The Turquoise Trail is a scenic byway in central New Mexico running between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Most of the trail is covered by Highway 14, which also runs right next to the house we were sitting. Highway 14 is about 50 miles long and encompasses 15,000 square miles of culture and history. We explored up and down this stretch of road, and were surprised by just how much there was to see and do. We barely scratched the surface!
Cedar Crest, New Mexico
From Albuquerque, we headed East on the I-40 before turning North onto the Turquoise Trail scenic byway. It is important to stay hydrated when adventuring through the New Mexico desert, so we opted to make our first stop Ale Republic. It is a darling little brewery just outside of town. Nearly all of the brews are named with an outdoors theme. My favorites were the Lone Wolf Golden Ale and the Orange Kush Blonde Ale.
As this is a scenic drive, we shared a taster flight, then explored the local grocery store. There isn’t anything special about the grocery story, but no matter where we go I enjoy walking through them. Grocery stores tell me a lot about the city I’m in. For example, I look at the price of the staples, the types of products they carry, attentiveness of the staff, and the dress of the other shoppers. My impression of Cedar Crest based on the grocery store: casual and tourist driven.
Madrid, New Mexico
Josh and I fell in love with Madrid from the second we drove into town on the Turquoise Trail. It is adorable and quirky in all the right ways. Madrid (pronounced mad-rid, not ma-drid) was a bustling coal mining community in the 1830s. It even had a successful minor-league baseball team that was housed in the West’s first lighted stadium. However, by the late 1840s, the demand for coal declined. The miners moved out and a ghost town was left behind.
Thankfully, in the 1970s a group of artists moved into the area and rebuilt. Although Madrid is only home to about 250 people today, it packs a big punch of culture, history, and art. We spent over an hour walking through the fun shops and exploring the small art installations. Our favorite installment was Connie’s Photo Park. It is an area filled with photo cutouts and backdrops… and it’s free!
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Highway 14 ends in the über artistic city of Santa Fe. Although not officially part of the Turquoise Trail, it’s a stop that is not to be missed. As the oldest capital city in the United States, Santa Fe is packed with history and art. Many of the city’s buildings are built in the pueblo style. This change to the typical city view immediately struck a chord. It was if the whole city was a work of cultural art.
We enjoyed the variety of art while walking along the main road. There were craft shops packed with Native American baskets and blankets. We saw high class art galleries with sculptures on silent auction for more than I would pay for a house. There was even modern art with a western twist (which was our favorite).
I enjoy art as much as the next guy, but what I like even more is delicious food and drink. Which, thankfully, is another thing that is easily found in New Mexico. Although I did not accomplish my goal of finding the perfect taco joint, I did have some fairly delicious tacos. They just weren’t perfect. However, I did find was The Margarita Trail, a city tourism board sponsored passport to delicious margaritas. Yes, please!
Turquoise Trail Wrap Up
I’m not sure we explored the Turquoise Trail in the way it was meant to be explored. Instead, we did it our way, filled with local beer, quirky shops, and odd art. But I’d say the best part about the trail is there’s such a variety of options that you can do it any way you want. The hiking, art, museums, and restaurants along the Turquoise Trail are plentiful, making this a great place to linger during any road trip through the area.
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