20+ Things You Absolutely Need to Do When Visiting New Mexico

New Mexico's official nickname is "Land of Enchantment," and let me tell you, it really is just that. When planning a vacation, most people don't consider the desert as a vacation. They want the beach or a big city experience, but as a New Mexico native, I can personally say it's a hidden gem that's both scenic and rich in history. The culture in the air is as strong as the agave margaritas and smell of green chilli roasting during the Fall, and it's something everyone should experience at least once. There are mountains, desert, snow, sun, and rain, and each season brings a different experience. There are so many sites that are bound to amaze you, but a lot of them aren't too well known. Keep reading to see everything that makes New Mexico so unique, and get ready to start planning your trip!


Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

Hot air balloons fill the sky for the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta during the month of October, so grab a cup of hot chocolate, a burrito, and your warm gear to watch magic happen before your eyes. If waking up at 4 a.m. to watch the balloons fly at sunrise isn't your jam, go to the balloon glow at twilight instead - which, trust me, is just as breathtaking. It's easy to understand why the event is the most photographed event in the world.


Hike With Llamas

Yup, you read that right! What's an Instagram-worthy hike without a llama?! Wild Earth Llama Adventures offers llama treks that will guide you through the untouched and enchanted Sangre de Cristo Mountains. You'll find your mind drift away while enjoying the beauty and wonders of New Mexico.


New Mexico Brew Fest

During the first or second week of October, you'll find yourself asking "IPA? Pilsner? Pale Ale? Cider? Something seasonal?" Whew! There are no bad options at New Mexico Brew Fest, where you can watch live music, enjoy local food, and be apart of New Mexico's thriving craft beer scene. If you have time, check out this beer map that will take you to all the best breweries.


Red Rock Park

In the North Western corner of the state, you'll find a small town called Gallup, which is home to the fascinating Red Rock Park. Be prepared to do some hiking, but I promise the views at the top are more than worth it.


Soak in Jemez Springs

You cannot go to New Mexico and not soak in Jemez Hot Springs! It's an absolute must and not just for the Instagram picture. Pack hiking shoes to get to the top of the mountain, but after a moderate hike, strip down to your bathing suit and soak in a 95-degree natural hot spring. How much better does it get than that?!


White Sands National Park

A beach in New Mexico? Not quite, but make your way to White Sands National Park, where you'll find yourself surrounded by 225 square miles of pure white gypsum. Buy some sleds and play in the sand, lay a a blanket down and have a picnic, or even spend the night. Whatever you do, White Sands is the ultimate experience.


Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Hidden beneath the flowering cacti, desert wildlife, and deep rocky canyons are the limestone caves, which are caused by sulfuric acid dissolution. Go play in the caves at Carlsbad Caverns and you'll start to question if you're in New Mexico at all.


Get Lost in the Mountains

The beautiful mountains are calling, and you must go. Getting lost in New Mexico is easy when views like this are at your every turn. The Fall foliage doesn't hurt either. Make your way to Northern New Mexico and you'll find many hiking trails to explore or you can just cruise with your windows down and take in the fresh air.


Meow Wolf Santa Fe

New Mexico is home to thousands of artists and artisans, but Meow Wolf is a little different than the traditional art you might expect to see. Dive into their immersive experiences that are literally what dreams are made of.


Ten Thousand Waves

Ten Thousand Waves is the ultimate spa experience. And bonus? It's in the mountains. Spend a weekend there and come out feeling like a brand new person. Schedule yourself or your full crew a private hot tub before a signature Japanese shiatsu massage, oxygen facial, and my personal favorite - the salt glow treatment! And pro tip: stay at the spa if you can. You can walk to and from the spa in your kimono to your House of the Moon (my personal favorite is Half Moon) where you'll find a fireplace and a private Japanese garden and courtyard.


Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad

No, this is not a scene from Harry Potter. I promise this is in New Mexico — in Chama to be exact. Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad is a 64-mile day trip that will blow your mind. A coal-fired steam engine zig zags between the Colorado and New Mexico border through desert, steep mountain canyons, and lush meadows.


Los Poblanos Historic Inn and Organic Farm

Twenty-five acres of lavender? Yup, count me in. As you walk the property, remind yourself to stop and take a deep breath of fresh air and listen to the cottonwood trees with each gust of wind that carries the lingering scent of lavender.


Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort & Spa

The Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs have been deemed sacred by eight Northern Pueblo tribal communities for nearly 3,000 years, so you know you're in for a truly unique experience. You'll find four different sulfur-free mineral waters here: Lithia, Iron, Soda, and Arsenic. And if you're in need of a legendary oasis to heal your body, mind, and spirit, treat yourself and spend the whole weekend. You'll get muddy and revitalize yourself by soaking in these steaming waters.


Southwestern Jewelry

Did you really visit New Mexico if you didn't buy a piece of jewelry? This is the ultimate New Mexico staple, from squash blossoms to wrist cuffs. And every piece you'll find is handmade and strikingly unique, made from stones such as sleeping beauty turquoise, white buffalo, coral, dry creek turquoise: the list goes on.


Shop Santa Fe Plaza

In the heart of downtown Santa Fe, you'll find the iconic plaza. The Santa Fe Plaza has hosted Indian and Spanish markets, annual events, concerts, and community gatherings for nearly 400 years. Discover charming shops from fashion to furniture to cowboy boots and concho belts. Just make sure to save your appetite for the hundreds of restaurants that the line the streets.


Hotel Luna Mystic

Escape the real world and wander into the desert for a couple nights of some epic glamping at Hotel Luna Mystica. You'll find 10 vintage trailers, 60 campsites, more than 12 acres of mesa, and a sea full of stars. Witness the cotton candy skies at sunset in the vintage trailer hotel and starlight campground in Taos, New Mexico. What are you waiting for?


Albuquerque Old Town

In the heart of Albuquerque, you'll find Historic Old Town. Dine at the various New Mexican restaurants, stroll the culture-filled plaza, and get lost while shopping in all of the galleries. If you can go at Christmas, the plaza is filled with luminarias (or paper lanterns), a well-known tradition in New Mexico. The state is breathtaking throughout the Winter months with these, and it's something you should definitely see.


Taos Ski Valley

Taos Ski Valley is at the Northern corner of the state. While it obviously offers skiing or snowboarding, it also has some of the best rock climbing, mountain biking, hiking, and fishing in New Mexico during the Summer.


Sandia Peak Tramway

Sandia Peak Tramway will elevate your mind, body, and soul as you escape the hustle and bustle of Albuquerque in just 15 minutes. At the top of a 10,378-foot crest, you'll find an 11,000 square mile panoramic view awaiting you.


Red or Green Chile

Deciding what chile you want smothered over your meal is the only thing you have to question when eating in New Mexico. My mouth is already watering! You'll find that most meals are accompanied with fresh pinto beans, fragrant rice, sopapillas, guacamole, homemade tortillas, and of course, a margarita or locally brewed beer!


Horseback Riding

Saddle up and explore the land and culture through many of the horseback riding tours that are offered throughout New Mexico. This is the best way to see what New Mexico has to really offer - the majestic mountains, deep canyons, and wide-open meadows.


Albuquerque Skyline

No, it's not your typical big city skyline, but this view might be one of the best. Take the tram or drive to the top of Sandia Peak before sunset and watch the city below come alive. It makes for a great date night, especially with some wine and pizza to accompany you.


Blue Hole

Not too far from Route 66 is the Blue Hole in Santa Rosa, NM. This clear blue body of water is one of the most popular scuba-dive destinations in the United States. Take a jump in the 60-degree water just to say you did it, or receive your PADI diving certificate here. Who would have thought?!