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New Mexico, to a lot of people, is just a 342 mile desert between Texas and Arizona. But did you know that hatch (green) chiles are named after a small village in New Mexico? In fact, the state is considered the chile capital of the world. Not only that, but it is also the site of the first ever detonation of the atomic bomb and has been the backdrop for over 200 movies since 2003 alone.
Once you start digging into New Mexico there are many surprises to be discovered, including these experiences perfect for any trip to the state.
White Sands National Monument
White Sand National Monument outside Las Cruces has something for everyone! Believe it or not, it is not sand that covers the 275 square miles of white dunes. This is the world’s largest gypsum dune field. Gypsum is a white mineral used in products from drywall to toothpaste to plaster of Paris.
This dune attracts a unique assortment of critters, some of which have adapted a remarkable white coloration to help them adapt to their strange environment. Enjoy the outdoors, explore the local flora and fauna and camp under a brilliant starry sky. For the more active, schedule a backpacking or bike trip; even take a hike under the full moon. Just imagine the bright full moon reflecting off the brilliant white sands for a night you’ll never forget.
White Sands Missile Museum
For the history buffs, there is the White Sands Missile Museum. There are over 50 models in Missile Park which is just outside the museum grounds. Learn all you ever wanted to know about the evolution of US missiles, Werner Van Braun and his development of the V-2 Rocket.
Twice a year, you can venture into the missile testing range and see the detonation site of the first ever atomic bomb, called the Trinity site. This site encompasses the base camp, ground zero, the McDonald Ranch House where the plutonium core was assembled.
One word of warning, this is an active missile testing range, so there will be times the entire area is closed due to military action. Be sure to check the website before planning your vacation.
Visit Famous Film Locations
For all you movie buffs out there, I bet you did not know that over 200 major films have been shot in New Mexico since 2003 alone. Walk along 12th Street in Carizozo, NM, which appeared as the main street of the post-apocalyptic town in the Book of Eli, starring Denzel Washington.
Visit the Very Large Array (VLA) a series of 27 movable antennas that Jodie Foster used to communicate with the aliens in Contact.
Albuquerque was also the home of the hit TV show Breaking Bad. If you’re a fan, don’t miss out on the Albuquerque Trolley Company Breaking Bad Tour.
Other Hollywood blockbusters filmed in New Mexico include The Avengers, Transformers, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
Take a state-wide tour of your favorite movie sites, or just hop over to the 5 or 6 that were filmed in the area you’re visiting!
No matter where you are in the state, make sure you check out the New Mexico Film Office website for more information about all the films.
Eat Mexican Cuisine
For you foodies, if the only thing you are interested in on your next vacation is to binge on delicious food, then New Mexico is the place for you. Check out the Breakfast Burrito Tour for something truly unique. Yes, it is actually a thing. The people of New Mexico have put together a list of the top breakfast burritos across the whole state and believe me, they are not to be missed.
As you travel through, make sure you also check out the local Mexican cuisine. After all, the state is best known for the production of green chiles and you’ll find them in everything.
A Few More Things to Do in New Mexico
- Carlsbad Caverns is an awesome adventure for the outdoor nature lover.
- Roswell's Alien Museum is a must-see for those curious about life ‘out there’.
- Smokey Bear Historical Park is a fascinating place that the whole family will enjoy. Smokey the Bear's rise to fame started in 1950. After a devastating forest fire in Lincoln National Forest, a small black bear cub was rescued after he was found trapped in a tree. By 1963, New Mexico had adopted the black bear as the Official State Animal, and Smokey the Bear was on watch nationwide telling us that "Only you can prevent forest fires."
This southwestern state holds a lot of good memories for visitors. You will have a blast eating burritos, exploring massive sands dunes and wandering through quirky alien museums. These are just some of the many things to do on a visit to New Mexico.
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