The Best Vacation Destinations in New Mexico

Table of Contents

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click a link and complete a purchase, we may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Sitting at the very heart of the American Southwest, New Mexico offers adventurers an eclectic mix of exciting activities, rich culture, and some epic alien lore. 👽

For outdoor enthusiasts, New Mexico’s landscape includes sweeping deserts, rugged mountain ranges, and magnificent national parks. If you prefer the big city lights to the Wild West (ahem, alien abduction country), there are plenty of places to go in New Mexico where the best thing you can do is shop, eat, and drink to your heart’s content. No matter what brings you to the Land of Enchantment, use Wanderu for a quick, easy and cheap way to book your travel.

Ready to get started? We’ve rounded up the best vacation spots in New Mexico, so keep scrolling to start planning the trip of a lifetime. 

1. Albuquerque

No New Mexico vacation is complete without a stop in Albuquerque, the biggest city in the state!  While Albuquerque isn’t as large as cities like Chicago or LA, it still has a little something for every type of traveler, from scenic bike trails to a variety of lip-smacking craft breweries and wineries. Breaking Bad fans can tour some of the show’s iconic filming sites, and history buffs will love strolling around Albuquerque’s charming Old Town. 

For an exhilarating weekend getaway in New Mexico, visit Albuquerque in the autumn. Each October, hundreds of colorful hot air balloons ascend in a vibrant display at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. If you can’t swing a trip during the spooky season, you can always visit the Balloon Museum to get a taste of what the festival is like, and maybe even take a flight in one of the whimsical hot air balloons.  

Ride a Hot Air Balloon

Join an expert pilot for a one-hour ride complete with truly stunning views, a celebratory post-ride toast, and a flight certificate to commemorate your ride! 

Book now and pay later with free cancellation up to 24 hours in advance.

Book your trip:

Bus & train prices are based on the average cost of a one-way ticket for the respective route available on Wanderu over a 30-day period. 

2. Santa Fe

Unlike many other state capitals, Santa Fe’s downtown area is easily walkable, so you can hop off the bus and get sightseeing right away. Wander through the historic downtown on a self-guided audio tour, or keep it extra classy with an architectural walking tour and wine tasting. And don’t worry, the tastings are done inside, away from the desert sun!

While there are tons of things to do in Sante Fe for visitors of all types (including mountain biking and skiing in the nearby mountain ranges), this southwest jewel is particularly spectacular for artists. 

Sante Fe boasts one of the largest art markets in the entire country, along with hundreds of galleries and live music venues spattered across the city. While you’re in town, bring out your inner artist with a workshop in glass blowing, weaving, pottery and more – or leave it to the professionals and simply admire artists’ work at the array of jewelry stores, galleries and market stalls. 

Book your trip:

Bus & train prices are based on the average cost of a one-way ticket for the respective route available on Wanderu over a 30-day period. 

3. Roswell

Wesley Fryer / Flickr

Roswell, New Mexico is famous for one thing: aliens! Seriously, this town is all about the extraterrestrial – with museums, graffiti, and even street lights themed around paranormal encounters. It may be a bit kitschy (read: old X-Files-level cheesy), but it’s a fun stop that the whole family is sure to love. 

One of the best things to do in Roswell is the UFO Museum and Research Center. Opened after the famous Roswell Incident (an ‘alleged’ UFO crash) that put this city on the map, the museum features a number of exhibits, artifacts, and eyewitness accounts of all things alien.

Book your trip:

Bus & train prices are based on the average cost of a one-way ticket for the respective route available on Wanderu over a 30-day period. 

4. Red River

When the mountains are calling, head to Red River. It’s a far cry from the dusty desert landscapes that the state is known for and is one of the best places to vacation in New Mexico if you want to get away from it all and reconnect with nature. You’ll find endless trails for hiking, biking and skiing, abundant lakes and streams for fly fishing and lush forest trails for off-roading. But the real fun starts in the winter, as ski resorts open up all along the mountain.

There’s no better place to experience the New Mexico mountains, but there are fun things to do in Red River that have nothing to do with outdoor recreation. Known for their year-round festivals, you can listen to cowboys sing at the American Westfest, experience a winter Mardi Gras in the Mountains, or throw back brews at the annual Oktoberfest.

5. Taos

Mia & Steve Mestdagh / Flickr

Of all the unique cities in New Mexico, Taos is the most unique. It’s famed for the ancient Taos Pueblo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the oldest continuously-habited place in the United States. This adobe city is obviously a must when visiting Taos, but there are a few other reasons travelers flock here. 

This area has some of the best ski resorts in New Mexico, and the stunning mountain scenery only adds to the experience. Plus, New Mexico is typically much cheaper than the resorts farther north. Similar to Santa Fe, Taos is a mecca for artists. Check out the Taos Art Museum and look for a craft fair or two while you’re in town!

6. Las Cruces

Tucked along the edge of the Chihuahuan Desert in the southern part of the state, Las Cruces is a prime destination for hikers and visitors to the Lincoln and Apache National Forests. Nature winds its way into the city itself through the Rio Grande, which cuts through the city and offers nature lovers some great birding opportunities at the Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park

If you want to turn it up a notch, the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument sits just outside city limits. This scenic spot is known for its adrenaline-inducing hiking and biking trails, but also has plenty of great fishing and camping spots around the area to unwind and relax.

Book your trip:

Bus & train prices are based on the average cost of a one-way ticket for the respective route available on Wanderu over a 30-day period. 

7. White Sands National Park

Sand dunes might not sound like a thrilling addition to your vacation, but this spot will change your mind. Previously a national monument, White Sands National Park is one of the newest and coolest national parks in the country — but don’t take our word for it, get a sneak peek through a virtual tour of the park. The towering white sand dunes for which the park is named are spread across 275 square miles of the Chihuahuan Desert in southern New Mexico. 

