There are some adventures that you can only have in New Mexico. If you live here, they make you grateful for the unique opportunities available to you. If you’re just visiting, such an experience may well be the highlight of your trip. Like many states, New Mexico has natural beauty, scrumptious food, and amazing people. But here are 12 specific experiences that set it apart from the other 49 states.
1. Go opera tailgating. (Santa Fe)
In some states you tailgate outside a football stadium or hockey arena. In New Mexico, we tailgate at the opera! And forget brats and burgers. Opera tailgaters have been known to arrive with flatware and real plates on which to savor a gourmet picnic. Others opt for upscale takeout, either from a local restaurant or from Bon Appétit which has a booth in the parking lot (order at least 48 hours in advance).
2. Attend the largest hot air ballooning event in the world. (Albuquerque)
The Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque takes place every October. In 1972, the festival's first year, 13 balloons took to the skies. Now that number has swelled to 600! The most sensational part of this fiesta is the balloon glows, when each balloon simultaneously ignites its burner. You won't see a balloon event on this scale anywhere else in the world.
3. Visit the test site for the first atomic bomb. (White Sands Missile Range)
Twice a year, on one day in April and October, the public can visit the Trinity Site on White Sands Missile Range. See the spot where scientists detonated the world’s first nuclear weapon on July 16th 1945.
You can view the container that was once intended to surround the bomb, the McDonald Ranch House where the core was assembled, and samples of Trinite that was created when the blast melted the surrounding sand.
4. Wonder at an architectural mystery that has never been solved. (Santa Fe)
When the constuction of the Loretto Chapel was finished, it soon became clear that there was a problem: there was no way to reach the choir loft. After the nuns prayed for nine days, a carpenter arrived at the chapel seeking employment. He left without being paid and the only sign that he was ever there was this miraculous staircase, which boasts two 360 degree turns and functions without any observable methods of support.
5. Cross the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge
Okay, there are plenty of gorges and bridges in the country. But this bridge is the seventh tallest in the nation and it provides unique and unobstructed views of the Rio Grande as it travels across the gorge floor, 800 feet below.
6. Line up in a parking lot for chile. (Literally anywhere in New Mexico)
In New Mexico, we have a fifth season: chile season. In August and September, you can pick up genuine New Mexico chile in bulk. Roasters occupy parking lots, the smell of chiles fills the air, and festivals are held in honor of our most celebrated crop. Definitely attend the Hatch Chile Festival if you get the chance.
7. Be asked whether you want red or green. (Anywhere)
It's our state question after all!
8. Witness a bronze pouring at the Shidoni Foundry and Galleries. (Tesuque)
On Saturday afternoons, members of the public have the opportunity to see liquid bronze, heated to temperatures of 1950-2100 degrees Fahrenheit, being poured into shells. While you're here, be sure to take a stroll through the sculpture garden.
9. Drive along a stretch of Route 66 that plays "America the Beautiful." (Tijeras)
If you drive at 45 miles per hour over carefully spaced rumble strips on this musical highway, the road will serenade you!
10. Take part in a festival during which a 50-foot puppet is set on fire. (Santa Fe)
We shed negativity and embrace hope in a uniquely New Mexican way... by burning an effigy of Old Man Gloom. The creaking sounds that Zozobra (a.k.a. Old Man Gloom) makes as he is consumed by fire are both dramatic and memorable.
11. Get close to a massive radio telescope. (Near Magdalena and Datil)
The Very Large Array is made up of 27 humungous antennae that move around on train tracks. Through them, scientists are able to explore the secrets of the universe.
12. Take a sunset stroll across the largest gypsum dunefield on the planet. (White Sands)
These ranger-led walks are free and take place an hour before sunset.
Which activities appeal to you? Many of these are outdoor experiences. If you’re interested in compiling an outdoor bucket list for New Mexico,
here are some ideas to get you started.