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Travel - Art & Nature Await in New Mexico

Updated on September 16, 2014
Indoor Mall in Santa Fe, New Mexico Downtown Plaza
Indoor Mall in Santa Fe, New Mexico Downtown Plaza | Source

The Rustic Charm of New Mexico

A part of the Southwest, New Mexico is a unique travel destination because the pace of life is slower than metropolitan America and the beauty is of the rustic variety. The travel spots of choice vary from nature locations to art appreciation to learning about historic sights. Not the biggest city in New Mexico, Santa Fe is still more than a small town to the urbanite and is the capital of the state - a hot spot for art lovers or nature enthusiasts. A variety of choices in nature appreciation lead from small and easy trails to true campgrounds, one of the best of these located in the Santa Fe National Forest. For the traveler passing through, a quick stop in Las Cruces can also provide a gorgeous respite from a long drive between states with amazing sunsets to match.

New Mexico Museum of Art - Santa Fe  (Mural by Will Schuster)
New Mexico Museum of Art - Santa Fe (Mural by Will Schuster) | Source

The Art of Santa Fe

Santa Fe twinkles in the dusky evening light and beckons the traveler with an abundance of art appreciation, from jewelers selling wares in town to choices in art exhibits. Several museum choices are offered by this city and Santa Fe ranks third in the USA for top museum choices in a city, including The Santa Fe Children's Museum and the only museum in the nation dedicated to a woman artist: The Georgia O'Keeffe Museum.

At the New Mexico Museum of Art, the first thing that strikes you is the architecture of the adobe work and it's natural beauty with rounded edges and cozy courtyard. Inside, view an artistic and historic chronology of the history of New Mexico from artists that portray life for the last several thousand years of the Natives, Latinos, and Europeans lives. Here, highly noted artists such as Judy Chicago, Irving Couse, Robert Henri, TC Cannon, Marsden Hartey, Agnes Martin, Luis Jimenex, Georgia O'Keeffe, Patrick Oliphant, Raymond Jonson, Maria and Julian Martinez, Bruce Nauman, Florence Miller Pierce, Luis Tapia, and Diego Romero give pause, even to the casual viewer, let alone the practiced eye of art experts.

On Museum Hill, where four museums meet, you will begin your visit with an outdoor display of immense proportion, in the amazing sculpture work of Native Americans of the area. Some of these outdoor pieces are as tall as buildings themselves! A family friendly location for elementary aged children and up, I brought my own children here and the large outdoor patio between buildings allowed them to burn up energy so they could settle in for a quiet tour indoors. Since they were allowed to touch the outdoor displays, it was easier for them to keep their hands in their pockets once inside.

Bandalier National Park - Santa Fe, New Mexico
Bandalier National Park - Santa Fe, New Mexico | Source

Santa Fe National Forest

Arriving at the end of Spring has its benefits. The relative solitude of campgrounds allows one to enjoy nature without noisy distractions. The campgrounds have just been prepared for summer use and are in top condition. Sometimes, you might even get lucky and not have to pay a fee - as I didn't in my visit to this beautiful park.

The first campground into the Santa Fe National Forest (from Santa Fe) is well laid out, with available bathroom facilities (no showers), clearly identifiable camp sites with marked fire ring locations. The primitive camp sites are a very short walk from the parked car area near it. The farthest primitive campground might have been about half a city block in distance but we were fortunate to find one near the parked cars available, which was literally "two doors away" from our vehicle. The ranger was friendly when he stopped in to check on us. On that April evening, it was a balmy eighty degrees, as we strolled about in short sleeves and shorts, yet we were pleasantly surprised to wake up in in the morning with a light covering of snow which had fallen during the night! Luckily, we were prepared with heavy coats and pants and quickly slipped them on. It was a joy to experience the park in its warmer and colder weather, within twenty-four hours. The best part is that it was a short drive down the hill to town for hot coffee and milder weather (light rain).

Train Station in Las Cruces, New Mexico
Train Station in Las Cruces, New Mexico | Source

Las Cruces - The Farm Museum

There is a unique gem, along the I-10 corridor, is Las Cruces, hosting the New Mexico State University, which sits next door to The Farm Museum. Initially, one might believe this museum to only be about farming but there is much more happening at the Farm Museum. Sometimes, there are cultural events and shows in the indoor, air conditioned theaters. Other times, Native Americans bring their handmade finery (arts, weaving, jewelry, and statuettes) for demonstration and sale. Community events are hosted at this site, bringing the area residents to this location. On a recent visit, we stopped on a lark to find both a community event and an indoor show in the theater in progress. Additionally, though the museum does chronicle the history of agriculture in New Mexico, it also serves to teach about the history of the state in general. There are many options for children to enjoy without parents feeling they must restrict their child's every movement. Many of the exhibits are behind protective casing that keep little fingers from potentially damaging items of worth. Children are encouraged to touch and enjoy some of the displays. Children and adults can enjoy a visit to the farm area of this museum, complete with livestock: cows, horses, sheep, and bulls. A working blacksmith can demonstrate his craft and has wares for sale near the animals.

With its beautiful landscape and sunset, Las Cruces has big city options, in terms of dining and accommodations, and is showing continued growth from a small town into a real city of New Mexico.

A Lovely Repite From The Urban Jungle or Country Solitude

In Santa Fe and Las Cruces, you will find the charm of small town living with many of the amenities of the big cities. The people are warm and friendly. There is a large Native American population active in the community. The warm weather is long lasting but not often over 95 degrees and does not have the humidity of other climates to go with it. A slower lifestyle than the urbanite typically employs awaits in New Mexico. It's a family-friendly choice that allows for the artist in all of us to explore and enjoy the sights.

Santa Fe, New Mexico:
Santa Fe, NM, USA

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Las Cruces, New Mexico:
Las Cruces, NM, USA

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