (a short taxi ride from Downtown). A hip area with nice restaurants is Nob Hill, along Central Ave (Route 66) just east of UNM. There are frequent buses that run west/east along Central Ave from Old Town to Downtown to Nob Hill. Petraglyph National Monument is a short drive west. Acoma/Sky City is about an hour west along I-40. There are nice museums in both ABQ and Santa Fe, but Santa Fe (Canyon Road in particular) has all the best art galleries.

Let me know if you have any specific questions.
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Old 05-04-2012, 10:29 PM   #13
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Surely a neat state. Visited about 6 mos ago. ABQ to Santa Fe then up to the Enchanted Circle area. Bandolier i hear is worth seeing - was closed for me due to high risk of wild fires. Very interesting rock formations and colors south of ABQ. Some parks up by the Enchanted Circle and neat old west towns to explore, Taos, Red River, Cimmaron, publeos. Very scenic all over. everything was the highlight save ABQ where I did not feel safe at all except for a short stint at Nob Hill their shopping district. A hat, layers, bottled water are a good idea. High desert is incredibly dry and the sun is intense. Santa Fe city tour is not to be missed.
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Old 05-05-2012, 10:06 AM   #14
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Thanks everyone for all the information !
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Old 05-05-2012, 11:26 AM   #15
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I spent 4 days in Sante Fe on business a few years back and absolutely loved it. The trip was in August so I expected it to be too hot, but it wasn't at all due to the elevation. I'd certainly go back.

Last time I was in Taos was almost 50 years ago. My parents tell me I enjoyed it...
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Old 05-05-2012, 11:41 AM   #16
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Two things no one has mentioned yet. Carlsbad Caverns in the SE portion of the state. Definitely a must do sidetrip from Alb. Then on to Sante Fe and Taos. Finally a sidetrip to the 4 corners region to visit Mesa Verde.

(We went on to The Grand Canyon and then back to ALB through Flagstaff to return the rental car.)
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Old 05-05-2012, 12:17 PM   #17
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I would rent a car so you could drive the Turquoise Trail from Abq to Santa Fe.

Also be aware that from mid June through the end of September they experience a rainy (monsoon) season, although I was there 5 years ago, at the end of June, and there was very little in the way of rain.
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Old 05-05-2012, 12:33 PM   #18
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Finally a sidetrip to the 4 corners region to visit Mesa Verde.
I was thinking about recommending Mesa Verde too, but left it off because it seemed a little far away. But I agree, it's one of the most memorable places I've ever seen...just fascinating.
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Old 05-05-2012, 07:17 PM   #19
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One more recommendation - go out to Ghost Ranch, which is where Georgia O'Keefe lived while she did much of her work.

Ghost Ranch

It's now a camp/conference/retreat center but it is open to visitors and there are small museums, tours, and some beautiful hikes (short/easy and longer/difficult). Spent a wonderful day there on my only visit to NM about 5 years ago.
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Old 05-05-2012, 09:30 PM   #20
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My first visit to New Mexico was in 1960 to the Philmont National Boy Scout Ranch near Cimarron. DW and I have made many visits since. Speaking of public transportation, we have taken the train (narrow gauge coal fired steam engine) from Chama, NM to Antonito, CO a couple of times.

The first time we visited the Four Corners Marker there was just the marker out in the middle of nowhere. The marker is on an Indian reservation. Now, the Native Americans charge admission and there are numerous booths selling souvenirs and refreshments. Speaking of the middle of nowhere, the Chaco Culture National Historic Park is in that category, but very interesting.

We also enjoy the Billy The Kid country around Fort Sumner.

We regard Raton as the gateway to the Rocky Mountains. Also, the NRA (National Rifle Association) Whittington Center is near Raton.

We plan to visit NM again in the near future.
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