If you like to seek out the far-flung and unusual places a region has to offer, you will want to check out these little gems nestled in Northern and Central New Mexico. Check websites or call for hours (which may be limited), admission fees, special events and additional information.
Kiowa Ranch (D.H. Lawrence Ranch)
575-776-2245 or 505-277-1109
Off NM 522, 8 miles north of the outskirts of Taos near San Cristobal
“I think New Mexico was the greatest experience I ever had from the outside world. It certainly changed me forever.” — D.H. Lawrence
Experience Lawrence’s piece of New Mexico by exploring the 1880s homesteader cabin that he and his wife, Frieda, renovated and resided in, along with a one-room cabin inhabited by artist Dorothy Brett and the Lawrence Memorial. Lawrence’s ashes are mixed in the memorial’s concrete altar.
Outside the homesteader cabin’s front door is the towering pine that Lawrence used to write under — made famous by Georgia O’Keeffe’s painting The Lawrence Tree. The property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
La Hacienda de los Martinez
708 Hacienda Road
This museum flings you back in time to Spanish colonial New Mexico. The 1804 fortress-style “great house” was both a working ranch and an important trade center at the Camino Real’s final terminus.
Sheltered within two defensive placitas (courtyards) are sitting rooms and bedrooms, a kitchen with a cozy “shepherd’s bed” and displays of tack, farm implements and historic merchandise. Exhibits include Spanish colonial bultos (three-dimensional carvings) and traditional looms and weavings. Enjoy regular demonstrations of traditional arts and crafts. This site too is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Purple Adobe Lavender Farm
Located just off NM 84 between mile markers 210 and 211 on Road 1622
The lavender farm urges visitors to “spend a day in complete peace and tranquility,” strolling under giant cottonwood trees and through lavender fields. This organic farm’s extensive line of lavender products is available in the Lavender Store. The nursery offers lavender plants for sale, advice on growing lavender and educational programs.
The Tea House provides light fare and specialties such as lavender scones and desserts accented with lavender. The farm also offers guided tours. July and August are the best times to visit, when the lavender fields are at their peak.
Ghost Ranch Education & Retreat Center
Located 40 miles west of Española off US 84 between mile markers 224 and 225
Ghost Ranch Education & Retreat Center is one of the best places to experience the landscape that inspired Georgia O’Keeffe. The Georgia O’Keeffe Landscape Tour and the Walk in Georgia O’Keeffe’s Footsteps Tour take guests to a restricted area for an intimate experience with some of the artist’s favorite landscapes. Hikes to the ranch’s mesas and box canyon provide ever-shifting views of this spectacular country.
Learn about Ghost Ranch’s world-famous paleontological digs at the Ruth Hall Museum of Paleontology, built around an 8-ton chunk of rock filled with Triassic-era dinosaur fossils excavated from the ranch’s renowned Coelophysis quarry. Displays include fossilized dinosaur remains, life-size replicas and exhibits on major Ghost Ranch finds.
The Florence Hawley Ellis Museum of Anthropology highlights Ellis’ groundbreaking work on the local pre-Puebloan and little-known Gallina culture; explore on your own or via Ghost Ranch’s archaeology seminars. The museum holds the largest collection of Gallina artifacts in the world. Displays range from 10,000-year-old Paleo-Indian artifacts to Ancestral Puebloan materials to historic and contemporary artwork from the area’s American Indian and Spanish colonial cultures.
The center also offers weeklong seminars, workshops on dozens of topics, bed-and-breakfast accommodations, a labyrinth, arts and crafts classes, a cafeteria, horseback riding and a campground.
US 84, 4 miles northwest of Ghost Ranch
The acoustics at Echo Amphitheater are a musician’s dream. Lucky visitors may hear a Native American flute player or an opera singer immersing themselves in the canyon’s natural reverberations.
With or without an impromptu concert, visitors can enjoy an easy walk to the amphitheater along red rock cliffs and delight in playing with the site’s namesake echoes. Covered picnic tables are available.
Near Santa Fe
Allan Houser Sculpture Garden
505-471-1528 or https://allanhouser.com/contact/sculpture-garden.
While not really at the fringes of the three north-central counties of New Mexico, this site is out in the boonies south of Santa Fe overlooking the vast Galisteo Basin. Here you’ll find some 80 monumental bronze sculptures by the late, great Chiricahua Apache artist. Both representational and his later abstract works are found scattered about a beautiful tract of juniper trees and chamisa. There’s also an indoor gallery with smaller sculptures and works on paper. Entry is by appointment only.
91 Main St.
Sheep-raising and producing Río Grande-style textiles were economic mainstays of early settlers in this area, and their descendants are achieving self-sufficiency through the revival of those traditions. Tierra Wools is a worker-owned company dedicated to that mission.
Visit the weaving workshop and gallery to watch local weavers work on Río Grande “walking looms,” learn about natural and commercial hand-dye processes and see locally grown fibers spun into yarn. Shop for one-of-a-kind handwoven masterpieces, local art ranging from fiber and wood to pottery and beading, and craft kits, equipment and more. Or plunge in and take a two-day to weeklong class in spinning, hand-dying or weaving.
