New Mexico is known as the Land of Enchantment because you will fall in love as soon as you visit. There are natural wonders and deserts spread throughout the state, as well as unique museums, such as one focusing on aliens.
You can go skiing in New Mexico, go for a hike, head to a museum, or spend the day with your family at a theme park. While traveling, you will find the finest Tex-Mex anywhere, as well as classic American dishes, all full of flavor and as much (or little) spice as you want.
Here's an overview of the top attractions in New Mexico.
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The otherworldly ivory dunes of White Sands National Park are among the world's greatest natural wonders and certainly one of the top sights to see in New Mexico.
Here in the heart of the Tularosa Basin, gypsum sands have taken over 275 square miles of desert, creating an enormous, wave-like dune field.
It’s a playground like no other, ready for everything from sledding to hiking through the snow-white sand.
Tackle a strenuous trek or opt instead for cruising along the scenic, 8-mile Dunes Drive, which leads from the visitor center into the heart of the dune field.
Build in time to stop for walks in the sand, taking photos and learning about the area’s natural and cultural history. Cyclists can also follow Dunes Drive for a pleasant fresh-air tour of the area.
For the hikers, there are five established trails scattered through White Sands National Park’s unique landscape. Savor the silence and solitude – and the stunning views of surrounding mountains.
Accommodation: Where to stay in Alamogordo
Address: U.S. Route 70 Alamogordo, NM 88310
If you’re looking for authentic things to do in New Mexico, time your visit with the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.
Set in the Rio Grande Valley, the nine-day event takes place each October and fills the field and sky with vibrantly colored balloons.
Watch a balloon rodeo, a variety of competitions by expert balloon pilots and as countless balloons lift off into the sky in a dazzling array of colors.
Stick around in the evening for Balloon Glows when the balloons fire their burners and light up at the same time – perhaps the most spectacular moment of the entire festival.
Learn about America's Challenge Gas Balloon Race, one of the world's two premier distance races for gas balloons.
Get a behind-the-scenes look at the event operations and learn about the sport and science of ballooning at the Balloon Discovery Center.
Best of all? You can take a ride in a balloon yourself, thanks to the on-site balloon ride concession.
Accommodation: Where to stay in Albuquerque
Address: 4401 Alameda Blvd NE, Albuquerque, NM 87113
For history and archaeology buffs, Bandelier National Monument is one of the top attractions in New Mexico.
The extensive park protects more than 33,000 acres of canyon and mesa country, a rugged landscape where evidence of human life some 11,000 years ago can be seen.
Look for petroglyphs, dwellings of the Ancestral Pueblo people carved into soft volcanic tuff and standing masonry walls.
Learn how the early people, who lived here from approximately 1150 CE to 1550 CE, planted their crops of corn, beans and squash in mesa top fields and hunted for deer, rabbit and squirrel.
Start your visit with a walk on the 1.4-mile Main (Pueblo) Loop Trail, which starts at the Visitor Center and leads you through excavated archaeological sites on the floor of the Frijoles Canyon.
Tackle the 3-mile Falls Trail to the Upper Falls and additional trails that lead to the mesa tops. And don’t miss the Tsankawi area of the park, 12 miles from the main section, where you can view petroglyphs and the Ancestral Pueblo village of Tsankawi.
Accommodation: Where to stay in Los Alamos
Address: 15 Entrance Rd Los Alamos, NM 87544
Whether or not you consider yourself an art critic, you should consider the Georgia O’Keefe Museum one of the top places to visit in New Mexico.
O’Keefe was famously inspired by the Santa Fe landscape and quickly soared to the top of the list of Southwestern artists.
Housed in a former adobe Baptist church, the museum appeals to all ages and all tastes, with more than 1,000 drawings, paintings and sculptures capturing “the wideness and wonder of the world as I live in it,” according to O’Keefe.
You’ll also find a couple of thousand pieces by other notable Southwestern artists.
Learn about O'Keefe's life and art through a documentary and a variety of insightful exhibits.
The free Georgia O'Keefe app is a smart download to listen to as you wander throughout the gallery.
The museum also maintains O'Keefe's home and studio in the village of Abiquiu, worth a visit if you have the time.
Accommodation: Where to stay in Santa Fe
Address: 217 Johnson St, Santa Fe, NM 87501
When it comes to adventure-filled vacation spots in New Mexico, Carlsbad Caverns National Park is top of mind.
