New Mexico has plenty of well-known cities and attractions. From Santa Fe and Taos to destinations like Bandelier, White Sands, and Carlsbad, there are all sorts of must-visit spots here in the Land of Enchantment. But New Mexico also houses plenty of underrated destinations. Whether you have heard of these places or not, you should give these New Mexico towns a second look.
Though considered part of the Las Cruces metropolitan area, Mesilla has its own special character. It has small-town charm with shopping, award-winning dining, and history, including connections to the Civil War and Billy the Kid. The town is a year-round go-to destination, but for a little something extra, plan your visit around one of the town's many festivals, like Cinco de Mayo and Diez y Seis de Septiembre Fiestas (Mexican Independence Day).
This out-of-the-way village in Taos County is a true overlooked gem, especially for outdoor enthusiasts. Fish remote lakes and streams for trout. Hike dramatic trails into the Rio Grande Gorge. Enjoy camping at primitive sites that will take you away from it all. Rock climbers, mountain bikers and horseback riders will be at home here too. Questa also has a working artist community with an arts incubator and several studios, many of which will open for tours if you ask.
3. Las Cruces
Plenty of people know about Las Cruces. It's a jumping off spot for trips to places like White Sands and the fossilized footprints at Prehistoric Trackways National Monument. But, the city itself has amenities and entertainment in spades, making it a great place to visit. You can play golf and enjoy the outside all year. Plus, the downtown district boasts shops, restaurants, and museums. Don't miss the city's vibrant visual and performing arts scene. (Check out The Branigan Cultural Center and the Las Cruces Museum of Art). Las Cruces also holds annual food festivals that star local beer, wine, and produce specialties like pecans and chile peppers.
Whatever your recreation pleasure, Raton probably has it. Hike or birdwatch at nearby Sugarite Canyon State Park. Shoot or hunt at one of the nation's largest outdoor shooting ranges, play a round of golf, or take a plunge at the aquatic center, complete with a waterside. The town offers a selection of historic buildings, a museum, restaurants, and western-flavored specialty shops. Because of its famous mountain pass through the Rockies, the city is steeped in native, Spanish and Santa Fe Trail history. Even today, equidistant between Albuquerque, Amarillo, TX, and Denver, CO, the city is considered the northern gateway to the Land of Enchantment.
5. Las Vegas
Las Vegas was one of the largest (and most rabble-rousing) cities in the southwest. Today, Las Vegas is a quaint town that pays homage to its old west roots. Stroll around Old Town with its hometown restaurants and shops housed in historic buildings. Outside Old Town, enjoy a variety of laid-back dining and entertainment options. They even have a drive-in theater that shows movies on summer weekends. For the outdoorsy types, Las Vegas is minutes away from two National Forests. Storrie Lake is nearby as well. Enjoy camping, fishing, boating. and windsurfing.
If you are looking for a small town get away with a lot to keep you busy, Magdalena is a good bet. In addition to studio tours and galleries featuring traditional and contemporary art, you can find music, antiques, and gardening tours. If you're following New Mexico's Fiber Arts Trail, you will find shops in Magdalena. In the summer, don't miss the Old Timers Reunion, a festival of roping, rodeo, and music galore. Nearby Magdalena, look to the skies at Enchanted Skies Star Parties, listen for aliens at the Very Large Array, or look for rocks (or ghosts) at the old Kelly Mine.
Yes, Albuquerque, the state's largest city makes the list. Since it is at the crossroads of I-25 and I-40, many people travel through on their way to somewhere else. However, take time to venture off the highway and explore this city rich in art, culture, history, and recreation. Popular destinations include historic Old Town, the Sandia Peak Tramway, and the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. Take in a triple-A baseball game, poke around the eclectic shops in Nob Hill, and be sure to come hungry. Dining ranges from traditional New Mexican fare to upscale dining and international tastes.
Situated amid the Gila National Forest and the Gila Wilderness, Glenwood is the perfect place for fishing, hiking, biking, horseback riding, and birding. The Catwalk Scenic Trail is a must. The plank trail winds through Whitewater Canyon giving visitors an up-close look at some of the state's amazing geology. Glenwood also has vastly dark skies making it one of the best spots in the nation for gazing at the stars. Ghost town explorers will appreciate the nearby mining town of Mogollon. During the summer, an art gallery, museum, and cafe are open.
9. Silver City
You have to want to go to Silver City. It's not really on the way to anywhere. Despite being off the beaten path, visitors won't be disappointed. The city is alive with art, entertainment, authentic New Mexican food and old west history, a la Billy the Kid and Judge Roy Bean. Find out more about this
Criminally Overlooked Town In New Mexico And Why You Need To Visit
So, which other New Mexico cities deserve a second look? Are there more big cities hiding in plain sight? More quaint bergs that deserve our attention? Let us know in the comments.