What do you know about the state of New Mexico? Chances are, if you know anything, it probably has to do with either a so-called alien cover-up, or the first detonation of an atomic bomb both back in the 1940s. But, believe it or not, New Mexico is actually more than just bombs and UFOs.
For example, did you know that the state is known for its chile peppers and associated green-chile cheeseburgers? Or that a big part of the state's economy lies in scientific research and that New Mexico has more Ph.Ds. per capita than any other U.S. state? Or how about the fact that New Mexico's wine industry is the oldest in North America, preceding California's by more than 100 years? Add to this an annual international balloon festival in Albuquerque, a town that used to be the Cowboy Capital of the World, and some isolated villages where descendants of Spanish conquistadors still speak a form of 16th century Spanish, and you have a pretty interesting state.
But I know, I know. You still want to know about the bombs and UFOs.
If you're headed to New Mexico, here are three interesting spots that you don't want to miss.
Located at nearly 7,200 feet above sea level, Santa Fe is the highest-elevation capital city in the United States. It's also known for being home to the Palace of Governors, the oldest government building in the country. And, perhaps most importantly, it's known for its quirky atmosphere and distinct Santa Fe-style adobe architecture. It even refers to itself as The City Different.
These differences can be seen in the artsy feel of the city, with countless art galleries, outdoor sculptures, markets, and museums located all over Santa Fe. It has even been designated a UNESCO Creative City in Design, Crafts and Folk Art.
It would be difficult to talk about New Mexico and not mention the city of Roswell. Founded in 1869 and made famous by the 1947 Roswell UFO incident, the city today caters to the alien-curious, including those who insist that the U.S. government covered up an alien spacecraft crash here nearly 70 years ago.
Regardless of what you believe, the city today is full of kitschy alien-themed shops, restaurants and museums. There's even an annual UFO Festival. The jury is out on whether Roswell is a quirky must-see or just a tourist trap, but whichever it is, it's worth mentioning on any New Mexico list simply because it is so very famous.
Despite its name, White Sands National Monument in southern New Mexico isn't your average desert. The white dunes here are actually made up of gypsum crystals a mineral not usually connected with sand because water washes it away. The dunes hardly come into contact with water, however, hence the abundance of these brilliantly white crystals.
It was near this national monument in 1945 at the White Sands Testing Range near Alamogordo that the world's first atomic bomb was tested. In fact, the Monument is completely surrounded by military installations, including the White Sands Missile Range and the Holloman Air Force Base. In the White Sands Missile Range, you can visit Trinity Site the place where that first atomic bomb was detonated.
What other must-see New Mexico sites would you add to this list?
Note: Available plans and coverages may have changed since this blog was published.
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Graduate student by day and avid traveler and blogger by night (and on weekends and during holidays), Amanda is just a small-town Ohio girl trying to balance a "normal" life with a desire to discover the world beyond her Midwest bubble. Amanda's adventurous nature and inability to say "no" have led her to some pretty amazing adventures all around the world. But she has no desire to stop exploring anytime soon. Read Amanda's blog, A Dangerous Business, or follow her on Facebook, Twitter or Google Plus.
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