STEAMY REPRIEVE



Editor's note: This item published originally in the February 2013 issue of New Mexico Magazine. Some information may have changed during that time. You are encouraged to verify rates and details using the contact information provided.

Giggling springsGiggling Springs.


Spa seekers won’t find as many frills in Jémez Springs as at high-end getaways; the town is easy like Sunday mornin’. Nevertheless, the down-home atmosphere, coupled with hot-stone massages and salt glows, make for laid-back rejuvenation. The Jémez Mountain Trail carves a sinuous route through cottonwood trees and cayenne-colored cliffs that unfold into the town of Jémez Springs. Visitors can sink into the local atmosphere at Cañon del Río Retreat Center, which rents by the room as a bed-and-breakfast. With its earthy hues and Native-inspired textiles, the Zuni Room is perfect for couples. It’s far from the center’s common area, has a view of the Jémez River, and is close to the hot tub. For a bargain, reserve the Runaway Romance Package to receive a foot treatment that includes a soak, polishing scrub, and reflexology; a couples massage; and a 20 percent lodging discount. The rambling adobe inn also offers hearty breakfasts of pumpkin-piñon pancakes and mini-quiches with ribbons of green chile. The grounds sprawl across six acres, inviting bosque strolls and private moments on trailside love seats.



In town, relaxation awaits at Giggling Springs, a communal mineral spring along the riverbank in the shadow of Virgin Mesa. Or book side-by-side concrete tubs pumped full of mineral water at the Jémez Springs Bath House. When hunger strikes, head to Highway 4 Coffee. Known for its breakfast pastries and lunch paninis, the restaurant is also a great place to grab an afternoon coffee and dessert (try the piñon tart) or dinner, the latter served from 4 to 7 p.m. only on Saturday evenings. Los Ojos Restaurant and Bar serves dinner nightly in a rollicking atmosphere that might invigorate or jar you, depending on your mood. Takeout might be just the ticket.



Cañon del Río Retreat Center: From $129. 16445 N.M. 4. (575) 829-4377; canondelrio.com.

Giggling Springs: 40 Abouselman Loop. (575) 829-9175; gigglingsprings.com.

Jémez Springs Bath House: 62 Jémez Springs Plaza. (575) 829-3303; jemezspring.org. Highway 4 Coffee: 17502 N.M. 4. (575) 829-4655; hwy4coffee.com.

Los Ojos Restaurant and Bar: N.M. 4. (575) 829-3547; losojossaloon.com



ARTSY AT HEART



Murray HotelThe Murray Hotel.

Photo by Gabriella Marks.


Those united by their shared love of art will find a perfect match in Silver City. A robust Arts and Cultural District shapes the downtown neighborhood along Texas and Yankee streets. The area is home to more than 37 galleries, many of which are run by artists who have ditched big-city life for the comforts of this lively community. Silver City isn’t just a place to browse—it’s a place to see creations taking shape. At Jean-Robert Beffort’s A Space Gallery, for example, visitors can witness artists creating assemblages from found materials, sound stories, and other out-of-the-box works. The Silver City Gallery Association also guides small groups on studio tours throughout the year. This month, on February 9 from noon to 4 p.m., travelers can explore 30 local galleries and eateries while nibbling on truffles and other treats during the city’s annual Chocolate Fantasia event. Ease into evening at Diane’s Restaurant, popular for its hand-cut steaks and fine wine selection. The Parlor at Diane’s brings local musicians to the stage Tuesday through Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons. Isaac’s Bar & Grill, in a circa-1881 historic building, also puts on music most nights, and sets a charming tone at its weekend brunches.



Hole up at the Murray Hotel, which, as the tallest building in town at five stories, has the best views around. The historic property first opened as a hotel in 1938, but had been abandoned for more than 30 years before Kurt and Julianna Albershardt gave it a second life, transforming the building from what had become a pigeon roost into the refined hotel that reopened last July. The Albershardts retained the building’s late-period art deco frame, and such period details as its glass-block front, subway-tiled bathrooms, and terrazzo flooring. Julianna recommends the Honeymoon Suite, which she readies by sprinkling the bed with rose petals. In February, the hotel will hold its first-ever Sweetheart Dance; call or check their website for up-to-the-minute details.



A Space Gallery: 110 W. Seventh St. (575) 538-3333; aspacestudioartgallery.com.

Silver City Gallery Association: (575) 313-9613; silvercitygalleries.com.

