The American Southwest is an amazing place to visit. The only problem I have is narrowing the list of things I could do to fit into the amount of time I have! So, I thought I’d help you out by sharing these 8 attractions in New Mexico that you probably haven’t visited yet. (list is in no particular order!)
#1 – Take someone special stargazing in the mountains of New Mexico.
Have you ever heard of light pollution? Until you experience stargazing somewhere remote, you may not even realize how little of the night sky is actually visible in large, populated areas due pollution. New Mexico’s skies are some of the best for stargazing. In fact, Travel & Leisure Magazine listed the state as #8 of the top 10 stargazing destinations in the world. While there are a number of places to enjoy the night skies, you can check out the Salinas Pueblo Missions during the day, as well as the night, at this newest internationally recognized dark sky park.
#2 – Visit the Victory Ranch and pet an alpaca.
The Victory Ranch is an 1100 acre area ranch that the Weisner family describe as a vertical operation. Everything happens in-house, so they care for the animals from birth through their productive years, harvest the alpaca fleece or wool, process the fibers, and create exquisite hand-crafted articles. It’s truly an amazing place to visit! One of the fun parts of the visit is petting the alpacas and having them eat out of our hands. These friendly little animals come in 22 different colors, so are creatures of great diversity and beauty.
#3 – Visit the historic town of Las Vegas, NM (really, there is one) and stay at the Historic Plaza Hotel.
I’d never heard of this Las Vegas city — but this one is the real thing — a community with more than 900 buildings on the National Historic Register. While the stars might hang out in the other Vegas, they actually make the movies in this one. More than 50 movies have been made on the historic streets of this community, and it still remains much as it did in some of those early westerns. It has also been the set for some television series, including Longmire, one of my favorites. Visiting Las Vegas lets you see the old west and where real outlaws really hung out a century and a half ago!
#4 – Hike the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
Winding my way up the mountains offered some breathtaking moments — both viewing the scenery and imagining myself hiking the area! When we actually arrived at the Pecos Wilderness Area in the Santa Fee National Forest, it was a great adventure. The day was warm, the Gilia flower still in bloom, and I had no trouble pacing myself at the 11,200 elevation. My partner, an experienced climber, gazed longingly at Hermit’s Peak towering a full two thousand feet above us. With more than 400 miles of trails, it’s a sure thing you’ll never get tired of exploring here.
#5 – Tour the Sky City of the Acoma Pueblo.
This incredible city, situated on top of 367-foot-high sandstone rock, is the oldest continuously inhabited community in North America. Take a tour with the descendents of its builders, for whom the city is still a cultural center, and learn about life generations ago. San Esteban del Rey, the Mission’s Church from the time of the Spanish invasion, is open and still used for prayer and worship. Different members of the Pueblo are available through the tour to show exquisite pottery work, each piece with superior craftsmanship and style, and answer any questions your friendly guide can’t.
#6 – See & Hike the Petroglyph National Monument.
This area takes you back in time 12,000 years and offers you the chance to read messages that have been left for all who come after. What meaning will you find in the carvings on the black volcanic rocks? Boca Negra Canyon is home to the more than 20,000 petroglyphs along the volcanic escarpment making it one of the largest concentrations in North America. The rocks lay along the hillside, like building blocks strewn by a child, with their messages carved and pecked into the surface. Make this a stop — you’ll be glad you did.
#7 – Learn About Turquoise Semi-Precious Stones.
Like many others who visit the southwest, I love turquoise, and where to better learn about this gemstone than from five generations of miners, lapidaries and authors at the Turquoise Museum. Joe Dan Lowry, author of the book “Turquoise Unearthed” showed me there was a lot to learn about what I’d always just regarded as pretty jewelry. Enjoy a lapidary demonstration, the collection room with samples from 60 mines, and lots of fabulous information about mineralogy and geology. The museum is only open for guided tours.
#8 – Travel Back in Time to Pueblos & Missions.
Step back centuries, journeying to a time when the Rio Grande River was the source of life. Then, the Pecos Indians had a thriving settlement midway through the passage at the southern end of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. As the centuries passed, the periods changed to the late Pueblo, then the time of the Spanish conquistadors. The Pecos National Historic Park historic park gives visitors a unique opportunity to descend into a Kiva, a ceremonial place below ground. The park preserves 1000 years of North American history. Don’t miss the Visitor’s Center film and exhibits.