Albuquerque is so much more than the airport you fly into just to dash off to the annual AlbuquerqueInternational Balloon Fiesta (this year, October 1–9, www.balloonfiesta.com). It’s a worthy destination unto itself, full of culture, history, and shopping—ripe for exploring and overnighting.
Los Poblanos Inn
This organic farm in Albuquerque’s North Valley provides lovely lodging reminiscent of an elegant European resort, where peacocks strut landscaped grounds. Visitors ride bicycles on secluded country lanes under a canopy of cottonwood, elm, and sycamore trees. They play badminton and swim laps in the pool. But in addition to the recreational pursuits, there’s also plenty of productivity: Los Poblanos keeps its 1930s agricultural past alive by dedicating a significant percentage of the property to growing organic lavender, chiles, figs, heirloom tomatoes, and herbs, all of which are served at meals and incorporated into salves and soaps at the farm shop.
Amid all that bounty, make sure you don’t lose sight of the glorious structures designed by the renowned architect John Gaw Meem, “Father of the Santa Fe Style.” Listed on both the New Mexico and national registers of historic places, the buildings boast carved doors and mantels, New Mexico tinwork and ironwork, and pieces by New Mexico artists like Southwest photographer Laura Gilpin. Of the 20 new, gorgeous guest rooms, half are decorated in the Territorial Revival style with exposed wood vigas and four-poster beds, while the rest feature a contemporary barn design, with white oak floors and colorful Moorish tiles. Two suites—original buildings from the 1930s—open onto private patios and the historic gardens designed by famed landscape architect Rose Greely.
The room rate includes a full farm breakfast, a copy of The New York Times, and pinyon wood for the wood-burning fireplace in every room, along with Wi-Fi and flat-screen TV. www.lospoblanos.com
Hyatt Regency Tamaya
When you do make the trip north to Santa Fe, plan to stop over along the way at the top-notch Tamaya. Situated on 500 acres along the Rio Grande at the base of the Sandia Mountains, this Santa Ana Pueblo hotel reflects the culture of the Tamayame people who give the resort its name. Native décor with traditional designs, pueblo bread-baking demonstrations, adobe-making workshops, tribal dance performances, and the Tamaya Cultural Museum & Learning Center allow guests to experience the rich local history.
Modern amenities include tennis courts, pools, a championship golf course and club, award-winning spa and salon, several on-site dining venues, and live entertainment. And let’s not forget the goings-on at the stables. During the summer, Thursday night is rodeo night. Year-round, guided trail rides take you on peaceful two-and-a-half-hour excursions with views of the mountains and wildlife, through cotton wood trees along the Rio Grande and Jemez rivers, and along trails the Tamayame have traveled for centuries. www.hyattregencytamaya.com
ABQ’s only AAA Four Diamond hotel, Hotel Andaluz (www.hotelandaluz.com) was originally built by Conrad Hilton in the late 1930s and later operated as La Posada de Albuquerque. Now luxuriously renovated, this Old Town landmark is an inviting combination of Moroccan and Spanish-inspired architecture with modern conveniences, big rooms, and great beds. If a hip, historic urban oasis is your thing, the new Hotel Parq Central (www.hotelparqcentral.com)is a design-savvy reinvention of a former hospital in an elegant 1926 Italianate building, complete with a swanky rooftop Apothecary Lounge.
Casa Vieja Restaurant
A few years ago, couple Josh and Kate Gerwin had the idea of opening a quaint restaurant serving fresh new food in a very old historic building in the village of Corrales. A few years later, their charming place is going strong and earning fans. Appetizers and drinks get lots of attention here: Picture yourself in front of one of the several kiva fireplaces or on the patio with a jalapeño cucumber margarita or corn-infused martini in one hand, and a pulled pork sandwich or duck tamale in the other. But pace yourself—you’re going to want to leave room for the Adventurous Soul Plate created by Chef Josh just for you. The doughnut dessert plate may have to wait for a return visit. 4541 Corrales Road, Corrales, 505.508.3244, www.casaviejanm.com
The Grove Cafe & Market
With its fabulous salads and sandwiches (three-cheese with green chile, house-made mozzarella), it’s like an L.A. bistro—but with chile. You could get the oatmeal with toppings or airy pancakes with fresh fruit, but then again, the fig and pecan French toast with crème fraîche sure sounds good. Later in the day, the chocolate chip cookies have your name on them. 600 Central Ave. SE, Suite A, 505.248.9800, www.thegrovecafemarket.com
Indigo Crow Café
In addition to offering scenic dining both outdoors (on the patio under trees and stars) and in (by a kiva fireplace in a charming old converted house), Indigo Crow Café also boasts an inventive menu. Follow your Catalina salad with lobster ravioli and triple-berry bread pudding with bourbon sauce, and you’ll know why this is a local and foodie favorite. 4515 Corrales Road, Corrales, 505.898.7000, www.indigocrowcafe.com
Jennifer James 101
Named James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef of the Southwest semifinalist for the second year in a row, Jennifer James is favored by foodies for creating fresh dishes described as “comfort food taken to its [sublime] limit.” Some Wednesdays are “community table” when family-style three-course meals are served with much neighborly conviviality. 4615-A Menaul Blvd. NE, 505.884.3860, jenniferjames101.com
Like something straight out of American Graffiti, Model Pharmacyhas a soda fountain cafe and serves up awesome homemade sandwiches, soups, floats, malts, and milkshakes. “Everything here, we prepare here,” emphasizes owner Jack Lerner. “We do things right.” Try the tasty tuna salad or kosher salami on rye, and sip a perfect Caffè Mocha Borgia with Italian mandarin orange syrup. In the posh pharmacy, there are Roger & Gallet soaps and Mason Pearson hairbrushes. Even Santa Fean Alan Arkin has been known to drop by. 3636 Monte Vista Blvd. NE, 505.255.8686
Murphy’s Mule Barn Restaurant
A daily favorite of B.C. Nowlin’s, this truck stop turned family diner has fans making the drive across town for its breakfast burritos, green chile enchiladas, chicken-fried steak, waffles, huevos rancheros, and blueberry pie. If old-school greasy spoon, cowboy breakfast New Mexico style, and spurs on the walls are your idea of heaven, you’ll be on cloud nine. 9700 2nd St. NW, 505.898.7660
Paul’s Monterey Inn
Nowlin’s special-occasion place, this swanky Albuquerque institution is a throwback, in both food and décor, to the glamorous supper clubs of the 1960s. Seated at leatherette booths, you can order from a menu that will take you back to the great steakhouse basics: prime rib, steak, crab legs, lobster, some of the best onion rings in town, and ice-cold martinis. It’s all served up with loaves of warm homemade bread, iceberg lettuce salads (with cherry tomatoes and croutons, naturally), and the dimly lit vibe of a bygone era. 1000 Juan Tabo Blvd. NE, 505.294.1461
Savoy Bar & Grill
California wine country has been transported to Albuquerque’s Northeast Heights. Sophisticated but not pretentious, the Savoy features a wood-burning oven in the exhibition kitchen, which turns out attractions like cedar-planked salmon and seasonal flatbreads. There’s more Napa ambience in the tasting room and on the vine-covered patio. 10601 Montgomery Blvd. NE, 505.294.9463, www.savoyabq.com
For a day trip from Santa Fe to Albuquerque or vice versa, try the New Mexico Rail Runner Express train. 866.795.7245, www.nmrailrunner.com