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(Brand) New Mexico

The road then winds past the indisputably prowlike Battleship Rock and on to a major jaw dropper: Valle Grande, one of the largest volcanic calderas in the world. Formed more than a million years ago by an eruption 600 times more powerful than the one that rocked Mount St. Helens, it's now 144 square miles of luxuriant meadow, with all the extravagant expansiveness of an emerald sea. Currently, you can gape at Valle Grande only from the road—it's privately owned, and conservation groups are anxiously waiting to see if Congress will come up with $101 million to purchase the land before the offer expires at the end of next year. You can also follow Highway 4 to the 12th-century Anasazi ruins of Bandelier National Monument (505/672-3861).

shop to it!
The downtown retail renaissance is still a work in progress, but don't pass up a chance to visit Skip Maisel's Wholesale Indian Jewelry & Crafts (510 Central Ave. S.W.; 505/242-6526). The Maisel family has been selling Indian crafts and souvenirs to travelers since 1907; in 1929 the store moved to its current location, and its Art Deco façade and Indian-themed murals (wonderfully well preserved) became an instant Route 66 landmark. This huge store stocks everything from Mexican jumping beans and gross scorpion key chains for the kids to exquisite pottery and turquoise jewelry for the grown-ups. Also worth a look is Dimestore Cowboys (407 Second St. S.W.; 505/244-1493), which carries enough Western-themed hand-forged and hand-crafted furniture to turn your abode into a showplace of Rio Grande style.

In Nob Hill, Pick Up Your Toys (3100 Central Ave. S.E.; 505/254-9929) has playthings both earnest (china tea sets) and cheeky (Fighting Rabbi puppets). The A Store (3500 Central Ave. S.E.; 505/266-2222) stocks chic home accessories by, among others, Rainbow Gate, Vietri, Retroneau, Noguchi, and Mike. Behind the dalmatian-patterned entrance of Bow Wow Records (3103 Central Ave. N.E.; 505/256-0928) is the hipster's source for jazz and alternative music, in new and used condition. There's just the right musty ambiance at Cowboys & Indians Antiques (4000 Central Ave. S.E.; 505/255-4054), stocked by a network of pickers with finds ranging from vintage Indian beadwork to souvenirs from Route 66's heyday. Just off Central is Wear It! (107 Amherst Dr. S.E.; 505/266-7764), where au courant meets cool, with tees by Custo of Barcelona, bags by Un Apres-Midi de Chien, and feminine dresses by Lilith of Paris. Across the street, Papers! (114 Amherst Dr. S.E.; 505/254-1434) sells great rubber stamps and goods for wrapping and writing, and Ooh! Aah! Jewelry (110 Amherst Dr. S.E.; 505/265-7170) showcases semiprecious stones.

Chili Patch U.S.A. (204 San Felipe St. N.W.; 505/242-4454) in Old Town is a nifty store for meeting your chili-related souvenir needs. Other Old Town standouts are Andrews Pueblo Pottery & Art Gallery (303 N. Romero St.; 505/243-0414), one of the best stores of its type, and its affiliate, Andrews Aventura (400 Romero St. N.W., Suite 3; 505/247-9220), which specializes in Mexican pewter, tinware, and silver jewelry from Taxco. Mariposa Gallery (113 Romero St. N.W.; 505/842-9097) has covetable jewelry and objets created mostly by local artists.

pueblo deco
A rare "Pueblo Deco" gem dating to 1927, the KiMo Theatre (the name is an amalgam of two Indian words that loosely mean "king of its kind") was saved from destruction in 1978. It has since become a cultural hot spot for Albuquerque, featuring everything from Gilbert & Sullivan to performance art. Right now, all you can admire is the intricate terra-cotta and tile façade; the building is closed for a $2 million interior renovation and restoration. It's set to reopen in March 2000. 423 Central Ave. N.W.; 505/848-1370.

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