Good Times in the Southwest
April 25, 2007 1:24 PM   Subscribe

What should we see during our week in the Southwest?

My boyfriend and I have planned a week long trip to New Mexico and Arizona.

We will be there the third week in May and the itinerary is:

-Saturday afternoon: fly into Albuquerque, pick up rental car, drive to Santa Fe, we'll be staying with family

-Wednesday morning: drive to the Grand Canyon, we'll be staying at a hotel at the South Rim

-Friday morning: drive to the Phoenix area, staying overnight with more family

-Saturday night: fly home from Phoenix

We would love some recommendations for awesome places to visit, good places to eat, other cool stops to check out along the way. We are anticipating doing at least one day trip when we are in Santa Fe and spending Thursday hiking around the rim.

We like off-beat, crazy roadside attraction type of fun, if that helps. (Having said that, we are staying at the touristy South Rim, because previous Grand Canyon posts said that was the best way for a first timer--in this case me--to get the full blown Grand Canyon experience.)

Bonus points: I really want to see a ghost town, but the internet is giving me mixed reviews about which ones are worth it. Something within a 3 hour radius of Santa Fe, or on on the way to the Grand Canyon would be ideal.

posted by slowfasthazel to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
In the Phoenix area - there is Rawhide. Kinda fun. I think you can even do some mechanical bullriding. Or you can head east from Phoenix and visit Goldfield Ghost Town, perhaps take a mine tour or do some horseback riding into the Superstition Mountains. If you like hiking, I love the Heiroglyphic Trail in the Superstitions - a relatively easy hike and at the end some authentic petroglyphs on rock walls and beautiful waterfalls and pools of water.
posted by Sassyfras at 1:39 PM on April 25, 2007

On the way to Phoenix, I'd recommend driving through Jerome, Az, a crazy little town built on the side of a very, very steep mountain.

Sedona has some stunning red rocks, but the town itself is the worst kind of tourist trap.

Sunset Crater, just outside of Flagstaff, is quite impressive. There's also a drive through the national park from the crater to some pretty amazing native american ruins. Downtown Flagstaff is pretty nice in an historic college town sort of way.

(FWIW, I only recommend the Meteor Crater if you're astronomy buff who has always been eager to see it -- otherwise, I suspect you'll find it disappointing and not worth the drive).
posted by treepour at 1:56 PM on April 25, 2007

Unfortunately, the best-preserved actual ghost towns in NM are concentrated far south of Santa Fe. Of the towns listed on this interactive map, La Bajada is the only one that really still has extensive remains. Most of these are still quite lively. Madrid, Cerillos and Golden, for instance, still have lots of residents and a few businesses, and Madrid is kind of an art/tourist destination. It's worth a visit, but it's not a real ghost town.

Santa Fe and Albuquerque are both cool towns to walk around in, and there are great hikes near both, if that's your thing. The beautiful drive up to the Santa Fe Ski Area passes lots of nice trailheads, including one of my favorites, the Windsor Trail, which will take you to several lakes and high peaks. In Albuquerque, a ride with the family up the Sandia Peak tram is a dependable hit, and there's a halfway decent brewpub at the top.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 1:58 PM on April 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oh yeah, don't fall for Meteor Crater or any of the other tourist traps along I-40 between Gallup and Flagstaff!
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 1:59 PM on April 25, 2007

For good eats, check out Roadfood. I've linked to the website, but there is also a book (by Jane and Michael Stern) which you should buy. I used the book on a cross country roadtrip a few years ago and it was a valuable resource and well worth the investment.
posted by taliaferro at 2:02 PM on April 25, 2007

For restaurants in Phoenix I suggest

The Farm at South Mountain. More about the atmosphere than the food [or service]

Fate in downtown is my favorite restaurant. Asian. 905 N Fourth Street

Lola Tapas at 800 E Camelback Rd is great as well.

Different Pointe of View has great food and a great view.

Matt's Big Breakfast is supposed to be super-cool.

And I love Waffle House.

For things to do--

Albuquerque decided to call their minor league team the Isotopes after the Simpsons. It might be fun to catch a game. YMMV and I'm not sure when minor-league baseball starts anyway.

You can visit the hydrogen bomb crater or the National Atomic museum.

Hollbrook, AZ is supposed to still have a Wigwam Village style motel.

You can also stand on a corner in Winslow, AZ

It isn't at the south rim, but ever since I saw it on the travel channel, I've dreamed of visiting the Havasu Falls on the reservation adjacent to the park.

One of my favorite things ever was a raft ride/float on the Salt River in Phoenix. I saw bald eagles and wild horses and it was all just really peaceful and beautiful. A nice change from hiking. This is one company that does it, there must be others too.
posted by Mozzie at 2:09 PM on April 25, 2007

If you go to one Anasazi cultural site, make it Chaco Culture, as opposed to Canyon de Chelly or something lesser. As you drive down I-40 from Albuquerque to Flag, you'll actually be going almost right by it. Er... sort of; it appears that there might be an easier way from ABQ. Anyway, it's awesome; do some research before you go so you can check out all the solar/lunar aligned buildings while you're there.
posted by rkent at 3:07 PM on April 25, 2007

In Albuquerque, make sure to eat at the Frontier and, if you get a chance, the green chile cheeseburgers at the Route 66 Diner are divine. They're both maybe fifteen minutes from the airport.
posted by sugarfish at 3:10 PM on April 25, 2007

I just toured through Arizona and New Mexico last month. My favorite stops:

Bandelier National Monument just outside of Santa Fe is a beautiful drive, and there's a trail where you tour the ruins of Indian cliff dwellings. You get to climb inside and everything. That counts as a ghost town right?

