Road trips: Santa Fe Sunday drives

Sunday drives were a tradition I grew up with. My dad was a natural-born wanderer and liked nothing more than to get in the car and explore. My mother, who loved nothing more than losing herself in a good book, would shoo us out the door and settle in for a good read. These drives meant discovering new places and great diners and dives. My dad loved to eat and had a nose for finding interesting eateries, but hated to spend money. We ate in greasy spoons and ethnic joints. It was marvelous.

They say you marry your father. In many ways, Steve is 180 degrees, but …. Thankfully, he loves good food and travel as much as I do. He’d be happy to get in a RV and live on the road. I’m not quite ready. But one of our family traditions was Sunday drives. Our son didn’t always like these so we invented a game: Left, Right, Straight. Every time we got to an intersection, the person whose turn it was got to decide which direction we’d go. Sometimes we got someplace really interesting and sometimes we went around in a circle. It was always great fun.

We love getting out for the day in New Mexico. There are so many places to explore. Here are some of our favorite day trips.

Santa Fe Sunday drives

A view of Truchas Peaks, seen from the High Road, photo/Steve Collins

Explore the High Road:
People always talk about going to Taos on the High Road. We love to do that occasionally. Instead of going all the way, spend a day exploring the High Road some time. It can provide a wonderful day of travel.  Bring along a camera. There are galleries, old churches and treasures to discover along the way. Instead of continuing on to Taos, make a left when NM 75 (the road you’ll be traveling on) does and head towards Dixon. You can stop in the quiet Picarus Pueblo or if you are a wine aficionado, stop for a tasting at La Chiripada Winery. When you reach NM 68, turn left and head back to Santa Fe. Take a rest at Embudo Station and watch the Rio Grande flow by for a while. Don’t miss the Classical Gas Museum on your left a few miles down the road. If owner Johnnie Meier is home, the free museum is open. Then head back to town.

Santa Fe Sunday Drives

Georgia O’Keeffe’s beloved Pedernal, photo/Billie Frank

Discover O’Keeffe Country:
Georgia O’Keeffe is a big tourist draw. There’s something about this austere woman whose paintings had so much color and fluidity that attracts pilgrims to Georgia O’Keeffe Country, the area around Abiquiu, northwest of Santa Fe where she lived and painted for over 50 years. Between March and November you can tour the artist’s village home, take the Georgia O’Keeffe Home and Studio Tour. Because space is limited, especially in summer, book in advance as they can fill up. While you can’t visit her Ghost Ranch Home, you can visit the ranch and see the scenery that inspired much O’Keeffe’s work. There are also two museums, hiking trails and organized tours that the ranch offers seasonally including the Georgia O’Keeffe Landscape Tour. A bit further north is Echo Amphitheater, geological formation that sends your words back to you. If you want a longer day, continue to Tierra Amarilla and visit Tierra Wools in the tiny hamlet of Los Ojos. To vary the route home, go east across US 64 and back US 285 and head south to Santa Fe. It will be a long day, but worth it.

You can also do a day trip to places O’Keeffe painted.

Sunday Drives

The front porch at Forked Lightning Ranch, photo/Steve Collins

Visit Pecos:
Pecos, about 45 minutes east of Santa Fe via I-25, has a lot of history. Pecos National Historic Park was the site of a historic pueblo. Most of it is mounded over, but you can see a traditional kiva and the ruins of a Spanish Colonial era church. On Sundays (by advance reservation) you can tour Forked Lightening Ranch former home of actress Greer Garson. The ranch house was designed by John Gaw Meem, one of the architects responsible for reviving Pueblo Style in the 1920s. Garson gave the house and a large parcel of land to the National Park Service. Upon her death, the remainder of the ranch holdings was divided. Part was sold to Jane Fonda and Ted Turner and the rest to actor Val Kilmer. Believe it or not, there was a Civil War battle fought right here. If you want to visit Glorietta Battlefield, you can do so with advance arrangements.

