Even if your wallet contains more old receipts than banknotes, you can still have a good time in the Land of Enchantment. There are a surprising number of free things to do in New Mexico. Here are 20 ideas to get you started.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. Cross the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge.
The view from this bridge, located outside Taos, is priceless but it doesn't cost a dime to see it.
2. Visit one of New Mexico's many churches.
Churches often have impressive architecture and contain artwork, or stained glass. Many of the prettiest churches in the state are free, such as the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi in Santa Fe, Basilica of San Albino in Mesilla, San Francisco De Asis Mission Church in Taos, and many more.
3. Stop by a kitschy attraction.
Gawp at the massive roadrunner statue in Las Cruces or the collection of vintage cars at Russell’s Truck and Travel Center in Glenrio. Both sites, and many others like them, are free. You could even find several examples of roadside kitsch and turn your excursion into a tour. Alamogordo, Albuquerque, Gallup, Roswell, Santa Fe, and Tucumcari all have multiple quirky yet free roadside attractions.
4. Picnic in a city park.
City parks are a great place to have a picnic or even an impromptu game of kickball. Most towns have at least one, like the Railyard Park in Santa Fe (pictured).
5. Get away from it all in one of New Mexico's wilderness areas.
Whether you choose to explore the Gila Wilderness or the Bisti Badlands, your experiences cost nothing, but will create memories worth treasuring.
6. Go hiking.
You'd be surprised at the wonders hidden along some of New Mexico's hiking trails. One of the paths in Soledad Canyon, near Las Cruces, steers hikers to a waterfall.
7. Take a dip.
Nothing feels as good as plunging into cool water on a warm day. Admission to the Blue Hole in Santa Rosa is free. (There is a small fee to park in the lot.)
8. Soak in an undeveloped hot spring.
Several of New Mexico's hot springs are primitive (translation: free). You usually have to hike to reach them but the payoff is worth it. Try San Antonio Springs in the Jemez Mountains, Montezuma hot springs near Las Vegas, or Middle Fork hot springs, which is close to Gila Hot Springs.
9. Wander around a historical house.
The Mabel Dodge Luhan house, in Taos, is free to visit. Dodge Luhan was a colorful character, who hosted salons and entertained the likes of Ansel Adams, Georgia O'Keeffe, Aldous Huxley, Willa Cather, and D.H. Lawrence at her home in Taos.
10. Stroll the Plaza.
New Mexican towns and cities such as Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Mesilla, Las Vegas (pictured), and Taos all have Plazas. Browse the surrounding shops or just spend a little time people watching in these social hubs.
11. Go to an art gallery or take a studio tour.
Whether you're somewhere with a huge art scene like Santa Fe or a more low-key location like Madrid, it's free to admire the art in local galleries. In New Mexico, studio tours run throughout the year. During these events, artists open up their private studios to the public.
12. Explore a funky neighborhood.
Window-shopping is always entertaining in vibrant neighborhoods like Albuquerque's Nob Hill.
13. Do some wine tasting.
Increasingly, wineries and tasting rooms charge for pours. But there are still places where you can imbibe for free. The Pistachio Tree Ranch & Arena Blanca Winery in Alamogordo still offers complimentary tastings. You can pose next to the World's Largest Pistachio while you're there!
14. Take a scenic drive.
Brief scenic drives pack in impressive views over a short distance, keeping the cost of gas down. Good options include: the drive up to the Santa Fe Ski Basin, the Chain of Craters Backcountry Byway, and the Corrales Road Scenic Byway.
15. Head to college.
Some of the UNM buildings contain small museums that don't charge admission. These include the Meteorite Museum, the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology, and the UNM Art Museum.
16. Visit a museum.
Even museums that typically charge, often offer days when admission is waived. The Anderson Abruzzo International Balloon Museum is free the first Friday of every month, while the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History offers the same promotion on the first Wednesday of each month.
17. Show your driver's license or ID card and save big.
If you can prove that you live in New Mexico, you'll gain free admission to many of the state's museums on Sundays. This deal also applies to a number of historic sites, such as Fort Seldon, the Coronado Historic Site, Lincoln Historic Site, and more.
18. Attend a festival.
Many annual festivals and parades in New Mexico are free, like the Roswell UFO Festival.
19. Take advantage of summer programs.
During the summer, lots of places offer free outdoor entertainment. Las Cruces has free movies and music in the park, while Santa Fe has music on the hill.
20. Check for short-term promotions.
Sometimes local tourism bureaus run great promotions. Check out Santa Fe's Spring Break Promotion for Kids. Adults still have to pay, but kids can score deals like free admission to the Museum of International Folk Art, a free painting class through Bubbly heArt Studio, or a free mini drinking chocolate from Kakawa.