New Mexico has come by its mañana reputation honestly. Usually change happens . . . tomorrow. But some lively additions have occurred in the region that are well worth exploring.
A change that affects all here is a new area code. For years, this little-populated state operated with only one code, 505. It has been retained for the northwestern quadrant, including Santa Fe and Albuquerque. In order to place calls to the remainder of the state, dial 575.
Where to Stay in Albuquerque -- In recent years Albuquerque has gained some excellent new accommodations. Most notable among them is the Sandia Resort & Casino, 30 Rainbow Rd. NE, (tel. 877/272-9199 or 505/798-3930; www.sandiaresort.com). Set against the bold backdrop of the Sandia Mountains, this resort on the Sandia Reservation provides luxury rooms, an 18-hole golf course, spa, and casino. Meanwhile, near the heart of downtown, Embassy Suites Albuquerque Hotel & Spa, 1000 Woodward Place NE (tel. 800/EMBASSY or 505/245-7100; www.embassysuites.com), with a new nine-floor building, caters to a lot of convention traffic, but also offers a comfortable stay to those who like having the space of a suite.
Where to Dine in Albuquerque -- New Mexico's biggest city has a new hot district called EDo (East of Downtown), where restaurants and apartments have opened up. My favorite here is the Grove Café & Market, 600 Central Ave. SE (tel. 505/248-9800; www.thegrovecafemarket.com). Locals love to hang out here eating soups, salads, and sandwiches made with organic produce and quality breads. Breakfast is a big hit, with the Croque Madame the showstopper.
Not new to the city, but in new digs is Bien Shur, 30 Rainbow Rd. NE, at Sandia Resort & Casino (tel. 800/526-9366; www.sandiaresort.com). Serving New American cuisine, it offers stunning views of the Sandia Mountains and the Albuquerque skyline, while serving such savory dishes as chargrilled buffalo tenderloin and rack of lamb.
What to See & Do in Albuquerque -- Golfers will appreciate a team of courses that has combined efforts in Golf on the Santa Fe Trail (tel. 866/465-3660; www.santafetrailgolf.com), which includes some of the region's most notable courses and a means of wrapping up packages to save money and time.
Getting to Know Santa Fe -- The City Different now boasts the new 72,000-square-foot Santa Fe Community Convention Center. Set in the heart of downtown, it's a graceful Pueblo style structure with a large parking garage underneath. As well as hosting conventions, the site houses the Visitors Bureau and welcomes performances, festivals, and lectures.
Meanwhile, the new Santa Fe Railyard is springing to life. This downtown district of shops, galleries, and a park and performance space has given the city a whole new focal point. At the core of the space is a year-round home for the Santa Fe Farmers' Market.
Where to Stay in Santa Fe -- One of Santa Fe's most notable historic inns has a new addition. Bishop's Lodge Ranch Resort & Spa (tel. 505/983-6377; www.bishopslodge.com) has added elegant villas to its lineup north of town. These 2- and 3-bedroom town houses have luxury amenities, spectacular views, and their own pool and Jacuzzi.
Where to Dine in Santa Fe -- Always a fountain of elegant high-end restaurants, Santa Fe has had fewer medium-priced ones. Fortunately, that's changed with the addition of some great informal spots. Most notable is Clafoutis French Bakery & Restaurant, 402 Guadalupe St. (tel. 505/988-1809). This cafe fills up with locals eating elaborate salads and quiches. Usually they take home a pastry or two as well.
Where to Dine in Taos -- The Taos dining scene, always imaginative, has a few new notches on its hostess stand. First, El Meze, 1017 Paseo del Pueblo Norte (tel. 575/751-3337; www.elmeze.com) serves Spanish/Mediterranean cuisine in an artfully decorated historic home. Try the Chilean sea bass with sweet potatoes. The locals' favorite new spot is Graham's Grille, 106 Paseo del Pueblo Norte (tel. 575/751-1350; www.grahamsgrille.com), where they feast on comfort food such as mac & cheese with green chile and bacon or more elegant fare such as Moroccan chicken over cous cous. Another locals' spot is Lula's, 316 Paseo del Pueblo Sur (tel. 575/751-1280), where gourmet soup, stews, salads, and sandwiches satisfy hungry appetites both in-house and to-go.
What to See & Do in Taos -- For years, renegade snowboarders tromped out the motto "Free Taos" on hillsides around Taos Ski Valley, decrying the mountain's policy banning them. Finally in 2008, they won, and now Taos is open to boarders. More traditional-minded skiers are upset, but families with kids are overjoyed.
Northwestern New Mexico
Just west of Grants, Wow Diner, 1300 Motel Dr., in Milan, (tel. 505/287-3801), serves diner-style food in a Route 66 atmosphere. The pulled-pork carnitas may just be the reason for the cafe's name -- "Wow."
South of there along NM 53, stop in at Ancient Way Café, near mile marker 46 (tel. 505/783-4612). In a wood-paneled room with comfy booths, this place serves imaginative food using such treats as free-range chicken and eggs, hormone-free beef, and seasonal vegetables. Try one of their specials such as chicken and vegetable pesto over chile/tomato linguine.
Nearby, stay the night at Cimarron Rose B&B, on NM 53 (tel. 800/856-5776; www.cimarronrose.com). An ecofriendly inn surrounded by ponderosas, it offers three suites, a great place for families exploring El Morro, El Malpais, and other outdoor sites.
