Fun things to do in New Mexico

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    Interior square of palace
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Most Viewed Things to Do in New Mexico

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    Ship Rock

    by briantravelman Updated Apr 4, 2015

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    Upon entering New Mexico, visitors are greeted with its most famous landmark, a 1,583 ft. high inselberg, called Ship Rock. The rock's Navajo name, Tsé Bitʼaʼí, means "Winged Rock". The rock was both a sacred site, for the Ancestral Pueblo (Anasazi), and the modern day Navajo. Native American legend says, the rock was brought here from another place, maybe sort of sailing across the desert, like a ship, which is one of the reason for its name. The Navajo lived up there, and only came down to water their fields. The rock was struck by lightning, obliterating the trail, leaving the women and children stranded at the top, to starve to death. Today, the Navajo have forbidden people to climb it, because of fear that visitors will stir up the spirits, or rob their corpses. Despite this, people still manage to find a way to climb it, and dozens of adventurous climbers, climb to the top of Ship Rock, every year. But most travelers, like myself, choose to enjoy it from the road.
    Today, this iconic landmark is a symbol of New Mexico, and resembles a lone ship in the desert.

    This imposing geologic formation lies in the Four Corners area, about 35 miles west of Farmington, near the town of the same name. It is the only large geologic feature for miles can be seen from miles away, and from all directions, making it a great beacon for lost drivers, and also a great subject for photographers. In fact, it is one of the most photographed geologic features in the U.S., which is made even more interesting by the fact, that it looks completely different from each direction. It is also the closest landmark, to the actual Four Corners Monument, lying just 25 miles, to the SE.

    Although you can't actually get up to the rock, not legally anyways, it's still worth stopping on the side of the road to take a picture. Besides, this is one of those things that looks much nicer from a distance. Though I wish we could've gotten a little closer.
    As we happened to be traveling Highway 64, on the north side of the rock, I actually ended up getting the reverse of the iconic shot. Most photographs are taken from the southern side of the rock. It really make no difference to me, as it still looked spectacular, and I was excited to see it. Though it would also be interesting to see what it looked like up close, and from other angles.

    My parents actually took me here once, but I was too little to remember, so it was really nice to visit again.

    Ship Rock
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    Aztec National Monument

    by Jim_Eliason Updated May 17, 2013

    This 900 year old pueblo city was given this name because the early settlers could not beleive that the ancestors of the local indians had produced this ruin and falsely attributed it to the Aztec civilization of Mexico. This site was inhabited from about 100 to 1300.

    Aztec National Monument Aztec National Monument Aztec National Monument Aztec National Monument
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    Carslbad Cavern National park

    by Jim_Eliason Updated May 17, 2013

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    This is the US's deepest limestone cave, and has one of the largest single undeground chambers. The limestone gives the cave a very white look, very different from other caves.

    The cave can be entered via a natural entrance or via an elevator and has both self guided and ranger guide tour routes.

    See My Carlsbad Cave national park page for more details

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    Three Rivers Petroglyphs

    by Jim_Eliason Updated May 16, 2013

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    This is one of the largest Petroglyphs sites in the US. It feature over 21,000 different Petroglyphs across fifty acres of land. This site is actually better than Petroglyph National Monument in Albuquerque but of course is much more difficult to get too.

    Three Rivers Petroglyphs Three Rivers Petroglyphs Three Rivers Petroglyphs Three Rivers Petroglyphs Three Rivers Petroglyphs
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    Chaco Culture National Historic Park

    by Jim_Eliason Updated May 16, 2013

    One of the largest concentrations of Puebloan indian great houses is in Chaco Canyon. At least 5 or 6 of these great houses are scattered throughout the canyon. It's a real bear to get here with over 10 miles of driving on poorly maintained upaved roads but well worth the time if you have a vehicle up to the task.

    Chaco Culture National Historic Park Chaco Culture National Historic Park Chaco Culture National Historic Park Chaco Culture National Historic Park Chaco Culture National Historic Park
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    Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument

    by Jim_Eliason Updated May 16, 2013

    This monument preserves the archeological remains of 3 Spanish missions established in the 17th Century to minister to the local Puebloan indians. Both the missions and the local indian villages were depopulated for unknown reasons by 1670.

    Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument
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    An Amazing Little Place

    by DueSer Written Mar 9, 2013

    Loretto Chapel, or Our Lady of Light, in Santa Fe is worth a stop. Completed in 1878, this little chapel is beautiful and draws a lot of visitors but most of them are there to see one specific thing: the staircase.
    Built sometime between 1878 and 1881, this staircase is a remarkable piece of work. There is no visible means of support for the structure, which makes two complete 360 degree turns between the ground floor and the choir loft.
    It's called a miraculous staircase because of that and also because of the legend behind the builder. It is said the nuns of the church prayed for someone to come help them solve their problem of needing a staircase in such a small spot. They prayed to Joseph, patron saint of carpenters, and this guy showed up, built the staircase and left without ever telling them who he was or asking for payment.
    It's a great story, especially in such an old town with a lot of charm and beauty, this legend seems to fit right in with Santa Fe's remarkable past.

