Help me relax in New Mexico
August 16, 2019 9:48 AM   Subscribe

I'm struggling with depression and anxiety. I have a wide-open, obligation-free 5-day trip to New Mexico planned for September. What can I do to relax and heal around Santa Fe?

I'm joining my partner at a conference in Santa Fe for 6 days. They will be busy with conference activities by day, and I'll be free to wander New Mexico (with a rental car available). I've had a really rough year, and while I am seeking medication and talk therapy close to home, I'm looking at this trip as a chance to relax and re-set.

I am not religious but I am open to the spiritual. I love animals and hiking and nature. I am queer and seeking queer-friendly spaces. Overnight stays are on the table, and I'm willing to spend some money. I know there is a big spa scene in that area, but I am not interested in high-end pampering, "white-towel" stuff. I know 6 days will not change my life, but what retreats/facilities/experiences/activities should I consider?
posted by codhavereturned to Travel & Transportation around Santa Fe, NM (20 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: There are some amazing sights to see up in that area. Santa Fe is just the tip of a whole mountain/forest/canyon expanse. This is the kind of day trip I'd often do back when I lived in that area:
• Drive north to Pojoaque then west on highway 502 toward Los Alamos. Take highway 4 south and stop by the White Rock Overlook, which gives you a pretty amazing vista.
• Either continue on highway 4 or double back to get to Los Alamos proper; if you're interested in the history of the lab and the area there's a nice little museum there and some pretty good lunch spots.
• Once you're done in Los Alamos, continue on highway 4 westward and be prepared to take a break by the rim of the Valles Caldera (there's a pullover scenic-view spot), which I always found sense-of-scale-breakingly amazing. Just a giant circle miles across, full of grass with occasional hills and buildings and herds of cattle and/or deer.
• Continue south on highway 4 through Jemez Springs. I've never done it myself, but there are mineral baths up there and spas to stay at, and the red rocks make it feel like you're on some kind of terraformed Mars.
• Keep going south until you get to highway 550, then follow that east to I-25. You could either drive back north to get to Santa Fe from there (making a big loop) or head southward to check out Albuquerque.

Have a great trip. There's a lot of beauty there.
posted by wanderingmind at 10:01 AM on August 16, 2019 [4 favorites]

I don't like spas much, but I love hot springs.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:03 AM on August 16, 2019 [3 favorites]

I'd go to Meow Wolf!

(I know, I know, Meow Wolf probably isn't technically relaxing per se, but I always find creative, immersive experiences good for my own soul. If you go to the web site and it's not your thing, ignore me.)
posted by eschatfische at 10:08 AM on August 16, 2019 [8 favorites]

Meow Wolf is an incredible immersive experience that I cannot recommend strongly enough!
posted by tangosnail at 10:10 AM on August 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

Second Meow Wolf, which is on top of my list of places I want to visit when next I visit NM. I'm jealous in advance.
posted by cross_impact at 10:10 AM on August 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

There are several hot springs in NM that might fit the bill. Even if you aren't interested in the spa aspect, Ojo Caliente has several different mineral springs you can soak in. Jemez Hot Springs has a little more of a hippy vibe and there are some nice day hikes in that area. Jemez Springs is also home to the Bodhi Manda Zen Center, which has open meditation on Saturdays (and also hot springs).

North of Jemez Springs is the Valles Caldera National Preserve, which is lovely for being outside and hiking.

Kasha Katuwe Tent Rocks is between Albuquerque and Santa Fe and has a cool slot canyon and the aforementioned rocks.

On preview, do go to Meow Wolf!
posted by Missense Mutation at 10:12 AM on August 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

Hot Tubs/ sauna at Ten Thousand Waves
Meow Wolf and The Haiku Pathway night also be of interest to you.
Memail me if you’d like food suggestions!
posted by Champagne Supernova at 10:16 AM on August 16, 2019 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Hiking and hot springs would be my answer too, I love Ojo Caliente and the food there is great. I'm not so into "pampering" spa experiences as I have found them out in the world, but Ojo's cabins have really comfortable beds, the massage I had there was fabulous, and I like lounging in hammocks and around pools.

Remember to treat yourself gently if high altitude is not your normal environment; drink extra water, be careful about drinking, and you might get headaches or the occasional nosebleed. Move slightly slower than you might, normally.

Maybe go to Abiquiu and see Georgia O'Keeffe's house.

Eat a lot of red chile, some posole, try to find good carne seca if you are a meat eater! I think NM food is one of the great local cuisines of this country.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 10:18 AM on August 16, 2019

I found El Santuario de Chimayo, about forty minutes from Santa Fe, to be extraordinarily healing, especially wandering the grounds, sitting in the chapel, and participating in the ritual of getting holy dirt from the side chapel with an orderly and somber line of other visitors and pilgrims. It looks like there are other interesting things you can do in the area, too.

