My personal list of things to do in New Mexico is actually “Hang out with my BFF on her sofa, drinking pomegranate mimosas, browsing Mexican Airbnb listings, eating cookie dough for dinner.”
But that doesn’t make for a particularly good travel guide, does it?
9 Somewhat Off-The-Beaten-Path Things to do in New Mexico
My BFF of 22 years recently moved to The Land Of Enchantment and I’ve visited enough times to be suitably jealous of her life choices. Here are nine things you should do when you go there!
Visit pueblos in New Mexico
The Southwest has a large and diverse Native American population; ‘pueblo’ refers to both old and new Native American communities, though the term was first used to describe the adobe homes we usually see in these communities. There are 21 federally recognized communities, many of which are open to the public.
It’s most fun to visit on ‘feast days’ for amazing food, songs, and dancing. Of course, make sure to follow pueblo etiquette – don’t bring alcohol, ask before you take photos, remain silent during dances and ceremonies.
Go to awesome/weird New Mexican museums
Do you love weird stuff? Good. Me, too! This is the place for us.
There’s an exhibit on radioactive waste management. Just sayin’.
See New Mexican wild horses
This is less of a “let’s schedule that into our itinerary” activity and more of a “let’s be aware that this cool thing might happen” adventure. There are about 50,000 wild horses and burros in New Mexico, enough that some Craigslist posts for rentals worn of “wild horse problems”!
Eat pinon or prickly pears or beef jerky (preferably that you buy from a truck on the side of the road)
In every part of the America, we buy food from farm stands or out of pickup trucks. In Minnesota, it’s sweet corn, tomatoes, and zucchini. In New Mexico, it’s pinon (pine nuts), prickly pears, and beef jerky. Pine nuts are usually incredibly expensive so it’s really fun to buy them just a few miles from where they were picked for a fraction of the price!
Check out tiny, ghost-town-y New Mexican villages
Guys, let’s all quit our jobs and buy old houses in Cerillos. Or Madrid. These fascinating, pretty, sort-of-off-the-grid villages are lovely to poke around. How do people earn money there? What’s up with the empty store fronts? Does this house having running water? No? Where’s the sidewalk? What time does the petting zoo close? How’d you buy that turquoise mine?
These are all valid questions to ask in these cool, weird little towns.
If you want to stay overnight, there are tons of cute Airbnbs in Madrid – like this one where the kitchen backsplash is made of pennies? And if you’ve never used Airbnb before, here’s a $40 credit towards your first booking!
Really and truly, hand-feeding a pack of cuddly, snorting alpacas was one of the highlights of 2014. It might have been the 7,000 feet of altitude but I swear I was lightheaded with joy.
Blue Mesa Alpaca owners Bob and Louise are incredibly sweet and were very patient with my one million alpaca-related questions. Important stuff like “How much is a baby alpaca? Would it make a good pet? Will it learn to cuddle?”
I know, you’re probably all “Tram? Who cares, Sarah?” Dude, you should do it. This actually qualifies as a flight (!) because it’s 20 minutes long and at times you’re 2.7 miles (!!) above the ground! At the top, you should obviously take a million photos and drink overpriced coffee in the ubiquitous, mountain-top restaurant.
There are some lovely hot springs in New Mexico; Riverbend has public and private pools with mountain views and Faywood is rustic and nicely priced. Darcie and I splashed out on the fancy, zen, not naturally occurring pools at Ten Thousand Waves spa.
You can be exactly as clothed or unclothed as you like, drink your weight in tea, slather on pine-scented lotion, and then fall asleep in your robe in the “Relax Room,” listening to piped-in rain sounds.
Not that I did that or anything.
Visit an ‘intentional community’ (aka commune)
I’m fascinated by the concept of intentional communities. What would life be like if you were only surrounded by people who’d made an active decision to be there, with you, living a specific type of life? There are tons of intentional communities in New Mexico, many of them open to visitors! Of course, read ahead and be respectful when you visit. Worth checking out: Hummingbird, City of the Sun, Deva.
Of course, there are also a million obvious things to do in New Mexico: go to art galleries and farmers’ markets, drink all the margaritas, try white water rafting and fishing, go skiing and snow shoeing. But I bet you already thought of those!
New Mexico residents, I’d love to hear from you! What did I miss?