Santa Fe is New Mexico's lovely state capital, located within the gorgeous foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
Though the town boasts wonderful Pueblo-style architecture and cultural opportunities to entertain visitors throughout the year, it also serves as a great launching-off spot for day trips to some of the state's most renowned natural areas, including stunning Bandelier National Monument and the massive volcanic field of Valles Caldera National Preserve. Lovely cities such as Albuquerque, Madrid, and Jemez Springs are known for their indigenous roots and art galleries, offering great opportunities to buy Native American pottery and artwork. Preserved Pueblo sites in the region include the National Historic Landmark-designated Acoma Pueblo, believed to the longest continuously-inhabited site in the United States.
1. Acoma Pueblo
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Acoma Pueblo is a National Historic Landmark indigenous community located approximately an hour west of Albuquerque, home to the federally-recognized Acoma Pueblo indigenous tribe. The community is made up of four villages at Sky City, Anzac, Acomita, and McCartys, which are considered to be the United States' oldest continuously-inhabited community, having been occupied for more than 2,000 years. Approximately 4,000 tribal members live throughout the communities, including around 50 who still live within Sky City's primitive earthen homes or the 1640 San Estévan del Rey Mission. Indigenous Acoma guides offer tours of Sky City throughout the year, elaborating on the village's history and cultural significance. Visitors can also explore the lovely Sky City Cultural Center and Haak'u Museum, known for their amazing exhibits of Pueblo pottery and Southwestern indigenous art.
P.O. Box 310, Acoma Pueblo, 87034, Phone: 800-747-0181
Albuquerque is the largest metropolis in New Mexico, located along the edge of the beautiful Sandia Mountain range on the banks of the Rio Grande River. The city, which sits at an elevation of nearly 6,700 feet above sea level, is known for its beautiful Old Town district, which is home to historic adobe buildings like the San Felipe de Neri Church. Visitors can explore family-friendly museums like the Albuquerque Museum, the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, and the Albuquerque Biological Park zoological complex. Live music performances are presented throughout the year at the Isleta Amphitheater and Tingley Coliseum. Each year, the city hosts annual special events like the International Balloon Fiesta, the world's largest hot-air balloon gathering.
3. Bandelier National Monument
Bandelier National Monument is a stunning national monument preserving over 33,000 acres of mesa and canyon terrain that surrounds an historic Ancestral Pueblo settlement, which was inhabited for hundreds of years prior to the arrival of Europeans in North America. After severe droughts in the region around 1550, the indigenous groups that lived in the area moved to the nearby Rio Grande region, where their descendants eventually became known as the Cochiti Pueblo. Today, visitors can explore preserved petroglyphs and village site archaeological excavations at Tsankawi and Frijoles Canyon, which can be traversed via self-guided nature trails. Cultural exhibits and documentary showings are offered at the park's visitor center, which presents ranger-led programming like walk and talk events and night sky programs.
15 Entrance RD, Los Alamos, NM 87544, Phone: 505-672-3861
4. Jemez Springs
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Jemez Springs is a charming village in Sandoval County, located at the site of the Jemez State Monument, which preserves the indigenous culture of the Pueblo of Jemez and the region's Spanish Colonial mission history. The village, which is located entirely within Santa Fe National Forest, sits on the banks of the Jemez River within picturesque San Diego Canyon's red rocks. Visitors can enjoy a plethora of outdoor recreational opportunities throughout the year, including opportunities for fishing, hiking, and cross-country skiing. The region's rich indigenous history is on display throughout the village, which is home to many family-owned and independent galleries and stores selling indigenous pottery and craft items. Visitors can also relax at several hot springs in the area, including Jemez Hot Springs and Jemez Springs Bath House.
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5. Las Vegas New Mexico
Las Vegas New Mexico is a lovely town in San Miguel County, not to be confused with the popular Nevada resort town of the same name. The charming historic city is known for its beautiful northern New Mexico architecture and quaint Old Town Historic District, which is home to many bookstores, antique shops, cafes, and restaurants. More than 900 structures within the city are preserved on the National Register of Historic Places, many for their connection to the historic Santa Fe Trail. A number of outdoor recreational areas are located just minutes away, including the beautiful Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge, Lake McAllister, Storrie Lake State Park, and Montezuma Hot Springs. Visitors can also camp at the Gallinas River's many campgrounds, relax in the city's beautiful Plaza Park, or explore the City of Las Vegas Museum, which showcases local history exhibits.