Since so many are recommending it, I have to say I found Meow Wolf to be personally panic-inducing and therefore the opposite of restful or healing, which was the goal for my trip, too. YMMV! If you want to try it, you can go an hour before they close and tickets are half-price so you don't have to feel as bad about leaving. I had a much more fulfilling and transcendental time at both the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts and at SITE Santa Fe.
posted by stellaluna at 10:40 AM on August 16, 2019

Best answer: An hour drive to Las Vegas, NM from Santa Fe and there are the Montezuma Hot Springs and the Dwan Light Sanctuary.

In Chimayo, NM there is the Santuario de Chimayo. It is supposed to be a very healing place. It's a lovely little church and you can collect healing dirt and there's a little stream that flows behind the church where you can sit and relax.

Another spiritual/religious thing is the Ashram in Espanola. I don't know much about it.

There's a really nice, fairly easy hike along a stream in Rio en Medio, near Tesuque, NM that I find soothing.

There's horseback riding at Ghost Ranch where they take you back into the canyons. That always looks like it would be really nice, but I have never done it.

I nth the recommendation of going to Ojo Caliente.
posted by BooneTheCowboyToy at 10:51 AM on August 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

Nthing Ten Thousand Waves. An incredibly healing environment.
posted by shadygrove at 10:54 AM on August 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I love Meow Wolf but I would in no way consider their spectacles and experiences to be relaxing. As far as Santa Fe and queer-friendly spaces, it's difficult to explain to people used to bigger cities. Basically Santa Fe is full of queer people, more women and femmes than men generally, but there's very little of what you might call queer spaces. The city's non-tourist population is only about 70,000 and it's simply hard to support a traditional gay bar/restaurant at that size. Also, culturally, the city is very bohemian, live and let live environment where sexual preference is mostly a non-issue.

Also, not on the normal tourist circuit, but very relaxing and spiritually invigorating (if you're into local flora) is Plants of the Southwest, it's an unconventional plant nursery that sells native plants and shows how they can be used in the landscape. The nursery site also has a vegetarian restaurant The Kitchen, that serves food made with local plants and crops. It's only open for lunch, seasonally through October, cash only.

There's also an incredible hike, very near to Santa Fe that ends at a waterfall, Rio en Medio. It's about 7 miles, most of it alongside a mountain stream that ends in a surprisingly large waterfall for New Mexico. Your results may vary, given that by September, all the snowfall has melted and creeks are looking very low by then.

Also there's a tiny village nestled in a desert canyon just 30 miles south of Santa Fe called Madrid. It's an old coal mining town that got reclaimed by eccentrics and artists. It's all dirt roads, most people live off the grid and there's a very different mix of art places, coffee shops, junk stores, thrift shops. There's a bar called The Mineshaft which is basically city hall and a surprisingly inventive Southern meets Southwestern restaurant called The Hollar

Also, just as a reminder. Nothing moves on time or goes as scheduled in Northern New Mexico. So just relax and roll with it.
posted by caveatz at 11:27 AM on August 16, 2019 [4 favorites]

Bandelier National Monument has amazing cliff dwellings and hiking trails. Chimayo also has weaving shops making traditional textiles. The two would make a nice day trip from Santa Fe.
posted by Botanizer at 11:51 AM on August 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

Ten Thousand Waves is amazing and gorgeous. It's the most relaxing spa I've been to. I've toyed with the idea of a whole separate trip to NM just to stay there and do spa things the entire time.
posted by zeusianfog at 12:09 PM on August 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm not kidding when I say the drinking chocolate served at Kakawa Chocolate House is medicine. It should be prescription. Go there as often as possible, then buy some to take with you.
posted by WidgetAlley at 12:22 PM on August 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

About 30 min (IIRC) outside of the city is Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks national monument. It's an intermediate hike (some steep climbs, hot direct sun) and the view from the top is extremely calming, expansive, and breathtaking.
posted by seemoorglass at 1:24 PM on August 16, 2019

The Owings Gallery has work by Gustave Baumann, Gene Kloss, Thomas Hart Benton, Grant Wood, et. al. which I always find centering.

The Rio en Medio hike is 4 miles round trip, not 7. Very limited parking. Best to get there first thing in the morning.

Several recommendations for Ten Thousand Waves, Ojo Caliente here. Exactly the white-towel stuff you say you are not interested in.
posted by falsedmitri at 2:44 PM on August 16, 2019

Puye cliff dwellings is a nice, relaxing trip. The view up there is gorgeous.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:09 PM on August 16, 2019

A few years ago, at about this time of year, I stayed in the rustic Wilderness Ranch Casita for a few days. It's near Abiquiu, in the middle of the Santa Fe National Forest, on a working cattle ranch, and about 15 miles of rough road from civilization. It was a little chilly at night, but there was a sleeping porch facing the gorgeous mountains Georgia O'Keefe made famous. It was magical.

I'd also suggest spending a night or two in an Earthship in Taos County. Air BnB has several available.
posted by answergrape at 8:49 AM on August 19, 2019

Lightning Field, by Walter De Maria
posted by *s at 7:40 AM on August 22, 2019

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