Alamogordo is a small, friendly city in the Tularosa Basin in Southern New Mexico. The city is flanked by White Sands National Monument and White Sands Missile Range on the west and the Sacramento Mountains on the east. The proximity to the missile range has caused the city and surrounding area to have quite a few interesting attractions related to science and space, including the New Mexico Museum of Space and the White Sands Missile Range Museum. For those who love the outdoors, there are a number of beautiful natural sights to explore in both the desert and the mountains, including Lincoln National Forest, Grindstone Lake, and the massive sand dunes at White Sands National Monument. A number of other attractions and interesting features make Alamogordo an attractive vacation destination. CDC information for travelers. Hours/availability may have changed.
1.White Sands National Monument
2.New Mexico Museum of Space
3.Alameda Park Zoo
4.The Toy Train Depot
5.Tularosa Basin Museum of History
6.White Sands Missile Range Museum
7.Oliver Lee Memorial State Park
8.Heart of the Desert/Eagle Ranch Pistachios Farm Tour
9.International Space Hall of Fame
10.Shroud Exhibit and Museum
11.Desert Foothills Park
12.Lincoln National Forest
13.Sacramento Mountains Museum
14.New Mexico Rails-to-Trails
16.Ruidoso River Museum
18.Noisy Water Winery
19 Best Things to Do in Alamogordo, NM
- White Sands National Monument, Photo: Courtesy of sianamira - Fotolia.com
- New Mexico Museum of Space, Photo: New Mexico Museum of Space
- Alameda Park Zoo, Photo: Courtesy of TOMO - Fotolia.com
- The Toy Train Depot, Photo: Courtesy of nikirov - Fotolia.com
- Tularosa Basin Museum of History, Photo: Tularosa Basin Museum of History
- White Sands Missile Range Museum, Photo: Courtesy of Zack Frank - Fotolia.com
- Oliver Lee Memorial State Park, Photo: Courtesy of Laurens - Fotolia.com
- Heart of the Desert/Eagle Ranch Pistachios Farm Tour, Photo: Courtesy of vikakurylo81 - Fotolia.com
- International Space Hall of Fame, Photo: International Space Hall of Fame
- Shroud Exhibit and Museum, Photo: Shroud Exhibit and Museum
- Desert Foothills Park, Photo: Courtesy of Laurens - Fotolia.com
- Lincoln National Forest, Photo: Courtesy of Chris - Fotolia.com
- Sacramento Mountains Museum, Photo: Sacramento Mountains Museum
- New Mexico Rails-to-Trails, Photo: Courtesy of Jeff Schultes - Fotolia.com
- Grindstone Stables , Photo: Courtesy of MelvinL - Fotolia.com
- Ruidoso River Museum, Photo: Courtesy of Christian Simon - Fotolia.com
- Grindstone Lake, Photo: Courtesy of gatito33 - Fotolia.com
- Noisy Water Winery, Photo: Noisy Water Winery
- Plateau Espresso, Photo: Plateau Espresso
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of brent_1 - Fotolia.com
Attraction Spotlight: White Sands Missile Range Museum
The White Sands Missile Range Museum, located in White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, is a literal physical piece of history. Visitors to the site will be able to see the place where the nuclear age began and learn about how this impacted life as we know it, even now.
The missile range was established in 1945 and is still the largest overland military testing range in the United States, at 3,200 square miles. The first atomic bomb was tested here, at the Trinity Site, on July 16th, 1945. The museum opened in 1999 before closing for repairs, opening again after restoration was completed in 2004. Its mission is to educate people about the history of the nuclear age as well as the state of space travel, with a focus on how it relates to the White Sands area.
Permanent Attractions and Exhibits
Just outside of the actual museum is the missile park, which displays a collection of some of the rockets and missiles that were previously tested at the White Sands range. Guests should make sure to check them all out, including the Pershing II, the WAC Corporal, the Loon (which is the US version of a V-1), and the Patriot. There are over 50 different items available to see, and they can also be viewed on the White Sands website.
The inside of the museum features a variety of exhibits as well.
- V2 Tank- This hydrogen peroxide tank was powered with a mix of both alcohol and oxygen (in its liquid state). A “turbopump” was invented because of this tank, which allowed the oxidizer and fuel to be pumped as quickly as was necessary to sustain the flight energy needed. Inside the assembly was the hydrogen peroxide that mixed with sodium permanganate which created the steam that drove the turbopump) and allowed the V-2 to hit over 100 miles of altitude.
- Atomic bomb model- The museum features a scale model of the very first atomic bomb ever detonated at the Trinity Site.
- V2 motor: On display at the museum is an actual rocket engine that has been cut open in order to better display the inner workings.
