Every few years, I start to crave New Mexico.

Craggy mesas. Bright blue skies. Potent green chile.

This year, as school let out for summer, we decided to pack up the kids and make the 11-hour drive northwest to New Mexico, hoping to get our fill of all the things that make this state special.

Here's a sample of what to do during a visit to New Mexico. You get extra points for visiting during the stunning Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, during which hundreds of hot air balloons create a connect-the-dots rainbow in the brilliant sky. This year, the festival, which is one of my favorite festivals I've ever attended, takes place Oct. 5-13.

Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa, Santa Ana Pueblo

To walk into the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa near Albuquerque and spy the iconic jagged landscape out of the grand lobby windows is to be instantly immersed in what makes New Mexico special. From the welcome margaritas at check-in to the nightly s'mores by the pool, Tamaya offers a family-friendly escape within easy reach of both Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Located on 550 acres of the Native American Santa Ana Pueblo between the Sandia Mountains and the Rio Grande River, the resort offers everything from horseback riding on rescue horses and bike riding through picturesque on-site trails to swimming in three on-site pools. While our kids enjoyed painting ceramic ponies and learning about Albuquerque's Trail of Painted Ponies art project, I enjoyed a Lavender Dry Brush Therapy, a decadent spa treatment that includes dry brushing, a lavender oil massage and a hot oil scalp treatment. Thanks to its mix of dining options, family-friendly activities and proximity to major attractions, Hyatt Regency Tamaya was an ideal choice for our family of six.

Info: 1300 Tuyuna Trail, Santa Ana Pueblo. 505-867-1234, hyatt.com/en-US/hotel/new-mexico/hyatt-regency-tamaya-resort-and-spa/tamay

Sandia Peak Tramway, Albuquerque

The scenery of New Mexico is breathtaking on its own, but the observation deck atop 10,378-foot Sandia Peak in the Cibola National Forest offers, well, a vantage point unlike anything else. An informative 15-minute tram ride gets you to the top, where you can take a hike or even don your skis, depending on the season. Don't forget your camera, either — the peak affords an 11,000-square-mile panoramic view of the Rio Grande Valley. Hungry? A new restaurant at the peak is expected to open in July, or you can always sample a local IPA and some green chile sliders at Sandiago's Grill at the Tram, located at the base. The New Mexico Ski Museum and Hall of Fame is also located at the base of the tram.

Info: 30 Tramway Road NE, Albuquerque. 505-856-7325, sandiapeak.com

Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe

The pointed deep red petals reach up to the sky like flames from a chiminea as fingerlike greenery calmly beckons below. To take in the pieces inside the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe is to experience poetry without words. You'll also find fascinating facts about the "mother of American modernism," who spent her early days as an artist in New York City and was later so inspired by New Mexico that she moved there permanently in 1949.

Info: 217 Johnson St., Santa Fe. 505-946-1000, okeeffemuseum.org

The Shed, Santa Fe

Despite several previous visits to Santa Fe, this last trip was the first time I had the opportunity to visit the Shed, a popular restaurant that serves up "the best that Northern New Mexico has to offer, both in cuisine and hospitality," according to the website. One step onto the restaurant's sprawling, orange umbrella- and twinkle light-adorned patio and I could already understand the appeal — it's the kind of place that makes you want to stay awhile. Spicy green chile stew, red sauce-smothered tamales and a purple prickly pear margarita only added to our love at first sight — and bite — experience. After dinner, head across the street to the quirky the Shop — A Christmas Store, where you can pick up unique ornaments any time of year. Make a point to check out Meow Wolf, too, an immersive experience unlike any other.

Info: 113 1/2 E Palace Ave., Santa Fe. 505-982-9030, sfshed.com

International UFO Museum And Research Center, Roswell

We may never truly know what happened in that Roswell-area field in July 1947, but the nonprofit International UFO Museum and Research Center in Roswell offers a fun pit stop for believers and nonbelievers alike. Stroll past a hulking UFO suspended from the ceiling, research a timeline of events that occurred after the crash, take in alien-themed artwork or snap a photo next to a life-size alien. You can even take a piece of Roswell home with you by picking up themed trinket ("alien hunter" hat, anyone?) in the gift shop. After all, the truth is out there.  

Info: 114 N Main St., Roswell. 575-625-9495, roswellufomuseum.com

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