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Monday, April 2, 2012

New Mexico Road Trip

March 2010, Albuquerque area south to Texas and back

Following is a blog I wrote for a different forum back in 2010. Recent questions about this trip, made me realize I had never posted this on my own blog!

My husband and I drove over 800 miles in New Mexico. We made a big loop southward from Albuquerque. Following are some of our experiences. The hotel links will take you to detailed hotel reviews, and you can enlarge any photo by clicking on it.

In Albuquerque, we stayed at the Holiday Inn Express in Old Town when we arrived, and at the Staybridge Suites at the airport before departing. We liked the Holiday Inn Express; however, I would probably not choose the Staybridge Suites again.

Old Town
We shopped and dined in Old Town, and the jewelry prices were better than we had expected. Turquoise is very common in New Mexico; however, we found that prices for tanzanite and mother of pearl were also very competitive. We dined at Casa de Fiesta, which is right in the center of Old Town. The service was very good, and the food was acceptable. The parking cost in Old Town was $3 for the day, or you could park free on any of the streets for up to two hours.

Highway 117
Since our next destination of Socorro was only 1-½ hours south of Albuquerque, we made a large loop southwest and enjoyed the scenery along the way. We drove south on highway 117 along the eastern edge of El Malpais National Park. We did not visit the entire park, although there were places to stop along the road as we headed south.

Natural cave on Highway 117
We redeemed points for a stay at the Holiday Inn Express Socorro, which we thought was the best lodging choice in town.
 We visited the Historic Plaza about a mile from the hotel, which consisted of only a few shops and restaurants. Even though there were only a couple shops, we found the best New Mexico souvenir prices in Socorro and made a couple purchases. We dined at Socorro Springs Brewing Company, located next to the Holiday Inn Express. The service was lousy; however, the food and beverages were very good. We had a local brew and wood fired pizza.

We enjoyed a nice drive on portions of the Geronimo Trail and Lake Valley Back Country scenic byway on our way to El Paso, TX, where we stayed at the Embassy Suites for one night. You can download New Mexico scenic byways maps at: Scenic byways - NM

In Las Cruces/Old Mesilla, we had originally planned to stay at the Hilton Garden Inn. At the last minute, I learned that the pool area was closed, so we switched to the Staybridge Suites Las Cruces. We were happy with this decision.

We dined at La Posta in Old Mesilla (SW outskirts of Las Cruces), because I had read that local residents chose it as the 2009 Reader’s Choice award for the second year in a row. The food, service, and d├ęcor were all good. There are plenty of shops and restaurants in Old Mesilla, and there were outside vendors and musicians in the park the day we were there. 

We visited the White Sands National Monument on the southern outskirts of Alamogordo. The cost was $3 per person and well worth it. You can camp and hike, although we only visited for a few hours. It was a beautiful sunny non-windy day when we stopped. If you are planning a trip to the area, be sure and check the White Sands site for road and missile testing closures and updates. Click on the “things to know” link. I-70 and the monument had been closed at the end of the week before our arrival for missile testing.

White Sands
We made a brief stop in Ruidoso, which is a resort town. We found some great local shopping here. There were many local vendors selling local handmade items. My husband purchased a nice turquoise pocketknife here.

Once you get off the interstate in New Mexico, you can drive for hundreds of miles without seeing a restaurant or a gas station—be prepared! We thought this was a great trip, and will definitely visit again. Our only disappointment was that we did not have more time to visit the Santa Fe area north of Albuquerque.