Spring is an exquisite season to visit New Mexico. Lilacs are in bloom and the weather is perfect for enjoying the landscape and exploring the region's Native American pueblo communities and culture.
Year round, visitors can drop by the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque to experience contemporary Native American culture. Much more than a repository of artifacts, the IPCC is a vibrant community hub. Chat with gallery attendants, see artist demonstrations, shop for handcrafted Native American art, watch dancing and drumming performances in the outdoor circle. Plan to eat at the popular Pueblo Harvest Café where traditional meals like mutton stew come with warm tortilla baked fresh in the Center’s outdoor oven.
The IPCC is owned and operated by the 19 pueblos of New Mexico. Maps and visitor information for each pueblo community are available on the website. Be sure to check out the etiquette tips for visitors as well as each pueblo's calendar for possible closure dates. Several pueblos can be visited as day trips from Albuquerque.
An hour or two north of Albuquerque by car, also accessible by Rail Runner transit, Santa Fe has many museums devoted to New Mexico history and Southwest culture. In the center of town, the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts holds the largest collection of contemporary Native art in the world. On Museum Hill, exhibits at the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian and the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture explore Pueblo art, beliefs and lifestyle both past and present. Museum shops are a great place to shop for jewelry, baskets and other authentic crafts by top artisans.
From Santa Fe, the High Road to Taos leads to the UNESCO world heritage site and the largest multi-storied adobe construction in the world. Taos Pueblo is not a museum but a living community that has been continuously occupied for over 1000 years. Taos Pueblo occasionally closes to visitors; check the website for spring opening date. Artists on site build pottery from local clay using ancient methods, firing pieces by setting them in the hot ashes of small fireplaces. Seek out the artists' wares or simply sit by the stream and enjoy mountain air scented with baking bread, wild sage and wood smoke. At Taos it’s possible to sense the deep connection between Pueblo spirituality, nature and art.
Back in Albuquerque, a highlight of the spring calendar is the Gathering of Nations Pow Wow held the last full weekend of April. The Pow Wow is a social event as well as a competition for indigenous dancers from both Canada and the U.S. With more than 3000 participants, it's the largest pow wow in North America. Plenty of vendors offer traditional food and you're sure to see the continent's best dancers. Even spectators need staying power as the Pow Wow goes around the clock for two days. Children and the elderly dance during the day, the strongest performers compete at night.