New Mexico is known as the land of enchantment and it gets its nickname honestly. I have had an ongoing love affair with this special place since I first visited in the seventies as a teenager.
In addition to visiting the cities and towns of New Mexico, a road trip visiting the many unique attractions the land of enchantment has to offer may be one of the most memorable journeys you'll ever take. Here are my top picks and I'm sure when you get a chance to visit, you'll fall in love with this special part of the Southwest just like I did.
White Sands National Park is one of the world’s greatest natural wonders and located 15 miles south of Alamogordo. Rising from the heart of the Tularosa Basin, the glistening white sands with great wave-like dunes of gypsum sand have engulfed 275 square miles of desert and created the world's largest gypsum dune field. White Sands National Monument preserves a major portion of this unique dune field, along with the plants and animals that have successfully adapted to this constantly changing environment.
You may have heard of White Sands Missile Range which was the testing site of the atom bomb in the early 1940’s. You can join a ranger on a leisurely sunset stroll through the dunes and learn about the unique geology of White Sands National Monument and the plants and animals that live here. The stroll is held every evening of the year, weather and staffing permitting. In the 1970’s, the used to offer a midnight stroll and my sister and I went on this. The white sands were all lit up by a full moon and it was magical. If you ask me, White Sands is a "don't miss" stop for any New Mexico vacation.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park is located in southeastern New Mexico in the Guadalupe Mountains. The primary attraction of the park for most visitors is the “show cave” or Carlsbad Caverns. You can hike in on your own via the natural entrance to the cave, or take the elevator (the exit for everyone) directly to the Underground Lunchroom located 750 feet (230 m) below.
Carlsbad Caverns includes a large cave natural limestone chamber called the Big Room that is almost 4,000 feet long, 625 feet wide, and 350 feet high at the highest point. It is the third largest chamber in North America and the seventh largest in the world. Several of the chambers contain stalactites, stalagmites, and other formations in such unusual number, size, beauty of form, and variety of figure as to make this a cavern equal, if not superior, in both scientific and popular interest to the better known caves. When you're on a New Mexico vacation, you should make Carlsbad Caverns a part of your trip.
Cloudcroft, New Mexico is a 110 year old, unique mountain community that combines the amenities of modern life with their heritage as a pioneer village. The town is a wonderful place to get away from the summer heat and enjoy the delightful pleasures of the mountains. In the winter, you can explore the vast wonderland of cross-country skiing, snow mobiling, and ice skating. Cloudcroft is a small town but a nice stop on any New Mexico vacation.
The Inn of the Mountain Gods is situated high in the picturesque mountains of Mescalero, New Mexico just outside of Ruidoso. The Inn of the Mountain Gods has clean mountain air, stunning panoramic views, and exciting entertainment options. Upon your arrival, you’ll be greeted by a stunning lobby featuring a sweeping view of the snow capped mountains, lake and championship golf course. The Mescalero Apache Tribe owns and operates both the Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort and Casino and Ski Apache Ski Resort, as well other Reservation-based enterprises. You can save up to $525 when you book your flight and hotel together at Expedia.com and even more with a rental car. Even if you can't stay overnight at this special place, make a point to stop and visit this hotel on your New Mexico vacation.
Hatch, New Mexico is known worldwide for its bountiful chile crop. Born from an extension of the Santa Fe Railroad Company in 1880, Hatch, New Mexico, began as an adobe post office and a railroad flag station. Named after General Edward Hatch, Commander of the Southwest military, the town grew until a flood in 1921 destroyed many of the adobe buildings constructed of earth and wood. The Village of Hatch heats up on Labor Day weekend with their the annual Hatch Chile Festival, a two-day celebration of their world-famous crop.
The festival attracts over 30,000 visitors from all over the United States, including the Food Network and the BBC. Festival goers can sample famed chile recipes, watch the crowning of the chile festival queen, or toss a horseshoe in celebration of our most famous crop. The event also features chile ristra contests, artisan and food booths, and a carnival. Don't know if I'd go out of my way to go to Hatch on a New Mexico vacation, but it's a great along the way place to stop and pick up a great price on dried chiles.
New Mexico Wine Country is not as famous as California Wine Country but I always enjoy tasting local wines when I travel around the country and around the world. The first grapevines were planted in New Mexico in 1633 in 1800, wine was one of the three top exports of the state. In 1943, the Rio Grande flooded and ruined the wine industry in New Mexico, but that was then. Today, there are over 43 wineries and tasting rooms and 900 acres of grapes. I think any New Mexico vacation should include a stop at the Black Mesa Winery for the Black Beauty wine!