Fresh off a visit to Santa Fe, most people set the cruise control on 60 mph, blast up the Española Valley toward Taos on U.S. 84/285 ― and breeze right by a romantic treasure. Their loss.
Tucked on the Rio Grande's banks near the hamlet of Alcalde is Historic Los Luceros, a lush, 140-acre estate and hacienda museum that was home to art heiress Mary Cabot Wheelwright from 1923 to 1958. Preserved by her family, the estate opened to the public in 2004 and is now budding with lilacs and daffodils. So pull over ― and while you're at it, check out a few other gems along the way.
Historic Los Luceros
WHAT: An elegant 1800s Territorial-style hacienda ― with creaky floors, period artwork, and furnishings that reflect both New Mexico's regional style and Wheelwright's New England roots. Acres of formal gardens, dotted with high-desert blooms, shaggy sheep, and shady footpaths. WHEN: By reservation in April; 10-4 Fri-Mon, by reservation Tue-Thu May 1-Oct 31. HOW MUCH: $5. WHERE: County Rd. 48, Los Luceros (1 mi. north of Alcalde); www.loslucerosmuseum.org, 505/852-3245, or 505/852-1895.
Historic Los Luceros gift shop/bookstore
WHAT: Northern New Mexico titles and pretty postcards, plus watercolors, woodwork, and jewelry by local artists. WHEN: In April, a visit is included with a reservation to see the estate and hacienda.
WHAT: Gourmet enchiladas and fresh-squeezed lemonade served under the hacienda's thatch-roofed ramada, alongside crowing roosters and rustling cottonwoods. WHEN: By reservation in Apr; lunch Fri-Mon May 1-Oct 31; dinner by reservation Fri-Sun Jun 1-Oct 31. HOW MUCH: $.
WHAT: A 50-year-old taco stand turned real-deal Mexican restaurant, with homemade tortillas, a mesquite-fueled grill, and killer carne adovada that lures foodies from all over northern New Mexico. WHEN: Lunch and dinner daily. HOW MUCH: $$. WHERE: 603 Santa Cruz Rd., Española; 505/753-3211.
El Santuario de Chimayo
WHAT: A tiny 19th-century adobe chapel (still active) whose sand, said to cure all ills, draws pilgrims from near and far. Proof is in the abandoned crutches piled in a corner. WHEN: 9-4 daily. HOW MUCH: Free. WHERE: County Rd. 94c (off State 76), Chimayo; 505/351-4360.
Info: Los Luceros is near Alcalde, about 8 miles north of Española. For more on the area, visit www.espanolanmchamber.com or call 505/753-2831.