There are many wonderful things to see and do in New Mexico. Whether you are interested in exploring the state’s natural beauty, its rich history and culture, or its vibrant food scene, there is something for everyone in New Mexico.
Ready to learn more about this southwestern state? Here are 28 things to do in New Mexico that we know you’re going to want to explore.
CHACO CULTURE NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK
Chaco Culture National Historical Park is an incredible place to explore the Ancestral Puebloan culture. The massive buildings here are testimony to the engineering and organizational skills of these ancient people. You can learn more about them through guided tours, hiking and biking trails, evening campfire talks, and night sky programs.
The canyon was central to their way of life, and by visiting Chaco, you can get a meaningful understanding of their culture and history.
Fajada Butte is a butte within the park that reaches a height of almost 443 feet above the canyon floor. Despite there being no water source on the butte, there are ruins of small cliff dwellings in the higher regions. The butte is believed to have been important to the Chacoan people, and is a must-see stop when visiting this historical park.
Make sure to stop by the Visitor Center for information before heading out to explore!
PETROGLYPH NATIONAL MONUMENT
The Petroglyph National Monument in New Mexico is home to some of the most extensive and best-preserved petroglyph sites in North America.
The monument features a variety of hiking trails that wind through the petroglyph-covered rocks, offering visitors stunning views and the opportunity to view the ancient carvings up close. The hiking trails are well-marked and provide an enjoyable and educational experience for all ages.
Read more: PETROGLYPH NATIONAL MONUMENT
KARL G. JANSKY VERY LARGE ARRAY
The Very Large Array (VLA) is one of the world’s more prestigious astronomical radio observatories. Twenty-seven radio antennas sit within the massive Plains of Agustin in a Y-shaped configuration. Each antenna is 82 feet in diameter. The data collected from the antennas is combined electronically to give the resolution of an antenna as large as 22 miles across, with the equivalent sensitivity of a dish 442 feet in diameter.
Visiting the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array is an awe-inspiring experience. Seeing the massive antennas up close gives you a sense of the scale of this incredible facility. And when you learn about the groundbreaking science that is being done here, it’s hard not to be impressed by the power of this tool.
FOUR CORNERS MONUMENT
Twenty years later, I still remember laying down on the Four Corners Monument so I could have a limb in four different states at once. It was a sunny day, and there were so many people from all over the world doing the same thing. I remember the smell of Navajo fry bread and hearing other children’s laughter as they ran through the open spaces.
Today when you visit the Four Corners, there is a newly created vendor market where you can purchase native artwork directly from the creator. Four Corners is located in a rural area with no accommodations, and services are limited. However, the gift shop offers a wide variety of Navajo arts and crafts and other items related to the Four Corners region. Here you can stand on the very site where four states share a border. So stop on by and be in Utah, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico all at once!
CARLSBAD CAVERNS NATIONAL PARK
There are over 100 caves at Carlsbad Caverns National Park, making it a great place to explore if you’re interested in spelunking! However, there are plenty of caves to explore for those simply interested in viewing the caves from the comfort of a trail.
The most famous cave is the namesake Carlsbad Cavern, accessed via the Natural Entrance. This path takes you through some of the most beautiful chambers in the cave, including the Big Room, full of stunning stalactites.
If you’re not interested in going into the caves, you can still enjoy the park by driving along the Walnut Canyon Desert Loop. This road takes you through some of the most beautiful desert scenery in New Mexico. You may even spot some desert wildlife, like reptiles and birds.
One of the best things about Carlsbad Caverns National Park is that it offers something for everyone. Whether you want to explore the caves, enjoy the desert scenery, or just relax in the Rattlesnake Springs wetland, you’ll find what you’re looking for at this unique national park.
Read More: CARLSBAD CAVERNS NATIONAL PARK – EPIC GUIDE
WHITE SANDS NATIONAL PARK
Visiting White Sands National Park is a truly unique experience. The glistening white sands are unlike anything else in the world, and the dunes are an impressive sight.