Visitors to the Farmington Museum and Gateway Center, 3041 E. Main St. (tel. 505/599-1174; www.farmingtonmuseum.org), will enjoy the new Geovator, which simulates a trip 7,285 feet into an oil well. After the trip, you might want to stop in at the new Andrea Kristina's Bookstore & Kafé, 218 W. Main St. (tel. 505/327-3313; www.andreakristinas.com), for a cappuccino or sandwich.
Nearby Aztec has renovated its 19th-century historic district at the center of town, well worth a stroll. While doing so, stop in at Feat of Clay, 107 S. Main St. (tel. 505/334-4335). A cooperative gallery, it holds the work of 14 local artists and has great prices.
Northeastern New Mexico
Visitors to Cimarron will enjoy the shopping options there. Step into the Cimarron Art Gallery, 337 E. 9th St. (tel. 575/376-2614), which has a 1937 soda fountain and sells jewelry, sculptures, and Boy Scout badges. Another good stop is Blue Moon Eclectics, 333 E. 9th St. (tel. 575/376-9040), with artful pottery, jewelry, books, and knives. Down the street, head to the studio of L. Martin Pavletich, 428 E. 9th St. (tel. 575/376-2871; www.lmartinpavletich.com), to find colorful landscape paintings of the region.
Those cruising Route 66 through eastern New Mexico should sidetrack into the Historic Districts of Tucumcari and Santa Rosa. Both have been restored and have new galleries and restaurants opening up. You never know what sweet little morsel you'll find.
Southwestern New Mexico
New to Socorro, the Stage Door Grill, Bernard and Abeyta streets (tel. 575/835-2403; www.stagedoorgrill.net), offers tasty burgers, pasta dishes, and salads, but its Cajun food is a real treat. Try the etouffee.
Meanwhile, Truth or Consequences also has a new place to savor the flavors. Café Bella Luca, 303 Jones St. (tel. 575/894-9866), serves Italian fare ranging from sandwiches to pizza to seafood in a sophisticated trattoria ambiance. Try the seafood puttanesca.
In Las Cruces, train buffs will enjoy the Las Cruces Railroad Museum, at the corner of Mesilla Street and Las Cruces Avenue (tel. 575/647-4480; http://museums.las-cruces.org). Set in the historic Santa Fe Depot, this museum offers exhibits of Las Cruces railroad history from the train's arrival in 1881 to the present.
My new favorite place to stay in the City of Crosses is Hotel Encanto de Las Cruces, 705 S. Telshor Blvd. (tel. 866/383-0443 or 575/522-4300; www.hhandr.com). Previously the Hilton, it's been renovated utilizing elegant Spanish colonial-style furnishings throughout.
Las Cruces has a number of new dining options. My favorite is Mix Pacific Rim Cuisine, 1001 University Ave. D4 (tel. 575/532-2042; www.mixpacificrim.com). An intimate cafe full of Asian knickknacks and a sushi bar, this place serves a broad range of dishes, from Polynesian spring rolls to delightful Asian-dressed steaks. Another fun ethnic experience, Tiffany's Pizza & Greek American Cuisine, Telshor Tower Plaza G-1 (tel. 575/532-5002), serves huge portions of true Greek food. It's tough to choose, but today I'll recommend the mousaka. Tomorrow . . . maybe the roasted chicken. Meanwhile, fun-loving diners will enjoy Farley's, 3499 Foothills Rd. (tel. 575/522-0466), a rowdy pub/restaurant with foosball and air hockey to play, and burgers and salads to eat.
Always interesting, Silver City has a few new dining/entertainment spots. Isaac's Bar & Grill, 200 N. Bullard (tel. 575/388-4090), serves tasty buffalo burgers and salads in an atmospheric 1881 building at the center of town. On Saturday nights, live music plays. Meanwhile, Silver City Brewing Co. 101 E. College (tel. 575/534-2739; www.swnmbeer.com), offers tasty beer and a brewpub menu including pizza, pasta, sandwiches, and salads. During warm months, live music plays on the patio on weekends.
The village of Reserve, on the edge of the Gila National Forest, has erected a statue of Elfego Baca, a Hispanic folk hero who stood up to some 80 cowboys back in 1884. On the main street through town, it's worth stopping to see.
Southeastern New Mexico
In the Tularosa/Alamogordo area, stop in at Tulie Oasis, 512 St. Francis (tel. 575/585-2102). Owned by the folks from the Roslyn Café seen in the classic TV series Northern Exposure, the cute cafe has a broad menu highlighted by freshly baked breads and seasonal vegetables. The turkey, avocado, and Swiss cheese sandwich on sourdough is memorable.
Nearby, Ruidoso has had tough times in recent years. Flooding of the Rio Ruidoso devastated the town in 2008, but the new Escape Resort, 1016 Mechem Rd. (tel. 888/762-8551 or 575/258-1234; www.theescaperesort.com) came out unscathed. The town's finest lodging, it offers 1- and 2-bedroom casitas with contemporary furnishings, nestled among pines. Meanwhile, the new Hotel Ruidoso, 110 Chase St. (tel. 866/734-5197 or 575/257-2007; www.hotelruidos.net) offers reasonably priced rooms with comfortable beds and stylish furnishings in a pine-tree setting as well.
Ruidoso's newest restaurant, Willmon's Prime Grille, 2523 Sudderth Dr. (tel. 575/257-2954), serves quality steaks and seafood right in the heart of town. At this writing, it was just getting its bearings, but it has potential to be one of the town's finest restaurants.
If you'd like to end the night with entertainment in Ruidoso, head to Mountain Annie's Dinner Theater, 2710 Sudderth Dr. (tel. 575/257-7982; www.mountainannies.com). Along with dinner, this spot features performances, mostly music variety shows, with tunes ranging from rock to country.
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.