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Fun things to do in New Mexico

Illustration by James Gulliver Hancock

A curated list of the best upcoming events in New Mexico.

White Sands Moonlight Hikes

Through November Leave your flashlight in the car on monthly ranger-led tour of sand dunes that shimmer under the full moon. Rangers discuss plants and animals, astronomy, and history along the Dune Life Trail. The hike is limited to 50 participants. Tickets are made available 2 months before the day of the tour and often sell out within minutes. $8 plus park entrance fee ($25 per vehicle). White Sands National Park.

Earth Day Festival NM 2024

April 21 As the fifth-largest state in the country, New Mexico has a big chunk of the planet to appreciate. Environmentalists, statewide organizations, and local communities will make sure that happens this Earth Day at Balloon Fiesta Park. Sierra Club members and regional experts will provide answers to green-living questions: How can I install solar panels? What plants provide sanctuary for pollinators? Visit different zones for presentations, an upcycle market, and activities for children. Adults, $5. Albuquerque.

Shiprock Marathon

May 3–4 Legendary New Mexico scenery, good weather, and accommodating organizers are among the reasons why USA Today rates this race “One of the 10 Best Marathons in the USA.” All activities, beginning with registration and the 5K race ($40) on Friday, are within sight of Tsé Bitʼaʼí (the Navajo name for Shiprock). On Saturday, the marathon ($95) and half-marathon ($75) begin between 7 and 8 a.m. Bands energize runners throughout the courses, and a feast with more entertainment awaits at the finish. Top winners take home Native American pottery. Shiprock.

Adobe Whitewater Club’s Mother’s Day Races

May 10–12 Expect thrills, and (hopefully) not spills in exciting whitewater rafting, kayaking, canoeing, and stand-up paddleboarding races on the Rio Grande’s challenging course, south of Taos. Campers at Rio Bravo Pavilion in the Orilla Verde Recreation Area share a potluck meal Friday evening. Saturday is devoted to competition, and Sunday is for self-organized trips. Race fee, $20. Pilar.


FREE! May 25–26 As most of New Mexico’s temperatures soar, consider an escape to Cloudcroft—elevation 9,000 feet—in southeastern New Mexico’s Sacramento Mountains. Add a juried art show featuring original creations from artisans throughout the state. Forty vendors and food trucks are scattered around spacious Zenith Park. Leashed pets are welcome at the Memorial Day weekend event, not far from the village’s charming business district. Cloudcroft.


June 15–16 This popular weekend bash in Ruidoso’s Wingfield Park celebrates the arrival of summer. Outdoor concerts are the main draw, along with plenty of brewery choices as well as regional wines. Check the website for ticket prices. Ruidoso.

Student Fishing Contest

FREE! June 15–16 Calling all kids from kindergarten to high school seniors! If fishing is your thing, sign up for the Junior Open Fishing Tournament and try to catch the largest or the smallest anything, except for carp, stripers, or catfish. Fishing kids need their own boat and are divided into age groups for the competition on Elephant Butte Lake. Registration, a hamburger meal, and a meeting that spells out tournament regulations is from 3 to 6 p.m. Friday. Competition is Saturday from 6 a.m. to noon. Elephant Butte Lake State Park.

Summer Solstice

June 21 Visitors to Chaco Culture National Historical Park on the solstice will come away with an unforgettable experience. Arrive predawn to be led by rangers to the Casa Rinconada ruins to witness the sunrise pour through a window opening and then beam into a niche on the opposite wall. Park rangers provide a brief overview of the yearly event and often schedule special presentations. Gates open at 5:15 a.m. so visitors can catch the 5:55 a.m. sunrise. The 9 p.m. closing allows time for hikes among other massive structures that Ancestral Puebloans constructed between 850 and 1150 AD. $25 per vehicle. Check website to confirm event details. Chaco Canyon NHP.

Mountainair Jubilee

FREE! June 29 Celebrate Fourth of July twice this year! The Mountainair Jubilee is the weekend before the national holiday. Mountainair Mayor Peter Nieto promises another year of music, good food, family fun, and “tons of vendors.” The celebration begins at 10 a.m. with a parade. An impressive fireworks display begins at dark. Mountainair.

Hit the Slopes

Ongoing With 9 ski areas sprinkled throughout the state, there’s probably one within driving distance. Depending on the weather, ski season is underway at easier, family-friendly terrain (perfect for learning) and the serious vertical descents at Taos Ski Valley. Over 80 trails and nighttime skiing are offered at Angel Fire and Sierra Blanca. Albuquerque skiers ride the tram to their nearby slopes. Ski prices vary. New Mexico.

