Sky City, Acoma Pueblo

Tracy Copeland is president of a Tulsa, Oklahoma, nationwide association called Western Association of Veterans Education Specialists (W.A.V.E.S.), which has employees who train universities in processing applications from people eligible for Veterans’ Benefits. He brought 950 attendees and 40 exhibitors to Albuquerque July 17–20 last year.

“We like getting all our people in the same hotel, and the Hyatt Regency Albuquerque enabled us to do that,” Copeland says. “We liked its location in the heart of downtown—and the convention center is a short walk from there. And there were so many things to see and do, and drive to in the Albuquerque area. Our people just loved it. We’re going back next year.”

Now, let’s hit the road!

Acoma Sky City Pueblo

Situated atop a sheer-walled 367-foot mesa and dating back to 1150, Acoma Pueblo’s Sky City is the longest continuously inhabited community in North America. Protected by the steep cliffs, the Native Americans fought off Spanish invaders numerous times before finally submitting.

The Spanish started construction of San Esteban del Rey Mission there in 1629, and it still stands today. Both the mission and Acoma Pueblo are on the National Register of Historic Places. The Acoma people are famous for their distinctive pottery. Visitors can scale the sheer cliffs by bus, to the ancient adobe pueblo (without electricity or running water) that still houses several hundred people.

Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad

All aboard for a time-trip back to 1880. That’s when this railroad was built. Today, Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad (CTSRR) is 64 miles of narrow-gauge track nestled in the Rocky Mountains, spanning the border between New Mexico and Colorado. Originally part of Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad, which is no longer operating, CTSRR was saved in 1970 by a group of old-railway fans, with help from the states of Colorado and New Mexico. Along this 19th-century train ride, groups pass through the Old West of Billy the Kid, Kit Carson and Butch Cassidy.

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument is a remarkable outdoor laboratory. It offers a rare glimpse through the millennia back to prehistoric times, and the opportunity to see and experience the geologic processes that have shaped New Mexico.

These cone-shaped tent rock formations (tall, thin spires of rock jutting up from a basin or badlands) are the result of volcanic eruptions that occurred millions of years ago, leaving deposits of pumice, ash and tuff more than 1,000 feet thick. The national monument is on Pajarito Plateau in north-central New Mexico, which ranges from 5,570 to 6,760 feet in altitude and includes a national recreation trail.

Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument

A 45-minute drive south out of Albuquerque takes groups to the ancient site of Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument. This site, once a thriving brick-and-mortar city, has long been abandoned. But through these ruins, groups learn a lot about Indian life and the flourishing cultures of the people who lived there long ago. The abandoned site seems to echo very loudly about a unique time in history, and the early and very hostile encounters between Pueblo peoples and Spanish colonizers.

Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway

Tijeras is located a few miles east of Albuquerque, on iconic Route 66. It’s at the beginning of the Turquoise Trail (turquoise was once mined there), one of the greatest road trips in the West. The Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway links Albuquerque and Santa Fe, and it’s filled with colorful historic sites and the striking Sandia Range.

Groups journey through the past as they wind through the old mining towns of Sandia Park, Golden, Madrid and Cerrillos. In Sandia Park, they find perhaps the funkiest “museum” in America—Tinker-town Museum, a treasure-trove of Americana. Cerrillos still looks very much as it did in Old West days, which is why the Young Guns movies were shot there in the ’80s. Madrid, another picturesque old town, features a wood-plank sidewalk. The town has become home to a very wide variety of artists who think outside the box.

Valles Caldera National Preserve

This ancient super-volcano is 13 miles wide and filled with hot springs, streams, fumaroles and other rare geologic features. Valles Caldera sits at an altitude of 11,000 feet, west and uphill from Los Alamos. There, attendees can glimpse a volcano that at one time was very active and enjoy hiking, wildlife viewing (plenty of elk), mountain biking and ranger-guided tours.

Further Reading:

Teeming with Exciting Group Adventures: Albuquerque and Santa Fe