Travel Journal: New Mexico
I knew ahead of time this years birthday trip would be more on the low key travel side since I just went to Spain the month before. But I would definitely still take a trip somewhere, and have a good time nonetheless. I started to narrow down a few possibilities of where I would celebrate another blessed year of life, that wouldn't take too much time to get to but that I could also do 'real' concrete activities. I'd been wanting to go to New Mexico for a few years now, and since I'm in California, I'm taking advantage of quick visits to the western states as much as possible. I had exactly four things on my must do list, visit Santa Fe, mineral hot springs, visit White Sands National Monument, and most exciting, take a hot air balloon ride.
I got asked so many times 'what is there to do in New Mexico?' Clearly, lots! As with most things, travel is as fun as you want to make it. Be creative and adventurous and step outside your comfort zone. I've said many times, a simple Google search 'things to do in ______' is a great way to start. For this trip, I strictly used Instagram to find things to do. I saw pictures of white sands floating around IG and just knew it was where I wanted to visit this gem up close. And since I already knew I wanted to visit New Mexico at some point it was the icing.
Less than an hour outside of Albuquerque, sits the capital of New Mexico, Santa Fe. I really didn't go into the city with a real plan, but that's also not an uncommon approach for me. I am the self-proclaimed exploration queen. I don't have a real problem with being/getting lost. So I used Instagram as a quick guide, and discovered the “Railyard” area of the city, which happens to also be a popular tourist area, filled with art galleries, restaurants, and even a movie theater. You can take the train, “Rail Runner”, from Albuquerque (or any other city) and here would be your drop-off point. This area also hosts a popular farmers market twice a week. The famous (or what I think is famous) "Sante Fe" sign sits on the wall of Warehouse 42. Perfect photo op!
Did you know? Per Wikipedia, Sante Fe is the oldest state capital city in the U.S.
Popular points in the city:
Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis
Museum of Contemporary Native Arts
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum
Site Sante Fe (art space opening in October 2017)
White Sands National Monument
About 3.5 hours from Albuquerque, near the city of Alamogordo, lays White Sands National Monument. The white sands are made of gypsum crystals, which doesn’t take on the heat of the sun, allowing you to walk barefoot on the sand even on the hottest days. The entry fee into the area is only $5 (just happened to free on the day I went), and worth every penny. Admittedly the drive from Albuquerque can feel long, but once you arrive you forget all about it (until it’s time to head back – sigh). Stop in the visitor center and purchase a sled – which I forgot to do, but would suggest.
What to do while you’re there?
Grab a blanket and book
Listen to music
Hike (there’s also a sunset walking tour)
Picnic (tables are provided)
Hot mineral springs
A two hour drive from Albuquerque in the city interestingly named Truth or Consequences, lies Riverbend Hot Springs. They offer several private pools with a 50 minute sessions (mine was more like an hour). It was very inexpensive at $15 per guest. The Tierra, which was my pool of choice, and one of the more popular options, also had a rainfall shower over the pool, sundeck chairs, and an amazing view of the Rio Grande River and Turtleback mountain. My only regret was not booking back to back sessions. I was having such a great relaxing time I didn't want to leave.
There was another hot mineral springs 2 hours north of Albuquerque that I originally had planned to visit. This particular one offered mud baths in additional to the springs. I'm now searching hot mineral springs in California to visit. I think it's become my newest obsession!
Hot air ballon ride
It's not Cappadocia but it was the highlight of my trip and I'm happy I was able to cross it off of my bucket list. Especially since I wasn't sure if the weather was going to cooperate as the balloon won't fly in windy conditions or lighting. Both were a factor in the days before. Prior to visiting, I searched Groupon and Living Social for a deal because I was trying to save a coin, but to no avail. The company I ended up going with had a deal but wasn't valid within the timeframe. However, World Balloon made me happy I went with them anyways. I had such a great time and our pilot and his crew were amazing. Super nice with great personalities, you can tell they loved and enjoyed what they did. I wasn't as nervous as I thought I would be. While I don't have a fear of heights, being high up in the air, open and exposed can make even the unafraid a little weary. We had beautiful sights of the Rio Grande River, sunrise, mountains, and flew over homes I wouldn't otherwise had a chance to see. Perfect weather and flying conditions to top off a perfect morning. We ended the ride with complimentary mimosas, pastries, history on hot air balloons, and received a certificate praising our bravery!
All and all, New Mexico was a real unique treat. I'm glad I was able to visit a place that pushed me out of my comfort zone and allowed me to do something different and made me want to do something different. I would highly recommend visiting White Sands, taking a hot air balloon ride, and visiting one of the many hot springs in the state.
Which of these adventures would you partake in?