- Slide rule- Before scientists and students were able to easily work out math problems on a calculator, they had to use a slide rule like the one on display at the museum. This specific slide rule is the type that was specially designed by German scientists in order to accurately calculate rocket trajectories.
- Portable calculator- Not quite the kind most guests will be used to, this “portable” calculator was used by the scientists at White Sands to look at date from the early missile experimental findings.
- Drone Control System- The museum has on display a formation control system from the 1980s that was used to pilot drones using the joystick on the machine.
There are also many more things to see, including exhibits focusing on the local prehistoric cultures as well as the Old West history so guests should make sure to budget at least a couple of hours to see it all. The museum is open all year round on weekdays from 8am to 4pm and on Saturday from 10am to 3pm.
The missile range and museum is a perfect place to take students to introduce them to the history and importance of the White Sands site. The field trips are best for grade levels 9 through 12 due to the frank discussions of war. Contact the staff at the museum for additional information including cost, number of chaperones required, and types of tours being offered. If possible, teachers can request a tour guide to lead them through the missile site, park, museum, etc while explaining the history in a fun and engaging way. Reservations are highly recommended and can be made by contacting the museum directly at least a few weeks in advance of the planned field trip.
Teachers can plan ahead by talking to students about the nuclear age, the birth of space exploration, and the history of White Sands and the Trinity Site. They can also discuss the political changes that were brought about by the first atomic bomb explosion in history.
There is a small gift shop located at the missile museum which sells a small collection of merchandise like books and DVDs that focus on the history of the site and the missiles that were launched there. Guests can also purchase commemorative pins, personalized bricks, or just choose to make a donation to help support the mission of the museum as well as its daily operations.
White Sands Missile Range Museum, Wsmr P Rt 1, White Sands Missile Range, NM, 88002, Phone: 575-678-2550
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Attraction Spotlight: New Mexico Museum of Space History in Alamogordo, New Mexico
The New Mexico Museum of Space History is a planetarium and museum complex located in Alamogordo, NM. The museum focuses on displays and artifacts dedicated to the Space Age and space flight. As one of the 15 divisions of the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs, the museum's mission is to educate both visitors and the local people of New Mexico about the world of technology and history, and the science of space. Having played a substantial role in the development of the U.S. Space Program via preserving, interpreting, and collecting artifacts associated with the history of space, the museum achieved AAM accreditation as of 1993. More Things to Do in Alamogordo
Inside the museum is a range of informative displays and exhibits about space exploration. The Basin Overlook exhibit highlights the occurrences in greater New Mexico and the Tularosa Basin that aided the exploration of space. A gallery of maps, photographs, and information describes the White Sands Missile Range, Holloman Air Force Base, and the Tularosa Basin. The interactive Icons of Exploration exhibit showcases a collection of the museum's most celebrated artifacts and objects, highlighting the underlying themes of the museum and including moon rocks as well as replicas of the first satellites launched by man; Sputnik and Explorer.
The Living and Working in Space exhibit shows how humankind has adapted to the environmental challenges of inhabiting space. Space suits are on display here, as well as clothing, a space toilet, Soviet and American space food, and a bioinstrumentation pack. A further exhibit is Rockets!, which is a tactile exhibit with buttons to press that in turn create rocket sounds and allow 3D models of rockets to be observed; this exhibit gives the timeline of the development of rocketry over the years and pays tribute to many of the pioneers in the field of rocketry. The Looking Out, Looking Back exhibit describes the history of satellites, their importance, and how they have changed over the years in terms of technology.
The Space Science in New Mexico exhibition celebrates the Tularosa Basin and New Mexico’s link to space travel developments and the impact of the pioneers of space flight. The gallery displays a fuel injector that was part of a rocket made by Robert Goddard as well as some instruments from the German V2 rockets that were previously tested at the White Sands Missile Range. The final indoor exhibit is the International Space Hall of Fame. Dating back to 1976, this hall honors the achievements, efforts, and imagination of many who have advanced humankind's knowledge of space and the universe. The museum also contains the New Horizons Theater and Planetarium. This planetarium hosts four different showings per day and has the first Spitz SciDome 4K Laser fulldome projection system in the world.
The outside area also has the Astronaut Memorial Garden, which contains space-related artifacts documenting the exploration of space over the years. Examples of this outdoor exhibit are the Little Joe rocket, famed from its testing of the Apollo Launch Escape System, and the Sonic Wind 1 rocket sled, which was ridden by Dr. Stapp. By the flagpoles just outside the museum, the remains of Ham, the first chimpanzee in space, lies buried. Another exhibit located outside is the Astronaut Memorial Garden, which was created in memory of the astronauts who died in the Challenger disaster. Partially inside and partially outside is the Daisy Track exhibit, an air-powered sled track also known as the Daisy Air Rifle, which was used to test safety devices. Further displays include the sounding rockets and whisper dishes. Visitors can learn about all of these exhibits from the information plaques located beside each display. Also on site is the Museum Support Center, where volunteers and employees restore and conserve the large number of artifacts on display at the museum.
