There are few places on this earth that leave me speechless. Lake Louise is one of them. The water is my favorite color- teal blue. On the day we arrived, the sky was overcast and then turned to a brilliant blue – with hardly any clouds. There is a walk from the parking lot and Fairmont Hotel around the lake to a “beach” and then a bit further to an area called the “Tea House”. Most of the terrain is smooth and paved, however, the further you walk the more likely you will encounter some bumps along the road- literally.
A Canada Park Pass is required to visit, as is either a bus fare or a parking fee for your car. There are ample bathrooms at the lake and a few miles from this area awaits cafes and shops for tourists to visit.
The only sour note I have to share is being declined from dining at the Fairmont’s breakfast establishment (the sitdown restaurant vs. the quick grab-and-go cafe.)
The restaurant at the Fairmont at Lake Louise is apparently for guests only unless you hit it at a lull. We tried to have breakfast at the restaurant and were told to come back several hours later. I still am confused why we were turned away from having a quick breakfast at 7:15 a.m. from an empty restaurant. It had always been a dream of mine to eat at sunrise on the shores of Lake Louise. Well, I guess not every dream comes true!
So the lesson is to pack a meal and drinks and enjoy a picnic at one of the most loveliest places to dine – on the banks of Lake Louise!
For those of you who are yearning for a bit more outdoorsy activities – there is a gondola and other activities and attractions near Lake Louise. Also, there are other area lakes that are stunning in beauty and worth a visit. Sadly, these many were “off-season” and closed when we visited.
This past week hubby and I arrived in Banff, Canada to take in the area sights. I had always wanted to visit the Canadian Rockies, including Banff and my namesake body of water- LAKE LOUISE! This blog will focus on the attractions and parks within Banff – including the Sulphur Summit, the Cave and Basin, the downtown region, and the Bow River waterfalls and trails.
Before you venture out – check out the Park Pass requirements for Banff and all parks within Canada.
Downtown Banff has a feel to it similar to Lake Placid, New York or Park City, Utah. It is a small town that caters to the needs of tourists. From their very efficient transportation system (ROAM) to the helpful visitor center. Museums, parks, stores, and lots of restaurants help to create Banff’s amazing vibe. Plus, it is bordered by magnificent mountain ranges. However, the true “secret” to Banff is its wonderfully kind and generous residents.
Below I listed my favorite places that we visited in Banff. While they are in no particular order – I will say that the gondola ride was indeed a huge highlight of our trip!
Bow River Falls
The Bow River Falls can be easily accessed from the downtown main street – Banff Avenue. There are also entrances near some of the hotels on the perimeter of the park. It is a lovely place for a walk and to get acclimated to the elevation of Banff before venturing to even higher elevations – such as at the Sulphur Summit. This attraction is FREE! A little preview video I created is below.
Banff Sulphur Mountain Gondola and
The Banff Sulphur Mountain is home to a spectacular gondola, viewing platform, small educational center, theater, and restaurants. Nextdoor you will find the Sulphur Mountain Hot Springs. Both are worth taking the ROAM #1 bus to visit and spend quality time relaxing, learning about the Banff National Park, and enjoying the vistas!
The Hot Springs was a ton of fun and thankfully not much of that “rotten eggy smell” – common among natural springs. Phew! Instead we found a very pleasant place to relax and meet people from all over the globe! The hot springs has bathing suits and towels for rent along with lockers and showers.
A few things to know about this area: 1) When you go to the Hot Springs bring sandals as it is a communal locker room and is a bit slippery 2) The ticket to the Hot Springs has an add-on option that is worth the few extra dollars – entry to the Cave and Basin (across town). 3) When riding the gondola know that it is steep and if you are afraid of heights you may wish to reconsider. However, I felt totally safe and never scared. It was an exhilarating ride up and down the mountain. If you wish to take the Sulphur Mountain trails know that bear spray is required and for obvious reasons- bears are the owners of the mountain and people are simply guests!
