By Chris Corrie, courtesy Santa Fe CVB
For so small a state, New Mexico is quite a mix. There’s stately Santa Fe, an homage to adobe and to art, and big-city Albuquerque, where spirits, as well as hot-air balloons, are lifted by topography, climate and history. Red River’s closest neighbors, mountain ranges and national forest, make the tiny town a natural for outdoor adventure. In Roswell, 66 years has not dimmed the effects of a supposed UFO crash. Deep in the South, Las Cruces’ agrarian ways are still much in evidence, even as the region becomes a center for space exploration.
A visit to Santa Fe is like stepping into a different century. The Spanish founded Santa Fe in 1610, making it the nation’s oldest existing state capital.
“We are one of those places that really feels not of America,” said Steve Lewis, spokesman for the Santa Fe Convention and Visitors Bureau. “One of the things we really have to offer is that alternative feel.”
Thanks to its stringent building codes, older buildings are preserved. Among them are some of the city’s best-known hotels, including the La Fonda, a member of Historic Hotels of America. The 172-room hotel’s current guest-room renovation will update decor as well as wiring, plumbing, heating and cooling. Work should be done in August.
“La Fonda is one of the most historic, iconic buildings in the city,” Lewis said. “This major renovation will polish the historic nature of La Fonda but give it a more modern, really polished and updated design.”
Drury Hotels is also preserving another piece of Santa Fe’s history by converting a former hospital in downtown into a Drury Plaza Hotel.
The city required the hotelier to preserve the building’s historic facade, but the interior is being built from scratch. When completed in 2014, the 189-room hotel will have a restaurant, underground parking, and a rooftop pool and bar.
The Drury hotel is next to the landmark Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi and a couple of blocks from the Santa Fe Community Convention Center.
The 73,000-square-foot, Pueblo Revival-style building mimics the historic feel of downtown. Its 17,800-square-foot ballroom can be broken into nine smaller configurations, and several of 11 breakout rooms can be combined. Terraces off the lobby and the second-story meeting rooms overlook a 6,600-square-foot courtyard.
“[The center] has certainly given us a venue that we can be proud of and that can truly serve meetings and events,” Lewis said. “We’ve seen a higher degree of interest in coming here. We don’t really have to sell the conference center; it kind of sells itself.”
Santa Fe is the third-largest art market in the United States, home to about 250 art galleries. Groups can do progressive meetings or dinners, stopping at several galleries for wine, appetizers and dinner, all while enjoying collections of art that could include historic Native American pieces, or Remingtons and Picassos.
Roswell, N.M., hardly needs an introduction. The city is known worldwide as the home of all things alien, so much so that even the glass globes on street lamps are green with black eyes.
Roswell resident and local researcher Dennis Balthaser has made a business of educating others about Roswell’s alien past. He runs Roswell UFO Tours and takes groups to places tourists may not know about, such as the newspaper office and the old military base, all while filling his passengers in on cover-up conspiracies and alien autopsies.
There’s also the International UFO Museum and Research Center, where groups can spend 30 minutes or several hours learning about the alleged 1947 UFO crash that happened about 30 miles north of Roswell.
But it isn’t all aliens all the time in Roswell.
“There’s so much to see in Roswell that people don’t realize,” said Megan Creighton, event service director for the Roswell Convention, Civic and Visitors Center.
The city also has “a variety of museums that offer something for everybody’s tastes,” and each, except the UFO museum, is free to the public, Creighton said.
Hispanic and Native American art are the focus of the Roswell Museum and Art Center;the Anderson Museum of Contemporary Art concentrates on local artists.
For events, the Roswell Convention, Civic and Visitors Center has a 13,000-square-foot exhibit hall and three meetings rooms. This spring, the city adds two hotels, a 104-room Holiday Inn and conference center and a 71-suite Marriott TownePlace Suites.