» Top Five Desert Southwest Destinations of New Mexico

by Jason McClain on January 31, 2012

Today, I hear people talk about short attention spans and the continual shifting from one thing to the latest, newest, best thing. Then, it inevitably leads to talk of the good old days when there were only three channels, no remote controls, AM radio, rotary phones and single screen movie theaters. To which I say phooey. There was a short attention span way back when just as much as today. How else to explain the creation of a “New Mexico” when “Mexico” is barely 100 years old?

See where Walt cooks!

Yes, I went a long way for that joke in order to introduce the next state in which I examine cool things to do in the desert. (It follows Utah, Texas and Arizona.) Why the setup? Well, because my first interaction with this great state comes in the first item on my list, a place that I look forward to visiting again.

1. Petroglyph National Monument near Albuquerque

I love it when my nature hikes are accompanied by a bit of the history of the area. That’s why I’m a big fan of Petroglyph National Monument. It’s been over ten years since I visited it with my friend Carolyn early one morning as we drove across the desert southwest, but I remember great hikes to see the various petroglyphs around the park. Now, to get a better perspective, the park service offers cell phone audio tours while you’re hiking.

2. Breaking Bad Locations in Albuquerque

Bryan Cranston recently starred in “Drive” and Aaron Paul stars in the upcoming “Smashed” with the lovely Mary Elizabeth Winstead, but my love for both of their acting skills comes from “Breaking Bad.” This Sundance interview with Paul contains the nugget of information that excites me. “Breaking Bad” starts filming in March. Now, if you head down to Albuquerque, you can hope to catch them filming scenes at the various locations around town. I’m sure the Octopus Car Wash would be handy to get the desert dust off your car, if you need a reason to loiter.

3. The National Museum of Nuclear Science and History in Albuquerque

I know that part of the reason that I’m listing this is because I’m reading “The Catcher Was A Spy” by Nicholas Dawidoff and I just finished the part where Moe Berg traveled throughout Europe to get information on the German nuclear program during World War II. So, nuclear research is in my head, and the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History seems to be a great place to augment my meager bits of information. In particular, I’d want to see the “Pioneers of the Atom” exhibit to find out more on some of the names I’ve seen mentioned in my current book. On a more somber note, the “Decision to Drop” exhibit seems like it is a must see, as I read about all the propaganda and fear that nuclear power caused then (and I could add the proverbial, “and now.”)

4. Georgia O’Keefe Museum in Santa Fe

I could talk about the various exhibits involving abstraction, still life or landscapes, but we’re all just thinking one thing. Vaginas. Now that we have that out of the way, I can say Georgia O’Keefe is one hell of an artist and the museums that bares her name is worth a visit.

5. El Meze in Taos

Lastly, after running around looking at pictures, car washes and science exhibits, it’s time for a good meal. Admittedly, this restaurant strays from the desert up into the mountains, but it looks so good that I can’t resist. I found El Meze by chance as I just searched for some good restaurants in New Mexico. Then I looked at the Winter Wine Festival Dinner and the Valentine’s Dinner and I started to salivate. The Galicia Oyster Soup and Seared Black Pepper Crusted Albacore Tuna make me want to drive 920 miles to spend Valentine’s Day in Taos. Yeah, I’m sure that would go over well.

That’s my top five for New Mexico. Any suggestions for things that I missed? Any restaurant/greasy spoon recommendations for the area? I’m open to adding to these five ideas.

About the Author

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Jason is an aspiring novelist, which means there is a lot of time to put off writing and watch baseball or go fly-fishing, hiking and traveling. By “a lot of time”, Jason means “procrastination.”

See All Posts by jasonmcclain



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