New Mexico – Travel Thursday
Today the memories that Facebook showed me were from our trip to New Mexico in 2012 to attend a wedding. In addition to exploring Santa Fe, we took a day trip to Los Alamos and spent our last day in Albuquerque before flying home. I thought it would be a good time to share some information from our trip.
Getting to New Mexico
The easiest way to get to New Mexico is to fly to Albuquerque and rent a car. Albuquerque International Sunport is a little over an hour’s drive from Santa Fe. From Santa Fe, we were able to visit Los Alamos and Bandelier National Monument.
Santa Fe is an artist’s mecca with lots of galleries and museums. There was an art festival in Santa Fe the weekend that we were there. In addition to artists displaying and selling their work, there were children’s art activities at other booths. There are a number of art museums and galleries lining the streets that you can stop in to visit. We visited a few galleries during our stay.
Santa Fe has a number of great restaurants around it’s central square. Many of the restaurants offer outdoor dining on the sidewalk, in courtyards, or on roofs. We tried out quite a few of them during our stay.
A highlight of our trip to Santa Fe was a visit to the giant cross over the city. From the base of the hill, a path winds back and forth with signs telling the history of Santa Fe.
We also visited the Randall Davey Audubon Center & Sanctuary, the location of the wedding we attended. After the wedding, we took a drive north of town to visit a unique rock formation that looks like a camel. We had noticed the camel on the day we went to Los Alamos and Bandelier and wanted a closer look.
Bandelier National Monument
Bandelier National Monument was the home of the Ancestral Pueblo people from 1150-1550. They carved homes in the volcanic tuff and planted crops. Today you can still explore their cavates. We only visited the main site, but you can also visit Alcove House. We decided to skip visiting that since it required 4 long ladders and many stone stairs. Our daughter was 6 and had enough trouble just making it back down from the cavates (about 10 steps on a single ladder).
Bandolier National Monument is a convenient stop between Santa Fe and Los Alamos. When visiting Bandelier, you park at the White Rock Visitor Center and take a shuttle into the Bandelier National Monument. After visiting Bandelier, we stopped for a pizza lunch in White Rock before traveling to Los Alamos.
Los Alamos is about 90 minutes from Santa Fe. It is an easy day trip. While in Santa Fe, we drove by the location of the national laboratory where the atomic bomb was developed and visited the Bradbury Science Museum and walked by some of the historic buildings where the scientists were living. The Bradbury Science Museum offers free admission and has replicas of the first nuclear bombs, Little Boy and Fat Man.
Los Alamos is an interesting city because it is built on the top of a mesa that has several different projections making for long, narrow neighborhoods.
We had an early morning flight home from Albuquerque so we decided to spend the previous day exploring the Albuquerque museums and be close to the airport for our trip home. We were able to return the rental car at night and take the hotel shuttle to save more time.
Our Albuquerque day was jam packed – we visited 3 museums. Admission was free to all museums through reciprocal membership from the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum. We started at Explora, a Children’s Museum. My daughter loved Explora and it would have been appropriate for kids quite a bit older than her. Two of her favorite activities at Explora were the creation station where she made a bed for her mini American Girl doll and building a dam.
The New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science was across the parking lot, so we stopped in briefly since my daughter loves dinosaurs. We ate lunch at the museum’s cafeteria where we tried a Frito Pie, a dish that was on many menus in New Mexico.
Of the 3 museums, I prioritized the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History since it is fairly unique to New Mexico. The plan was to visit the Nuclear Science Museum first. Since our trip was pre-GPS, I directed my husband to take the wrong exit so we ended up at the other museums first. Many of the docents at the museum are retired military personnel who worked in Nuclear facilities, on nuclear subs, or with planes that carried nuclear bombs. We received a great personalized tour of their outside displays which included a B29 (the same plane type as the Enola Gay), U2 rockets, cruise missiles, and more from the docent we ran into outside. I loved the inside of the museum where they talked about the history of nuclear science and what other products it inspired and how it impacted culture.
New Mexico Weather
Originally, I was skeptical about going to New Mexico in August since it is a desert. However, my fears were mostly unfounded. We spent most of our time at higher elevation which helped considerably. Santa Fe and Los Alamos are all over 7000′ while Bandolier ranges from 5000′-10,000′. It would cool off at night. and with low humidity, the daytime is manageable if you stayed mostly in the shade. The most important thing to do at the altitude is to make sure that you stay hydrated. In Albuquerque, we spent most of our time inside so the temperature was not a big issue.