"Butterflies and Bees: The Power of Pollinators"

Summer Step into the flurry of pure color at the Butterfly House in the ABQ BioPark Botanic Garden and suddenly you’re among hundreds of butterflies, native bees that don’t sting, and fig beetles. Ask questions at the education table and learn about the role of pollinators in our food supply. This exhibit typically opens for the season in late May. Botanic Garden admission, $10 for adults (for New Mexico residents). Albuquerque.

Monday Bird Walks

First Monday of Each Month Grab binoculars and join a local Audubon Society walk to identify and learn about bird species at Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park. You’ll likely spot a roadrunner, New Mexico’s state bird, along with curve-billed thrashers, pyrrhuloxias, ladder-backed woodpeckers, cactus wrens, verdins, and hummingbirds. Join the group at 8 a.m. at the park’s exhibit hall, where displays explain the Rio Grande’s history, geology, plants, and animals. $5 per car. Mesilla.

Thursdays Are Yours

FREE! Every Thursday Young children, older siblings, and adults are invited to explore the Santa Fe Children’s Museum for free from 4–6 p.m. on Thursdays. Meet Cornelius the Corn Snake and tackle a larger-than-life Lite Brite, among 35 other interactive experiences. “There’s lots of fun to be had here,” says Hannah Hausman, executive director of the nonprofit facility. Santa Fe.

Year-round fun

Things to do all year long in and around New Mexico.

City of Rocks State Park

Visualize streets and buildings in this 1-square-mile metropolis of volcanic rocks that formed almost 35 million years ago. Wide trails weave around weirdly shaped boulders, oak trees, and wildflowers to camping and picnic sites. Fall days are generally warm, but watch out for snakes. For camping, reservations are required. $5 per vehicle. Faywood.

Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park

Get acquainted with the zoo’s 40 resident critters, which include a Mexican wolf, a black bear, a bobcat, mule deer, pronghorn, bison, and prairie dogs, along with a variety of snakes at this park featuring mostly Chihuahuan Desert animals. Hundreds of native plant species populate the botanical gardens along the scenic 1.3-mile trail. Parking, $5. Carlsbad.

New Mexico Museum of Space History

Explore outer space without leaving the planet at this futuristic museum filled with rockets, space science, flight gear, and a section called “Living and Working in Space,” where you can learn what it’s like to be an astronaut. Start at the top floor, where an expansive view of White Sands unfolds. Catch a show at the New Horizons Dome Theater and Planetarium. Admission, $6–$8. Alamogordo.

Mineral Museum

FREE! From glittering crystals and geodes to New Mexico’s own gold, silver, and turquoise, this extensive collection of Southwest and worldwide minerals rocks! Check out fluorescent samples in the ultraviolet room, and learn about meteors’ galactic origins. Make an appointment to have your own treasure identified or email its photo to staff. New Mexico Tech campus, Socorro.

Splashing around Blue Hole and Park Lake

FREE! The sapphire waters of the Blue Hole attract scuba divers to explore the lake's 81-foot depth. In the summertime, they're joined by swimmers, who often cliff jump into the constant 62-degree water. Park Lake, also spring-fed, is the destination for boating, a floating obstacle course, food vendors—and Fourth of July fireworks. Parking, $10. Santa Rosa.

New Mexico Wildlife Center

Drop by this wildlife rehab center and prepare to be inspired by dedicated staff who treat 650–900 injured and orphaned animals annually. All ages are welcome to view some of the 120 species and visit ambassador animals for daily presentations. Closed Mondays. Adults, $5. Española.

Dinosaur Trackway

FREE! Examine dinosaur behavior at this ancient mudflat where a baby dinosaur wandered near a giant plant-eater that slipped in the muck. View 500 footprints from 6 dinosaur species near the dam of the 170-acre lake, open for fishing March 1–October 31. Camping and picnic spots are available. Clayton Lake State Park. $5 per vehicle. Clayton.

Georgia O’Keeffe Landscape Tour

Hop aboard a narrated bus tour into the red hills and cliffs that inspired artist Georgia O’Keeffe during her stays at Ghost Ranch. There are 3 stops along the way, where you can walk beside the peaks and landforms that dominate her paintings. You’ll also see the outside of her small adobe house at the 21,000-acre Ghost Ranch Education and Retreat Center, 15 miles north of Abiquiu. Tour tickets include a day pass and entrance to 2 museums. Adults, $39. Abiquiu.

