On Friday, October 18, 2019, docents from La Fonda on the Plaza in Santa Fe were treated to a familiarization (FAM) tour of Los Lunas and Valencia County. Twenty-three docents, along with La Fonda, Rio Metro and Village of Los Lunas staff, were given the opportunity to learn about the history and culture of the region during this unique and interactive experience.
“The idea was to connect our micro-tourism region,” says Alex Ochoa, Community Planner for the Village of Los Lunas and head of the Roads Less Traveled Los Lunas tourism task force. “When people come to New Mexico, they often go to Albuquerque, Santa Fe or Taos. We wanted to bring the docents from La Fonda, who are knowledgeable about our state in general, down to Los Lunas and Valencia County to familiarize them with what there is do in the area.”
The group started the day on the New Mexico Rail Runner Express. As they rode the train from the Santa Fe Depot to Downtown Albuquerque, they were given an overview of the Rail Runner and the connections it provides throughout the region. From the Downtown Albuquerque Station, everyone was shuttled to the Pueblo of Isleta for the first stop on the tour.
The Rich History of Isleta Pueblo
“We drove around Isleta Lakes to showcase the area,” says Ochoa. “Then we went into the photo gallery at Isleta Resort & Casino, which was built specifically for the Time Exposures exhibit that is currently on display.”
After viewing the exhibit, the docents were taken to the St. Augustine Church on the Pueblo, where they were treated to a talk about the history of the church and the Pueblo in general.
Los Lunas Gems
Lunch at the Luna Mansion and a tour of the historical building was next on the docket. The Mansion, which was built in 1880 by the Santa Fe Railroad Company as a gift to the Luna family in exchange for right-of-way through their land, currently serves as a fine dining restaurant. The building’s walls are adorned with art and photos, and antique furniture and other objects can be found throughout.
“A lot of the docents weren’t familiar with the Luna Mansion and the history behind it,” says Ochoa. “Lunch was fantastic.” While the group ate, they heard from Rio Metro about transportation services in the area. A Ranger from the Salinas Pueblo Missions also spoke, giving an overview of this historical site located in Valencia County.
Following lunch, the docents headed to the Los Lunas Museum of Heritage and Arts, where Museum Director Cynthia Shetter spoke about the museum’s history and collection. They explored the museum before getting back on the shuttles and headed further south to Belen.
The first stop in Belen was at Through the Flower, artist Judy Chicago’s art space and studio.
“The Judy Chicago visit in Belen was very impressive,” says Ed Pulsifer, Director of Sales for La Fonda on the Plaza. Pulsifer created and is heavily involved in La Fonda’s docent program, and accompanied them on the tour.
The second to last stop at the Belen Harvey House Museum was a must-do for the docents. La Fonda was a Harvey House from 1925 to 1968, so visiting another Harvey House was a highlight of the tour.
“It was an incredible place to visit,” says Pulsifer. “So many of us had never been to the Belen Harvey House.” The two-story building is filled with historical exhibits representing the classic hotel and restaurant that catered to train passengers.
The tour wrapped up with a stop at the Hub City Brewing Company and Rail Café, located adjacent to the Belen Rail Runner Station. The docents had a snack to revive them from the busy day, and some even enjoyed a locally crafted beer or glass of wine while waiting for the train.
Following the tour, the docents hopped on the Rail Runner and headed back to Santa Fe.
Why a FAM Tour?
“This was a great opportunity to get people on the Rail Runner and bring them down to Los Lunas to explore the region,” said Pulsifer. “A lot of good things are happening there. So many New Mexicans don’t realize what great opportunities the area has to offer.”
This particular FAM tour was developed as a trial run for future tourism and travel groups visiting Los Lunas and Valencia County. James Glover of Once a Day Marketing, a consulting partner of the Roads Less Traveled task force, says the group wants to bring in travel writers and tourism professionals to learn more about the region so they can share it with their audiences.
“The Roads Less Traveled plan is all about creating memorable and soul feeding adventures,” says Glover. “This task force is working together to promote the Rio Grande region in ways that haven’t been done before. Everyone was pleased with the organization of the tour. It was well planned and well carried out.”
According to Glover, the docents reported having a good experience. “When we took the Rail Runner back to Santa Fe, I had the opportunity to ask each person what their highlight was. Every single place we stopped was at least one person’s highlight. One person said they loved the church at Isleta. Another said the Judy Chicago studio was their favorite. The tour had something that appealed to everyone.”
Plan Your Roads Less Traveled Experience
For more information on activities in and around Los Lunas, visit the Roads Less Traveled website at www.visitloslunas.org.
To learn more about La Fonda on the Plaza, and find out about the free docent-led tours of the historic building (Wednesday - Saturday at 10:30 a.m.), visit www.lafondasantafe.com. Complimentary private tours can also be scheduled by contacting Ed Pulsifer at (505) 995-2325.
To plan your excursion to these exciting Valencia County and Santa Fe destinations, visit www.riometro.org, or call the Rio Metro Regional Transit District / New Mexico Rail Runner Express Customer Service Office at 866-795-RAIL (7245).