Once atop the summit, you will find paths to go even higher! But, these paths require walking up and down wooden steps and on ground that can be uneven. Thus, not conducive for a person with special mobility needs – such as a wheelchair.
Note: We did not eat at any of the restaurants at the summit. But, people do say that the Sky Bistro is extra special and the buffet at the Northern Lights offers a wide selection of food.
Banff Cave and Basin
The Cave and Basintruly was the biggest surprise of our trip. I was expecting a rather drippy, dark, and damp cave. It was not at all! And we went on a rainy day! Instead, we found a super accessible and inclusive attraction that was very interesting and great for all ages! I want to give a shoutout to the gift shop buyer- the items at their store were very unique and reasonably priced!
To get to the cave take the ROAM #4 bus from the Banff downtown main hub.
Recommendations & Tips
Banff restaurants represent cuisine from around the world. While we sampled many of the local establishments – one made our “we would come back” list!
This eatery is fabulous! And, I must not be the only person who thinks so – because there was a long wait if you didn’t have a reservation. Hubby and I circumvented the line by eating at the bar. Here we met bartender, Derek G. He is a prime example of the nice, kind, and helpful Banff residents! I saw many traditional Greek dishes being served and each looked AMAZING. We opted for the Greek Bowl. It was exceptional and if I had more time in Banff, I would have returned – again and again!
This place was filled with great finds. I scored three wool scarves (new!) for only $5 each. Books, home goods, and much more filled this store located at the end of Banff Avenue (and close to the trail for the Bow Water Falls).
I feel compelled to give a few random travel tips.
The busy season starts in late May/ early June. Plan accordingly as there are only so many buses and hotels in this area.
Check out Lake Louise and other main attractions EARLY in the day – before the hordes of people arrive. We arrived by 7 am and it was very busy by 11 am.
Bring Canadian money if traveling from outside of Canada. There were some places that did not take credit cards or non-Canadian money.
Dress in layers. The weather seemed to change every hour! The morning in late May was quite chilly only to be 40 degrees warmer by lunchtime! Rain was on and off throughout our week in the Alberta province.
If you are flying WESTJET know that the international terminal for this airline is not the same as the national gates. We spent an hour online to check in bags only to find out we were at the wrong part of the airport. A 15-minute walk got us to the right place – but all could have been avoided if there was better signage from the rental car return building.
Visit other places en route to Banff- such as Canmore ( a charming town about 20 minutes away) and of course, Calgary. In this city, you will find the home of the 1988 Olympics. Also, the Calgary Stampede happens every summer in this little city- so plan your trip with care if you don’t want to be in the thick of huge crowds!
I Love Utah! In all honesty I love most of the Southwest of the United States. From the vastness of the Grand Canyon to the small state parks sprinkled throughout the area. But, in all honestly, it is Southern Utah that is one of my “happy places” on this planet. First – it is GORGEOUS. Just when you think you have seen the most amazing formations of rocks you drive around a bend and there is one even more stunning!
If you have only a few days to spend in Southern Utah then I recommend the following as a route that is family-friendly and full of adventure. Please keep in mind to do your due diligence before venturing out as parts of Utah are at a pretty high altitude and some of the trails that I may mention are not for the novice hiker.
Start your adventure in St. George and Ivins
St. George ,Utah is a very charming city just a few miles north of the Arizona border and about 75 minutes from the Las Vegas airport. It has something for everyone! From adorable vintage, antique, and thrift shops to outdoor sports to please nearly everyone. One of my favorite places to stay is actually a wee bit north of St. George at the Red Mountain Resort. This place is not your typical hotel (and adults only)- but rather a resort that insists you relax and unwind. There are just so many spa treatments to indulge yourself in, healthy eating, and a pool and several spas to help you rejuvenate. While it is not cheap- it is worth every penny.
