New Mexico is a state in the American Southwest where Spanish, Anglo, and Native cultures clash to form a mish-mash of experiences that one cannot find anywhere else in the world. Empty deserts, lush forests, pristine lakes, enormous mountains, and fabulous cities are all present in New Mexico. So, where in New Mexico should you go? Well, here are some suggestions for your trip:
- Carlsbad Caverns National Park - Carlsbad Caverns is one of the most beautiful caves in the country. It is also the fifth largest cave in the world! You can easily spend a day walking around the various rooms and attending one of the guided park tours. Get up early to see the bats emerge from the mouth of the caverns. Over 1 million bats call the caverns home. They all emerge at the same time, forming a large black cloud. It is truly an amazing sight.
- White Sands National Monument - White Sands is a large area of white sand, made of gypsum, that has formed large sand dunes. They are located about 15 miles south of Alamogordo, home of the New Mexico Space History Museum. Many people bring sleds or toboggans to slide down the dunes. It's so much fun! You can also take an excellent day hike, known as Alkali Flats, which takes you across the dunes to a dried lakebed. You can read more about it here. Just be sure to bring plenty of water (it gets really hot), wear a hat and sunscreen, and wear sunglasses.
- The Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad - The Cumbres and Toltec is an authentic train from the 1880s that takes you through some of the most beautiful scenery along the New Mexico and Colorado border. The train departs from either Chama, New Mexico or Antonito, Colorado, depending on your preference. It winds its way through mountain passes and across canyons. You might even spot elk and bear along the journey. This is definitely the most scenic train ride in New Mexico!
- Chaco Canyon - There is not a more important Native American ruin in New Mexico than those at Chaco. The ruins here were built by the Anasazi over a thousand years ago. For some reason, the Anasazi people vanished from Chaco by the 1300s. The remains of their largest pueblo, Pueblo Bonito, and several other important sites are located right off the side of the road. Chaco Canyon can be a little difficult to reach since you have to take a couple of dirt roads along the way. Check the National Park Service's website for detailed info on directions.
- Taos - If you love art, then Taos is definitely for you! Art galleries line the many of the streets. The Rio Grande Gorge is also nearby, offering white water rafting tours. There is no better way to spend a cold winter day in Taos than by heading to the Taos Inn and having a soothing cup of hot chocolate.
- Santa Fe - Definitely another artist town. Visit Canyon Road for some excellent and high quality art and see the famous winding staircase that was built without any nails at the St Francis Cathedral Basilica. The Plaza is also a great place to do some shopping or just to take a look around. The Georgia O'Keefe Museum displays many of the world famous artist's works and details her life.
- The Balloon Fiesta - If you have to pick one thing to do in New Mexico, I suggest the Balloon Fiesta. It is touted as the "most photographed event" in the world, and it's easy to see why. Every year for a couple of weeks in early October, around 700 balloonists gather in Albuquerque to launch their balloons at the same time. Be sure to go to one of the early morning mass ascensions. If you're lucky, the winds will cooperate and produce the famous Albuquerque Box effect. The winds during the box are such that when the balloons take off from the field, they will float a way a little, but then return and land back where they started. Also be sure to go up in one of the balloons if you've never done it before. The Balloon Fiesta is a must see!
- Mexican Food - You will not find Mexican food of higher quality anywhere in the country outside of New Mexico. Enchiladas, tamales, tacos and chimichangas, it's all in New Mexico. Don't forget to try New Mexico's most famous food product, chile. New Mexico is probably the only place you will be asked, "Red or green?," at almost every meal.
I hope that you have found this article useful and enjoy your trip to the Land of Enchantment!