How to Make the Most of a Trip to New Mexico
Waxing enthusiastic about New Mexico’s wonders is second nature to Nicole Rottler—her childhood summers spent in the tiny town of Cloudcroft still shape the bolo-tie-esque leather chokers and teeny, rock-like gold pendants she makes for her line Niett Metals from her studio in Mississippi. Here, where she hangs in Santa Fe, along with the day trips she takes whenever she finds herself back in the land of enchantment (and chilis!).
“Red or green is the official state question, referring to red or green chile sauce. Some people claim one sauce is hotter than the other, but I would say it depends on the individual peppers— and you won't know until you try! The honey on all the restaurant tables is for easing any pain. There are spots across the state for you to work on your answer, but sitting in the courtyard at The Shed in Santa Fe is my favorite. If you can't decide, order Christmas to get both!”
“Head to Cafe Pasqual's for breakfast. It serves as the community table of locals in Santa Fe.”
LOCAL FRUIT STANDS
“Stop at the local roadside fruit stands you pass everywhere! You should have a piece of fresh fruit in your hand at all times because it’s good business for native farmers and because you can.”
“Check out the caves of Carlsbad Caverns, and then continue a few hours on to White Sands National Monument in Alamogordo for an endless view of white sand dunes. The way the lush mountains melt into surrounding desert is incredible, and the experience of driving through that change is something that I think about all the time.”
“Drive the winding roads up to the mountain town of Cloudcroft, within the Lincoln National Forest, and watch the temperature drop as the desert canyons turn to piney woods with the climb. There are plenty of lookouts and hiking trails worth stopping for along the way. At 9,000 feet in elevation, Cloudcroft is the town I grew up going to, and its views will never fail to make me feel as small as the child I was when I first saw them.”
“The state offers some of the clearest nighttime views of the stars, moon, and planets due to the minimal light pollution and high altitudes. If this all really peaks your interest, take the time to go to the Museum of Space History in Alamogordo. I can't count how many times I've been, and I love it.”
“To see current pieces of traditional-style Southwestern jewelry, walk along the historic plaza downtown where over 41 pueblos and tribes display their work daily, laid out on brightly colored blankets along the side of the Palace of Governors. I'll never forget the first time speaking to an artisan here that I observed the connection between the makers rough, worked hands and the intricate, polished piece of precious metal and stone that they held and had created. This contrast was magic to me! A display of humble, disciplined work that beamed with pride but required no words.
“I think taking the time to explore and understand the history of a place like New Mexico is simply respectful. Many of the things that make the state unique have deep cultural roots that should be recognized and remembered. There are many small museums worth stopping into for accounts on the history of the territory like the New Mexico History Museum. Many have object collections with incredible Native American handiwork displayed through textiles, baskets, tools, pottery, and, of course, decorative, wearable art.”
“In addition to the historical museums, the art museums should not be missed! This is one of my top choices, and is right in Santa Fe.”