When you are in the area of Ivins- drive over to the Snow Canyon State Park. It will take you less than 10 minutes to get there. The price of entry to the park is $15 per carload. We stopped at nearly every area that had trails of mild to moderate degrees. My favorite is Jenny’s Canyon. Oh gosh, this place was amazing. Hubby really loved the Sand Dunes. And the area known as Lava Flow was very popular – especially with kids hopping the lava rocks. Johnson Canyon also was popular. The walk was not extreme, but pleasant. Sadly, very little of this park is wheelchair accessible. There are some paved areas near Johnson Canyon – but not much more than that. Two areas for restrooms are available and park rangers are in the visitor’s center to assist you.
Fall in Love with Zion National Park (ZNP)
Arizona may have Sedona and the Grand Canyon – but Utah wins the beauty contest in my book with Bryce and Zion. There are trails to hike at both places, but in the snow it is a bit dangerous and necessary equipment is needed for safety. Frankly, I was lucky to have my winter coat during this last trip.
There is something about Zion that makes it indescribable. I have been three times and each time I fall more in love with this park. Maybe because it appears differently each time I visit. This past trip the park was slightly dusted with snow. It was magnificent. I have written about Zion before and you can read more here.
To enter Zion NP you either need to take a shuttle bus from the various spots along the main route leading to the park in the town of Springdale or pay $30 and up to drive through. There is a third option for those who wish to drive through the park and that is to have the America the Beatiful National Park Pass. This pass allows you entry into the 2,000 federally owned recreation sites, such as national parks in Utah! The park opens early – 8 am. Be there when it opens to maximize the grand effect it will have on you with the quiet and stillness of the early morning. The River Walk is for novice hikers and accessible for wheelchairs. There are many more adventurous areas to explore such as Angel’s Landing. (not for the faint of heart or this writer.) A list of the trails, their ratings, and when they are open (some are closed due to weather, etc.) may be on this up-to-date website.
Below is a picture that hubby snapped while we were driving through the twists and turns of Zion.
We stopped to snap this lovely mountainside. Sadly, my shot doesn’t quite capture the grandness of this area.
Make sure to stop at the Visitor’s Center in Zion NP and also if you drive all the way out the east exit – keep going. There are so many wonderful little shops and places to visit within a few miles of the park. PLUS… it is the back route to Bryce Canyon National Park – a “short” 90 or so miles from Zion NP!
BRYCE CANYON – So much to say – so little time!
When you enter Bryce you may think it will be a nice little drive through a wooded area. But, then you are nearly gob-smacked with the awesomeness that surprises you around each and every corner. This is the majesticness of Bryce Canyon National Park!
I prefer visiting this park using a system that my family calls the Disneyland method! Start at the end and work your way to the front of the park. The drive from the entrance gate to the end is about 20 miles. Be sure to stop at the visitors center on your right-hand side right after passing through the gate. The price is pretty much as Zion – so getting that America Beautiful Pass is really worth it! At the center there is a preview movie about the area and a nice walk-through set of exhibits. The gift shop is really filled with practical items – like sunscreen and water bottles.
My favorite area is called the Rainbow Bridge. It is a marvel to look at. Hubby really enjoyed exploring the region call The Apitheater – and it truly does look like one!
While it is possible to cover both Zion and Bryce in a day- I don’t recommend it. You made it this far to visit two of the most beautiful parks in the world – why rush it? Stay a few days and enjoy!
And, meander around the local area as well. There is the town of La Verkin that has the River Rock Roasting Company – a must for those who love to eat! This place has awesome pizzas, quiches, and of course – COFFEE! Springdale also has numerous shops and restaurants for most palates. Hurricane, “known as the gateway to the parks” – is great to stock up on supplies and explore some antique shops.
Need more convincing as to why you should travel to Southern Utah? Well, I just happen to have a few more photos to show you! Enjoy and Happy Travels!
The Big Island of Hawaii is known for volcanos, lush land of the east bordering the desert of the western side. Small towns and villages with coffee that is AMAZING! But, to really enjoy this island one must either experience it in person or take a view through the lens of another.
