Come tour the beauty and oddities in this unique state. And find out some interesting things that you may not have known about New Mexico.
1. It's a state. In the United States of America.
New Mexico: The Land of Enchantment. To the surprise of most people, both in the US and everywhere else around the world, New Mexico is a state in the United States! Since 1912, in fact.
Locals have a million hilarious stories about this odd phenomenon and I love hearing them. My favorite is a New Mexican trying to place an order over the phone, from a US company, and the company then trying to charge international shipping to New Mexico, and an hour long geographical debate ensued that eventually required getting not one, but two managers in order to waive the international shipping charges.
'When Brian told me he grew up in New Mexico, I told him I thought it is cool that people from other countries play football. He corrected me on my geography and agreed to sit down with me anyway.' -Terry Bradshaw
2. For TV & Movie Buffs: Filming in Progress.
New Mexico has had a thriving film scene for over a hundred years. Tons of tv shows and movies have been filmed all over the state. Since it's so diverse geographically, it can appear to look like many other parts of the world, as well as good ol' fashioned desert scenery. The forever-sunny weather and clear blue skies make for some great backdrops.
Some movies you may recognize: The Avengers, Armageddon, Cowboys & Aliens, No Country for Old Men, Traffic, Men Who Stare at Goats, The Lone Ranger, Legion, The Book of Eli, Wild Hogs, Paul, Young Guns, and the Transformers, Terminators and Indiana Jones series. You'll notice the Very Large Array satellite field in Transcendence and Contact. In Albuquerque, Breaking Bad fans can buy blue rock candy from local candy shops and see actual billboards advertising Saul of Better Call Saul.
'I grew up in New Mexico, and the older I get, I have less need for contemporary culture and big cities and all the stuff we are bombarded with. I am happier at my ranch in the middle of nowhere watching a bug carry leaves across the grass, listening to silence, riding my horse, and being in open space.' - Tom Ford
3. An Artistic Mecca: Then & Now.
Santa Fe and Taos, in northern New Mexico, are unique and artsy destinations, to both inspire and be inspired. They've long been highly renowned as art and spiritual homelands to many artists. High in elevation (around 7,000 feet), the bright sunlight illuminates the colors of the landscapes year round, and is especially beautiful on the winter snow.
Both cities are nothing short of art meccas. Home to world renowned chefs, artists, photographers and many famous actors, they are covered in art galleries and restaurants. It's also the famous stomping grounds of early 20th century greats such as Georgia O'Keefe, Ansel Adams, Alfred Stieglitz, Mabel Dodge Luhan, Gertrude Stein, and D.H. Lawrence, many of whom sang its praises in their work.
'It was all so far away - there was quiet and an untouched feel to the country and I could work as I pleased.' -Georgia O'Keeffe
An interesting thing about Santa Fe (The City Different), which is the oldest capital city in the country, is the height restriction. All buildings within the city limits are low (and mostly earth-toned) to prevent blocked views. I once drove here, looking for downtown, thinking I'd see a smattering of tall buildings, didn't see them, and drove right out the other side of the city.
A bit further north is the city of Taos, home to the Taos Pueblo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The pueblo has been occupied for a millennia, dating all the way back to 1000-1450 AD. Taos' adjacent ski area, Angel Fire, draws professional skiers and snowboarders from all around the world. Taos is also the very unique home to communities of earthships, which are the coolest off-grid self-sustaining houses in the world, built right into the earth, usually with re-used reclaimed materials and lots of artistic touches.
4. Out of this World: White Sands, Bombs, Aliens!
In the Southeast, in the Tularosa Basin, is the largest gypsum dune field in the world. The White Sands National Monument area is one of the most bizarre things I've ever seen. Acres of endless pure white rippled sand dunes. It's nearly blinding. Made of gypsum, a soft mineral, the sand is unbelievably silky soft and smooth to the touch. You can also sled down the large sand dunes on saucers! It's fun!
Fun Fact: White Sands Missle Range is also the site of the first atomic bomb explosion, named the Trinity Site. A small monument marks the original spot where United States military detonated the first nuclear weapon back in 1945.
Also in the South, Roswell, NM, famous for it's supposed alien landing, is now home to all things extraterrestrial. In 1947, debris found from a crashed US military weather balloon ignited a hot debate about its origins. Conspiracy theorists said it might be a crashed extraterrestrial spacecraft, complete with recovered bodies, and the whole event later became known as the Roswell UFO Incident. Today, skeptics and believers flock to Roswell for alien-themed motels, festivals and wacky gift shops.
'What most people don't understand is that UFOs are on a cosmic tourist route. That's why they're always seen in Arizona, Scotland, and New Mexico. Another thing to consider is that all three of those destinations are good places to play golf. So there's a possibly some connection between aliens and golf.' -Alice Cooper
5. Awesome History: Petroglyphs & Cliff Dwellings.
Right outside of Albuquerque, in northern NM, is the Petroglyph National Monument, a field of volcanic rocks, many of which are covered in ancient (and some not so ancient) art. The designs and drawings are thought to be from both Native American and Spanish settlers, dating back to around 1300 AD. There are estimated to be over 16,000 individual petroglyphs hand carved into the hardened lava rocks. (And, no, I didn't count.)
Down in the Southwest, ancient cliff dwellings in the Gila mountain wilderness showcase how the Mogollon people lived around 1200 AD. They built cave dwellings right into the side of insanely steep and rugged cliffs, some 6000 feet up in elevation. It's quite a hike up into the caves, and then the fear of falling kicks in! Nowadays, they've installed guardrails for safety, but it's hard to imagine how ancient people lived their entire lives on the sides of these enormous cliffs. Not too many people with a fear of heights back then!
6. The Biggest Hot Air Balloon Fiesta in the World.
The famous Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is THE spectacle to see each fall, in early October. Drawing visitors and participants from around the world, for about a week each year, the early morning skies are flooded with hundreds and hundreds of hot air balloons of every size, shape and color. Balloons like to ascend around dawn, when the weather is cooler, so if you get up early enough (or stay up late enough), it's a magical site to see!
7. It's Christmas Every Day. On Your Plate.
New Mexico is the home of the world famous Hatch green chiles, of Hatch, NM, where the the low humidity and arid landscaping make perfect conditions for growing the peppers. When roasted, they have a very unique smokey aroma and flavor. When dining anywhere around the state, you can order red or green chile on (most all) of your food, and if you want both red and green together, then you order "christmas"! This is unique to New Mexican cuisine, so now you're in the know! Try it out!