Star parties

Monthly At Rockhound and City of Rocks state parks, explore the night sky of Southwestern New Mexico and expand your knowledge beyond the Big Dipper. Local astronomers point out celestial bodies, then share telescopes for close-up views. Camping is available at both Rockhound and City of Rocks, which features a 14-inch telescope in its new observatory. $5 per vehicle. Deming and Faywood.

Smokey Bear Museum and Historical Park

Nicknamed “Hot Foot Teddy,” a small bear with burned feet was rescued from the fire-ravaged Lincoln National Forest in 1950. He became the beloved Smokey Bear, an ambassador of fire safety. His message of protecting woodlands is especially relevant today, and park exhibits explain how firefighting methods have changed over the years. Memorabilia fill the compact museum, and the grounds where Smokey is buried honor firefighters killed in action. Adults, $2. Capitan.

Trek history sculpted in bronze

FREE! Visit Artesia’s Chamber of Commerce at the old train station and pick up a brochure detailing the 11 massive bronze sculptures that line the Main Street District. In a few steps, discover 3 pieces depicting the town’s cowboy beginnings. Farther down, historical figures come into view, including bronzes representing the region’s oil exploration and development. Walk by the library to see Max the Bulldog and a large mural by Peter Hurd. Artesia.

Kit Carson House and Museum

Ongoing Explore the life and living quarters of New Mexico’s famous frontiersman during a walk-through of his 4-room Taos home, which is almost 200 years old. Kit Carson and his large family lived in the thick-walled adobe from 1843 to 1866, and the museum is now filled with period artifacts and a few personal possessions. A short biography video examines the life of this trapper, guide, soldier, and Indian agent. Tickets, $10. Taos.

King’s Palace Tour at Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Ongoing While any trip to this underground wonderland is rewarding, join an intimate tour of the ornate King’s Palace, the deepest portion of the cave open to the public, which most visitors never see. A ranger points out the variety of formations—draperies, helictites, columns, and soda straws—on a 1-mile trek through 4 chambers. Experience absolute darkness when lights are momentarily extinguished. Tickets, $8, in addition to park entrance fee. Carlsbad.

Magdalena Historic Walking Tour

FREE! Ongoing Traveling through the quaint town of Magdalena is fascinating, as the old buildings, train station, warehouses, and hotels depict a thriving community born in more prosperous days. Most of the buildings date to the early 1900s, when the town bustled with cowboys, pioneers, and miners. Magdalena became a shipping hub for cattle, sheep, and ore when a railroad spur connected with Socorro. A detailed brochure of the structures and their histories is available at Magdalena businesses or online. Magdalena.

Sitting Bull Falls Recreation Area

Ongoing Sitting Bull Falls, an “oasis in the desert,” tumbles 150 feet from spring-fed pools. Water collects at the base of the waterfall and is perfect for a dip during the summer heat. It’s an easy quarter-mile hike from the parking area and covered picnic tables. The trek to the upper pools and spring, where visitors can swim, is a steep, half-mile climb. $5 per car. Closed Tuesdays. Near Carlsbad.

Prehistoric Trackways National Monument

FREE! Ongoing While visitors won’t see dinosaur footprints, which are mostly removed and on display at Albuquerque and Las Cruces museums, guests can wander up Prehistoric Trackways National Monument’s steep arroyos to find Paleozoic fossils from millions of years ago among the rock. Motorized travel allowed on designated roads only. Las Cruces.

Tour Athentic Shakespeare Ghost Town

Ongoing Five adobe buildings in the thirsty desert near Lordsburg represent a once-bustling town that prospered in the mid-1800s. Shakespeare’s frontier days come alive when town co-owner Dave Ochsenbine describes its former glory, when prospectors, cowboys, and outlaws hung out (and were hanged). His stories include notorious characters from Shakespeare’s past: Billy the Kid, Johnny Ringo, Sandy King, and the Clantons. Mondays and Tuesdays. Tickets, $15. Lordsburg.

Zuhl Museum Spotlights Geologic Wonders

FREE! Ongoing Don’t judge the compact New Mexico State University Museum by its size. This world-class collection of minerals, petrified wood, and fossils is captivating, especially in the gallery named WOW. Learn about the sparkling geode formations, mineral-infused quartz, and petrified wood slabs at the Zuhl Museum. Discover rare fossils of a baby wooly mammoth and a towering ground sloth with enormous claws and teeth in the History of Life room. Las Cruces.

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