After exploring the ranch and the Historic Park, drive up into the Pecos Wilderness. It’s just plain beautiful.

Santa Fe Sunday drives

Pentimento: The Plaza Hotel in Las Vegas, NM was once the Hotel Romaine, photo Steve Collins

The other Las Vegas:
New Mexico has its own Las Vegas. Its official founding predates Sin City’s by 70 years. This old railroad town, sitting at the edge of the parried, is an under appreciated treasure. There are a few distinct architectural eras in this originally Victorian Era town. The buildings around the Plaza in West Las Vegas have mostly been restored. There are sections in East Las Vegas that are “newer.” Early 20th Century and Art Deco are represented. There is a connection to Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders, commemorated by the City-run Rough Rider Museum. The town’s been used for film and TV locations and you can easily find some of the locations. East of town there’s a Federal Wild Life Refuge where you can view birds and other wildlife found here. While there are critters all year round, in early fall and late winter, it’s a stopping off point for migrating Sandhill Cranes and Snow Geese. West of the town, there’s Montezuma, originally built as a Harvey House Hotel and now home to the New World College.

Santa Fe Sunday drives

Whimsical Mariachi serenades shoppers in Madrid, NM, photo/Steve Collins

Drive The Turquoise Trail:
This was an old trade route for turquoise, which has been mined and traded for over a thousand years in the area. Today it is designated a National Scenic Byway. The road goes south from Santa Fe and hits I-40 east of Albuquerque. Stop at the old mining town of Cerrillos, now considered a ghost town. Some of the old buildings still stand, including Mary’s Bar, a bit of a legend in these parts. Continue down the road and you’ll come to Madrid, today a collection of shops and galleries that you may recognize from the movie, Wild Hogs.

At Sandia Crest, you can leave the road and head up the mountain. There are wonderful views at the top. From April through October, stop at the quirky, Tinkertown Museum. It will put a smile on your face. Turn around here and head back to Santa Fe or continue on, tour Albuquerque a bit and head back on I-25.

As we drive around exploring Northern New Mexico, sometimes I remember the drives with my dad and I smile.

What are your favorite Santa Fe Sunday drives?

You might get hungry while exploring Northern New Mexico. Get dining suggestions for every excursion in this post in Northern New Mexico road trips.

If you want to discover the magic of driving around Northern New Mexico and discovering some off=the-beaten-path places, contact our travel-planning and tour business, The  Santa Fe Traveler.   We’ll create a memorable personalized itinerary  you.





Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

4 Responses to “Road trips: Santa Fe Sunday drives”

  1. Leigh
    March 4, 2019 at 7:27 am #

    I like the sound of all your Sunday drives. As a kid I remember going on Sunday drives and being bored out of my mind - probably because there was nothing nearly this interesting where I lived.
    I’d love to do the Georgia O’Keefe home & studio tour.
    Leigh recently posted..Gear Review: The Clever Travel CompanionMy Profile

    • Billie Frank
      March 4, 2019 at 8:58 am #

      Interesting makes a BIG difference- though our son wasn’t a fan and we had LOTS of beautiful and interesting sights to see. He’s not much of a car person unless hes driving. I still love them~ The entire area around O’Keeffe’s home is wonderful. We’re going to spend a day exploring Ghost Ranch this month.

  2. Vera Marie Badertscher
    March 4, 2019 at 6:08 pm #

    I’m definitely filing this away for my next trip to New Mexico. But I have to correct one thing you said. Your family did not “invent” the left-right-straight game. My family, in the 1950’s, with 3 children in on the voting, did that while father drove around Ohio’s country roads. “-)
    Vera Marie Badertscher recently posted..Irish Music for St. Patrick’s Day and TravelMy Profile

    • Billie Frank
      March 4, 2019 at 7:42 pm #

      We’d never heard of the game- so we invented it for our family- we didn’t have any model for it. That must have been fun! Didn’t know you’re from Ohio. Our son and his family live there.

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge