The pandemic has left many bruised mentally and emotionally.
Even if someone didn’t lose a job, or worse, a loved one, the stress of being locked down for more than a year has probably taken its toll.
With the availability of the vaccine, people are slowly starting to move around and continue their pre-COVID-19 activities, including dining out, attending family gatherings, going to church services in person and taking in live music.
But as people emerge from their cocoons, they might find things don’t feel exactly as they did before after a year of following different social norms and rules.
Now is a good time to process the past year and reconnect with the outside world.
Below is a list of 10 activities and places to visit in New Mexico that can help recharge and renew the spirit. The information was accurate at the time this article was written, but the pandemic could affect hours, days of operation, price or openings.
Attend church in person
For many, religion is at the center of their wellness, but the pandemic has limited or halted in-person services across the state. Many churches continued to offer services online, but people were separated from their church communities, which often provide emotional support. The living room or kitchen table cannot always replace the tranquil and sacred setting of a chapel or sanctuary. Most have now resumed some type of in-person service, either inside or outside their chapels.
A vacation from the every day grind of life can lift the spirits. Taking long trip out of state or boarding an airplane might still seem risky to some, but New Mexico has plenty of places to escape. One of those is the charming mountain town of Cloudcroft, about a 3½-hour drive from Albuquerque. In the southeastern part of the state in the Lincoln National Forest, the village provides a respite from summer heat, a trip back in time and opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, camping, bird-watching and horseback riding. Lodging places and restaurants are open for business. Call the Chamber of Commerce at 575-682-2733 for more information, visit coolcloudcroft.com or look for the village on social media.
Gaze at the stars
New Mexicans are at a great advantage when it comes to astronomy. The state’s vast open spaces and undeveloped land far from the light pollution of large cities makes it ideal for seeing the constellations. Astronomy Adventures offers stargazing just outside Santa Fe. The director is Peter Lipscomb, an astrophotographer and New Mexico State Parks ranger who offers educational guided night sky tours in his free time. Visit astronomyadventures.com to learn more and book a time or call 505-577-7141 for more information. In addition, the state’s Tourism Department features a New Mexico True Dark Skies trail, which lists national and state parks that are ideal for stargazing, at newmexico.org/darkskies.
Board a train
Automobiles and airplanes may have lessened the need for trains, but they are still around and fun to board. New Mexico has its own scenic train route that takes riders through northern New Mexico across the border into Colorado. The Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad will resume operations in Chama on June 5. This will be its 50th season of offering scenic tours. Riders can book a variety of round-trip tickets that offer a view of vast mountains and buildings of times gone by. Prices range from $85 to $225 for adults, depending on the length of trip and choice of seat. Lunch is included with some packages. Visit cumbrestoltec.com to book a ride and for more information call 888-286-2737 or email reservations@ cumbrestoltec.com.
Take a drive
A good drive is sometimes a great way to clear the mind and reconnect with the outdoors. New Mexico’s landscape offers mountains, wide-open fields, dense forests and vast deserts. The New Mexico Tourism Department has designed more than two dozen scenic routes around New Mexico as part of the National Scenic Byways Program. The routes highlight archaeological, cultural, historic and natural features.
Visit newmexico.org/ places-to-visit/scenic-byways to see a description of each route and a map.
New Mexico has no shortage of places to sleep outdoors. The state has reopened almost all its campsites, although some are by reservation only. The type of camping varies from rudimentary, with no running water or electricity, to areas with electricity, water and even showers. There are areas for those with boats, for those who want to hike or fish and those who want to get away from civilization. Visit newmexicostateparks.reserveamerica.com to reserve a spot or emnrd.state.nm. us/SPD/Camping.html for more information.
Take a soak
The state has an abundance of natural hot springs. The village of Jemez Springs offers several choices, and there are hikes around the state that lead to soothing hot tubs of water. For those looking for a less rugged and more luxurious getaway, there is Ojo Santa Fe. This is the sister property to Ojo Caliente, which is not operating now because of a fire last year. There are thermal pools, private pools and a saltwater pool. There is also a spa offering different services. Locals get 20 percent off from Sunday through Thursday.
Visit ojosantafe.ojospa.com or call 877-977-8212 to make a reservation.
Book a visit to the Botanic Garden
The city’s popular ABQ BioPark, which includes the Zoo and the Botanic Garden, is open for business. The garden provides a tranquil setting to enjoy native plants including flowers, bushes, trees and shrubs. The garden is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays, but most indoor spaces, including the Aquarium, are still closed. The BUGarium is open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. The city is using timed ticketing, which means tickets must be purchased in advance for a specific date and time. Visit cabq.gov/artsculture/biopark/ garden to buy tickets.
Swim in the Blue Hole
Water is scarce in New Mexico’s desert climate, but there are still places to take a plunge. One of those is two hours east of Albuquerque in Santa Rosa. The Blue Hole features crystal-clear waters with a sapphire-blue tinge. Water in the hole stays at a constant 62 degrees, which is perfect for a hot summer day. COVID-19 has limited its use to 10 recreational swimmers at a time. Divers can make reservations by calling 575-472-3763, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or by going to visitsantarosanm.com for more information.The Blue Hole is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
Connect with PREhistory
Remnants of some of the state’s earliest dwellers can be found in all corners of the state. Some of these places were sacred to those who inhabited them. One of those is Chaco Canyon. The canyon is a World Heritage Site in the northwestern part of New Mexico in Chaco Culture National Historical Park. Visitors can hike, camp and visit the ruins that were the center of life for people who lived in the canyon more than a thousand years ago. The ruins are a system of complex dwellings featuring hundreds of rooms. For more information, visit nps.gov/ chcu/index.htm.