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BY JEANNIE RIVERA
4 Tips To Experience New Mexico Like A Local
New Mexico is known as the “Land of Enchantment” — for many good reasons. Majestic desert vistas, imposing snowcapped mountains, bubbly hot springs, and a diverse cultural tapestry that’s reflected in its culinary scene, architecture, and arts world, justify the state motto time and again.
There are many ways to enjoy all of New Mexico’s offerings, from exhilarating activities to wellness experiences and more with Club Wyndham Taos, WorldMark Santa Fe, or WorldMark Red River as your home base. While you’re at it, here are a few informational tidbits that will help you pass for a local (or, at the very least, not stick out like a sore thumb) and make it easier to connect to the cool New Mexican vibe.
1. Do Route 66 Right
America’s “Mother Road” covers 465 miles of central New Mexico. In its heyday, it bustled with life and was home to some of the most iconic experiences of the American West: herds of antelope on the high prairie, dramatic mountain vistas, and the tribal cultures of New Mexico's native Puebloan people. Even though Route 66 was officially decommissioned in 1985, it still attracts thousands from all over the world every year. Don’t miss it. But do it the right way — by driving it. Nothing screams “tourist” louder than a crowded, generic bus tour. This mythic highway epitomizes the American road trip of years past, with vintage motels, odd roadside attractions, road (junk) food and so much more. Enjoy it at your own pace without the constraints of a tour schedule, unless you absolutely have no other choice.
2. Drink The Local Vino
Act like you always knew New Mexico has great local wines. You may have never heard about New Mexican wines, and that’s fine. Yet the local wine industry is older than California’s. It started 400 years ago when the very first grapes, brought from Spain by monks, were planted along the banks of the Rio Grande. What began as wine making for religious rituals, eventually grew into a thriving industry. By the late 1800’s, New Mexico was producing over a million gallons of wine annually. Indian raids in the 19th century and flooding in the early 20th century nearly destroyed the industry, but today many boutiques wineries produce wonderful wines, including Spanish style tempranillos. Many of the wineries offer wine tasting tours and many local establishments proudly serve their wines.
3. Hike The Crystal Dunes
White Sands National Park doesn’t really have “sand.” The "sand" in these 275-square miles of shifting dunes is actually the largest deposit of gypsum crystals in the world. Gypsum is actually a mineral — unlike the sand typically found in beaches, which is mostly quartz or coral. Native Americans used gypsum as long ago as 3,000 years for their white pigments for pottery decoration, teepees, and body paint. But there’s more to this almost surreal national park. About 95 African oryx were imported from the Kalahari Desert and set free here in the early 1970s. Today, thousands of oryx weighing up to 750 pounds roam the area, adding drama to an already impactful landscape.
4. Order Chiles With Everything
“Red, green, or Christmas?” That’s a question you are likely to get in any restaurant serving Southwestern fare here (and there are many of them). It simply means, “Do you want red chile sauce, green chile sauce, or a delicious puddle of both on your meal?” Now that you know the local lingo, you won’t be staring blankly at your server like a typical tourist. You’re welcome! Bonus tidbit: It’s “chile,” not “chili.” The latter is the beans and beef hearty dish hailing from Texas — which is also delicious, but not quite the same.