Below you will find a few different groupings of photos and a video. The first is a slideshow of the Kona area, including the coffee farms and “shacks” that make it extra special.
Next you will see a carousel from the Volcano National Park- yes there are ACTIVE volcanos on the Big Island.
Historical sites are throughout the island, but many are in the upper west and north quadrant. Don’t miss them. Enjoy this carousel feature, too.
Charming is how I would describe Hilo! Small town vibe with excellent beaches, shops, and restaurants. Don’t miss this part of the island or the photos in the last carousel.
The Rainbow Falls are highlighted in a serene video below. All photos and video are property of moi- Louise Sattler and not for duplication or “snatching”. Thanks!
KONA, The Big Island’s home to tourists and coffee!
THE BIG ISLAND – VOLCANO TIME!
Historic Sites (north and west shore)
Small town of Kohala
King Kamemahame in Kohala
The local dish of Loco Loco
Pu‘ukoholā Heiau National Historic Site, Hawaiʻi, Kamuela, United States
Pu‘ukoholā Heiau National Historic Site, Hawaiʻi, Kamuela, United States
Pu‘ukoholā Heiau National Historic Site, Hawaiʻi, Kamuela, United States
Before I ever visited Palm Springs, California I had envisioned it to be stuck in the 1960’s. I had thoughts of old cars with “fins” riding up and down the palm tree-lined streets. I assumed that every home was painted pink or neon green (or both). And, that the sounds of Frank Sinatra or Dean Martin were heard on stereos everywhere you turned.
You know what? I wasn’t that far off with my “visions”. You see Palm Springs is a quirky city. Parts of it are hipster 2022 while much of it seems stuck in the decade of Marilyn Monroe. In fact, the streets are often named after presidents who lived or vacationed in the area or mega-watt celebrities of past eras. And… I love it!
If you decide to visit Palm Springs (or are returning) – here are some tips on how to maximize the fun factor.
We stayed at the Shadow Ridge Resort in the Palm Desert/ Rancho Mirage area, a Marriott property. This is a timeshare resort that offers apartments, when available. You can always trust that a Marriott will be top-notch with quality amenities – like golf, pool, spa, and more. For more information go here.
(Plus, many more suggestions below)
This place is actually 45 minutes or so outside of Palm Springs. Known for being an old movie set converted to part artist colony and part honky tonk village – Pioneertown is sure to please most people. Please note that there is a lot of sand in Pioneertown. This will make mobility carts/ wheelchairs tough to get around. But, you can access the fun and delicious Pappy and Harriet’s restaurant without any problem. This place is reason alone to go to the high desert. Plus, you are very close to Joshua Tree – so consider that a bonus to your visit!
Scenes from Pioneertown
#2 The PALM SPRINGS TRAMWAY!
I absolutely love this tramway! The people are exceptionally nice and knowledgable. (A Shout-Out to a staff member – Gil!) The ten-minute tramway ride takes you to over 8 thousand feet above sea level. There are two restaurants at the top building. Plus, you can see miles and miles from the balconies and the building. The gift shop is really chocked full of fun and interesting items for all ages. And, the tramway is accessible for people who need mobility equipment. On the way down to the base building, our tramway conductor put on music, and collectively the riders sang to Neil Diamond’s, Sweet Caroline!
The Living Desert combines a wonderful eco-friendly zoo with lovely botanical gardens. It is small enough to visit in just a few hours or discover in small bites. We went with friends when it opened because the Palm Springs afternoons can be brutally hot. Easy access and multi-lingual information is available. Great for couples, families, or solo travelers! Visit their website here.
Looking for a get-away vacation? Perhaps a place to rest your weary head when traveling along the coastal highways of California? Look no further than the quaint, culturally rich, proud Danish town of Solvang.