Diane’s Restaurant: 510 N. Bullard St. (575) 538-8722; dianesrestaurant.com.

Isaac’s Bar & Grill: 200 N. Bullard St. (575) 388-4090.

Murray Hotel: From $109/night. Honeymoon Suite from $169/night. 200 W. Broadway St. (575) 956-9400; murray-hotel.com.



METROPOLITAN LIAISON



VernonsVernon’s Hidden Valley Steakhouse.

Photo by Sergio Slavador.


The state’s largest city tucks some of its most urbane destinations away from the naked eye—in the case of Vernon’s Hidden Valley Steakhouse, behind an unmarked door. Tell the bouncer “Joe sent me” to gain entry to this modern speakeasy, where local bands and solo pianists play in the Black Diamond Lounge, and diners feast on a lavish fine-dining menu of steak and seafood. The restaurant’s secluded North Valley location and firelit atmosphere make it an intimate place to rendezvous.



Hotel Andaluz isn’t just one of the most chic boutique hotels in Albuquerque, it was voted one of the best in the world in October 2012 by Condé Nast Traveler readers. Twosomes can book secluded casbah nooks in the lobby, with couches and a privacy curtain. A private dinner can also be served here, and general manager Howard Jacobs says the intimate spaces are popular for proposals. Jacobs recommends the exotic, Far East–ornate Zen Den suite—otherworldly quarters for couples keen to reconnect.



If the weather is right, reserve cruiser bikes through the hotel a day or more in advance. Pedal through downtown exploring art galleries like Sumner and Dene, or head back to Nob Hill to eye the goods at Matrix Fine Art. At Central and Carlisle, browse Toad Road, a vintage-clothing shop for men and women; Hey Jhonny, stocked with soigné home décor; and Wear It!, known for its bohemian-chic clothing.



Vernon’s Hidden Valley Steakhouse: 6855 Fourth St. NW, Los Ranchos de Albuquerque. (505) 341-0831; thehiddensteakhouse.com.

Hotel Andaluz: From $219. 125 Second St. NW. (505) 242-9090, (877) 987-9090; hotelandaluz.com.

Sumner and Dene: 517 Central Ave. (505) 842-1400; sumnerdene.com.

Matrix Fine Art: 3812 Central Ave. (505) 268-8952; matrixfineart.com.



SNOW ROMANTIC



Bedroom at the Bavarian Lodge

Bedroom at the Bavarian Lodge.

Courtesy The Bavarian.




Tucked at the base of Kachina Peak, Bavarian Lodge offers the amenity skiers and their plus-ones most crave: early-morning access to Taos Ski Valley’s backside a full hour before those lodging lower in the valley have a chance to spoil the fresh powder. The King Ludwig Suite, named after Bavaria’s luxury-loving monarch, is owner Jaime Schulze’s pick for romance seekers. The vaulted living room opens onto a balcony with mountain views, and a spa-like bathroom with a Jacuzzi soaking tub stands ready to soothe àpres-ski aches. For a sweetheart of a deal, book the package that includes a massage for two (a therapist comes to guest rooms) and dinner for two at the Lodge’s restaurant. The three-course pre-set menu will include classic Bavarian-inspired items such as spätzle (Bavarian-style pasta), Wiener schnitzel (Viennese veal cutlet), and sauerbraten (marinated roast beef). Nightly dinner menus also include such dishes as braised New Mexico lamb shank and grilled Canadian wild boar chops. Beamed ceilings, aged-pine paneling, 300-year-old castle doors, an antler chandelier, and an authentic kachelofen (a Bavarian-style stove) in the restaurant will transport you straight to the Alps.



Slip into some new ski togs at Cottam’s Ski Shops, a staple for New Mexico skiers for 35 years. Black-diamond runs deserve a toast at the Blonde Bear Tavern, a ski-in/ski-out destination at Edelweiss Lodge and Spa. Beyond the slopes, the Bavarian Lodge has teamed with Stuart Wilde, of Wild Earth Llama Adventures, to guide guests on snowshoe treks alongside his pack animals. This year, he’ll offer excursions to stunning Lake Williams, above Taos Ski Valley.



Bavarian Lodge: From $305/night. 100 Kachina Rd. (888) 205-8020, (575) 776-8020; thebavarian.net.

Cottam’s Ski Shops: 101 Sutton Pl. (575) 776-8719; cottamsskishops.com.

The Blonde Bear: (106 Sutton Pl. (575) 737-6900; edelweisslodgeandspa.com.