Visitors can explore the dune field on foot, or take a jeep tour to really see all that the park has to offer. There are also plenty of opportunities to take photographs and appreciate the natural beauty of the 276-square miles of desert.
BANDELIER NATIONAL MONUMENT
The Bandelier National Monument is a 33,000+ acre park that protects the canyon and mesa country of New Mexico. The park is home to many petroglyphs, dwellings carved into cliffs, and masonry walls that date back over 11,000 years.
Visitors to the park can explore the ruins of the ancient cultures that once lived here and see the evidence of their presence that still exists today. The Bandelier National Monument is a great place to learn about the history and culture of the area and is a beautiful place to explore.
GEORGIA O’KEEFFE MUSEUM
The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum is a must-see for any art lover visiting New Mexico. Located at two locations, in both Santa Fe and Abiquiu, the museum features a wide variety of O’Keeffe’s work and works by other American modernists.
The museum also offers a variety of public engagement programs, making it a great place to learn more about the artist and her legacy.
LIVING DESERT STATE PARK
The botanic garden and zoo within Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park is a must-see for anyone interested in the unique plants and animals of the Chihuahuan Desert.
More than 40 species of animals and hundreds of plants are on exhibit, providing an up-close look at the fascinating ecology of this arid region. Interpretive programs are offered year-round, and the park’s hiking trails are a great way to explore the desert landscape. Picnic areas and group facilities are also available.
BILLY THE KID MUSEUM
When you visit the Billy the Kid Museum, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time to the Wild West. The museum is full of actual artifacts from that era, including Billy the Kid’s rifle, chaps and spurs, and his original Wanted poster. You can also see locks of his hair!
The popular tourist attraction tells the story of Billy the Kid and other famous figures from that time period. You’ll learn about who they were, how they lived, and in some cases, how they died. After visiting the museum, you can decide for yourself if Billy the Kid was really as bad as the stories make him out to be.
The museum also has displays of military cavalry swords, more than 150 firearms, and a stagecoach. You can even dress up in period clothing and take a photo at the museum.
WILD SPIRIT WOLF SANCTUARY
The Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary is home to over 60 wolves and wolf dogs, all of which have been rescued from abusive or neglected situations. The staff at the sanctuary are passionate about their work, and it shows in the way they care for the animals.
Visitors to the sanctuary can participate in several activities, including tours of the facility, educational programs, and specialty tours that include feedings and animal enrichments. The experience is truly unique and something everyone should try at least once.
If you’re looking for a place to connect with nature and learn more about these amazing animals, then the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary is the perfect place for you.
ALBUQUERQUE INTERNATIONAL BALLOON FIESTA
The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is a world-famous event that takes place annually in October. Every year, a diverse array of hot air balloons take up the equivalent of 54 football fields in the sky.
From its humble beginnings in 1972, with just 13 balloons launching from a shopping mall parking lot, the Balloon Fiesta has grown into a major event that attracts visitors from all over the world.
If you’re planning on attending the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, be sure to check out all the different activities that will be taking place. From live music and demonstrations to food and drink vendors, there’s something for everyone at this dazzling hot air balloon event. It truly is one of the best things to do in New Mexico!
TAOS SKI VALLEY
Taos Ski Valley is the picture-perfect place to take your family for a ski vacation. With their renowned Snowsports Ski School, your kids will be able to enjoy the slopes in no time.
With a variety of powder-covered terrain, the friendliest people, and a confluence of cultures, you’re sure to have an unforgettable experience.
HOUSE OF ETERNAL RETURN
Santa Fe is a beautiful city in New Mexico with a lot of history and culture, and one of the most fantastic places to visit in Santa Fe is the House of Eternal Return.
The House of Eternal Return is an immersive art experience that will take you on a journey through 70 different rooms of mind-bending art. This unique immersive experience is fun for the whole family!
