Tips for a Southern New Mexico Road Trip
October 8, 2016 8:37 AM   Subscribe

I grew up in New Mexico, but I have lived on the East Coast for almost 15 years. I will be taking my significant other to New Mexico for the first time in a few weeks. In addition to seeing my family in Albuquerque, we are going to go on a two-ish day road trip to see some of the sights in the southern part of the state. But there's so many to choose from!

Significant Other has never been to the Southwest before, so I'm really excited to show off some of the amazing natural landscapes and general funkyness.

I really want to go to White Sands National Monument, which I haven't been to since I was a kid. I'm looking for suggestions for specific hotels/places to stay, places to eat, neat things to check-out on the drive, other sights that are in the area.

I've heard some good things about staying in Truth or Consequences, but Las Cruces might also be fun? But there are also lots of little towns in the area I've never been to before.
posted by forkisbetter to Travel & Transportation around New Mexico (8 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
White Sands is right next to Alamogordo, which has a charmingly shabby space museum that is definitely worth an afternoon's visit if Space Stuff is your jam.

Another nerdy, out of the way thing to do would be to visit the Very Large Array. Their visitor's center is solid, and the grandeur and isolation of the installation itself is really something.

Carlsbad Caverns, while thoroughly domesticated, is still very impressive and worth a visit.

Sitting Bull Falls is a stunning waterfall oasis in the middle of desert canyon country, and is a fantastic picnic spot (if you don't mind the drive). It was closed recently for a while owing to flood damage on the road that leads to it, so definitely call ahead to make sure it's open.
posted by Sokka shot first at 8:54 AM on October 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you like birds and nature, the Festival of the Cranes at the Bosque del Apache NWR is well worth checking out.

Ruidoso is a nice higher-elevation town to hang out in. It's more like Santa Fe and depending on the weather, you might see some snow on the mountains at the time you're going.

Like spicy food? Remember to ask for red and green chile at the restaurants. I'm sure the wait staff won't let you forget! Yummy.

NM is the bomb! Enjoy your stay.
posted by strelitzia at 9:14 AM on October 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

I grew up in Las Cruces and can tell you there is really nothing to see there.
White Sands and Carlsbad Caverns are the main sights in southern NM.
I also really like City of the Rocks near Deming.

This isn't southern NM, but I took a drive through the Four Corners area once, from Shiprock down to Gallup, and was amazed at the utter emptiness of the landscape. Southern NM has some long stretches of desert road but there are enough billboards/other cars/random houses and settlements by the road to feel like you're not really alone. But driving out there on 491 was almost otherworldly.
posted by pravit at 9:44 AM on October 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Blackstone Hot Springs is the place to stay in TorC. About two years ago we did a triangle from ABQ to TorC, then went to White Sands, proceeding on to sleep in Carlsbad (expensive at the time because of gas? industry - we went to a non chain hotel that's in an old bank building that was the same price as the others, but more interesting), caverns the next morning, and then up through Roswell back to ABQ. It was a good path for us, and I think we also hit Petroglyphs NP along the way. However, this was like, six days, not the two you're looking for. I would feel very rushed to do both white sands and Carlsbad in a two day trip from ABQ.
posted by cobaltnine at 10:17 AM on October 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

The Valley of Fires National Monument is worth a trip.

And I'd second the recommendation to the Very Large Array. If you're into ghost towns, there's one called Kelly that's very near the Very Large Array. The dirt road to Kelly is a little rough, but we drove it in a compact sedan when we were there and the car survived the trip just fine.
posted by kingoftonga86 at 11:22 AM on October 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you go to the Bosque del Apache, be sure to stop at the Owl Cafe for green chile cheeseburgers!
posted by doctord at 3:10 PM on October 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Despite being severely ill with pneumonia for much of the trip, I remember vividly the bat-watching we did at Carlsbad Caverns during my family's New Mexico/Arizona trip. They have an amphitheater where you can sit and watch alllllllllll the bats come out at dusk.

My mother was quirkily charmed by Roswell, but I'd give it a miss if I were you unless your partner reeeeeeeally wants to do something hokey.

White Sands yes yes yes. I never got to go when I was there but I heard such amazing things!
posted by chainsofreedom at 5:21 PM on October 8, 2016

If you're going to Truth or Consequences, check out River Bend Hot Springs Resort The hot springs are private and are directly overlooking the banks of the Rio Grande. Watch the river and the roadrunners roll by while you luxuriate in the hot springs. Also, just 7 miles north of ToC is New Mexico's largest body of water -- Elephant Butte Lake. It's low this time of year but this huge lake with islands in it, in the middle of the desert is awe-inspiring and a really overlooked bit of Southern NM travel. There's sandy beaches and you can rent boats, kayaks and jet skis there too.
posted by caveatz at 9:17 AM on October 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

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