New Mexico is definitely off the beaten path, and some of the little-known attractions here are far from ordinary. Here are 11 of our favorite New Mexico attractions that we think not enough people visit. See how many you’ve been to:
1. National Museum of Nuclear Science & History - 601 Eubank Blvd. NE, Albuquerque
This museum, a Smithsonian Affiliate, was established in 1969 to educate people about the Atomic Age and how the diverse applications of nuclear science influence the world. You can learn about the atomic bomb that ended World War II, the Cold War, nanoscience, nuclear medicine and much more.
2. Tingley Beach - 1800 Tingley Dr. SW, Albuquerque
What? A beach in New Mexico? It’s not Boca Raton, and there’s no ocean, but it’s still a fun place. Spend the day with the kids, feeding the ducks, fishing for trout and catfish, renting a pedal boat, having a picnic, hiking or watching the waterfowl.
3. Twinkle Light Parade - Albuquerque’s historic Nob Hill
On a Saturday evening early each December, the Twinkle Light Parade ushers in the holiday season in Albuquerque’s historic Nob Hill area. The parade features brightly lit dancing elves, prancing horses, marching knights, hundreds of floats, marching bands, fire trucks and Santa Claus himself. In 2016, USA Today named this quirky hometown parade the #2 Best Holiday Parade in the Country.
4. Lincoln County Cowboy Symposium - 26225 U.S. Hwy. 70, Ruidoso Downs
Each year in October, you can embrace your inner cowboy at this unique cowboy festival. It features Old West storytelling, live cowboy music, chuckwagon cook-offs, cowboy competitions, horse demonstrations, Western swing dancing and a kids’ rodeo. Plus, you can purchase crafts from 100+ vendors. In 1996, the American Cowboy Culture Association named this symposium as the Best Cowboy Cultural Event.
Approximately 3,000 people live in the unincorporated town of Chimayó, half an hour north of Santa Fe. Each year, hundreds of people walk to El Santuario de Chimayó, built in 1816, in search of spiritual or physical healing.
6. Hatch Chile Festival
Only about 1,600 people live in Hatch, a half-hour drive northwest of Las Cruces, but 30,000 visitors descend on the tiny berg each Labor Day weekend for the annual Hatch Chile Festival. Hatch green chile is now world-famous, and it’s harvested each fall. At the festival, you can taste chile recipes, see the Chile Festival Queen being crowned, watch the parade and go to the carnival.
7. The Luna Mansion, 110 W. Main St. - Los Lunas
Built in 1881, the Luna Mansion is a fantastic steakhouse in the tiny town of Los Lunas, just half an hour south of Albuquerque. The Mansion was built as a gift from the Santa Fe Railway in exchange for the right-of-way through the Luna-Otero extensive land grant holdings. It is evidently haunted, which adds to the ambiance even more. You can hear live music in the Spirit Lounge every Friday night.
8. Madrid Christmas Parade
Madrid (pronounced "MAD-rid," not "Ma-DRID," as you might expect), population 149, is about halfway between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, on the Turquoise Trail. This ghost town and former mining town came back to life when some hippies and wanderers gave it some TLC. If you’re tired of ordinary holiday parades, get your weird on and go to the Madrid Christmas Parade early in December. It features dogs, roaming children, shot-up cars and costumed residents.
9. The Lightning Field - Quemado
Drive two and a half hours southwest of Albuquerque to Quemado, and you’ll see a sculpture that’s considered one of the most significant works of "land art" of the 20th century. Sculptor Walter DeMaria installed 400 polished stainless-steel poles in a grid array on a flat plain in the high desert of New Mexico. If you can find the field (ask the locals for directions), it is awe-inspiring, especially at sunrise and sunset.
10. Pie Town
Not even 200 people live in Pie Town located 83 miles west of Socorro, but this is the place to order up a a slice of "the best pies in the universe." Plan to attend the Pie Festival on the second Saturday of each September. At the Pie Town Café, you can enjoy breakfast and lunch before you indulge in pie.
11. Classical Gas Museum - NM-68, Embudo
Embudo, located between Santa Fe and Taos, is home to this unique museum. Johnnie Meier, who retired from his career at nearby Los Alamos National Laboratory, collected all the gas-station paraphernalia in this museum about 25 years ago. He still lives there, so you can probably get some great stories out of him.
Have you been to any of these places? What other attractions would you add to this list? Share your experiences with us!