If you'd like to travel along meadows and apple orchards into a place where life is a little slower and sweeter, head 20 minutes north of Albuquerque to the village of Corrales. Home to farmers, artists, and affluent landowners, this is a fun place to roam through shops and galleries, and, in the fall, sample vegetables from roadside vendors. Two excellent restaurants, both serving imaginative new American cuisine, sit on the main street. Indigo Crow, 4515 Corrales Rd. (tel. 505/898-7000), serves lunch and dinner Tuesday to Saturday and brunch on Sunday, and the Old House Gastropub, 4541 Corrales Rd. (tel. 505/898-7489; www.theoldhousecorrales.com), is open Monday to Friday 11am to 10pm and Saturday and Sunday 10am to 10pm. If you'd like to stay in the village, contact the Sandhill Crane Bed-and-Breakfast, 389 Camino Hermosa (tel. 800/375-2445 or 505/898-2445; www.sandhillcranebandb.com).
The town also has a nature preserve and a historic church. In September, the Harvest Festival is well worth the trip. For more information about Corrales, contact Corrales Village (tel. 505/897-0502; www.corrales-nm.org).
To get to the village, head north on either I-25 or Rio Grande Boulevard, turn west on Alameda Boulevard, cross the Rio Grande, and turn north on Corrales Road (NM 448). The village is just a few minutes up the road.
Albuquerque and Environs
Ten Native American pueblos are within an hour's drive of central Albuquerque. One national and two state monuments preserve another five ancient pueblo ruins.
The active pueblos nearby include Acoma, Cochiti, Isleta, Jemez, Laguna, Sandia, San Felipe, Santa Ana, Santo Domingo, and Zia. Of these, Acoma is the most prominent.
Pueblo Etiquette -- When you visit pueblos, it's important to observe certain rules of etiquette: Remember to respect the pueblos as people's homes; don't peek into doors and windows or climb on top of the buildings. Stay out of cemeteries and ceremonial rooms (such as kivas), since these are sacred grounds. Don't speak during dances or ceremonies or applaud after their conclusion; silence is mandatory. Most pueblos require a permit to carry a camera or to sketch or paint on location. Several pueblos prohibit photography at any time and many artists don't permit you to photograph their work.
Traditional Native American Bread Baking -- While visiting the pueblos in New Mexico, you'll probably notice outdoor ovens (they look a bit like giant ant hills), known as hornos, which Native Americans have used to bake bread for hundreds of years. For Native Americans, making bread is a tradition that links them directly to their ancestors. Usually in the evening, the bread dough (made of white flour, lard, salt, yeast, and water) is made and kneaded, the loaves are shaped, and in the morning placed in the oven heated by a wood fire. They bake for about an hour. If you would like to try a traditional loaf, you can buy one at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque, among other places.
This spectacular "Sky City," a walled adobe village perched high atop a sheer rock mesa 365 feet above the 6,600-foot valley floor, is believed to have been inhabited at least since the 11th century -- the longest continuously occupied community in the United States. Native legend claims that it has been inhabited since before the time of Christ. Both the pueblo and San Estevan del Rey Mission are National Historic Landmarks. In 2006, the Sky City Cultural Center and Haak'u Museum opened below Acoma, showcasing pottery, textiles, baskets, and other art from the tribe.
The Keresan-speaking Acoma (Ack-oo-mah) Pueblo boasts 6,005 inhabitants, but only about 50 people reside year-round on the 70-acre mesa top. They make their living from tourists who come to see the large church containing examples of Spanish colonial art and to purchase the pueblo's thin-walled white pottery with polychrome designs.
To reach Acoma from Albuquerque, drive west on I-40 approximately 52 miles to the Acoma-Sky City exit, then travel about 12 miles southwest.
You absolutely cannot wander freely around Acoma Pueblo, but you can start your tour at the 40,000-square-foot museum, which gives a good look into this culture, and peruse their gallery, offering art and crafts for sale. You can even have a meal at the Yaak'a Café. Then board the tour bus, which climbs through a rock garden of 50-foot sandstone monoliths and past precipitously dangling outhouses to the mesa's summit. There's no running water or electricity in this medieval-looking village; a small reservoir collects rainwater for most purposes, but drinking water is transported up from below. Wood-hole ladders and mica windows are prevalent among the 300-odd adobe structures. As you tour the village, you'll have many opportunities to buy pottery and other pueblo treasures. Pottery is expensive here, but you're not going to find it any cheaper anywhere else, and you'll be guaranteed that it's authentic if you buy it directly from the craftsperson. Along the way, be sure to sample some Indian fry bread topped with honey.
The annual San Esteban del Rey feast day is September 2, when the pueblo's patron saint is honored with an 8am Mass, a procession, an afternoon corn dance, and an arts-and-crafts fair, which includes homemade games of chance and food stalls. (A popular item is the only-in-New Mexico snack "Kool-Aid and pickles"). A Governor's Feast is held annually in February, and 4 days of Christmas festivals run from December 25 to 28. Still cameras are allowed for a $10 fee, and guided tours do not operate on the mesa during feast days. You are not permitted to take photos of the cemetery or inside the mission church. Cameras are not permitted in the pueblo on feast days.
Other celebrations are held in low-lying pueblo villages at Easter (in Acomita), the first weekend in May (Santa Maria feast at McCartys), and August 10 (San Lorenzo Day in Acomita). Closed June 24 and 29; July10 to 13 and 25; the first and second weekends in October; and first Saturday in December.
The Acoma Pueblo's address is Sky City Cultural Center and Pueblo of Acoma, P.O. Box 310, Acoma, NM 87034 (tel. 800/747-0181 or 505/552-7861 for pueblo offices; www.acomaskycity.org). Admission for the tour is $20 for adults, $17 for seniors (60 and over) and students, $12 for children 6 to 17, and free for children 5 and under. Group discounts apply to parties of 15 or more, and there's also a discount for students and Native American visitors. The charge to take still photographs is $10; digital cameras and tripods are prohibited, telephoto lenses are restricted, and no video cameras are allowed. Generally, the pueblo is open daily in the summer 8am to 6:30pm; daily in the spring, fall, and winter 8am to 5pm. One-hour tours begin every 30 minutes, depending on the demand; the last tour is scheduled 1 hour before closing. The pueblo is closed to visitors on Easter weekend (some years), June 24 and 29, July 10 to 13, and the first or second weekend in October. It's best to call ahead to make sure that the tour is available when you're visiting.
A Renovated Relic -- In Mountainair, the Shaffer Hotel and Restaurant, 103 W. Main St. (tel. 505/847-2888; www.shafferhotel.com), offers a fun glimpse into the past. Renovated by Joel Marks, who stumbled on the place while riding his Harley through the Manzano Mountains, it has a stone fireplace and molded tin ceiling, as well as original Tiffany stained glass windows. The attached restaurant is even more remarkable, with bright Southwest Art Deco murals on the ceiling, and chandeliers sporting Native American symbols. Diners enjoy huevos rancheros and breakfast burritos. Built in the 1920s by blacksmith Clem "Pop" Shaffer, it also has a curios shop named after the founder, selling turquoise jewelry, dreamcatchers, and katsinas. The hotel includes 19 rooms, some with shared bath. The rooms are fairly basic, but will serve those who like frontier-style antique hotels. Prices range from $79 to $225.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.