These ever-changing dunes can reach up to 60 feet high, and their stark white color is more reminiscent of snow than sand. In fact, sledding is one of the best things to do in the park, so grab a saucer from the park store and shred some dunes! Other popular park activities include hiking and meandering the scenic Dune Drive. 

The park itself is massive, but the main entrance and visitor’s center are both in the southeastern corner, near the town of Alamogordo.

Book your trip:

Bus & train prices are based on the average cost of a one-way ticket for the respective route available on Wanderu over a 30-day period. 

8. Silver City

Silver City may not be known as one of the most famous vacation spots in New Mexico, but trust us, it deserves a spot on every traveler’s bucket list. Situated in the remote southwestern corner of the state, Silver City serves as the gateway to the incredible Gila Wilderness. 

From the Gila National Forest to the famous Gila Cliff Dwellings and multiple geothermal hot springs, this area is the perfect retreat for nature lovers looking to get off the beaten path. 

Even if you don’t venture out of town, there’s plenty to do in Silver City proper. Indulge in Old West tropes in the historic downtown area, do some shopping at the eclectic shops, and once you’re ready for a cold one, head to the Little Toad Creek Brewery & Distillery for some of the best brews in the state.

9. Carlsbad Caverns National Park

If you didn’t know any better, you could easily cruise right past Carlsbad Caverns National Park and never know that you missed anything of importance. Luckily, we won’t let you make that terrible mistake! Carlsbad Caverns National Park is home to one of the largest cave systems ever discovered on Earth, with hundreds of known caves and over 30 miles of explored underground territory. 

While visitors aren’t allowed in every nook and cranny, the park offers guided tours through various sections of the caves. There’s an elevator to take you down into the cave (75 stories!), and from there, you can traverse the lit walkways and admire otherworldly formations like stalagmites, stalactites, soda straws, and more.

10. Los Alamos

Not to be confused with the historic site in San Antonio, Los Alamos is a town with plenty to offer – including some history of its own. From its involvement in the Manhattan Project to ancient archaeological sites and historical monuments to beautiful nature reserves and epic ski slopes, Los Alamos is a gateway for both history and outdoor recreation. 

Although the town is small, there’s so much to do in the surrounding area that you could easily spend a full weekend or longer exploring Los Alamos. Nature lovers should check out the Valles Caldera Nature Reserve (whose crowning jewel is a dormant super volcano) while history buffs can go on a self-guided Los Alamos Historical Walking Tour, which stops at 14 spots around town.

Book your trip:

Bus & train prices are based on the average cost of a one-way ticket for the respective route available on Wanderu over a 30-day period. 

11. Petroglyph National Monument

Chris M Morris/ Flickr

Petroglyph National Monument is another one of the best places to go in New Mexico if you love history AND the great outdoors. This area protects one of the largest petroglyph sites on the continent, with hundreds of symbols and designs carved onto the volcanic rocks. 

There are a few short hiking trails that lead to the petroglyphs, which were made by Native Americans and Spanish settlers between 400 and 700 years ago. The trails vary in length and difficulty, but none are overly challenging. Just bring plenty of water, maybe a snack or two, and you’ll be set.

The best part about Petroglyph National Monument is its convenient location. While it may feel worlds (and civilizations) away from big city lights, it’s actually right on the outskirts of Albuquerque! Once you get to the city, it’s a quick drive to the park itself.

12. Ruidoso

Jonathan Cutrer / Flickr

Without a doubt, Ruidoso is one of the best romantic getaways in New Mexico (even the name sounds romatic: Ruidoso). Situated in the rugged Sierra Blanca Mountains, this quaint village is the perfect place to tune out the rest of the world and reconnect with your loved one. From rustic cabins to luxurious lodges, Ruidoso knows how to turn on the charm for your weekend away. 

There is SO much to do in this area, earning Ruidoso the nickname “the year-round mountain playground of the Southwest”. In warmer weather, you can enjoy hiking and camping in lush alpine forests, while winters are great for shredding the ski slopes or relaxing at the lodge. In addition, the Midtown district is renowned for the shopping, eating and drinking opportunities. 

Book your trip:

Bus & train prices are based on the average cost of a one-way ticket for the respective route available on Wanderu over a 30-day period. 

Other places to visit in New Mexico

Pecos National Historical Park

Gary Cascio/ Flickr

There are so many great vacation spots in New Mexico, and it would be impossible to narrow them down into a single list. Here are a few that didn’t make the top 12, but are definitely worth mentioning:

  • Pecos National Historical Park: Situated just east of Sante Fe, this park protects the ancient ruins of Pecos Pueblo – a village dating back nearly 1,000 years.
  • Mesilla: This charming and historic small town boasts a beautiful town square surrounded by local shops.
  • Truth or Consequences: This one deserves a visit, if only so you can say you’ve been to a place called Truth or Consequences. Luckily, there are tons of other reasons to visit – come for the name, stay for the hot springs and eclectic antique shops.
  • Four Corners Monument: If you’re ticking states off your bucket list, you can cross out four of them in one go at the Four Corners Monument. Located in the northwest corner of the state, this spot marks the intersection of New Mexico, Utah, Colorado and Arizona.
  • The Blue Hole: You may not think the New Mexico desert is a hospitable place for an azure swimming spot, but the Blue Hole defies all logic. This 80-foot deep natural swimming hole sits outside of Santa Rosa and is great for scuba diving or simply taking a dip!

Ready for some hiking, history, and aliens? Use Wanderu or download the Wanderu app to score deals on tickets to New Mexico for your next cheap vacation.

Like what you read?
Spread the word:

About the author