Perhaps more than those of any other Southwestern state, the sparsely populated mountain and desert landscapes of New Mexico exude an ancient atmosphere. Centuries-old pueblos, such as those at Acoma and Taos, remain bastions of Native American life and culture. The legacy of the Spanish colonizers’ culture also remains palpable. Catholic priests planted North America’s first vineyards to make sacramental wine, and some 500 years later, New Mexico produces bottlings of surprising quality. Santa Fe is the oldest capital city in North America. This remarkable city contains the oldest church in the United States (dating to 1626), the highly regarded Santa Fe Opera, numerous fine restaurants, a huge array of art galleries and several excellent museums. Taos is overrated. The surrounding landscape is magnificent, but the town itself has become a glorified adobe strip mall plagued by traffic jams.
Both Santa Fe and Taos have relatively moderate summers and winters cold enough for skiing.
Canyon Road Galleries
The sheer number of galleries that line Santa Fe’s Canyon Road can be overwhelming. My favorites include Matthews Gallery (669 Canyon Road), which has works by top-tier European artists. Also, at Robert Nichols Gallery (419 Canyon Road), Diego Romero’s clever ceramics combine traditional geometric motifs with stylized images of slot machines and fast food.
Santa Fe Spirits
Although you can visit the distillery itself, Santa Fe Spirits’ tasting room and bar (308 Read Street. Tel.  780-5906) is much easier to reach, tucked into a side street close to downtown. Its most interesting spirits exhibit a real sense of terroir. The excellent Colkegan Single Malt Whiskey, for example, emulates scotch in its production process but smokes the malt with mesquite rather than peat. I also enjoyed the Wheeler’s Western Dry Gin.
Secrets of New Mexican Cuisine
If you consider yourself to be a foodie, the Santa Fe School of Cooking (Tel.  983-4511) should be at the top of your to-do list. Lessons are designed to educate students on the traditions and secrets of northern New Mexican cuisine. Learn to make authentic dishes such as tamales, rellenos and posole (classic Mexican stew made from coarse hominy).
Santa Fe Indian Market
During the Santa Fe Indian Market held each August, thousands of people throng Santa Fe’s central plaza, shopping for paintings, sculptures and jewelry. The selection of Native American arts and crafts is unparalleled — but so are the crowds.