OJO CALIENTE MINERAL SPRINGS RESORT AND SPA
If you’re looking to soothe your body, mind, and spirit, there’s no better place to do it than at Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort and Spa. This historic hot springs resort in northern New Mexico has been providing visitors with four different sulfur-free, healing mineral waters for thousands of years.
You can enjoy soaking in a private outdoor pool by fire at night or visit the mud area, where you can relax and rejuvenate your skin. The full-service spa offers a wide range of soothing and restorative treatments, including nurturing facials, hot stone massages, and more.
Taos Pueblo is a Native American community that is considered both a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and a National Historic Landmark – the only one of its kind in the world. These stunning multi-story adobe buildings have been continuously inhabited for over 1000 years.
Visitors to Taos Pueblo can explore the ancient buildings and learn about the culture and history of the Taos people. The community offers a unique glimpse into the past and is an integral part of the heritage of New Mexico.
SANDIA PEAK TRAMWAY
The Sandia Peak Tramway is a great place to visit if you are looking for something to do in the greater Albuquerque area. Visitors will enjoy a delightful 15-minute ride to the top of Sandia Peak on the tram, enjoying amazing views along the way.
Once at the top, guests can explore the views, a restaurant, gift shop, and access to hiking trails. The views from the summit are stellar and a terrific way to experience New Mexico’s incomparable scenery.
Read More: 11 AMAZING THINGS TO DO IN ALBUQUERQUE
TRINITY ATOMIC BOMB SITE
The Trinity Atomic Bomb Site is where the first-ever atomic bomb was detonated on July 16, 1945, as part of the Manhattan Project. Today, the Trinity Atomic Bomb Site is open to the public for tours. Visitors can walk around what is considered ground zero, and see a small obelisk that marks the exact spot the bomb exploded.
The site is only open to the public for two days per year. Generally, those dates are the first Saturday of April and October. All visitors are brought along on a guided tour that begins with a police escort to the site.
Although the site is now safe, it is still possible to feel the history and weight of what happened there. Visiting the Trinity Atomic Bomb Site is a somber but important experience and one that everyone should have.
CUMBRES-TOLTEC SCENIC RAILROAD
If you’re looking for a unique way to see some of the most beautiful scenery in the American West, you need to take a ride on the Cumbres-Toltec Scenic Railroad. This historic train route traverses through stunning mountain canyons, high desert landscapes, and lush meadows while zig-zagging across the border between Colorado and New Mexico. And since a coal-fired steam engine powers the train, it’s like taking a step back in time as you enjoy the ride.
There are several different options for accommodations on board the train, depending on your budget. You can choose to ride in either the Victorian-style Parlor Car, the newly renovated Deluxe Car, or the more budget-friendly Coach Car. Whichever you choose, you’ll be treated to a delicious buffet lunch included in your fare.
The Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah Wilderness features a stunning landscape made up of sandstone cap rocks and scenic olive-colored hills. It’s a great place to explore and take in the unique geological formations known as New Mexico’s Badlands.
Be sure to bring plenty of water, as it is a very dry area. There are no trails, but the scenery is well worth the effort it takes to visit this fantastic place.
GILA CLIFF DWELLINGS NATIONAL MONUMENT
Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument is a great place to visit if you’re interested in learning more about the history and culture of the Native American people who lived in this area over 700 years ago. The dwellings themselves are fascinating to see, and it’s also interesting to learn about the way of life of these ancient people.
It takes about 90-120 minutes to drive around and see all of the dwellings. You can also get active and explore some of the 1,490 miles of wilderness hiking and riding trails! If you’re looking for a place to get away from the hustle and bustle of modern life, Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument is definitely worth a visit
PECOS NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK
Visiting the Pecos National Historical Park is a great way to learn about the history and culture of the American Southwest. The park is home to a variety of historical sites, including the ruins of an ancient Pueblo village, a Spanish mission church, and the battle site of the Battle of Glorieta Pass.
