20 Aug A Photo Essay: Adventures in New Mexico
New Mexico is a state that has intrigued us for quite some time. White Sands National Monument was the main reason we wanted to visit New Mexico. But, when we started planning our road trip, we found so many other exciting adventures in New Mexico, too. We couldn’t wait to set out and explore, and after we went through our road trip check list (servicing and cleaning our car, checking trip insurance options, and packing a cooler), we were on the road heading south. Throughout our visit, we made our way to the towns of Roswell, Alamogordo, Santa Fe, and Taos, to see sights such as Bottomless Lake State Park, Meow Wolf, UFO and Alien Tours, Pistachio Farms, Mineral Springs, and so much more. Read on to learn about our favorite adventures in New Mexico!
We started our New Mexico adventures with a two-night stay in Roswell. Roswell, New Mexico is known for an alleged UFO crash in 1947. The town has certainly embraced it; therefore, we couldn’t resist stopping for a visit. After arriving late in the evening, we decided to pack the next day full of wacky alien adventures…and a little bit of nature thrown in for good measure. Every which way we looked, we spotted alien eyes, UFOs, and extraterrestrial themed establishments. Was it cheesy? Yes. Was it still somehow entertaining? Yes!
Roswell UFO Tour
Our first matter of business was to dig into the story of what happened more than 60 years ago in this tiny town. We booked a morning Roswell UFO Tour with UFO researcher Dennis Balthaser to get to the bottom of it. Dennis has been researching the Roswell Incident for over 25 years and he has vast knowledge of the events that happened back in July of 1947. The actual UFO crash site is located around 75 miles north of Roswell, so we didn’t visit the actual crash site. But, we did visit more than 20 locations on the tour, some of which included former homes of first hand witnesses of the event, the Roswell Industrial Air Park (the place where the supposed alien bodies and debris from the crash were stored), and so much more. We listened to stories that first hand witnesses told Dennis, as well as some pretty intense stories that happened to Dennis throughout his research. He gave us more information on the incident than we ever could have imagined. Regardless of our beliefs on the subject, we left with an in depth insight into the events that occurred. It was a fascinating look into the history of both Roswell and the UFO crash that may or may not have happened near Roswell.
UFO Museum & Research Center and Alien Zone
To supplement our newly gained knowledge, a visit to the UFO Museum & Research Center was a must. The museum collects and preserves the information and materials involving “The Roswell Incident”. The museum is small, but we learned even more about the events of that fateful day in 1947, as well as other lesser known sightings in the area.
After an intense morning, it was time for some lighthearted alien fun. We stopped in to browse the souvenirs and paid the small fee (I believe it was $3 during our visit) to go to the back room. The back room is filled with cheeky alien scenes perfect for goofy photos. You have to go in with a sense of humor…and maybe some hand sanitizer because it could use a pretty good cleaning sesh. Anyways, we spent around 30 minutes laughing our heads off and posing for photos with our new alien friends.
Bottomless Lake State Park
Luckily, the Roswell area isn’t only about aliens. We also made our way out to Bottomless Lake State Park for a dose of beautiful nature. There are nine lakes in this area, and many of them are surrounded by towering red cliffs. During our visit, we went on a few short hikes, and sat on the shore of Lea Lake as we watched a storm roll in.
Eat a Famous Green Chile Burger
And, when you are in New Mexico, you have to try a dish with their famous green chiles. To accomplish this task, we made our way to Big D’s Downtown Dive for a delicious green chile burger in a cute restaurant decorated with license plates on the walls.
White Sands National Monument
We left Roswell early the following morning to make our way to White Sands National Monument. White Sands is located just outside of Alamogordo, New Mexico, so that’s where we decided to base ourselves for the next couple of nights. The desert consists of 275 square miles of gypsum sand dunes, and the glistening white sand is sugar soft.
Our first activity on the list was to head out and go sand sledding on the dunes. We purchased a couple of sleds at the monument gift shop and got them waxed and ready to go. At first, we didn’t have much luck (or maybe it was no skill…) sliding down the hills; the sleds barely moved down the hill. Eventually, though, we managed to get the hang of it, and it was a blast picking up speed and sliding down the dunes.
After our sledding adventure, we drove to one of the picnic shelters to eat our packed lunch. Our surroundings made it feel like we were eating on another planet, but I guess that theme fits in well with this entire region, ha!
To get to the dunes, we drove the Dunes Drive which is a 16 mile roundtrip drive from the visitor center. The drive takes around 45 minutes to complete, but plan for much longer than that if you want to get out and hike and sled on the dunes. For an area with so much empty space, there sure is a lot to see!
