The outlaw charm remains, but new fine-art galleries and high-end boutiques make northern New Mexico's Madrid a real discovery. "We're not Santa Fe, and we're never going to be," vows David Snow, owner of Fuse Gallery in Madrid. True enough, but even Snow would have to admit that the old coal-mining town turned artist colony has grown―just a little―tony.
After perusing the village's trove of trinkets, duck into the cluster of more polished studios on the north end of Main Street. Madrid can be characteristically low-key about the holidays, so check on the status of the Christmas open house. And to sound like a local, by the way, pronounce it Mah-drid―not like the Spanish capital.
SHOP: Fuse Gallery. WHAT: Enameled copper panels, plus works in bone and found metal objects. WHEN: 11-5 Wed-Mon. WHERE: 2878 State 14; 505/438-4999.
Misenko Boldman Fine Arts. WHAT: Mainly contemporary, mostly local: landscapes, figurative works, ceramics, furniture, and sculpture. WHEN: 10-6 daily. WHERE: 2875 State 14; 505/473-9787.
Jezebel Glass Studio and Gallery. WHAT: Earthy motifs appear in contemporary furnishings including chandeliers and glass-and-iron lamps, as well as in jewelry and paintings. WHEN: 10-5 Mon-Sat, 11-5 Sun. WHERE: 2860 State 14; 866/539-3235.
EAT: Mine Shaft Tavern. WHAT: A smoky, rowdy, Harley-friendly saloon. Don't miss the juicy green-chile buffalo burgers, requisite beer, and live music on the weekends. WHEN: Lunch daily, dinner Fri-Sun. HOW MUCH: $. WHERE: 2846 State 14; 505/473-0743.
Java Junction. WHAT: A restored miner's house, circa 1914, jammed with souvenirs, snacks, and curios. Ideal for a cup o' joe and a bagel. WHEN: 7:30-5 daily. WHERE: 2855 State 14; 505/438-2772.
GO: Madrid Christmas Open House. WHAT: Madrid lights up with garlands and Santa visits, and stores serve refreshments and stay open late. WHEN: Call for details. WHERE: Downtown strip along State 14; 505/438-0782. ―Michelle Pentz Glave
INFO: The small hamlet of Madrid sits in the hills along State 14 on the scenic Turquoise Trail, roughly halfway between Santa Fe and Albuquerque.