Buffalo Thunder Resort & Casino

Santa Fe, New Mexico

New Mexico is clearly a jewel of the Southwest. If you appreciate wide open vistas, nothing remotely resembling a crowd, and, oh yes, world class golf, the Land of Enchantment deserves your immediate attention.

Buffalo Thunder Resort and Casino, a Hilton property, is a short drive from Santa Fe, and the fun begins immediately upon arrival. Guests are greeted at the front entrance by Skye, the official hospitality dog, who knows his business, likes to have his belly rubbed, and requires no tip. Since the resort is on a pueblo (ancestral land), both the rooms and common areas are filled with Native-American art, all of it colorful and evocative, and much of it for sale. My room definitely allowed for sprawling, but was no match for the Presidential Suite, an utmost in luxury a two-tiered Shangri-La that with all its amenities and sheen, could easily pass for a lair frequented by James Bond.

I know I’m not alone in searching out championship golf along with great food and distinctive spas when traveling, and Buffalo Thunder came up big on all counts. Staring at picturesque mesas from the Towa Golf Course didn’t necessarily help my game, but I was certainly relaxed as the holes are a nifty combination of friendly and challenging.

Before visiting Santa Fe, we stopped at Rancho de Chimayo, a venerable restaurant that serves up fresh and delectable local cuisine, and I washed down my enchiladas (served with festive red and green chili) with prickly pear lemonade. It was a beautiful summer Saturday and Santa Fe glistened in adobe splendor. Tall buildings aren’t allowed and it seems like ninety percent of the commercial establishments are galleries, all of then focused on native art. I left feeling like I needed to fill a large moving van with rugs, paintings and bric-a-brac so as to be able to redecorate my New York home in a Southwestern motif.

An additional hidden gem in the Santa Fe area should be mentioned. The New Mexico Wildlife Center in Espanola takes in hurt or orphaned animals and tries to rehabilitate them. Those that can’t be returned to the wild are on display, including bobcats, a fox, and a wondrous collection of owls.

The owls may be sleepy but a Santa Fe experience is definitely not!