Southwestern Hotel with Casino and Bowling Alley
Recently built by the modern-day Santa Clara tribe, the hotel showcases a blend of Native American and New Mexican influences, from the kiva fireplace in the lobby to handwoven rugs and local artwork in the guest rooms. The hotel’s major draw is its entertainment venues. Its casino has more than 750 slot machines and themed games such as Deal or No Deal. Table games here stick to the classics—blackjack, craps, and roulette. A sports bar on one end of the casino floor is decked out with several flat-panel TVs playing the day’s sporting events.
Carved into a 200-foot rock wall minutes from the hotel and overlooking the community of Española, the Puye Cliff Dwellings are a set of caves that can only be reached by a series of steps and ladders. The ancestral home of the Santa Clara Pueblo tribe, the dwellings date back to the 13th century. Today, you can see them during guided tours of the well-preserved historical site, which also features ancient carvings and Pueblo ruins. The canyon is located about 10 minutes from the Santa Claran Hotel.
Elsewhere on the property, you can bowl in a 24-lane alley or listen to local musicians and DJs play at The “O” Bar & Tapas. The upscale lounge is one of many places to grab a bite at the hotel. Other dining options include a café and The Black Mesa Steakhouse, which won the 2009 Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator for its wine list.
Española, New Mexico: Artsy, Small Town Close to Pueblos
About halfway between Santa Fe and Taos, the small town of Española makes a good staging ground for exploring north-central New Mexico. The town was originally founded in the 1880s as a stop on the railway line headed to Denver. But over the years, it has become a destination in its own right, thanks in part to its cuisine and culture. The food here is known for being inexpensive, authentically New Mexican, and “never watered down for interlopers’ tastes,” according to Moon Travel Guides. Nearby cultural attractions include a number of Pueblo Indian communities, which are all good places to pick up Native American artwork, such as distinctive black-and-red Santa Claran pottery.
Automobile art is another popular draw in Española. Known by some as the “lowrider capital of the world,” the town is filled with souped-up, late-model cars decked out in chrome rims, metal-chain steering wheels, and hoods with elaborate murals. To see more traditional creations, stroll through the galleries of the Bond House Museum, a Victorian-era adobe home with turn-of-the-20th-century fixtures and woodwork. The nearby Santa Cruz Church, built in 1733, has several examples of Spanish colonial religious art.
If you want to stay active, Black Mesa Golf Course is just minutes from the Santa Claran Hotel. Set in sandstone foothills, the 18-hole layout has a rough-hewn look that prompted Golf Magazine to rank it among America’s top 50 courses.
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Santa Claran Hotel
464 N. Riverside Dr.
Espanola, NM 87532