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Top 12 Things to Do in New Mexico

In the American Southwest, New Mexico often gets overshadowed by the impressive natural and historic sites in Arizona and Colorado. However, New Mexico has one of the most diverse landscapes in the country and intriguing attractions that you might not expect here. This is a unique place to learn about Hispanic and Native American cultures through food, festivals, and hiking trails.

So whether you’re just passing through on a road trip or planning to make New Mexico your vacation destination, make sure to visit these amazing places in the state. After all, it’s known as the “Land of Enchantment” for a reason!

Santa Fe Food Tour Santa Fe's Markets
Credit: Santa Fe's Markets by © Brian Welker | Dreamstime.com

Santa Fe Food Tour

What Is It? One of the best ways to sample the delicious and authentic cuisine of New Mexico is to join a food tour in Santa Fe. 

Why Do It? Tours and classes begin in the historic downtown part of the city and allow you to experience the area through the eyes of a local. For many Southwestern dishes, you’ll be asked whether you want red or green chiles. Chiles are a big part of New Mexican cuisine, so prepare your taste buds and try some local specialties! You can also answer this question by responding, “Christmas,” and you’ll get to try both colors of chiles. 

Good to Know: Santa Fe is also known for its vibrant arts scene, so stick around town to check out some local galleries or even an opera.

“Breaking Bad” Tour of Albuquerque “Breaking Bad” Tour of Albuquerque
Credit: “Breaking Bad” Tour of Albuquerque by bigstock.com

“Breaking Bad” Tour of Albuquerque

What Is It? The city of Albuquerque won over the hearts and imaginations of television viewers around the world thanks to the cult TV show, “Breaking Bad.”

Why Do It? The vast and desolate mountain and desert vista set the backdrop for the show’s six seasons, which were filmed in and around the Albuquerque area.

Good to Know: You can find locations of the filming spots on “Breaking Bad” websites and set out on a do-it-yourself tour to relive your favorite scenes. Some local guide companies also offer guided tours of the filming locations on bicycles, RVs, and trolleys.

Local Wineries Local Winery
Credit: Local Winery by bigstock.com

Local Wineries

What Is It? Most people continue traveling west to California to visit wine country, but did you know that New Mexico’s wine industry is actually older than California’s? 

Why Do It? A Capuchín monk and a Franciscan friar were the first ones to plant grapes in the Rio Grande Valley back in the early 1600s. Today, there are quite a few local wineries in the state that you can visit during your trip. 

Good to Know: Make sure to sip some sparkling wines since they are a New Mexican specialty!

White Sands National Park White Sands National Monument
Credit: White Sands National Monument by bigstock.com

White Sands National Park

What Is It? Head about an hour southwest of Alamogordo in the southern part of the state to visit the impressive White Sands National Park that has an extraordinary landscape. 

Why Do It? This is one of the world’s great natural wonders, with white sand and wave-like dunes that make up the largest gypsum dune field in the world. The park spans 275 square miles, and the Tularosa Basin area it’s in sees about 330 days of sunshine each year. 

Good to Know: You can join an interpretative program to learn more about the habitat and the wildlife that call it home.

Bandelier National Monument Bandelier National Monument
Credit: Bandelier National Monument by bigstock.cokm

Bandelier National Monument

What Is It? New Mexico is full of fascinating national monuments, and Bandelier National Monument is another great one to visit. 

Why Do It? New Mexico might not make you think of volcanoes, but this area has some dramatic volcanic landscapes, as well as archaeological ruins from the Pueblo Native American tribe. 

Good to Know: One scenic hiking route here is the Falls Trail, which follows Frijoles Creek as it drops into the Rio Grande and offers lovely views of waterfalls and rock formations.

Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument
Credit: Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument by bigstock.com

Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument

What Is It? While on your statewide tour of national monuments, also make sure to see the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument. 

Why Do It? Native American culture still has a tremendous influence over life in New Mexico, and the Mogollon Native Americans built these dwellings many centuries ago. There are a few dozen rooms in several caves here near the town of Silver City.

Good to Know: To learn more about the cliff dwellings and the people who once called them home, take a tour and walk around the monument’s trails.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Credit: Carlsbad Caverns National Park by bigstock.com

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

What Is It? One of the most popular national parks in New Mexico, Carlsbad Caverns National Park is made of at least 120 caves and is an underground wonder worthy of exploration. 

Why Do It? You can take a self-guided audio tour or a guided ranger tour from the National Park Service to see the limestone caves, bats, and impressive geological formations. 

Good to Know: There are some beautiful lands above ground in this area for backcountry hiking and overnight trips, so pack your tent and plenty of water for a multi-day adventure in the park.

Chaco Culture National Historical Park Chaco Culture National Historical Park
Credit: Chaco Culture National Historical Park by bigstock.com

Chaco Culture National Historical Park

What Is It? Chaco Culture National Historical Park is another archaeological site worth seeing in New Mexico that was once home to the Pueblo Native American people. 

Why Do It? Over a dozen large ruins are still standing here, and the area has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Good to Know: Head northwest of Albuquerque to visit this historic park and take a backcountry hike to experience its wide-open spaces and mysterious beauty.

Taos Ski Valley Taos Ski Valley
Credit: Taos Ski Valley by bigstock.com

Taos Ski Valley

What Is It? You might only think of desert when you are planning a trip to New Mexico, but there is also a world-class ski resort located in the northern part of the state. 

Why Do It? Taos Ski Valley is situated in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and a beautiful destination for skiing and snowboarding. 

Good to Know: You can check the snow conditions and trail reports on the ski resort’s website before your trip, as well as lift ticket prices and any special events going on.

Anderson-Abruzzo International Balloon Museum Anderson-Abruzzo International Balloon Museum
Credit: Anderson-Abruzzo International Balloon Museum by bigstock.com

Anderson-Abruzzo International Balloon Museum

What Is It? If you can plan to visit New Mexico in October, then try to check out the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta! 

Why Do It? If you’re visiting at any other time of the year, this museum is the next best thing. 

Good to Know: Inside you’ll learn about how and why balloons fly, the science behind ballooning, balloons used for war, and recreational competitions and events with balloons.

Georgia O’Keefe's Ghost Ranch Georgia O’Keefe’s Ghost Ranch
Credit: Georgia O’Keefe’s Ghost Ranch by bigstock.com

Georgia O’Keefe's Ghost Ranch

What Is It? Georgia O’Keefe made New Mexico famous with her artwork, and it’s easy to see why the vibrant and dramatic landscapes of the state provided so much artistic inspiration. 

Why Do It? Located in Abiquiu, you’ll find Ghost Ranch, which is a series of colorful rock walls and valleys that span over 21,000 acres of land. 

Good to Know: This was Georgia O’Keefe’s home and is a wonderful place to go horseback riding and kayaking on the river today.

International UFO Museum & Research Center International UFO Museum & Research Center
Credit: International UFO Museum & Research Center by bigstock.com

International UFO Museum & Research Center

What Is It? Another fascinating part of New Mexico culture is the UFO sightings and extraterrestrial research conducted here. 

Why Do It? You can learn a lot about this side of the state’s history at the International UFO Museum & Research Center. 

Good to Know: Roswell, New Mexico is famous for a sighting in 1947, and this museum has one of the most comprehensive collections of UFO-related materials in the world.

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