Madrid is a charming artist's community in Santa Fe County, located within the northeastern end of the Sandia Mountains just outside the city of Santa Fe. The city, which sits along the beautiful Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway, is technically classed as a ghost town due to its low population, but comes alive throughout the summer months as one of the Santa Fe region's top art destinations. Lovely art galleries and shops line New Mexico State Road 14, the town's main thoroughfare. Visitors can explore restored mining town-era attractions like the Miner's Amusement Hall or peruse delightful exhibits at the city's Coal Mining Museum. Dilapidated buildings on the city's outskirts are purportedly haunted, including the former Mine Shaft Tavern, many of which are believed to be haunted by the famed La Llorona spirit of Mexican legend. During the winter months, the town hosts its annual Christmas lighting event, which showcases spectacular light displays and nativity scenes.
7. Ojo Caliente Springs
Ojo Caliente Springs is a delightful resort destination in northern New Mexico, known as a healing and relaxing gathering place for centuries. The resort is anchored around the beautiful Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs, which were discovered in the mid-19th century and operated as a major sanitarium and tourist attraction. Today, many of the resort's original buildings have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places, including the 1868 Historic Bathhouse, the 1917 Historic Hotel, and the 1924 Adobe Round Barn. Visitors can soak at the resort's rejuvenating hot springs, enjoy custom spa treatments, or explore the lovely hiking and biking trails set on the resort's 1,100-acre landscape. Delightful dining experiences are offered at the Artesian Restaurant, which serves up delicious seasonal Southwestern favorites.
50 Los Banos Drive, Ojo Caliente, NM 87549, Phone: 888-939-0007
8. Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument
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Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument is a gorgeous national monument preserving three of New Mexico's most famous Spanish Catholic missions, constructed between 1622 and 1635 in the state's Mountainair region. The monument was originally established as the Gran Quivira National Monument in 1909, preserving the celebrated ruins of the historic Gran Quivira Mission, the largest Christian church ruin site in the United States. Today, the park also protects the Mission of San Gregoiro de Abó at its Abó Unit and the Nuestra Senora de la Purisima Concepcion de Quarai Mission at its Quarai Unit. All three mission ruins can be explored as part of self-guided tours along interpretive trails, with visitor centers providing historical context on all three sites.
Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument, PO Box 517, Mountainair, NM 87036-0517, Phone: 505-847-2585
9. The Sandia Peak Tramway
The Sandia Peak Tramway is the United States' longest aerial tramway, departing near Albuquerque and stretching over the crestline of the gorgeous Sandia Mountains. The tramway ascends from the city's western site to the Sandia Peak Ski Area, which sits just south of the Sandia Crest, at an elevation of over 10,000 feet above sea level. Riders can see some of the region's most beautiful sites, including the gorgeous skyline of the surrounding Cibola National Forest. Sunset rides provide unparalleled color and scenery, while autumn rides showcase gorgeous fall foliage. Atop the ski area, an observation deck provides 11,000-square-mile panoramic views of the nearby Land of Enchantment and Rio Grande Valley. Year-round recreational opportunities are offered, including opportunities for skiing and snowboarding throughout the winter months.
10. El Santuario de Chimayo
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El Santuario de Chimayo is a beautiful National Historic Landmark Roman Catholic church in Chimayó, known as the United States' most important annual pilgrimage site for modern Catholic practitioners. The church is one of New Mexico's most-visited tourist attractions, hosting more than 300,000 visitors each year, including 30,000 visitors during Holy Week. It is famed for its Tierra Bendita holy dirt, which is located within a small hole near the main altar and has been believed to have miraculous healing powers for more than 200 years. The holy dirt has been acclaimed since 1810, when the Black Christ of Esquipulas crucifix was supposedly found within the dirt three times in a row without any church members moving it. Today, visitors from around the state and the nation make the trek to the church, many barefoot on foot, to demonstrate their religious devotion and pray for miracles.
