Northern New Mexico has come by its "mañana" reputation honestly. Usually change happens . . . tomorrow. But there are some lively additions in the region well worth exploring.
Getting to Know Santa Fe
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. To place calls to the remainder of the state, dial tel. 575.
The City Different now boasts the new 72,000-square-foot Santa Fe 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 will welcome 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 will give 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 -- Two of Santa Fe's inns have new additions. Sunrise Springs Resort Spa (tel. 800/955-0028 or 505/471-3600; www.sunrisesprings.com) now offers casitas on their 70-acre property south of town. They're airy spa-like accommodations at a bargain of a price. As well, Bishop's Lodge Resort & Spa (tel. 505/983-6377; www.bishopslodge.com) has added elegant villas to their lineup north of town. These two- and three-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. Home to stars when they're staying or filming in the area, Body, 333 Cordova Rd. (tel. 505/986-0362; www.bodyofsantafe.com) offers organic and raw food, as well as great smoothies and coffee drinks amidst a spa setting. The Asian curry and house chai are renowned here.
At lunch time, Clafoutis French Bakery & Restaurant, 402 Guadalupe St. (tel. 505/988-1809) fills with locals eating elaborate salads and bruschetta with delectable toppings on homemade bread. Usually they take home a pastry or two as well. Meanwhile, also near downtown, Café Café, 500 Sandoval St. (tel. 505/466-1391), bustles at both lunch and dinner, with locals feasting on gourmet burgers, thin-crust pizza, and such delicacies as baked cannelloni and pasta primavera.
What to See & Do in Santa Fe -- Shoppers have a few new lands to conquer in the capitol city. Photographer Lisa Kristine, 204 W. San Francisco St. (tel. 505/820-6330; www.lisakristine.com), shows and sells brilliantly colored photos of landscapes and cultures from around the world at her namesake gallery. Also in the photography realm, Andrew Smith Gallery, 203 W. San Francisco St. (tel. 505/984-1234; www.andrewsmithgallery.com), has extended his downtown art space into a Victorian building at 122 Grant Ave. (previously Grant Corner Inn). A recent show included walls filled with Ansel Adams's stunning photos.
Excursions from Santa Fe -- The High Road Marketplace (tel. 866/343-5381 or 505/351-1078), a co-op gallery with a notable roster of northern New Mexico artists, has moved from Chimayo to Truchas. Look for it on NM 76.
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. North of town, Sabroso, 470 NM 150, Arroyo Seco (tel. 575/776-3333; www.sabrosotaos.com) has moved into what was once the Casa Cordova, and is now serving inventive American cuisine, including quality wood-grilled meats. Try a steak or wild salmon.
The locals' favorite new spot is Graham's Grill, 106 Paseo del Pueblo Norte (tel. 575/751-1350; www.grahamsgrille.com), where they feast on comfort food such as mac and 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.
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 [362-2779] 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 show stopper. Just down the street, a retro spot, the Standard Diner, 320 Central Ave., SE. (tel. 505/243-1440; www.standarddiner.com) uses quality ingredients in creative adaptations of diner-style dishes. Burgers, mac and cheese with applewood smoked bacon, and a lobster tempura Caesar top the menu.
Business people downtown flock to the Slate Street Café, 515 Slate St. NW (tel. 505/243-2210; www.slatestreetcafe.com) to sample upscale diner-style food as well. Serving three meals a day in a glossy urban setting, this place satisfies with such treats as crawfish etouffee and meatloaf wrapped in proscuitto with porcini gravy.
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
The National Atomic Museum, 601 Eubank SE (at Southern; tel. 505/245-2137; www.atomicmuseum.com) is moving in April 2009 to the eastern part of the city in order to allow more space for their larger exhibits. It's still a great place to gain deeper understanding of the nuclear age.
Meanwhile, 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.
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.