Most everyone is familiar with the annual fall Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Festival. Over a long spring weekend, I recently experienced another side of this beautiful southwestern city nestled at the base of the Sandia Mountains, where ancient inspiration meets contemporary art and culture.
The 10-mile Chaco Canyon is approximately three hours from Albuquerque and inspired construction of the relaxing Hotel Chaco. Between 850 and 1250, Chaco Canyon was a major center of trade, political activity, and ceremonial culture for the Pueblo people. Today, Hotel Chaco, the first to be built in Albuquerque’s Old Town in 40 years, brings new life to the historic district. As you open the impressive metal double doors at the hotel’s front entrance, your attention is drawn to a bronze sculpture entitled “Oneness,” by artist Joe Cajero. Speaking to the mind, body, and spirit, “Oneness” sets the tone for your entire stay.
Earthly elements are echoed in every detail at Hotel Chaco. The peaceful courtyard garden connects visitors with nature, while modern masonry sculptures host calming fountains that soothe the soul. Our well-appointed guest room featured a hand-woven Navajo rug above the bed, and a balcony overlooking the distant mountain range. And the Saturday morning complimentary yoga class in the hotel’s well-appointed fitness center helped clear any mind debris, while also warming up my muscles for the weekend’s adventures.
After re-balancing my zen, I strolled past the art gallery and stopped at Level 5, the rooftop restaurant and bar, to sample the breakfast menu and expansive views. In the evening, the comfortable outdoor sofas and chairs surrounding multiple fire-pits around the rooftop bar invite you to relax and unwind. Here you can enjoy a round of drinks and good conversation to cap off your day, or you might simply slow down for a little solitude and reflection. Cozy blankets are welcome for those cool New Mexico evening temperatures, which made us want to snuggle up a little closer to our beverages, appetizers, and one another. Don’t forget your bathing suit for a relaxing swim, or a soak in the hot tub, at Hotel Chaco’s perfectly manicured pool area under a canopy of stars. (Additional opportunities for relaxation are in the works, with a new spa anticipated to open by the end of 2018.)
Beyond Hotel Chaco
Every Saturday from March through November, you can sign up for a Heritage Inspirations day tour of Chaco Canyon, billed as “the Machu Picchu of North America.” Meet in the lobby of Hotel Chaco at 7:15 am to begin the 3½ hour drive to the canyon, returning to the hotel at 5:45 pm. This tour is at the top of our “must do” list for our next visit.
Take the Sandia Peak Tramway for a 15-minute scenic ride up 10,000 feet to stunning views of New Mexico at the summit. Be sure to bring a jacket, since temperatures drop quickly at this elevation. At the top, you can hike a variety of trails, eat lunch at the restaurant, or even ski down the back of the mountain in the winter season. We spent about three hours on this worthwhile excursion, while a couple of extra hours could have easily been allotted for a longer hike or a leisurely meal.
For evening entertainment, we walked next door to Hotel Chaco’s sister “Hotel Albuquerque,” where we took in a Tablao Flamenco show. Heritage Hotels and Resorts partners with the nonprofit National Institute of Flamenco, which receives 60% of the ticket sales. A talented troupe of five brought life to the intimate venue through vibrant Spanish dance, vocals, and acoustic guitar. After the show, we talked with the performers about their art and their passion for sharing it with the world. For seven days each June, Albuquerque is home to the International Flamenco Festival, hosted by the National Institute of Flamenco and the University of New Mexico. This is a most festive time to visit the city and feel the flamenco vibe.
Albuquerque is home to one of the original highways going east-to-west across the United States. And the nostalgia for Route 66 is seen throughout the city, with restored motels, automobiles and diners. We stepped back in time at the classic Frontier Restaurant diner, where the service is just as authentic as their famous Frontier sweet rolls, breakfast platters, fresh squeezed orange juice and John Wayne posters on the wall. It is a local favorite across the road from the University of New Mexico. From students to seniors, patrons hail from every generation and walk of life in this iconic eatery.
New Mexico is home to nineteen pueblos, and the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center is the gateway to learning about the Native American people. Visitors can easily spend several hours here in the museum, sampling the cuisine at the cafe, or attending a native dance in the Center’s beautiful courtyard space.
Dana Kent Hogan is a full-time occupational therapist and part-time AirBNB host living in Round Rock, Texas. She has a passion for travel, animals, live music, sports and the great outdoors.
Cover photo from the rooftop courtesy Hotel Chaco/Ryan Gobuty