The first time I visited Solvang, a hamlet about 40 miles north of Santa Barbara nestled in the San Inez area of California, was before my college years. The second time I was pushing a baby buggy. So, obviously, it has been a long while and I was overdue. The Solvang I remembered has grown, but still kept the charm I recalled. Ready to be enticed to visit with a Top 5 list of things to do when visiting Solvang? I hope so!
Here are my TOP 5 things to do while visiting Solvang.
Located on a side street, but close to town, is the charming Elverhoj Museum. Partly a historical homage to the city of Solvang and part art gallery, this museum was once was the home of Viggo Brandt-Erichsen and his wife, Martha Mott. Both Viggo and Martha were renowned artisans. Together they built a sensational home/art gallery packed full of photos and art but nailing together boards the “old fashioned way” – one peg at a time. The building is a testimony to the heritage of Danish culture and the history of Solvang. Well worth your time and guess what – it is FREE (but donations are welcome!)
Discovering and Creating Solvang …
When you enter the Elverhoj museum take time to chat with the uber knowledgeable docents, Linda and Kirsten. They relay and weave many that may you feel as if you are being transported in time. After you have completed touring the rooms – be sure to stop in the art gallery. Currently, they have an exhibit titled Fables, Foibles, and Fairy Tales by Susan Read Cronin. These whimsical sculptures just add to the charm of this lovely experience!
The Old Mission of Santa Ynes is a lovely place to go and visit a true California relic. However, due to Covid 19, it would seem that the mission has restricted tour hours. But, the grounds are open and they welcome guests walking about.
The Solvang Visitor Center offers a variety of tours throughout the year. The walking tours are under two hours and stop at a variety of “hot” spots (Most stops are yummy bakeries and candy shops – my kind of tour!).
Along the way, you can spot the Hans Christian Anderson bookstore, see the horse-drawn trolleys, and visit the Water Tower. (Langauge aficionados will want to try to read the various inscriptions on the side of the tower – representing a variety of cultures). Oh, guess what?! Kirsten (from the Elverhoj) and her dad, Dean, were our tour guides!
Wineries and taverns with tastings are throughout this area. From small bistros downtown to the large vineyards that adorn the perimeter of the towns – you will find a wine for nearly every palate. Many establishments serve small bites – while others are minimalistic. Prices vary. Ask around. The local folks have their favorites!
Solvang is known for being a town with top-notch restaurants- including the First and Oak – a restaurant with a Michelin star. And you can’t miss the smell of sweet delights that waft the streets from morning through the day due to the local bakeshops. Yes, the bakeries are filled with creamy this and bready that… all delicious. (Rumor has it that the Danish elves remove all the calories!?!)
Despite the Danish bakeries and great local fare restaurants, our favorite place to eat was Ramen Kotori a noodle shop nestled on a side street. This place knows how to “heat things up” – so be sure to order the Thai Tea, too!
In closing, Solvang is a great place to relax, eat delicious food, and learn about Danish culture. But, most of all – it is about the people. And for that reason alone- we will be back!
Recently, hubby and I traveled from Los Angeles to Santa Fe between Christmas and New Year’s Day. En route we made sure to go off the major highways/ freeways and take “Old Route 66”. I wanted to write a blog to spotlight some of the places we stopped – including Oatman and Winslow Arizona.
Tip #1: Make sure you have a camera ready to capture some of the prettiest skies as you traverse Old Route 66 from Kingman to Oatman and then Kingman to points east. The clouds are so dramatic!
Welcome to OATMAN – aka the Wild, Wild West!
I am not sure how I feel about Oatman. Part of me loved the quirkiness and the roaming donkeys that seemed very domesticated. There are re-enactments of gunfights daily and some unusual exhibits – such as walking in a replica of a mine. The vendors who were selling coffee and homemade salsa and jams were filled with information and interesting trivia.
A website dedicated to Arizona travel describes Oatman as follows:
More than 500,000 visitors are drawn annually to Oatman’s gold mine history as well as the legend of its namesake. Olive Oatman is entrenched in western lore as a woman who was kidnapped by an Indian tribe, then sold to a friendly local tribe before being freed to her family near what became Oatman.
