History is as abundant in New Mexico as our infamous sunshine. Here in our vibrant slice of the Southwest, art, architecture, man-made artifacts, and more combine to reveal a colorful, storied tapestry: a blending of cultures and peoples dating back well before American history came to be and on into the modern day. But while every corner of the Land of Enchantment is, well,
enchanting, one of the best ways to learn about and fully appreciate the beauty and diversity of our state is to explore New Mexico’s many museums. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to cost a chunk of change to do so! While not a complete list of every admission-free museum in New Mexico, these 9 options offer some surprisingly unique peeks into the past and present of our treasured state.
1. New Mexico Military Museum - Santa Fe
New Mexico Military Museum, 1050 Old Pecos Trail, Santa Fe, NM 87505, USA
Tucked away in a historic building and formerly known as the Bataan Memorial Museum, the
New Mexico Military Museum
has grown over the years to include countless exhibits that go well beyond its original purpose of honoring those involved in the Bataan Death March. From the "Art of War" to the historic military transport yard to the hall of service, art and history collide here in a truly stunning, poignant, and creative way. Exhibits change regularly, so plan to visit more than once!
2. San Miguel Chapel - Santa Fe
Chapel Road, Chapel Rd, New Mexico 87742, USA
This 400-year-old adobe chapel isn't a traditional museum, but it is one of the best-preserved buildings of its kind in New Mexico. San Miguel Chapel is also the oldest church in the US, which makes this place of worship doubly worth a visit! This historic structure was hand-built by original Tlaxcalan Indians from Mexico back in the 1600s and is positively overflowing with frontier history. Literally! The walls are lined with stunning works of art that show off glimpses into New Mexico's past that precious few get to see.
While admission is free, donations are welcome and go toward the ongoing preservation of this historic Franciscan structure. Guided tours are available as well for a more in-depth experience. Learn more about visiting, hours, and the chapel's history on the
San Miguel website
3. Art Obscura - Mesilla Park
Art Obscura, 3206 Harrelson St, Las Cruces, NM 88005, USA
Part art gallery, part curiosity shop,
is a fascinating stop in Old Mesilla Park. This two-story gallery features ever-changing exhibits by both local and up-and-coming artists, alongside off-the-wall, one-of-a-kind treasures. Think: rusty metal fans, old slot machines, unexpected Ouija boards, antique metal signs, and more. Art exhibits range from wet taxidermy to traditional oil paintings to off-beat mixed medium sculptures and beyond - it's an absolute treat for the intellect and senses! This hidden gem has often been labeled the best art museum in Las Cruces, so it's hard to believe that there's no admission fee to enter. But come on in! Be sure to check out special events and full exhibitions as well.
4. Maxwell Museum of Anthropology - Albuquerque
Maxwell Museum of Anthropology, 500 University Blvd NE, Albuquerque, NM 87106, USA
With its goal to "study, preserve, partner, and present the human story from our origins more than 2.5 million years ago to today," the
Maxwell Museum of Anthropology
at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque is intentionally set apart from its fellow natural science museums by focusing exclusively on regional peoples, ancient history of the Southwest, and modern implications. "People of the Southwest" and "Ancestors" are the museum's permanent exhibits, with countless rotating, traveling, and regularly changing additions on display - including online exhibits. There's always something new to see and learn! Bonus: the gardens and landscaping are an undeniable treat as well.
5. Museum of Nature and Science - Las Cruces
411 N Downtown Mall, Las Cruces, NM 88001
Not to be confused with New Mexico's Museum of Natural History and Science in Albuquerque, the
Museum of Nature and Science
in vibrant Las Cruces focuses on three areas to fuel your curiosity: Desert Life, Light and Space, and Permian Trackways. Fossils, animal exhibits, and out-of-this-world space displays are packed with opportunities for visitors of all ages to learn about Earth's place in history.
6. White Sands Missile Range Museum - WSMR
White Sands Missile Range Museum, White Sands Missile Range, Wsmr P Rt 1, White Sands Missile Range, NM 88002, USA
New Mexico's expansive stretches of white sand have fascinated visitors for years, but the WSMR region is also home to a long history that goes beyond aesthetics and social media. This middle-of-nowhere museum and missile range timelines America's nuclear, atomic, and space ages alongside local prehistoric and natural history. If you're a fan of ballistic weaponry or fascinated by recent armed forces history, the
White Sands Missile Range Museum
is an absolute garden of militia delights!
7. Wheels Museum - Albuquerque
Wheels Museum Inc, 1100 2nd St SW, Albuquerque, NM 87102, USA
Rail-fans, vintage car-lovers, plane enthusiasts, and kids of all ages will all find something to love at this unique museum in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
is located on the site of the historic Albuquerque Railyards, where steam locomotives were serviced back in the early 1900s. The history of transportation in New Mexico and the growth of the Old West is chronicled here through hands-on exhibits, antique car collections, models, photography, art, and more, including ever-changing and growing exhibits on Route 66 and the Gold Rush. Without these historic "iron horses," there would be no Albuquerque!
8. New Mexico Capitol Art Collection - Santa Fe
490 Old Santa Fe Trail, Santa Fe, NM 87501, USA
It's impossible to explore every art gallery and history museum in New Mexico. Our state is simply too massive! If you're short on time and looking for a "sample platter" of our state's artistic and geographic diversity, immerse yourself in centuries of New Mexico art and history in every style and medium there is by visiting the
Capitol Art Collection
in Santa Fe. Our capitol building itself is a work of art that's worthy of exploration, but lining its marble walls and hallways is one of the most comprehensive art collections in the state. Over 600 New Mexico artists are represented, with new works added regularly. Guided tours are available as well.
9. Wheelwright Museum Of The American Indian - Santa Fe
Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian, 704 Camino Lejo, Santa Fe, NM 87505, USA
There is no New Mexico without the American Indian, and the Wheelwright Museum is New Mexico’s oldest independent museum to focus exclusively on this overlooked group of artists. Since 1937, their mission has been to "respect and support, and to record and present, the living traditions and creative expressions of Native American peoples." Now, Wheelwright has the largest and most in-depth gallery of contemporary and historic Native American art, including ongoing exhibitions by living Native American artists. The Wheelwright is also home to the Jim and Lauris Phillips Center for the Study of Southwestern Jewelry, with the most comprehensive display of Pueblo and Navajo jewelry in the region, and a museum shop that showcases and sells goods and crafts by local Native American artisans. Educational lectures, readings, special events, and more take place regularly in addition to the growing exhibits.
While there is a regular daily admission fee, tickets are no-charge on monthly free admission days, for active military, active tribal members, students, museum members, and more. Visit the
Wheelwright Museum website
for more information.
We’re so fortunate that New Mexico is full of phenomenal museums to explore! And we’re incredibly grateful to the volunteers, docents, and passionate individuals who keep them running. If you have a favorite museum in New Mexico that you think we should know about,
drop us a line! We love hearing about our state’s hidden gems.
While these 9 unique museums in New Mexico are free to visit at the time of writing, we definitely encourage visitors to double-check before visiting, as well as look into opportunities to donate or give back to these local spots so that they can continue to educate and inspire well into the future.
Looking for more things to do in New Mexico? This
unique art museum is larger-than-life and well worth a visit!
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