A highlight of any trip to New Mexico is its native cuisine. Part Mexican, part Native American and heavily centered around those addictive chilies, the local menu will take more than a few days to work through. Start with enchiladas (tortilla stuffed with meat and cheese), burritos (tortillas rolled around shredded beef) or chile relleno (stuffed chili peppers) smothered in red or green chili sauce (or Christmas if you prefer a combo). Add some beans, posole (lime-soaked kernels of corn), and sopapilla bread, and you have the quintessential New Mexican meal. New Mexican nightlife, on the other hand, is noticeably sedate.

Bars and Pubbing in New Mexico

Few veteran travelers would consider New Mexico a hotspot to party. Its main tourist towns like Santa Fe, Taos, Silver City, and Albuquerque have the most diverse range of bars, dance spots, and even a nightclub or two. But overall, the drinking is done in low-key, dimly-lit bars where ambiance trumps A-list action. For all its other accolades, Santa Fe’s bar scene is rather lax, but there are a few fun spots to enjoy a margarita and live music, such as The Cowgirl Hall of Fame (319 S. Guadalupe St, Santa Fe) and El Farol (808 Canyon Rd, Santa Fe). In fact, some of the city’s best bars are found in the cool downtown hotels.

Taos is even more sedate, with only a few sleepy (but rather famous) watering holes in the historic downtown. Try the Alley Cantina (121 Teresina Lane, Taos) or the Hideaway Lounge (1005 Paseo del Pueblo Sur, Taos) to mingle with the locals. Albuquerque has the closest thing to big city nightlife, with trendy joints around Nob Hill and funky dives scattered around downtown. The Martini Grille (4200 Central SE, Albuquerque) is popular with young professionals, while Burt’s Tiki Lounge (313 Gold Ave, Albuquerque) always delivers strong cocktails and an eclectic crowd. Most bars close at around 2:00 a.m. and smoking is not permitted indoors.

Dining and Cuisine in New Mexico

Santa Fe is the center of the New Mexican culinary universe, with an overwhelming selection of both five-star celebrity restaurants and incredibly tasty local cafés that have been around for decades. Great atmosphere comes free with almost every eatery in Santa Fe, especially the ones in the historic downtown Plaza area. Be sure to splurge once or twice for the creative menus at top restaurants like Santacafe (231 Washington Ave, Santa Fe) and Geronimo (724 Canyon Rd, Santa Fe). Authentic fare at local favorites like the Guadalupe Café (422 Old Santa Fe Trail, Santa Fe), The Shed (113 ½ E. Palace Ave, Santa Fe), or iconic diner Plaza Café (54 Lincoln Ave, Santa Fe) will be more than reasonable.

When in New Mexico, there’s no reason to eat any other kind of food than the local cuisine unless you simply detest chilies. Albuquerque has a solid dining scene as well, with popular restaurants from the upscale Artichoke Café (424 Central SE, Albuquerque) to the family-friendly Standard Diner (320 Central SE, Albuquerque). Of course, there are also plenty of ethnic dining options in New Mexico’s large towns if you get tired of the spice.