Things to Do in New Mexico
The Land of Enchantment is a diverse spectacle of intriguing history and jaw-dropping landscapes, all of it interspersed with cultural institutions which rival those anywhere in the world.
Only in New Mexico can you walk among the homes of prehistoric people, take a miles-long hike underground, and dine on uniquely local and indigenous foods.
Whether your passion is art history, aerobic pursuits, or exquisite relaxation, New Mexico has a destination for you.
New Mexico’s landscape is defined largely by its mountains. From the Sangre de Cristo range in the north to the gravelly ranges in the south and the red rock monoliths in the west, this is a state of elevation. The state’s highest peak, Mt. Wheeler, can be climbed in a day – look for bighorn sheep along the way. Skiers head for legendary resorts like Taos and Santa Fe, or family-friendly slopes like Ski Apache and Sipapu.
The state’s volcanic history is on display when you roam across the plains southeast of Raton. Take a detour to Capulin Volcanic National Monument, where you can drive to the summit, hike around the rim, and see parts of five states.
New Mexico’s arid deserts culminate in the southern part of the state. Head to White Sands National Monument to hike the blinding white sand dunes – there are few other locations like this in the country!
Tired of this world? Find a different one altogether at Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Here, you can hike into the Earth or take an elevator straight down and access dozens of caverns with alluring names like Balloon Ballroom, Bitfrost, Room, Chocolate High, The Hall of Giants, Lake of the Clouds, and Spirit World.
Prehistoric people made New Mexico their home, and you can walk through their homes at places like Bandelier National Monument, El Morro National Monument, and Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument. Either secreted away in cliffside depressions or laid out across the desert, the stone remains of those who lived here more than 1,000 years ago rank as UNESO World Heritage Sites.
Another unique population to call New Mexico home were groups of Spanish colonists. Santa Fe is the oldest capital in the United States, and the city’s heritage is distinctly Spanish – spend a day in the central plaza, walk narrow alleys bordered by adobe buildings, and peer into the secret gardens of some of the city’s most beautiful and historic homes. You can learn about the state’s mission history at parks like Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument and visit some of the state’s beautiful and historic mission churches – try San Augustin de la Isleta, Mission San Buenaventura de Cochiti, and San Felipe de Neri.
Other cities, like Taos and Zuni, are living museums dedicated to the Native Americans who have lived there for centuries. People have called Taos home for more than 1,000 years and it is considered one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the United States. Even more historic and remote is Acoma Pueblo – also known as Acoma Sky City. This mesa-top town has about 300 two- and three-story adobe buildings, many with exterior ladders used to access upper levels. The historic city has no electricity or running water.
Plenty of artists also call the state home, and everywhere you turn you can see their works on display or for sale. A three-quarter mile stretch of Canyon Road in Santa Fe has more than 100 galleries, and you can also find galleries concentrated in towns like Taos, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and Las Cruces. You can find modern art at galleries like Levy and Oro in Albuquerque, or the revered works of Georgia O’Keeffe at her eponymous museum in Santa Fe.
While skiing is big in New Mexico, there are plenty of other sports for both the leisure class and the enthusiast class. Golfers can swing their clubs at top spots like Twin Warriors in Bernalillo, Black Mesa in Espanola, and Sandia in Albuquerque. Mountain bikers will find seriously sweet single-track in places like Angel Fire, White Mesa, Grindstone Lake, and Winsor. Hikers will drool over the ridgetop trails in places like the Sandia and Jemez mountains, as well as across the hills around Cloudcroft and in the Gila National Forest. Are there any SCUBA divers in the audience? Suit up and head down to Blue Hole, a bell-shaped pool east of Santa Rose known for its artesian water and vivid clarity.
New Mexico’s cuisine melds foods from the state’s great cultures. Hatch chiles are celebrated around the country for their fire-roasted flavor, and New Mexicans put them on just about everything. The state has an official Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail, and you can scarf this delicacy in towns from Raton to Las Cruces. The Land of Enchantment is also probably the only place in the world where you can dig into a steaming plate of blue corn pancakes, and while the state may not have invented the Frito pie, they definitely perfected it. BBQ fans will want to check out the state’s unique take on this tradition – New Mexican BBQ sauce gets its special kick from chipotles!
The state’s artistic and cultural heritage goes on full display at local festivals. See hundreds of hot air balloons launch at the incredible Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, and make sure you are in Albuquerque’s Old Town on Christmas Eve, when the streets are lit softly by luminarias. Other great festivals in the state include Oktoberfest in Socorro, the Pecos Valley Jazz and Arts Festival in Roswell, the Southern New Mexican State Fair in Las Cruces, and the Sun Mountain Gathering in Satna Fe. You can visit the Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremony in Gallup and the world-famous Hatch Chile Festival in the town of Hatch.