15 Santuario Dr, Chimayo, NM 87522, Phone: 505-351-9961
Taos is a lovely city in New Mexico's Sangre de Cristo Mountains, named in honor of the nearby indigenous village Taos Pueblo, which translates as "place of red willows" in English. Many beautiful buildings within the city's center have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places, including restored sites connected to the region's early pioneer and Old West history. The city is also known as one of New Mexico's top artist colonies, home to over 80 art galleries that showcase lovely works and exhibitions in a variety of media throughout the year. The Helene Wurlitzer Foundation sponsors artists in residency each year, bringing in more artistic diversity. Near the city, the historic D.H. Lawrence Ranch preserves the 1920s-era home of the famous novelist, while the lovely Taos Valley region is known as one of the state's top skiing resort areas.
12. Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument
Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument is a beautiful United States National Monument located just 45 minutes southwest of Santa Fe, overseen by the Bureau of Land Management. The monument is named for the Keresan Pueblo word for "white cliffs," showcasing spectacular cone-shaped tent rock formations that were produced from volcanic eruptions between six and seven million years ago. Today, spectacular hoodoo formations dot the monument's landscape, ranging in size from a few feet tall to over 90 feet. Visitors can explore the monument via a national recreation trail, which traverses elevations ranging from 5,570 to 6,760 feet above sea level. Segments of the trail provide opportunities for hiking and birdwatching, while others offer information on plant identification and geologic observation.
Rio Puerco Field Office, 100 Sun Avenue NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109, Phone: 505-331-6259
Tinkertown is a unique museum in Sandia Park, showcasing the elaborate handmade dioramas of the Old West crafted by wood carving artist Ross Ward. The 22-room museum was constructed entirely of glass bottles, crafted over the course of four decades. Delightful Western memorabilia lines the museum's exterior, including wagon wheels and pieces of Old West storefronts. Inside the museum, dioramas depict Old West scenes, including cowboys, saloons, indigenous groups, and native landscapes. Other unique item collections on display include antique tools and curiosities such as a quarter-loaded fortune teller, a bottle-crafted replica of the World's Tallest Man, and a 35-foot antique wooden sailboat that once sailed around the world over the course of a decade.
121 Sandia Crest Rd, Sandia Park, NM 87047, Phone: 505-281-5233
14. Valles Caldera National Preserve
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Valles Caldera National Preserve is anchored around the stunning 13-mile inactive volcanic caldera of the same name, which is located within the state's gorgeous Jemez Mountain range. The National Natural Landmark caldera, which has been protected as one of the state's top natural sites since 1975, has recently been transferred to the care of the National Park System as a national preserve site. Today, the site protects a number of area natural landmarks connected to the caldera, including massive 11,253-foot Redondo Peak, a significant resurgent lava dome. Visitors can use the park's extensive equestrian trail system throughout the year, which preserves trails created as part of the 1876 Baca Ranch. Many winter skiing opportunities are offered throughout the park's Valle Grande skiing region.
PO Box 359, Jemez Springs, NM 87025, Phone: 575-829-4100
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15. White Mesa
White Mesa is one of New Mexico's most beautiful biking regions, located near the community of San Ysidro. The region is anchored by the lovely White Ridge Bike Trails Area and the splendid Ojito Wilderness, both of which are easily accessible via U.S. 550. Scenic geological features throughout both areas include rocky outcrops and stunning colored natural formations, which can be viewed from the area's beautiful trails. The mesa is named in honor of its beautiful gypsum mineral covering, which formed after the evaporation of an ancient body of water. Many fossil remains have been found throughout the region's Morrison Formation, including rare dinosaur, plant, and tree fossils that date back to the Jurassic Period. While the region's trails have been primarily developed for mountain biking, they are also open to hikers and mountain bikers.
White Mesa, New Mexico 87053
16. White Sands National Monument
White Sands National Monument is a lovely national monument that protects one of New Mexico's most beautiful stretches of white sand dunes. The park, which is located near the city of Alamogordo, was established in 1933 to protect the world's largest gypsum mineral dune field, stretching across more than 275 square miles within the Tularosa Basin.
Throughout the years, the gorgeous dunes have been featured in a number of classic Western films, including The Hired Hand and Four Faces West. Visitors can explore the dunes via four self-guided interpretive trails in the park, which are accessible throughout the year. Outdoor recreational opportunities offered include chances for hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, sledding, and backcountry camping. Ranger-led programming is offered throughout the year by the park's visitor center, including nature walks and excursions. More info
PO Box 1086, Holloman AFB, NM 88330, Phone: 575-479-6124
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