Dulce’s main attraction is fishing in one of the Jicarilla Apache Nation’s well-stocked mountain lakes. Purchase permits at Jicarilla Game & Fish ( jicarillahunt.com, 575-759-3255, 38 Airport Road) or the Wild Horse Casino & Hotel. Those with fishing permits can camp free of charge.
The Jicarilla Cultural Arts & Heritage Center (575-759-4382, 6 Foothill Drive) carries beadwork, baskets, paintings, ribbon shirts and pottery made by Jicarilla artists.
The Wild Horse Casino & Hotel ( wildhorsecasinoandhotel.com, 575-759-3663, 13603 US 64) offers 190 slot and video poker machines, live blackjack and poker, the Trophy Bar, Hillcrest Restaurant (575-759-0071) and a 41-room hotel (575-759-3777 or 575-759-3663).
Pueblo of San Ildefonso
Maria Poveka Martinez Museum
Six miles west of US 84/285 on NM 502. Stop first at the visitor center to pay admission fees and purchase photo permits.
World-renowned potter Maria Poveka Martinez of San Ildefonso put Pueblo fine pottery on the map. The museum that bears her name showcases works she created with her husband, Julian, plus works of her daughter-in-law Santana Martinez, son Adam Martinez and other descendants.
The museum also features works of other distinguished San Ildefonso potters, including Blue Corn Calabaza, Carmelita Dunlap and her son Carlos Sunrise, Russell Sanchez and many more. The pueblo’s cultural legacy is also told through photos, paintings, embroidery, leatherwork and jewelry.
13 Plaza De Cerro
Chimayó’s history and culture are preserved within the walls of this small, classic New Mexican adobe home. Highlights include vintage photographs depicting life in Chimayó in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The town’s fame as a weaving center is illustrated through historic looms, weavings, spinning wheels and weaving tools. Other period artifacts include an antique piano, agricultural tools and household objects, many of them handmade. New exhibits are mounted periodically.
The museum also hosts historians, genealogists, storytellers, poets, musicians, dancers and community advocates.
Santuario de Chimay ó
Santuario de Chimayó — renowned for the alleged healing powers of its “holy dirt” and as a Good Friday pilgrimage site — is one of New Mexico’s must-see destinations. It is worth taking time to explore the surrounding plaza.
Santo Niño de Atocha (Holy Child of Atocha) Chapel
A major renovation in 2010 transformed this landmark into a lovely children’s chapel, adorned with vibrant art by the late Fernando Bimonte, hand-carved Spanish colonial furnishings and juniper trees filled with 300 birds painted by Española schoolchildren.
People leave offerings of baby shoes around Felix Lopez’s bulto of Santo Niño. Legend holds that Santa Niño statues come to life at night, wearing out their shoes by roaming the countryside to help those in need. Donated baby shoes help the saint continue his good work.
El Potrero Plaza holds the Holy Family Chapel, a Native American chapel and an outdoor chapel surrounded by a garden/picnic area, all enhanced with handmade art. The Don Bernardo Abeyta Welcome Center has displays on the santuario’s history and permanent and seasonal exhibits of religious art made by New Mexico santeros and other world-renowned artists.
Casa Grande Trading Post, Petting Zoo and Cerrillos Turquoise Mining Museum
17 Waldo St., Cerrillos
The trading post and museum features “low-budget antiques” — discarded artifacts collected by owners Todd and Patricia Brown to preserve Cerrillos’ past. A picture of the Wild West emerges through historic photographs and artifacts such as whiskey stills, a dynamite blaster, an 1898 washing machine and a safe with its door blown off.
Displays include turquoise from throughout New Mexico, fossils and a variety of minerals, many found by the Browns themselves. A collection of animal skulls — including a bear’s — fascinates children, while glass collectors are drawn to displays of 2,000 glass insulators and antique glass. Enjoy the “live entertainment” provided by several goats, a llama and fancy chickens at the Petting Zoo.
121 Sandia Crest Road, Sandia Park
This quirky, entertaining museum, with walls constructed of 50,000 glass bottles, features hundreds of animated miniatures hand-carved by the late Ross Ward. Exhibits include the Western Town, a raucous depiction of 1880s life, and circus performers fending off lions and defying gravity. Otto the One-Man Band and Esmerelda the Fortune Teller are favorites with visitors.
Other displays include Americana collected by Ward and his wife, Carla, including wedding cake couples, antique tools, western memorabilia and a 35-foot antique wooden sailboat that braved a 10-year voyage around the world.
Wildlife West Nature Park
87 North Frontage Road
Experience New Mexico’s wildlife up close at this nature park. All the birds and other animals here have been rescued from some trauma, typically due to human interaction. The 122-acre park harbors 20 species of nonreleasable animals, including a black bear, deer, elks, bobcats and several raptors, all housed in custom-built habitats. Children can burn off a little energy exploring the Kid’s Imagination Trail.
Wildlife West is also home to the Pinto Bean Museum, dedicated to the history of one of New Mexico’s state vegetables. The collection includes antique bean processing equipment, period artifacts and historic photos. The museum is open by appointment only.
Arin McKenna’s career as an award-winning journalist began as host of Art Tour Santa Fe on KTRC Radio in 2002. She has freelanced for The Santa Fe New Mexican, New Mexico Magazine and other publications, served as county reporter at the Los Alamos Monitor for six years and is currently news editor for the Valley Daily Post.