(Story by Sharon Niederman)
When the sun is shining on a New Mexico spring weekend, there’s only one thing to do: Fill up the tank and go. Those wheels are waiting, and your New Mexico bucket list is begging you to start checking it off.
For starters, just a short ride from either Santa Fe or Albuquerque is NM-4, the Jemez Mountain Trail National Scenic Byway. Hot springs, hiking, holy ruins—it’s all there. While we had our hearts set on the “Famous Jemez” burger at Los Ojos Restaurant & Saloon, we found ourselves beguiled for brunch at the Highway 4 Coffee, 17502 NM-4 in Jemez Springs, a charming local favorite reminiscent of the ’70s, serving house-baked cinnamon rolls, blue corn piñon pancakes with fresh blueberries, yummy breakfast burritos and proper Americanos. While I waited for my order, I eavesdropped on the monthly I Ching study group meeting in the back room.
On the way home, find lunch at the red rocks across from the Pueblo of Jemez Walatowa Visitor Center where Jemez Pueblo ladies slather red chile on Frito pies and, working over a wood fire, fix the best fry bread you’ve ever tasted.
Yearning to go further? Continue on U.S. 550 to Farmington for Riverfest, a celebration of the Animas River along the city’s marvelous river walkway, Memorial Day Weekend, May 24-26. The fest features music, a beer and wine garden, river rafting, fun run, duck races, plein air painting, yoga and Gourd Dances. Check it out at farmingtonnm.org/events/riverfest.
Mother’s Day is on the way, and there is no better way to express your appreciation and make some great memories than taking Mom to the elegant Rebecca’s at the Lodge in Cloudcroft’s Lodge Resort and Spa for Mother’s Day brunch ($42 adults; $16 age 5-12; age 4 and under free). Chef Tim McManus goes all out to offer a selection of carving stations, including prime rib, and signature desserts of chocolate covered strawberries and homemade bread pudding, among other delicious offerings. If you’re feeling energetic afterward, you can climb the tower where Clark Gable and Judy Garland signed their names. Reservations a must: 575.682.2566.
No excuse needed for a Silver City getaway, but if you need a little push to cross the Black Range, here comes the 24th annual Silver City Blues Festival, Memorial Day Weekend, with an artwalk, paint-out, fab eats and more to accompany the music. Both traditional and contemporary interpretations are on hand with Guitar Shorty, Felix y Los Gatos and Laurie Morvan Band. Silver City’s gotten this festival thing fine-tuned to an art. Call 575.538.2505. Visit silvercitybluesfestival.org for details.
Mesilla is the place to be for Cinco de Mayo. Starting May 4, the Plaza comes alive with ballet folklorico, mariachis, food vendors, local artist booths and piñatas a-plenty in the gazebo, as the village revels in its Mexican traditions. Information at mesillanm.gov.
Stick around Las Cruces to celebrate another rite of spring, the Blessing of the Fields, May 15, at the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum, as the head gates are opened and water flows into the acequia during this joyous multicultural celebration and procession to bless plants, animals, fields and waterways. Call 575.448.0721. Visit nmfarmandranchmuseum.org to learn more.
While the month of May is optimal for viewing the flowering of 600 iris in 90 varieties, in ruffles and exquisite colors from salmon to yellows, to blues and so much more, at artist Alice Seely’s Hondo Iris Farm and Gallery, they are at their peak for the Iris Festival, beginning May 1, so head over Mother’s Day, May 12, to treat Mom to a rainbow of sweet blooms. Find this little piece of heaven at Mile Marker 284 on Highway 70. Alice has also created a fanciful Fairy Garden with found object installations. Her petroglyph-influenced pewter jewelry is also on display. The iris garden is a splendid place to picnic. Visit hondoirisfarm.com.
Cinco de Mayo comes a day early to Colfax County with Los Diablos Show & Shine in Springer. On May 4, show off your ride with pride—car, motorcycle or truck—to an appreciative audience at the Santa Fe Trail Museum Park. No fees and no awards, but all entrants receive a dash plaque. While you’re at it, grab some of Crazy Jeff’s BBQ and check out the chile contest. For Los Diablos information, call 575.707.2964.
Another Mother’s Day thought: The historic and beautifully restored Hotel Eklund, 15 Main St. in Clayton, serves a lovely festive Mother’s Day brunch, featuring their succulent prime rib and several special dishes Mother is sure to love in their Victorian/Old West dining room, from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Price range is $7.50-$28. Make reservations at 575.374.2551.
And don’t forget: Fort Union Drive In, the state’s only remaining drive-in movie theater, in Las Vegas, showing first run movies, is open for the season. Call 505.425.9934 or head to Facebook to learn more about this classic 1958 theater.
More hot Vegas buzz: The much-anticipated grand re-opening of the renovated Castaneda Hotel is a reality–stay tuned for news on their development.