Oatman might have suffered the same fate as many Arizona mining towns and faded into a ghost town if not for Route 66 nostalgia and nearby casinos. The town prides itself on maintaining a Wild West feel, down to the wooden sidewalks, staged shootouts, and kitschy shops. (You can even adopt a wild burro and take it home!)
Note: Oatman has a number of individuals (i.e. shop owners) who are very loud and blatant with their words, displays, and merchandise about their disdain for the current U.S. President and support of MAGA and our former president. Tip #2 – if you offend easily – skip Oatman.
Paying homage to loved ones
When you leave Oatman you will be in for a treat as Old Route 66 provides us with a lovely drive through the mountains. (Be careful though as donkeys roam the roadways, as well.) About 10 minutes outside of Oatman is where Hubby and I found a small parking area to stop and snap some photos of the gorgeous views. It is known as Sitgreaves Pass. We walked a short distance and stumbled upon what looked like a series of makeshift memorials to loved ones. I did some research and found that this was an area where locals scatter the remains of cremated loved ones or erect a tribute memorial to them. Ironically, weddings also were purported to happen on this reverent mountainside.
Well… you don’t see THIS everyday!
There are a few places along Route 66 that are best described via photos. Here are some of our favorite “finds”.. b.
Tip #3: Stop for Good Eats at Gabby’s Cafe
We had some good and some not-so-good meals during our road trip. One of the favorite eateries was not far from Rte. 66 and located in Grants, New Mexico – GABBY’S CAFE. The sandwiches and donuts were awesome! The servers were very friendly and pleasant and the coffee was better than most places we found! Gabby’s Cafe for a win!
A few extra travel tips:
Gas prices vary – so you may want to use an app like GAS BUDDY to compare and plan your gas stops in advance
If you are unfamiliar with an area consider making the drive during daylight. Some of Rte. 66 is windy and the weather can be variable – including black ice on the roads during the colder months
Ask local folks where they eat so you aren’t subjected to touristy places with so-so meals.
Pack for all kinds of weather. Rain gear and snow boots were needed on this trip.
Know that you may not have consistent cell phone reception, as some of these areas are very rural and surrounded by mountains.
Almost all of the places I listed in this article has easy accessiblity for those who have mobility challenges. There may be some stores in Oatman where access is limited, however, I believe most can be available to someone in a wheelchair.
For people who are blind, be careful in Oatman, especially. There is uneven ground and as mentioned, donkeys roam freely. People walk on the road and that means a bit of mayhem with cars and people trying to share the street.
Next travel blog will be (drumroll)… Laughlin, Nevada
Hubby and I recently took a road trip from Los Angeles to New Mexico. We ended 2021 in the very fun Nevada border town of Laughlin.
I had heard about Laughlin via their very robust travel representatives that I met when I visited the LA Adventure and Travel Show in 2019. I was all set to visit and tour the Laughlin area and then… well you know… the Covid 19 pandemic hit!
Fast forward…secure with two vaccines, a booster, and lots of masks – we ventured to Laughlin en route home to LA. We opted to stay at theLaughlin River Lodge located on the banks of the Colorado River. The hotel was well equipped with dining options nearby, several casinos, and an outdoor heated pool with a spa.
PLUS… the lodge is loaded with family fun activities including a bowling alley, kid specific activites, and kid-friendly electronic games (Similar to what we played many times at amusement centers on the New Jersey Shore boardwalk.)
The rooms at the Laughlin River Lodge are quite nice and reasonably priced. Thanks to my TripAdvisor’s TRIP PLUS membership, we paid under $60 per night for a quiet and clean room.