    A Work of Art in Its Own Right
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    Santa Fe Opera: Art and Nature

    by alexchip Written Feb 24, 2013

    My girlfriend has been talking about this opera house for years; her
    family has a place near Canyon Road. Last year summer, I had the
    opportunity to finally go and what an experience! Opera season is mid
    June through August and I would suggest purchasing tickets early as
    possible as it tends to sell out quickly. And if you happen to be a
    student, 48 hours before the performance, if available, tickets are
    50% off. The opera house is a beautifully modern building right off US
    84/285 about 15 minutes from downtown Santa Fe. Also, if you want to
    get there early, they have "picnics" you can reserve and essentially
    tailgate in the parking lot prior to the performance. Once seated,
    you see that the back of the stage is open and looks out onto the
    rolling desert that inspired Georgia O'Keeffe. As the sun
    sets, the stage literally changes colors. It makes each performance
    unique as the elements (sometime thunder and lightning) contribute to
    the story. Additionally, they have about 5 different operas
    throughout the summer so there is something for everyone.

    O'Keeffe once wrote that “If you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it's your world for a moment.” The Santa Fe Opera does that for 3 hours, transporting you to a surreal intersection of Art and Nature, the brilliance of Mozart or Verdi competing but somehow not conflicting with the splendor of the landscape. When these two powerful forces meet and crescendo during a moving sunset aria, the sky bleeding with Carmen or Luisa Miller, you are overcome with emotions that cannot be described in a travel review.

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    Echo Amphitheatre

    by HispanicYob Written Feb 18, 2013

    After a cozy and wonderful weekend up in Chama, we headed home and I wanted to stop here at Echo Amphitheatre. It was a fresh, brisk day. The wind was whipping through the canyon and the surrounding area like a small dog would nip at your heel. I was told we went here when I was younger, but I couldn't remember. But I want to go back again and soak up the history of this place.

    The Echo Amphitheatre is located in Northern New Mexico near Abiquiu. My visit here was in November 2012. Once you pay 2.00 to have access to the park, you are greeted immediately by the sandstone rock faces and the holllow curving of the cliff in front of you. It wasn't until a few months after my visit here when I was researching it more that supposedly a set of families were killed on the cliffs by Navajos who moved into the area. It was during the "Long Walk" years later that some Navajos were executed as a revenge for the fallen families. I will have to look more into this story. But these cliffs are definitely worth a visit to your visit to New Mexico if you make it up this way. There's a little cement path that leads from the parking lot to the cliff face. You can hear the visitors scream and hoot away as the surrounding walls bounce back the sounds. Come check it out!

    Echo echo!
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    Acoma Pueblo's Sky City

    by AlbuqRay Updated Jan 28, 2013

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    Acoma Pueblo is about 1.5 hours west of Albuquerque on I-40. The old part of the pueblo is built on top of a mesa and is called "Sky City." It is the oldest continuously inhabited city in North America. There is also another nearby mesa that is not used now called Enchanted Mesa. At $23 each, the tours are not cheap (a camera permit only is $13 per camera) but they are well-guided and worth the cost. Go by the Sky City Cultural Center and Haaku Museum to pay and catch the bus to the top. The Center also has public restrooms.

    Acoma Pueblo Acoma Pueblo from the Overlook Enchanted Mesa from the Overlook Outside of Sky City Cultural Center Inside of Sky City Cultural Center
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    Nice day trip drive

    by AGBAT Written Jan 6, 2013

    The main thing not to miss in Northern NM is Sopapillas, Red Sauce, and Fry Bread.

    One of the best drives in NM is from Espanola up 84 thru Abiquiu to Chama, over on 17 to US 285 at Antonio, CO then back south to Tres Peidras then US 64 to Taos and back down to Espanola. It can be done in a day but stopping in Chama for the night and riding the old steam train would add a day. The drive to Chama is through "Georga O'Keefe Country" if that is of interest.

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    Smokey Bear Historical Park

    by HispanicYob Written Oct 8, 2012

    It was a beautiful fall morning when we left Ruidoso for Capitan. We had a nice chill evening bar hopping and kicking back in our little cabin in Ruidoso the night before, and I had wanted to see the birthplace of one of America's treasured symbols, Smokey the Bear.

    We arrived and our first visit was to the Smokey the Bear shop near the museum, where they sold little souvenirs of Capitan's "favorite son". Next, we went to the little museum next door. It was inside a quaint little building that featured exhibits on fire safety, history on Smokey the Bear and advertising used back in the day on forest fires. The grounds contain the final resting place of Smokey the Bear. After a forest fire in the Capitan Mountains in 1950 destroyed a lot of the forest, Smokey was found clinging to a burnt tree. After being rescued and nursed to health, he was transported to Washington, D.C. where he spent 26 years of his life on display. When he died in 1976, he was brought back to New Mexico. His remains traveled from Albuquerque to his final resting place, where he was given a proper burial at about 3 AM. This was due to fear of vandals that might take his remains.

