New Mexico's finest hotels, restaurants, shops and cultural attractions are centered in Santa Fe, while most of the best golf can be found in or near Albuquerque. Not to worry—it's easy to do both. The best option is to fly into Albuquerque International Sunport (which is serviced by nearly every major airline). From there, it's simple to find your way to Interstate 25. Santa Fe is a one-hour straight shot to the northeast . If you crave a journey with more twists, turns and character, try Route 14, the Turquoise Trail; you'll drive through old mining towns that are coming back to life with restaurants, theaters and museums. Either way, rent a car with extra kick, because you'll ascend 2,000 feet en route.
Santa Fe, the state capital, is a great walking city, with most of its attractions conveniently centered around the Plaza, a classic town square that dates to the early 1600s. However, the city sits at about 7,000 feet, so if you're unaccustomed to high altitude, take a day or so to get acclimated. Don't overdo the exercise—or the alcohol consumption—until your lungs adjust to the thin mountain air.
Santa Fe is home to one of the largest art markets in the United States. The biggest concentration of the city's 250-plus galleries can be found on Canyon Road, in a row of adobe-style buildings displaying everything from paintings and sculpture to Native American arts and crafts. There's also the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum (okeeffemuseum.org), showcasing the work of the expressive painter who nearly single-handedly put Santa Fe on the map.
SANTA FE OPERA
A summertime tradition for nearly half a century, the Santa Fe Opera (santafeopera.org) features some of the world's leading up-and-coming singers, conductors and stage designers. The opera house itself is part of the appeal: a modern, open-air theater that's sculpted into a hillside. The curvilinear rooflines are designed to express the "shape of sound."
East meets Southwest at Ten Thousand Waves Spa & Resort (tenthousandwaves.com) in the mountains just northeast of Santa Fe. Designed after a Japanese onsen, or hot spring, the luxury spa offers private and communal hot baths as well as ten kinds of massage, including Japanese hot stone, Thai and "salt glow," in which sea salt is mixed with warm oil to exfoliate the skin.
Albuquerque-area courses sit at 4,500 to 6,500 feet above sea level, but even at that altitude, temperatures in summer can reach the mid-90s or higher. It's almost always a dry heat, which makes it easier to bear, but be sure to drink plenty of fluids. Given its even higher elevation, Santa Fe enjoys slightly cooler temperatures, with summertime highs in the low 90s and low humidity the norm. If that still sounds a little warm, consider a spring or fall visit. You'll also avoid the afternoon thunderstorms that hit in July and August.
A rule of thumb on clubbing in New Mexico: Factor in an additional 10 percent of carry for every mile of elevation. So if you normally hit a seven-iron 150 yards, in mile-high Albuquerque it will fly 165. They don't call it the Land of Enchantment for nothing.
Las Campanas in Santa Fe features two Jack Nicklaus courses, Sunrise (1993) and Sunset (2000). Immaculately groomed in bent grass, both eighteens are routed through juniper and piñon trees, with sagebrush and mountains all around. The Sunset was christened in a Shell's Wonderful World of Golf match between Nicklaus and Ben Crenshaw in 2001. (Jack won by five strokes.)