Some may say Laughlin is a “mini Vegas”, but we found it to be unique and prettier than over-stimulating Las Vegas. First and foremost, you can enjoy water sports thanks to the flowing Colorado River that separates Arizona (Bullhead City) from Nevada (Laughlin). Staying at the Laughlin River Lodge afforded us access to the beach alongside the river and an opportunity to snap photos. Plus, there are many places to shop, eat, have kids play, and enjoy a walk while being surrounded by beautiful mountains that illuminate the awesome sunsets.
We had read up on TripAdvisor reviews about where to eat in Laughlin. The Minato Japanese and Korean restaurants frequently received consistently excellent reviews and the menu piqued our interest!
OMG – this restaurant was AWESOME. Yes… there is EXCELLENT SUSHI in the DESERT!
Minato’s was located within easy walking distance from our hotel in a little shopping center. An elevator for easy accessibility is available to bring you to this ultra-yummy establishment. We started our meal with a LAUGHLIN ROLL. This was a tempura-sushi hybrid made with various veggies and seafood. I could have ordered a second but we opted for an udon noodle soup instead. Hubby likes to compare restaurant spring rolls, so we ordered some. They were some of the best we ever have eaten!
Lastly, the udon soup was stocked full of meat and veggies plus a healthy dose of chili! Luckily, I had ordered a Thai ice tea that helped to soothe the slight burning in my mouth from this spicy dish! I would easily give the food and service a 9/10 rating.
Bonus Fun – Classic Cars!!
As previously mentioned, there is much to do in Laughlin. We opted to visit an exhibit of old classic cars and gaming machines at the aptly named Laughlin Classic Car Collection. Pricing varies here from free to $3 per person. (Waived if you are a casino “member”.) I would recommend this place as it provided great family fun and there were no visible issues for people using mobility equipment to have full access.
LAUGHLIN – thanks for the fun! We will be back!
(Note, I have been a frequent contributor to TripAdvisor and a beta user of this new plan – but my opinions are not being compensated for on this blog.)
New Mexico has always fascinated me. Maybe because the culture is so different than the way I grew up in New York. Since it is within a “reasonable” driving distance from Los Angeles (14 hours), hubby and I decided it would make a perfect holiday vacation destination. So with a packed car for all kinds of weather, from snow to “sweater weather”, we ventured out through the Mojave region of California, into Northern Arizona, and eventually reached Alburquerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Along the route, we stopped at a few fun locales off “Old Routte 66”. From quirky dinners to a place that touts itself as a “ghost town” – OATMAN, ARIZONA. (I will go more in-depth about this region in the mountains another time.)
Back to New Mexico…
The west part of New Mexico is FLAT… and WINDY! And despite the speed limit often being 75 MPH, you will find yourself cruising much faster because there is not much visually interesting to stop you. The ride is a long and quasi-straight highway/freeway with an occasional tumbleweed flying by you. Once you find yourself on the cusp of Alburquerque (ABQ), you will notice more mountains among the vastness.
Hubby and I mapped out a few places that we wanted to see in ABQ during our stay. Friends had suggested we check out the petroglyphs that are in several parks on the perimeter of the city. We started at the visitor center mid-afternoon, only to find out the park closed by 4:30. That left us a measly hour to explore. Note: this park is not handicap accessible for those who wish to see the petroglyphs up close but use a walker or wheelchair. The terrain is rocky and there are many uneven steps that need to be taken to see the ancient artwork.
Day 2 – Museums of Alburquerque
First, we went to theNational Museum of Nuclear Science and History. Hubby was a former nuclear engineer and he was hoping that the museum would dedicate a good bit of its real estate to exhibits about the benefits of nuclear power. On the contrary, we found much of the museum dedicated to informative and interesting displays of nuclear energy for war efforts, such as during WW II. While this is an excellent history lesson and one that should be reiterated for the ages, it was a bit of a disappointment that only a small sliver of the museum spotlighted the positive use of nuclear energy/ power.