    There's a little wooden path that takes you around native plants and shrubbery of the region. There's also a playground on property for the little ones. If you're in this part of New Mexico, I suggest checking out this museum and take the time to educate yourself, as well as pay respects at Smokey's grave. The final resting place of a once living symbol of the US Forest Service.

    In Capitan, birthplace of an American legend Smokey's grave Serene
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    Taos Pueblo

    by HispanicYob Updated Feb 26, 2012

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    Taos Pueblo is located outside of Taos, New Mexico. Prices to get in for adults is 10.00 USD, 6.00 USD with a student I.D. Beware, as the pueblo charges you an additional 6 dollars PER camera you bring in! I think that's a gyp. But there are reasons. It is a site of cultural significance. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is a must to see if you happen to be in this part of the state. There are people who do live here full time and permanent. It is one of the most oldest structures in the southwestern U.S. You can find native jewelry, artwork and other items of interest in shops located around the site. Dances are held here at certain times of the year. My first visit to this place was in February of 2012.

    The pueblo holds a magnificent view of the surrounding valleys. It truly is set in a beautiful location. Shade isn't abundant here, if you come in summer, be careful. The pueblo grounds are open and a lot of little pathways are closed to tourists. Naturally, as to protect the people living within. After all, this isn't just some ancient ruin in the middle of nowhere. There are families living here, too. The pueblo also houses a very old cemetery near the entrance. To our surprise, there was a dog chilling in the grounds, resting on top of the graves. Maybe mourning someone? Who knows?

    Taos Pueblo Stillness of the village
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    Scenic Byways: Turquoise Trail

    by toonsarah Updated Oct 26, 2011

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    Anyone driving between Albuquerque has a choice of three possible routes. The quickest is the Interstate (I25), and the slowest the long loop via Jemez and Los Alamos on Highways 550 and 4, but we chose the pretty scenic byway known as the Turquoise Trail. Named for the former turquoise mines in the region, this road (Highway 14) takes you through a series of one-time boom mining towns that are for the most part now very small and sleepy. The exception is Madrid (pronounced with the stress on the first syllable, MAD-rid), which in recent years has been discovered and revitalised by many artists and craftspeople. Nearly every one of the old houses lining its main street is now a gallery, and the few that aren’t are restaurants. We spent a very pleasant few hours here, but also really liked sleepy Los Cerillos, a very short detour off the main road, with its ramshackle bar and “antique” shop and attractive church. Further south, and also worth a detour if taking this route, you can drive up Sandia Peak for a great view of Albuquerque. If doing this, don’t miss a stop at the amazing Tinkertown Museum, one man’s life-long labour of love.

    My photos show a typical old house in Madrid, Mary’s bar in Los Cerillos, the view from Sandia Peak and a map of the route (in turquoise, naturally).

    Madrid Los Cerrilos View from Sandia Peak Turquoise Trail
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    Scenic Byways: Geronimo Trail

    by toonsarah Updated Oct 26, 2011

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    Of all the scenic byways we travelled this was arguably the most scenic, although in fact we only travelled half of it! For most drivers the route can be regarded as being split into two sections, north (Highways 59 and 52) and south (Highways 35 and 152). These are linked in the west by Forest Road 150 but you’ll probably need a 4-wheel drive to tackle that, and in the east by I25, which isn’t exactly scenic. The section we drove was the southern stretch – Highway 35 through the Mimbres Valley, then east on Highway 152. This road climbs up out of the valley through a dramatic rocky gorge and emerges at the high point (literally and figuratively) of the drive, Emory Pass. Here there is a large parking area, and although it was still quite early in the morning we were nevertheless amazed to have it to ourselves – none of the few other drivers on the road seemed minded to stop for the chance to take in this awesome vista. Here you are 8,228 feet above sea level, and the view extends east for miles. The towns of Kingston and Hillsboro can be seen below, and Caballo Lake and Mountains, over 50 miles to the east, are easily visible. On a clear day you can apparently make out Elephant Butte Dam (approximately 65 miles away) as a distant white spot, but we had quite a bit of haze and could see no further than Caballo.

    After Emory Pass, the road descends through a long series of hairpin bends, but although slow is in good condition and not too difficult a drive. Near the bottom, look out for a sign to the former boom town of Kingston, now home to just a handful of residents. Its one remaining building from the glory days, the Percha Bank, was closed for refurbishment when we visited but looked worth stopping to see if open.

    Beyond Kingston the road passes through Hillsboro, another former mining town but with more life to it than Kingston, including some nice cafes and a great little gallery. Look out for my forthcoming page on Hillsboro to read more about what was one of our favourite little New Mexico towns, as well as about Kingston.

    Soon after leaving Hillsboro Highway 152 reaches the interstate where we turned north for Truth or Consequences and Socorro, where we were to spend that night. Some of the views were still good, but I25 is no scenic byway!

    As well as some views from the top of the Emory Pass, my photos show the Percha Bank in Kingston, and Hillsboro’s one street. The last shows the route of the scenic byway (in mauve).

    View from Emory Pass View from Emory Pass (Kingston in foreground) Percha Bank, Kingston Hillsboro Geronimo Trail
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New Mexico Things to Do

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