Watching a corn dance at the Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo near Santa Fe gives those visiting New Mexico a better understanding of why Colorado's neighbor to the south has “Land of Enchantment" on its license plates. In a gathering of more than 200 colorfully adorned, drumming and chanting tribal members, the corn dance is performed as a prayer for rain and a bountiful crop.
It is one of many annual celebrations that occur at New Mexico’s 19 pueblos and an event that guests staying at a Heritage Hotels & Resorts property should add to their itinerary. Found- ed in 2005 by CEO James M. Long, and headquartered in Albuquerque, the hotel group counts 11 properties among its portfolio. A 12th generation New Mexican, Long has an affinity for preserving and advancing the unique cultural heritage of the state.
“Mr. Long feels that when people come to New Mexico as guests that they have an authentic experience,” says Molly Ryckman, vice president of sales and marketing for the company. “He believes it is important to highlight the history and culture of a particular destination and also showcase the truly distinctive personality of a property.”
True to what the company’s website states, the “hotels and resorts celebrate the rich, multi-cultural heritage of the Southwestern United States,” something that is evident to guests from the moment they arrive. Whether staying at 203-room Hotel Encanto de Las Cruces near the southern border of the state, one of three hotels in Albuquerque, one of five properties in Santa Fe or a pair of choices in Taos, guests can see Long’s passion for the Southwest at every turn. The CEO, who has a degree in architecture from the University of New Mexico, brings a blend of Native American, Mexican, Spanish and American Western influences into the exteriors, lobbies and guest rooms.
“About a half-hour north of Santa Fe is Chimayo and we wanted to tell the story of what makes that village so special,” Ryckman explained. “So we employed weavers from Chimayo to do weavings in the lobby and in the guest rooms. That community is also known for its car culture, so we purchased a low rider that helps tell the story of that culture as well.”
Riding in a restored ’64 Chevy Impala with Orlando Martinez, a native of nearby Española, guests not only learn about the pop-culture vehicles and the artisans behind the restorations, but also about Santa Fe’s history, including its status as the oldest capital city in North America. Opened in 1924, Hotel St. Francis is one of the city’s oldest hotels and the 80-room property gives a nod to the Franciscan missionary influence long before New Mexico earned statehood in 1912. It wows guests with its Gruet Winery tasting room and Market Steer Steakhouse.
The iconic Inn and Spa at Loretto, though built in 1975, feels as if it could date to Santa Fe’s settlement in 1610. The hotel’s 136 rooms, the Spa at Loretto, Luminaria Restaurant, outdoor sculpture garden and outdoor heated pool make for a relaxing stay. With 219 guest rooms, the Nidah Spa, the Cava Santa Fe Lounge, a rooftop pool and hot tub, the La Capilla de Oro wedding chapel and the Agave Restaurant, the Eldorado Hotel & Spa is another exceptional option for those vacationing in “The City Different.” Featuring 125 rooms, the Lodge at Santa Fe is a bit further from the city’s famed plaza, but a shuttle gets guests there quickly. Guests can lounge poolside and when night falls, go to the Benitez Cabaret, which hosts flamenco shows and perform- ing arts events.
Established in 1909 as the Paxton Lumber Company, the original building in Albuquerque’s historic Sawmill District was renovated and is now home to the Sawmill Market. Created in the spirit of the Ferry Building Marketplace in San Francisco, New York City’s Chelsea Market, Denver Central Market in RiNo and the Oxbow Public Market in Napa Valley, the 33,000 square-foot food hall is the first of its kind in New Mexico.
James M. Long, founder and CEO of Heritage Hotels & Resorts, partnered with local restaurateurs Lauren and Jason Greene, owners of the Grove Café & Market, and the idea became a reality in March 2020.
“It was important to save this building and preserve the history of Paxton Lumber Company,” said spokeswoman Molly Ryckman. “We talked about what we could do that was similar to the amazing food halls throughout the United States and decided this was what New Mexico needed.”
Hotel Chaco in Albuquerque pays homage to Chaco Canyon, which is within Chaco Culture National Historic Park. Throughout the 118- room property, guests see an array of works from 30 acclaimed local and regional Native American artists. Panoramic views from the hotel’s Level 5 rooftop restaurant are as satisfying as the cuisine. In addition to its 188 rooms, Hotel Albuquerque at Old Town impresses guests with inventive cocktails served at the QBar Lounge, delicious meals from Garduños and the artistry displayed at the Flamenco Tablao theater. Albuquerque’s Nativo Lodge features 144 rooms, including artist guest rooms showcasing the works of 47 Native American contemporary artists. The value-oriented property has an indoor/outdoor pool open year-round.
El Monte Sagrado in Taos has 84 rooms and invites guests to unwind in its indoor saltwater pool and luxuriate in the Living Spa. Of its ten treatment rooms, two suites are designed for couples. Its De la Tierra Restaurant and Private Wine Room offer intimate dining experiences. Inspired by the notable women of Taos (think Mable Dodge Lujan and Georgia O’Keeffe), the eight rooms at Palacio de Marquesa are beautifully appointed. Each has a mini-fridge and fireplace, select rooms have jetted tubs and spa showers, and guests can enjoy a customized gourmet breakfast each morning.
If you enjoy traveling with your four-legged family member, you’ll appreciate that only one property— Hotel Albuquerque at Old Town— isn’t pet friendly.
As comfortable as the rooms and common areas are in the hotels, it is definitely worth venturing off proper- ty. “We started Heritage Inspirations with Angelisa (Murray) and she does amazing tours,” Ryckman says. “She takes guests to Georgia O’Keeffe’s home in Abiquiú, she does glamping tours in Taos and Chaco Canyon, culinary, museum and gallery tours in Santa Fe, and if you haven’t had the opportunity to see a Native American dance at a pueblo, it is really beautiful.”
A stay at any one of the resort group’s hotels most assuredly immerses you in the culture, cuisine and artistry of New Mexico.
Heritage Hotels & Resorts
201 Third St. NW, Suite 1140 Albuquerque, NM 87102
Kim D. McHugh is a regular contributor to Colorado Expression.
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