Stop and eat at La Posada Hotel in Winslow, AZ. Great food in a fascinating place.

As we've made a habit of doing whenever we travel to a new city, we went to a few local breweries in Sante Fe and Flagstaff. I think I remember particularly liking Blue Corn Cafe and Mogollon, if you're into beer.

It wasn't open when we were around, but Skywalk looks pretty interesting.
posted by team lowkey at 3:53 PM on April 25, 2007

Acoma Pueblo is the longest inhabited place in North America and very damn cool. Madrid, New Mexico is a fun funky arts community/tourist trap.
posted by LarryC at 5:23 PM on April 25, 2007

When in Albuquerque you can check out Old Town for the historic old west stuffs. Nob Hill is cool to visit too. Rt 66 rolls through it. This area is more funky with cafes & galleries & such. Lots of cool Art Deco architecture. You can take the Tramway up to Sandia Peak or drive up there (if you do, check out Tinkertown). Good eats all over. Definitely sample the New Mexican cuisine. The chile is like nothing else.

Instead of taking the highway drive the Turquoise Trail. It's slower, but if you make a day of it instead of driving straight to Santa Fe, it is worth it.

Santa Fe is full of shops, galleries & museums. I wouldn't miss the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum. There are plenty of day trips in the area. You can go up to Taos (via the Turquoise Trail), visit one of the nearby pueblos, go to Los Alamos or Bandelier National Monument. There is lots of great food... one of my favs is the Cowgirl BBQ & Grill. They had this chocolate crepe-cherry-ice cream-fudge thing that you can die & go to heaven over.

On your way to the Grand Canyon, if ya have the time & like nature, visit the Bisti Badlands. Few tourists & so different. Also, make an overnight at Canyon de Chelly or Monument Valley.

There is so much to see, I just scraped the surface.
posted by Empyrean_72 at 5:48 PM on April 25, 2007

Santa Fe area, my #1 recommendation is Chimayo -- miraculous healing dirt -- less than 1 hour from Santa Fe. (I should qualify this, when I went it was closed so I've never been inside, but just for the reputation alone, I'd check it out.) Also Taos -- even the drive there is really beautiful. In Santa Fe itself, the Georgia O'Keefe museum was fun and took only like 45 minutes.

In Arizona, I completely agree with treepour about Sedona. Going to the immediate area is worthwhile for some great, easy day hikes. But the town itself is completely skippable unless you want to grab food or something. It is surrounded by five energy vortexes, so if you go, maybe you could hike around one (or not).
posted by salvia at 6:37 PM on April 25, 2007

Some Santa Fe suggestions-

I second the recommendation to take the Turquoise Trail on your trip from Albuquerque to Santa Fe. You will pass up behind the Sandias and through Madrid. Take I-40 east (Towards Santa Rosa) and get off at 14 and go North to Cedar Crest.

If you like to see wilderness, you can drive up to the Ski Area where the previously mentioned Windsor Trail is. If you want a longer scenic drive, you can go to the Pecos Area Wilderness. Take I-25 North to the Glorietta exit and cross over the freeway and head to Pecos. Take 63 to Cowles and drive along the Pecos River and past the Benedictine Monastery.

Finally, you can drive to Lamy (I-25 North to 285 , then South about 7 miles and take a left at Lamy sign). The Lamy Station Cafe is a restored 1940s dining car (run by my good friend Mike). If you come around noon you can watch the Santa Fe Southern Train come in.
posted by jabo at 8:56 PM on April 25, 2007

Don't know NM, but plenty of suggestions for Phoenix:

food: barrio cafe, city bakery, delux, LoLo's, breakfast club, lisa b's, pizzeria bianco, the farm, house of tricks, four peaks, matt's big breakfast, az88

to do: tube the salt river, botanical gardens, papago park, canyon lake & the superstitions (weaver's needle too), camelback mountain, SMoCA, heard museum, AZ science center (bodyworlds is there now), phx art musem (recently renovated by williams & tsien, it's pretty)

elsewhere in AZ: Sedona (esp oak creek canyon) is beautiful. Arcosanti at cordes junction off the I-17 is crazy but fun. Flagstaff is a lot of fun too, and sunset crater is pretty cool. I seem to remember an ice cave around there somewhere too. and DEFINITELY visit jerome if you can, it's worth it.

Personally I think rawhide is silly, but maybe I'm a stick in the mud.

If you like architecture, visit the phoenix central library. I hate to feed will bruder's huge ego, but it's the best building in the city.
posted by Chris4d at 10:59 PM on April 25, 2007

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