Gerson Zevi Land Art Road Trip: New Mexico | SUITCASE MagazineAlexander Getty

Of all the states that we visit during the Gerson Zevi Land Art Road Trip, New Mexico is probably our favourite; it’s no wonder that the state’s official motto is “The Land of Enchantment.”

This week, instead of focusing on a particular work of art, we’re writing about some of our favourite places in New Mexico. Be sure to check back next week for our piece on Walter De Maria’s The Lightning Field, which is located in Quemado, and some of the lesser-known spots in that area of the state.

Gerson Zevi Land Art Road Trip: New Mexico by Matt Firpo | SUITCASE MagazineImage by Matt Firpo

The high-desert landscapes of New Mexico are some of the most breathtaking in the entire Southwest. An arid place, the state appears desaturated and warm: there are large swaths of yellow flecked with olive drab and pink. Long highway drives will reward you with mile after mile of exceptional and almost Martian views. As New Mexico is the sixth least densely populated state in America, these views are rarely interrupted. What really makes New Mexico so special, however, are the people. Perhaps it’s because they’re constantly surrounded by such natural beauty, but I can honestly say that I’ve yet to meet an unfriendly New Mexican. Whether it’s helping you find the best place to drink Mezcal in Albuquerque, or proudly noting the state’s contributions to the Space Race, you’ll be hard pressed to find a local who isn’t proud to live here.

The starkness of its land, and rural nature of its cities and towns, hide the fact that New Mexico has more PhD’s per capita than anywhere else in the United States. Indeed, a good portion of the state’s economy is dedicated to advanced research and development.  The state’s scientific lineage can be traced back to Los Alamos, where much of the research for the Manhattan Project was undertaken, and to the White Sands Missile Range, which is the largest military installation in the US and is where the first nuclear bomb was detonated in 1945. Spaceport America, which is located outside of Truth or Consequences (how’s that for a town name?), is where both SpaceX and Virgin Galactic plan to launch the world’s first regularly scheduled trips to space. Of course, New Mexico is also home to Roswell, where one will find the International UFO Museum and Research Center.

Gerson Zevi Land Art Road Trip: New Mexico by Alexander Getty | SUITCASE MagazineImage by Alexander Getty

Wholly unique, New Mexico is deeply defined by its landscapes and artistic culture. I can think of nowhere else in the world with such a consistent dedication to aesthetics. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Pueblo style architecture that dominates much of the state, and especially Santa Fe, which is the highest and oldest capital city in the United States. It’s a bit like stepping into a time machine, as buildings made in this style harken back to the dwellings of the native peoples who have populated this area for thousands of years.

Our other favorite stops in New Mexico include the Bottomless Lakes State Park, where we camped after searching for aliens in Roswell, and the caves at Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

Gerson Zevi Land Art Road Trip: New Mexico by Adam Joseph Brochstein | SUITCASE MagazineImage by Adam Joseph Brochstein

ALBUQUERQUE

TO EAT

If you’re not opposed to waiting in line, make sure to visit the The Grove Cafe & Market for some of the best breakfast and lunch around. Spoiler Alert: Breaking Bad lovers will recognise it as the place where Walt poisons Lydia in season five. If you want to try the most famous green chilli cheeseburger in New Mexico, then check out the famous Laguna Burger at the 66 Pit Stop and petrol station right off of exit 149 on I-40.

TO STAY

The Hotel Parq Central is your best bet if you want to avoid the traditional motels.

TO DO

The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is the largest single gathering of hot air balloons in the world and takes place each year in early October.

SANTA FE

TO EAT

The Compound Restaurant is a long-standing Santa Fe staple nestled in the heart of the city’s vibrant arts district, and head chef Mark Kiffin was named the best chef of the Southwest in 2005 by the prestigious James Beard Foundation. For something less formal, but equally delicious, check out Tune-Up Cafe. If you go, make sure to order the Chili Rellenos.

TO STAY

Our favorite place to stay in Santa Fe is the Hotel St. Francis, which is smack dab in the middle of downtown Santa Fe.

TO DO

Head over to Canyon Road for a seemingly unlimited supply of art galleries. For more formal museums, check out the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, or the Museum of International Folk Art. If you’d like to take a break from all of the art (though, why would you do that?) then make sure to visit the Palace of the Governors. Built in 1610, it’s the oldest continuously occupied government building in the United States.

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