Pistachio Factory Tour
I’m a big pistachio fan, so when I found out that there are pistachio farms in New Mexico, I knew we had to take a peek at one. We made our way to Heart of the Desert, which is home to both a pistachio grove and a vineyard. The vineyard was planted in 2003, and they currently have 24,000 vines growing seven different varieties of grapes. We sampled several wines and then took a glass out to the patio to relax while we waited for our farm tour.
Once it was time for the farm tour to begin (did I mention it’s a free tour?!), we met our group and got ready to learn. The ranch is “a self-contained agribusiness”—this means they complete every step of the growing and production process on site. They have around 12,000 trees spanning 85 acres, which is the largest pistachio grove in New Mexico.
After getting a look at the grove, we went into the processing plant to find out what happens to the nuts after they are harvested. I never realized what an in-depth process it is to get the nuts ready for market—the nuts pass through five machines and still have to be hand sorted for a final quality control check. The tour was super interesting, and we got to taste several varieties of pistachios back in the gift shop. My favorite flavors were the red chile pistachios and the vanilla praline pistachios, but the regular salted pistachios were fantastic, too. Yum!
Exploring Historic Santa Fe
Next up, it was time to explore Santa Fe. After the 3.5 hour drive from Alamogordo to Santa Fe, we spent the afternoon wandering through the shops, plaza, and restaurants in Historic Santa Fe.
Iconik Coffee Roasters made for a wonderful afternoon pick me up when we needed a break from browsing all the cute shops in town.
Two of our favorite restaurants in Santa Fe were the Burrito Company and The Shed. The Burrito Company is a family owned restaurant that has been around since the late 70’s. It was a delicious spot for lunch and located right in the heart of the historic district.
We visited The Shed for dinner, a spot that has been around even longer than the Burrito Company. The Shed opened in the 50’s and is another iconic restaurant in town. Our table was located in a cozy corner of the plant covered patio. Micah ended up ordering their world renowned dish without even knowing it, the red chili enchiladas, and WOW. It was delicious, but SPICY. He was almost in tears by the end of it, ha!
One of our favorite adventures in New Mexico was visiting Meow Wolf in Santa Fe. We can’t even begin to describe the weird, wacky, wonderful world that awaits when you walk through the door, but we’ll give it a shot. It’s an immersive art experience that starts in a house with a mystery to unravel, and as you work your way through, you get pulled into an alternate dimension. It is absolutely incredible and insane all in one, and we loved every minute of it!
Ojo Caliente Mineral Pools
Any chance we get to hop in a hot spring pool, we take it, and we soon found ourselves at Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort & Spa for just that reason. The spa has several mineral spring pools, saunas, a mud bath, hammocks, fireplaces, and lots of room to relax.
Hiking at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument
Another one of our favorite adventures in New Mexico was hiking at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. We arrived about 2 hours before the park closed for the evening, and we lucked out with almost the entire place to ourselves. We intended to just hike a portion of the Canyon Trail, but the canyon was so gorgeous we just couldn’t stop. The hike is 1.5 miles each way; it gains 630 ft of elevation with amazing views the entire way. We also walked the 1.2 mile Cave Loop trail. Both trails were fantastic, and we really wished we had more time to explore!
Taos Cow Ice Cream
Once our time in Santa Fe was up, we drove north to Taos. We stopped at Taos Cow Ice Cream & Café for breakfast…and a way too early in the morning ice cream treat. There was no way I could ignore the Pistachio White Chocolate heaven that was calling my name.
After our early morning indulgence, we rolled on over to Taos Pueblo to learn about the Native American community that calls this area home. The main buildings at Taos Pueblo were likely built sometime between 100 and 1450 A.D. There are around 150 people living in the Pueblo and more than 1,900 people living on the entire Taos Pueblo lands. We took a tour of the Pueblo and learned about the history of the community before spending some time browsing the shops scattered throughout the site.
Rio Grande Gorge Bridge
We then continued north and crossed the Rio Grande River on the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. When we spotted outlook points on the bridge, we had to get out and go for an unexpected walk. The views of the river were gorgeous, and we loved watching a group of white water rafters float down the river.
Another unexpected stop on our drive out of New Mexico was Earthship Biotecture. I had read about this place many moons ago, and when we spotted it as we drove by, once again, we couldn’t resist stopping. This community of homes is built with a set of green, sustainable principles in mind, and each house (or Earthship as they are called) is built with recycled and natural materials. They focus on energy conservation and the homes are designed to produce all of their own water, food and electricity. We took a self-guided tour through the Education Facility and learned so much about this fascinating community.
New Mexico continued to wow us throughout our entire visit, and if we weren’t booked on a job right when we returned home, we might have tried to extend our stay. Because of all our fun adventures in New Mexico, the state quickly shot up to one of our favorites, and we hope to explore it in more depth again soon!
Have you ever been to New Mexico? Share your recommendations for adventures in New Mexico with us in the comments!