As part of our cross-country road trip last summer, we made several stops in New Mexico. This was our first time in New Mexico and there was so much to see. The landscape is so different from what we see here in Virginia, so even just driving through the state was a fantastic experience.
There’s also so much to do, and not just in Albuquerque or Santa Fe (in the north of the state). In fact, my favorite time in New Mexico was spent in the southeast part of the state where we watched thousands of bats fly out of a cave, sledded down sand dunes and posed with aliens.
Take a look at 10 things you really must do if you’re thinking about spending some time in New Mexico as a family. Have fun. 🙂
1. See the Murals in Artesia. Take a quick break in Artesia on your way between Carlsbad and Roswell to check out the murals around town. There’s an easy self-guided walking tour that makes 17 stops around town, including a stop at Heritage Walkway, which includes a number of colorful murals.
2. See the Bat Flight at Carlsbad Caverns. Since I was on a quest to see national parks last summer, I knew it was a must to stop at Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Go just before sunset for the ranger program to learn about the free-tailed bats, then get ready for 200,000 bats to fly out of the cave. WOW.
3. Visit with Smokey Bear. Make a stop at the Smokey Bear Museum in Capitan where you’ll find lots of photos, posters and memorabilia chronicling the life of this little black bear and the birth of a national campaign to help prevent forest fires. Go to the nearby Smokey Bear Restaurant for Smokey Bear Burgers.
4. Go to the McDonald’s in Roswell. I know, it sounds odd to suggest that you take your kids to a McDonald’s. But, the McDonald’s in Roswell is shaped like a UFO. Honestly, I would expect nothing less in Roswell, but it was fun. Look for lots of alien-themed decorations inside the McDonald’s, too.
5. Settle in for a Chuckwagon Supper. Head to the Flying J Ranch in Alto for the nightly chuckwagon supper, including brisket, BBQ chicken, cowboy beans, baked potatoes, chunky applesauce and biscuits. Yum. After dinner, watch a gunfight, go in training to become a deputy or try your hand at roping cattle.
6. Pose with Aliens at the Area Museum. If you’re looking for tourist traps, you won’t need to look far in Roswell, and the Area 51 Museum is the place to go. It’s a buck or two to go inside the “museum” but it was fun to pose with all kinds of silly aliens. There’s also a gift shop (surprise).
7. Explore Underground Caverns. We did not get a chance to see the underground caverns, but from what I hear, they are amazing at Carlsbad Caverns National Park (we saw similar ones later on in our trip at Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky). Sign up for a ranger-guided tour if you have the time.
8. Sled Down the Sand Dunes. One of the highlights of our trip was sliding down the sand dunes at White Sands National Monument in Alamogordo. We stayed at the nearby Holiday Inn Express and they were kind enough to let us borrow snow saucers, but you can also buy them in the gift shop at the park.
9. Visit the UFO Museum. Stop at the International UFO Museum & Research Center in Roswell if you’re looking for a deep dive into the events that took place in July 1947. Or, simply strike up a conversation with anyone working in a gift shop in Roswell. They all have their theories about what really happened.
10. Explore the Living Desert Zoo. In Carlsbad, make a stop at the Living Desert Zoo & Gardens State Park. There’s a nice walking trail that takes you around the park to see more than 40 species of animals, including black bears and mountain lions. The trail is just over a mile, but bring water for the kids. Trust me.