Ongoing programs and education
The museum offers young people of all ages the chance to join the New Mexico Rocketeer Academy program. For kindergarten through 9th grade there is a summer camp that has two programs to choose from. The camps are either half day (Comets) or full day (Mercury) and are divided into age groups and topics. Topics have ranged from dinosaurs to flying and space robots. The museum also has an outreach program, whereby a portable planetarium dome can be taken to schools for a performance. Another program run by the museum is the Museum Camp-Ins program. These camp-ins see children and adult chaperones travel through the museum participating projects as they go and seeing presentations and movies.
3198 State Rte 2001, Alamogordo, NM 88310, Phone: 575-473-2840
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Attraction Spotlight: Alamogordo Museum of History
Visiting the Alamogordo Museum of History, in scenic Alamogordo, New Mexico, is like being able to stop into history. Guests will learn about the local community’s contributions, which includes the physical (like pottery) as well as historical figures that have served in the cabinets of multiple presidents.
The historical society was founded in 1964 as a non-for-profit agency with a mission of helping create a greater love and appreciation for the history of the city as well as the entire Tularosa Basin. Although the entire historical society was nearly dissolved in 1997, it pulled through after bringing in new, passionate volunteers. There are now 200 members, which includes 35 volunteers dedicated to continuing the mission of the museum (those volunteers have clocked more than 5000 hours combined). The volunteers help run workshops, act as docents/tour guides, help process archival research, and process photographs. The museum itself exists solely on dues collected from members, donations, memorial and building funds, and purchases at the gift shop.
The permanent exhibits at the museum focus on Tularosa Basin’s interesting history, which includes the history of Alamogordo, Ruidoso, Tularosa, Cloudcroft, La Luz, and other communities in Sacramento.
The subjects of the exhibits cover a range of different areas, including the railroad, the local school for the blind, the military, the national monument, pottery, scouting, ranching, Native American history, and historical local figures.
Albert Fall- One of the biggest exhibits at the museum focuses on Albert Fall, who was the Secretary of the Interior during the Harding presidency (from 1921 to 1923). The museum features a variety of artifacts from that time - including the chair that Fall used in his office in Washington, DC and a framed picture of Harding’s cabinet that included Fall (which includes the chair to confirm authenticity).
47-Star Flag- There is also a flag with 47 stars, as the state of New of Mexico was star number 47 in January of 1912. However, as the US only adopts amended flags on the Fourth of July, the addition of the state of Arizona the same February meant the number of stars was changed again before the new flag was released. This flag is unique not only due to the number of stars, but also because it is handmade.
Punch Bowl- According to a family tradition by the Chase family, the American pressed glass punch bowl that is featured at the museum was given to Fall and was made by the L.E. Smith Company out of Jeanette, Pennsylvania.
Katherine Ortega- Another historical figure featured at the museum is Katherine Ortega, who served as the United States Treasurer under both the Reagan and Bush presidencies (from 1983 through 1989).
She was the tenth woman in a row to hold this office, as well as being only the second Hispanic ever to be Treasurer. The artifacts from her term include a sheet of one-dollar bills that was signed by Ortega as well as Robert Leuver (who gave her the bills as the acting Director of Printing and Engraving. He also signed the bills), a picture of Ortega and her husband, and an urn filled with shredded bills from the time she was Treasurer.
From time to time the historical society museum will host special events on the premises, designed to help guests further understand the history while also having fun!
One of the more recent additions to those special events is the La Luz tour that focuses on pottery. This is a limited time offering and includes a walking tour (so guests should make sure to wear comfortable shoes). The tours last anywhere from an hour to two hours, and guests are asked to bring their own water if they think they may get thirsty while walking. Reservations are required and can be made at the museum. There is no cost, but donations are encouraged.
Also, when new exhibits open at the museum, many times the museum will have special openings and dedications for them. A recent example of this is the opening of the local mission’s exhibit - which features the stories of eight different local missions in the Tularosa basin.
The museum offers a gift shop with a variety of merchandise related to exhibits at the museum and the history of the surrounding area. Stop by and pick up a book, a kitchen towel, coffee mug, journal, or a gift card. All purchases at the gift shop help support the museum’s daily operations, as the museum is a non-for-profit organization.
Tularosa Basin Historical Society, 1004 N. White Sands Blvd, Alamogordo, NM, 88310, Phone: 575-434-4438
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