Wild Earth Llama Adventures: (575) 586-0174; llamaadventures.com.



A WHOLE LODGE OF LOVE



Vermejo -barThe bar at Vermejo Park Lodge.

Photo by Kate Russell.


For couples seeking a remote, rustic retreat awash in Master of the Universe cachet, Vermejo Park Ranch, outside Ratón, fits the bill. Once part of land baron Lucian B. Maxwell’s 1.7 million acres, the 920-square-mile ranch has been owned by mogul Ted Turner since 1996. The LEED-certified Costilla Lodge was constructed with the Ranch’s own lumber. The ranch, which is usually booked by groups, rents individual rooms only in the winter season.



This time of year, guests are transported by snowcats from the welcome center to the high-mountain lodge, where a staff of five stands by to fulfill every need. Chef James Africano prepares dinners such as bison surf and turf, or chile-rubbed roasted chicken. Winter dishes may also include appetizers of trout four ways, prepared using catches from guests’ ice-fishing excursions. Guests can also request guided outings in snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, sledding, and wildlife viewing; the ranch is home to Rocky Mountain elk, bobcats, bald and golden eagles, and mountain lions. Fresh hot chocolate and cookies welcome guests in from the cold.



Vermejo Park Ranch: $250 per person/night. Two-night minimum stay required, available through early March. (575) 445-3097; vermejoparkranch.com



EXOTIC LUXE



Monte SagradoA spa tub at El Monte Sagrado. Courtesy of El Monte Sagrado.


With its international influences, El Monte Sagrado Living Resort and Spa, in Taos, is a passport to pleasure. Each well-appointed guest room has its own geographical theme, ranging from Argentina to Japan, with décor to match. The Kama Sutra suite boasts dark wood furnishings carved with erotic imagery, a large bathtub, and a private courtyard. Even the room-service menu offers sensual treats: New Mexico’s own Gruet Sparkling Wine and chocolate-covered strawberries.



At the spa, unwind in a hydrotherapy tub for two. Spa manager Heidi Gates notes that a romantic retreat is a fitting time for couples to try something new—such as a side-by-side pedicure. El Monte Sagrado’s Serene Ski Escape package includes two-day lift tickets for two, two-night accommodations, a $100 credit at the resort’s De la Tierra Restaurant, and an hour-long couple’s massage.



After experiencing De la Tierra’s fine-dining menu, the next evening you might also venture into Taos for a candlelit dinner at the fittingly named Love Apple. Housed in a former chapel, the cozy ambiance of this sumptuous slow-food restaurant is highly conducive to canoodling. Add an element of adventure by ascending together in one of Eske’s Paradise Balloons. Private flights lift off at sunrise from the edge of the Río Grande Gorge, then drop into the 650-foot-deep canyon to follow the river. Flights launch year-round (weather permitting), and excursions this time of year may require extra layers. Pilot Ken Eske has observed several passengers popping the question during flights, and has witnessed several aerial weddings.



Travelers can pack light for a Taos trip, thanks to plentiful clothing and jewelry shops that capture the town’s distinctive style. Local designer Lynn Wilkinson cuts colorful Pendleton fabrics into stylish serapes and swing coats at Aventura. Accessorize with gold link bracelets or modern turquoise rings at Artwares Contemporary Jewelry, or with a dazzling inlay necklace or belt buckle of Taos Pueblo by G.L. Miller of Act 1 Gallery. Gents attempting to keep up with the shopping spree will find cozy Rocky Mountain-man clothing and accessories at Overland Sheepskin Company, just north of town.



El Monte Sagrado Resort and Spa: Suites, $199–$519/night.

Serene Ski Escape Package: From $754 for a two-night stay. (575) 758-3502; elmontesagrado.com.

The Love Apple: Cash only. 803 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. (575) 751-0050; theloveapple.net.

Eske’s Paradise Balloon Rides: Exclusive flights for two, $740 total. (575) 751-6098; taosballooning.com. Aventura: 129 Kit Carson Rd. (575) 758-2144; aventuraconcepts.blogspot.com.

Artemisia: 117B Bent St. (575) 737-9800; artemisiataos.com.

Act 1 Gallery: 218 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. (575) 758-7831; actonegallery.com.

Overland Sheepskin Company: 1405 N. Hwy. 522. (575) 758-8820; overland.com. ✜



Albuquerque-based Ashley M. Biggers is a contributing editor to the magazine.