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8 Things First-Time New Mexico Travelers Should Add to Their Itinerary for an Unforgettable Time

Suny Errot



Did you know that New Mexico is America’s 5th largest state based on land area? Despite its vast lands with beautiful places to visit and even earning the title “Land of Enchantment,” New Mexico is still one of the underrated states to travel around the country. Being underrated does not mean there’s nothing special to see here. It’s just that not a lot of people have seen the beauty of the Land of Enchantment right before their eyes. Is it your first time in New Mexico? We got all the best places and experiences just for you. After your visit, you’ll probably say, “this is the best vacation ever.”

Here Are the 8 Things to Do When Traveling for the First Time in New Mexico:

1. Attend New Mexico Festivals

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta first time in new mexico

Source: Instagram

One of the things you shouldn’t miss out on your first time in New Mexico is attending festivals. One of the sought-after festivals here is the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. This is such a huge event (we are not exaggerating) that even people from other countries fly here to experience watching more than 600 hot air balloons fly up in the sky all at once.

But if you can’t visit Albuquerque on the festival dates, you can always visit the Balloon Museum to know more about the history of the balloons and the festival itself. There are also other quirky festivals you could look forward to like the Roswell UFO Festival and for the upcoming Christmas season: River of Lights Holiday and Taos Winter Festival. You can count on New Mexico for a variety of experiences.

2. Try New Mexico’s Craft Beers

Santa Fe Brewing Company beer hopping nm

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One way to get a taste of New Mexico is by trying their impressive craft beers! You can find the best breweries in the largest city, Albuquerque. We suggest you ask the locals for their recommendations since they usually know the best spots and the way around. But if you want to check out the oldest one, check out the Marble Brewery that serves award-winning drinks. To maximize your experience, don’t forget to hang out in their rooftop bar.

They say craft beer is not just about malt and hops. In fact, it’s not even about elitism. By trying craft beer, you get to be part of a bigger community. Here are some other spots that are worth checking out:

  • Bombs Away Beer Company, Albuquerque
  • Callahan West Brewery, Mosquero
  • Cloudcroft Brewing, Cloudcroft
  • Differential Brewing, Albuquerque
  • Las Cazuelas Brewing, Rio Rancho
  • Pecan Grill & Brewery, Las Cruces
  • Starr Brothers Brewing, Albuquerque
  • Milton’s Brewing, Carlsbad
  • Santa Fe Brewing Company, Santa Fe

3. Stroll Down the Old Town Center

Old Town Albuquerque first time in new mexico

Source: Instagram

There’s a historic spot in New Mexico called the Old Town Centre or Old Town Albuquerque. It is considered a cultural center, as it is home to various museums, shops, galleries, and restaurants. There also some old buildings with Pueblo-Spanish style architecture, and churches that you can take a look at. The place was established in 1706, when a group of Spanish families settled here, not far from the Rio Grande. Following the traditional Spanish colonial way, the settlers organized their new town with the central plaza anchored by a church.

The original church collapsed in 1792, but the townspeople rebuilt it, completing it a year later. Locals and tourists alike come here to see the adobe church considered the oldest in Albuquerque. Its defining features are the white towers that mark Old Town from a distance.

Are you looking for places that embark on the history of the state? Old Town Centre is perfect for you!

4. Enjoy the Wildlife at Rio Grande Nature Center

Rio Grande Nature Center wildlife

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For nature lovers, the Rio Grande Nature Center is a place you can look forward to when visiting New Mexico (not just when it’s your first time in New Mexico). Enjoy and be curious about wildlife. You can also discover a lot of bird species and watch them take flight. Or, you can just be in awe of the “chill” cranes all around you.

Feel free to go for a quick stroll or breeze walk at the well-kept natural gardens of our beautiful southwest plants. There, you will find easy access to the river where you can cool off after your stroll. The quaint trails also lead to gorgeous views. Alternatively, you can take your bike since the heavily-shaded pathways offer sun relief.

5. Spend Time at the ABQ BioPark Zoo

ABQ BioPark Zoo nm

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Are you feeling pretty adventurous? How about having close encounters with native and exotic animals from around the world? If you’re up for it, do visit the ABQ BioPark for a fun and knowledge-filled experience in New Mexico. You can experience feeding animals such as alpacas, llamas, giraffes, hippopotamus, and even crocodiles. Sadly, you couldn’t do animal feeding this year. You can always try it next year. It doesn’t matter if it’s your first time in New Mexico or not, this activity will always be fun!

Don’t miss the chance to explore the educational exhibits that offer information about wildlife conservation efforts. No doubt, you will appreciate looking at the animals in their naturalistic habitats.

Since you are already here, you might as well stroll through the stunning garden at the whimsical ABQ Biopark Botanic Garden.

6. Appreciate Art by Visiting Their Museums

Roswell Museum & Art Center new mexico

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If it’s your first time in New Mexico, one of the things you shouldn’t miss out is to visit their museums. There are a lot of museums that will pique your interest. Notable museums that you should check out are the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, New Mexico Capitol Art Collection, and Roswell Museum & Art Center.

The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum celebrates the life, American modernism, and public engagement of Georgia O’Keeffe. It opened in 1997, eleven years after the artist’s death.

New Mexico Capitol Art Collection houses one of the most comprehensive collections of contemporary art in the region. It features works by artists from Taos to Tucumcari and everywhere in between. There are paintings, textiles, handcrafted furniture, and many more!

Lastly, the Roswell Museum & Art Center is where you can find all sorts of pretty things! The place features exhibits about the art and history of the American Southwest. There are also exhibits about fine art, sculpture, decorative arts, prints, and historic artifacts.

7. Have a Glimpse of Native American Culture

Indian Pueblo Cultural Center nm

Source: Instagram

Just like its neighboring state Arizona, New Mexico has a lot of Native American Tribes. One of the great ways of learning about it is by visiting the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. There, you will see the heritage of the pueblo people as well as the artifacts they have left.

The center offers interactive permanent and rotating exhibits, and lets you meet the artists and their handcrafted works. If it is your first time in New Mexico, then you should join the in-depth guided tour for the best educational opportunity. You might also want to join the frybread-making class. Once you get hungry after walking around, you can head straight to Pueblo Harvest, the on-site full-service restaurant known for their award-winning Tewa Taco, and freshly baked Pueblo oven bread.

8. Ride the Sandia Peak Tramway

Sandia Peak Tramway first time in new mexico

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Here’s the thing. If you are looking for the best activity to do in New Mexico, this should be the very first item on your itinerary (unless you are afraid of heights). After all, who doesn’t want to ride a cable car to get a glimpse of the best scenic views of Sandia Peak? Make sure to ride before the day ends because it offers such a stunning sight!

Catching sunsets at 10,378 feet? Yes, please!

Did you find this article useful for planning your trip for the first time in New Mexico? You might also want to check out 6 Remote Destinations in New Mexico That Will Certainly Steal Your Heart.

And if you love going to abandoned places, here’s an interesting read: You Can Explore the Spooky New Mexico Ghost Town From the Gold Rush Era in the Late 1800s.