A bit rugged, off the beaten path, and with plenty of wide-open spaces, New Mexico is a perfect place to get away from your daily routines for the weekend. The top cities and small towns here are packed with arts and cultural experiences, and the natural landscapes will surprise you with how much more there is to offer than just desert terrain. Explore the “Land of Enchantment” by visiting some of these top weekend getaways in New Mexico.
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Turquoise jewelry is iconic in the Southwest, and you can find lots of it in the high-priced galleries in New Mexico. But for a more authentic and scenic weekend getaway, plan to take a drive along the Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway. This 50-mile route is along Highway 14 and connects Albuquerque and Santa Fe in the north-central part of the state. But what’s really enchanting about this drive is the stops along the way. You can check out the mountain communities and natural areas of Tijeras, Cedar Crest, Sandia Park, Golden, Madrid, Cerrillos, and San Marcos on this drive to shop for more affordable turquoise jewelry, browse arts and crafts, learn about local history, and get out for a hike nearby.
Taos is perhaps best known for its epic ski resort, but it is also an artist colony with a cute downtown and beautiful landscapes for hiking. Definitely visit Taos for the weekend to indulge in snow sports in the winter. But in warmer months, you can learn about eco-friendly housing at the Greater World Earthship Community, sip beers at Taos Mesa Brewing, and take a walk along the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. There are also free hot springs by the banks of the Rio Grande River here, and the Manby and Black Rock Hot Springs are just north of Taos too.
White Sands National Park
For otherworldly landscapes that will blow your mind, check out White Sands National Park for a weekend trip in New Mexico. This is a unique destination with gypsum sand dunes that are stunningly white and span about 275 miles in the desert. Unlike many national park sites, this one is pet-friendly and the sand here actually stays cool on hot days – your leashed dogs will love it here! The best part is wandering up and down the sand dunes at your own pace, although the Alkali Flat Trail is highly recommended too. Backcountry camping is available for just $3 per person and offers an amazing view of the night sky above the rolling dunes.
Santa Fe is the hub of arts and culture in New Mexico and a fun place to visit for every type of traveler. Here you’ll find lots of interesting things to do, including museums and art galleries to browse, rugged nature trails to hike, and nice bike lanes to explore the city on two wheels. Meow Wolf is an immersive art experience in town that you truly need to see to believe. Other things to do on your weekend include free concerts and movies at the Santa Fe Railroad in the summer eating some of the best Southwestern-style food that you’ll ever taste in your life.
Albuquerque is the largest city in New Mexico and offers a lot of excellent attractions for a weekend trip. The city really comes alive each fall with the annual hot air balloon festival, and Albuquerque’s Old Town is an awesome place to shop and explore on foot at any time. You can learn about fascinating history at places like Petroglyph National Monument, keep the kids entertained at the wonderful museums and zoo here, and visit some of the many excellent craft breweries to wind down at the end of busy sightseeing days.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Another incredible landscape in New Mexico that is worth a weekend trip is Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Deep below the earth’s surface, you’ll find over 119 caves that are nothing short of impressive. You can do a self-guided cavern tour on the Big Room Trail and the Natural Entrance Trail. But to see even more, join a ranger-guided tour to see King’s Palace, Left Hand Tunnel, Hall of the White Giant, Lower, Spider, and Slaughter Canyon caves. For your overnight stay, there is primitive backcountry camping here and also lodging options in the town of Carlsbad.
Paranormal enthusiasts will enjoy taking a weekend trip to Roswell, which is the alleged site of a UFO crash in 1947. Learn about this fascinating bit of history at the International UFO Museum and Research Center, which is fun and dog-friendly. For an artsy weekend, you can also check out the Roswell Museum and Art Center, the Anderson Museum, and the Roswell Symphony Orchestra here. Nearby, stop by Bottomless Lakes State Park for some outdoor recreation.
Close to the larger New Mexico town of Las Cruces, I always enjoy walking around the quaint square and shops of Old Mesilla. This small town was where wild west legend Billy the Kid went on trial for murder. This is a great place to shop for Southwestern gifts and décor for souvenirs and relax in the plaza. Dripping Springs Natural Area and the Spotted Dog Brewery are other favorite stops on a weekend adventure here.
Nevada isn’t the only state with a Las Vegas worth visiting. Las Vegas, New Mexico is a historic destination that is an ideal place for foodies looking for traditional New Mexican cuisine. The town has a nice downtown area with restaurants and bars, including the highly recommended Borracho’s Craft Booze and Brews.
Bandelier National Monument
Amazing canyons and mesas are protected by Bandelier National Monument, a New Mexico weekend destination with petroglyphs and archeological sites. The Main Loop Trail and Falls Trails are great places to start your journey, but there are also backcountry opportunities for multi-day backpacking trips. Alternatively, you can stay overnight at a hotel in nearby Los Alamos.
Chimayo is a religious pilgrimage site and a unique place to visit for the weekend. This historic Southwest village is open to the public to see and even offers daily mass. For your weekend, stay at the cozy Casa Escondida Bed & Breakfast to experience the serenity of the New Mexico countryside.