Of all the exhibits that piqued my interest, there was one that chronicled the post-effects of “the bomb” on the children of Hiroshima. There was a small display dedicated to the “Crane project”. I snapped a photo of the explanation of this mission below. In essence, there was a young girl, Sadako Sasaki, who was suffering from leukemia or “Atom Bomb disease”. She believed that anyone who created a thousand cranes would be granted a wish. Despite her efforts, she did die, but her friends and classmates published a book in her memory and the story of her crane project lives on decades later.
Not all was gloom and doom here. There was a section that brought out the movie geek in me. I really liked the exhibit that highlighted movies with “nuclear” themes. Notable mentions were “FAIL SAFE” and “WAR GAMES”.
Museum #2 included a trip to the ANDERSON ABRUZZO INTERNATIONAL BALLOON MUSEUM. This museum is dedicated to balloon flight and mainly the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. Sadly, the internationally renowned Balloon Fiesta is in October and not December, when we were in the region. But, someday I hope to venture back to ABQ to see thousands of balloons lift off in succession for one of the world’s greatest exhibits of ballons in flight!
Included in this museum are several interactive lessons and much to keep the whole family occupied. There is one room dedicated to artwork, called MAGIC, that takes up a whole wall and is stunning. The artist is Jane Maclean and her 6 x 20-foot montage of balloon scenes is frankly… magical!
See a video about the Balloon Fiesta here. If you plan on visiting the museum – be sure to plan ahead. Tickets to the museum tend to sell out fast!
Note: Both museums demonstrated good accessibility practices from what I was able to see and learn.
More about Alburquerque…
This lovely city has very little in the way of nightlife. In fact, it is safe to say that it pretty much closes down by 5 pm. Old Town ABQ is very nice, but again – the local shops, museums, and other points of interest are closed before sunset. Dining also is a bit tricky. And for any kind of after-dark entertainment, many travel to the area casinos. We spent some time in the Isleta casino. It was nice and we had a good time, however, it is a wee bit of a hike from the center of the city.
Next stop… Santa Fe… but first the Turquoise Trail.
We had heard about the infamous “Turquoise Trail”. This is a stretch of road between Albuquerque and Santa Fe that supposedly offered many shops and quirky “sites” to visit. Sadly, we were not too impressed. Much was closed and frankly, many of the area’s “hot spots” were run down. We did go to the Henderson Store in Golden, New Mexico. There we met a lovely couple (and bought some items). We enjoyed our time there and that stop alone made the trip worthwhile. I have a funny feeling that the Turquoise Trail is much better to see during the warmer months when more stores are open and artists are “in residence”.
About an hour north of ABQ is the small city of Santa Fe. Technically, it is a large city and the state capitol. Adobe buildings adorn the city center square with museums, galleries, and fine dining all throughout the city streets.
We started our day by touring the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian. This is a compact museum that takes about 90 minutes to 2 hours to cover. It was just perfect to start there for our touring of Santa Fe. If you visit, here is a tip… Don’t leave here without checking out the museum shop on the bottom floor. It has a lovely book selection – including for children.
Downtown Santa Fe is charming, but was very crowded the day we arrived. Seating at restaurants was at a premium. We ended up getting take-out at Tomasita’s the evening we arrived. It was delicious but eating in our hotel room was less than desirable.
Here are some “tips” for Santa Fe, too:
While Santa Fe has lots to offer by day, again, the nightlife is limited.
Tickets are encouraged for the more well-known museums – such as the Georgia OKeeffe. We opted not to go there due to the limited number of tix and also having only two days in the area to explore.
There are many wonderful parks and outdoor attractions in the Alburquerque and Santa Fe areas. Go visit them!
Be prepared for weather that ranges in a single day from sunny and 60 to freezing and snow!
New Mexico is a slow paced state. Don’t expect a frenetic party environment – unless you know people in the area. This is one “chill” state – relaxation is like the state motto!
If you have the time – keep traveling – as there is much to see! Taos is the north of Santa Fe and worth a visit.
This state has mask mandates – everywhere. We were thrilled to see Covid 19 safety protocols in effect throughout the state!