With its ancient sea ledges, deep rocky canyons and caverns of all sizes, it's timelessly appealing to visitors of all ages.
Lace-up a sturdy pair of sneakers or hiking boots and take to the Chihuahuan Desert to explore both above grounds and below.
Admire flowering cactus and glimpse desert wildlife, then descend into the Big Room, the largest single cave chamber by volume in North America.
Take the relatively flat, 1.25-mile Big Room Trail into the cavern, which Will Rogers once called “The Grand Canyon with a roof over it.”
You’ll even see the rope ladder used by explorers back in 1924. Another option is to hike the very steep 1.25-mile Natural Entrance Trail, gaining or losing 750 feet.
You’ll follow in the footsteps of early explorers, passing Devil’s Spring, the Whale’s Mouth and Iceberg Rock.
Don’t stop with the caverns – the park has plenty of great surface hiking, as well as fun bat flight programs and night sky-viewing programs.
Accommodation: Where to stay in Carlsbad
Address: 27 Carlsbad Caverns Highway, Carlsbad, NM, 88220
Also Read: Most Amazing Caves & Caverns in the USA
Gazing at the night sky in an official International Dark Sky Park is high on the list of unique things to do in New Mexico.
Chaco Culture National Historical Park was named such a place in 2013 and had been protecting the night skies ever since.
No permanent outdoor lighting exists in order to protect nocturnal wildlife and the natural rhythms of humans and plants that depend on an unaltered night sky.
Within the park, visitors can see evidence of the huge structures built by the Ancestral Pueblo people between 850 and 1250 AD.
Explore by guided tour, hiking, biking, around the campfire with a guide at night and, of course, during night-sky programs, including astronomy programs, daytime solar viewing and telescope viewing at night.
Most of the park and its cultural sites are self-guided year-round.
Take your time and visit the six significant sites on the 9-mile Canyon Loop Drive: Una Vida, Hungo Pavi, Pueblo Bonito, Chetro Ketl, Pueblo del Arroyo and Casa Rinconada.
Address: Nageezi, NM 87037
A local favorite and a popular New Mexico tourist attraction, the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science is known for its life-size dinosaur skeletons.
The museum sits just outside Old Town and draws curious guests of all ages to learn about 12 billion years of local natural history.
Venture into the Jurassic era at the FossilWorks exhibit and learn about the process of extracting precious vertebrate fossils from the rocks that hid them for millennia.
Text and illustrations teach about the fossilization process and Jurassic Period dinos – read up, then check out the partial skeleton in the Age of Supergiants exhibit.
Don’t miss the Planetarium, with its 55-foot screen showing multimedia presentations on astronomy and space science.
In the Naturalist Center, you can use microscopes, study native animals and touch specimens for a hands-on approach to New Mexico’s natural world.
Address: 1801 Mountain Rd NW, Albuquerque, NM 87104
Go off the grid and chug your way into history on the Cumbres-Toltec Scenic Railway, a historic New Mexico attraction.
As you steam along, admire the mountainsides covered in brilliant aspens, just as passengers did 140 years ago.
Rated one of America's most scenic trains, this National Historic Landmark actually moves.
Your authentic steam train ride will take you through the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and New Mexico, covering 64 miles.
You’ll squeeze through mountain canyons and cross the high desert and green meadows, all in Victorian-era elegance in the parlor car or the more budget-friendly coach car. Lunch is included.
Accommodation: Where to stay in Chama
Address: 500 Terrace Avenue, Chama, NM 87520
Also Read: 30 Best Railway Museums in the US
Calling Loretto Chapel “historically significant” doesn’t quite do it justice. For one, it includes 19th century stained glass straight from Paris. It also includes the Miraculous Staircase, which includes two 360-degree turns and no visible means of support.
The Loretto Chapel is located in Santa Fe and was completed in 1878. At the time of its construction, Santa Fe was a city with a mixed culture of Spanish, Mexican, Native American, and American citizens.
The chapel was constructed as a way to bring together Santa Fe’s citizens through religion.
Whether you are here for a visit or you are here to hold special events like weddings and anniversaries, you will enjoy the beautiful facade of the Loretto Chapel.
Have beautiful photo ops at the chapel's majestic staircase and bring home souvenir items with you from the chapel's gift shop.
Address: 207 Old Santa Fe Trail, Santa Fe, NM 87501
Also Read: Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Santa Fe, NM
This high-flying New Mexico attraction soars over deep canyons and dramatic natural beauty as it whisks you more than 10,000 feet – nearly three miles – up Sandia Peak.
The Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway offers the best views of Albuquerque and the Sandia Mountains from its observation deck.
On a clear day, you can see up to 11,000 square miles.
It’s particularly stunning at sunset, when the desert sky erupts in a kaleidoscope of color, cementing the state’s nickname as the “Land of Enchantment.”
Once atop the peak, take time to explore the various hiking trails of Cibola National Forest.
Address: 10 Tramway Loop NE, Albuquerque, NM 87122
Home to one of the largest petroglyph sites in North America, Petroglyph National Monument is one of the most impressive attractions in New Mexico for American history buffs.
Archaeologists estimate that there are more than 25,000 petroglyph images in the 17 miles of escarpment within the monument’s boundaries.
The petroglyphs you’ll view are believed to have been created by the ancestors of today's Pueblo people and were carved from about 1300 through the late 1680s.
The images, carved into the volcanic rock, are records of cultural expression and are spiritually significant to contemporary Native Americans and descendants of early Spanish settlers.
Stop by the visitor center first to get directions to the attractions with the park or attend an education program to learn more about ancient rock art.
The highly accessible, scenic trails are between a 1-mile to 6.5-mile drive from the visitor center.
Address: Western Trail NW, Albuquerque, NM 87120
Spend a day in a living Native American community at Taos Pueblo, where centuries of culture and traditions come to life.
Tour the multi-storied adobe buildings, which have been continuously inhabited for more than 1,000 years.
The buildings, made entirely of adobe, appear much as they did when the first Spanish explorers arrived in 1540.
The Pueblo contains many individual homes, side by side and in layers, with common walls but no connecting doorways.
Today, about 150 people live with Pueblo full time. Additional families maintain conventional homes outside the village walls and occupy their Pueblo home for ceremonials.
While you’re there, consider purchasing mica-flecked pottery and silver jewelry made by local artisans and for sale at curio shops within the Pueblo.
At the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Taos Pueblo is one of the most culturally significant places to go in New Mexico.
Accommodation: Where to stay in Taos
Address: 120 Veterans Highway, Taos, NM 87571
Also Read: 15 Most Charming Small Towns in New Mexico
Popular with open-water divers and those who just want to stare down into beautiful blue water, the Santa Rosa Blue Hole is a geologic phenomenon.
Part of a larger, unexplored cave network, the 81-foot-deep, 60-foot-wide artesian spring was formed when the local limestone bedrock was eroded and collapsed by an underground aquifer.
Enough water flows through the hole to fill an Olympic-size swimming pool every three hours.
It’s that constantly moving water that keeps the visibility so excellent for divers.
Come to swim and stay awhile, lounging on the rock slabs that line the northern edge of the hole.
Be prepared, though – the water remains a chilly 61 degrees year-round. Experienced divers can take the plunge and swim with the hole's goldfish, carp and koi.
Accommodation: Where to stay in Santa Rosa
Address: 1085 Blue Hole Rd, Santa Rosa, NM 88435
If you’re seeking culturally important places to go in New Mexico, head to Pecos National Historical Park, which combines culture and geography in a beautiful setting.
Not far from Santa Fe, in the woodlands of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the park features the remains of Indian pueblos, a lasting reminder of the people who once presided over this land.
Visit the Pecos Pueblo and the Spanish mission, then walk the 1.25-mile self-guided loop around the site.
Learn about the Battle of Glorieta Pass as you walk along the 2.3-mile Civil War loop.
Ranger-led tours include an exploration of Forked Lightning Ranch and a van tour of key battle locations in the Battle of Glorieta Pass. There is no admission fee for the park.
Accommodation: Where to stay in Pecos
Address: 1 NM-63, Pecos, NM 87552
A New Mexico must-see attraction and one of the most famous places in the US for astronomy fans, the Very Large Array consists of 27 massive white radio antennae.
Just off US Route 60 in the high, drylands of western New Mexico, the dishes are arranged in a giant Y-shape.
Each dish weighs 230 tons and is 82 feet in diameter. The research here is in the space realm, gathering data on supernovae, black holes, dark energy and SETI (the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Life).
Take a walk through the array – feeling relatively small as you do. Each leg of the array can be between a third of a mile and 13 miles from the center point.
At dawn or dusk, the dishes cast mile-long shadows. There is a visitor center on-site, open daily. Stop by for information on self-guided walking tours.
Accommodation: Where to stay in Socorro
Address: Socorro, NM 87825