Visitors can also take part in a variety of ranger-led programs and activities, such as hikes, campfire programs, and Junior Ranger activities.
INTERNATIONAL UFO MUSEUM AND RESEARCH CENTER
The International UFO Museum and Research Center in Roswell, NM is the perfect place to learn about the Roswell Incident, Area 51, crop circles, general UFOs, and ancient astronauts. The museum’s goal is not to convince the visitor of the existence of extraterrestrial beings but encourage them to ask questions.
In addition to the exhibits, the museum offers a gift shop and a library for further research. So whether you’re a believer or a skeptic, the International UFO Museum and Research Center is sure to fascinate.
Capulin Volcano is a cinder cone volcano located in northeastern New Mexico. Part of the Raton-Clayton Volcanic Field, Capulin Volcano showcases the volcanic geology of the area.
If you choose to hike the one-mile Crater Rim Trail, you will be rewarded with spectacular views of four different states. The night sky is also one of the darkest in the country, making it a great place to stargaze.
TSÉ BITʼAʼÍ – THE SHIPROCK
Situated in the high desert of New Mexico, Shiprock is a steep rock formation that is all that remains of a plug in the vent of an active volcano. The feeding conduit of the volcano was buried below ground when it formed during a violent volcanic eruption 30 million years ago. Over eons, the soft rock of the surrounding volcano eroded away, leaving behind only a stiff neck of rock.
Long narrow ridges, called dikes, seem to radiate away from the volcanic crag. As with the volcanic plug, these dikes were buried deep below the ground, and as time went by, the surrounding rock eroded away, exposing them.
Shiprock is a sacred site to the Navajo people and is considered to be the home of their gods. The Navajo name for Shiprock is Tsé Bitʼaʼí, which means “the rock with wings.” As it is a sacred area, climbing is not allowed on the formation, but it is well worth a visit for its spectacular views.
MADRID GHOST TOWN
Madrid Ghost Town is a great place to visit if you are looking for a taste of the Old West. This historic town has a rich history dating back as many as 1,500 years from when Native Americans first inhabited the area.
Today, Madrid is home to about 400 residents and is a popular destination for tourists who want to experience the unique culture and history of the area.
The town comes alive in the summer, when a variety of shops, restaurants, and galleries open to cater to the many visitors who come to town during the summer months. If you are looking for a truly unique experience, the Madrid Ghost Town is definitely worth a visit.
NEW MEXICO MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY & SCIENCE
The New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science in Albuquerque is a great visit for both kids and adults.
At this fun museum, you’ll find permanent and visiting exhibits, a planetarium, special events throughout the year, a large DynaTheater, and more.
Visiting exhibits they’ve featured include Mars: Science and Culture, and Back To Bones, which featured fossils from the Land of Enchantment.
Read More: 11 AMAZING THINGS TO DO IN ALBUQUERQUE
RIO GRANDE GORGE BRIDGE
The Rio Grande Gorge Bridge is a beautiful steel arch bridge near Taos. Rising 650 feet above the river, it is known as the second highest bridge in the U.S. Highway System, and the fifth highest in the U.S.
Because of its beauty and magnitude, it’s been used in many films such as Natural Born Killers, White Sands, and Terminator Salvation.
Visit the bridge and (safely!) peer over the edge to the river below. There is also a walking trail that takes you around the rim of the gorge, where you can enjoy spectacular views.
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO NEW MEXICO
- YOUR NEW MEXICO VACATION
- ROSWELL: 13 Things To Do In Roswell NM For Extraterrestrial Fun
- SANTA FE: 18 Things To Do In Santa Fe You’re Going To Love
- ALBUQUERQUE: 11 Amazing Things To Do In Albuquerque
- RUIDOSO: 16 Amazing Things To Do In Ruidoso, New Mexico
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