Vacation New Mexico 47 Must-Do Adventures + What You Need to Know

Last weekend, a good friend of mine came to visit me in my home state of New Mexico. And I couldn’t have been more thrilled to show her around as an excuse to do all the fun vacation stuff the locals tends to forget about it.


I picked her up from the ABQ airport, and as we tooled around, she looked out the window in surprise.


“This is Albuquerque? Where is all the crime? It’s so…clean and pretty,”


The Truth About About New Mexico


Don’t get me wrong. As a local who grew up here, I have a serious love/ hate relationship with New Mexico. But the more I travel, the greater appreciation I have for the exotic landscape and the magic treasures that it holds.


That’s why I felt sort of obligated to set the record straight and write this blog about what New Mexico is really like.


After all, you don’t earn the tagline ‘Land of Enchantment’ (or ‘Land of Entrapment’ by locals) for nothing.


From an early age, all I wanted to do was escape my small hometown of Santa Fe. But now as an adult, New Mexico has become the place I escape to find a space for tranquility and inner reflection.


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Is New Mexico safe to visit?




I have travelled all over the world, from Thailand to Italy, and New Mexico is one of the safest places I know, so long as you exercise the same amount of caution you would anywhere else in the world. For example, don’t leave valuables in the car or your purse or wallet open in plain sight.


I’ll add to this by saying Breaking Bad is probably my all time favorite show. When I lived in the dark depths of the Oakland ghetto trying to ‘make it’ in California, Breaking Bad was a strange but soothing anecdote for homesickness. I think Vince Gilligan is one of the greatest and most creative minds of our time.


Unfortunately Breaking Bad and it’s spin off Better Call Saul gave our state kind of a rep. Yes, of course there are drugs and crime here, just like anywhere else.

But the funny secret people don’t seem to realize about New Mexico is it’s actually pretty bougie. If you’re a fan of the show, pay close attention to the references and characters from Los Alamos Labs, for example. I’ve definitely met more scientists and wealthy retirees out in New Mexico than I have meth dealers. Actually, in 20 years living here I’ve never even met a meth dealer (that I know of).


Before Breaking Bad, I think New Mexico was most famous for an upscale art scene, the Western movie industry, incredible food, and I would argue some of the best spas in the world.


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A few cities in New Mexico contribute to the high crime rate statistics, namely Española. If you stick to the spots I recommend below, you should be just fine.


Personally, my experience as a victim of car break-ins and smash and grabs mostly happened while I was living in California. And I witnessed more crime living San Francisco, Italy, or London than I have spending almost a lifetime in New Mexico.


New Mexico Culture


A possible reason I feel much safer in New Mexico, despite statistic-all high crime rates, is the extremely friendly community I find myself surrounded by. At around two million people, the population isn’t very big here. That is why you might find strangers and friends alike to act neighborly and hospitable.


Local communities in New Mexico range from humble, down to earth, and family oriented or extremely eccentric artists and ‘new age’ types. After visiting, one of my California friends joked that she thinks New Mexico is where ‘hipster’ was invented, and I kind of agree.


As a New Mexico native, I actually experienced extreme culture shock moving to other parts of the country, where in comparison people could be standoffish at best, or flat out rude or back stabbing at worst.


Another question I often get from visitors: “Where are the rich neighborhoods?”


In many cities, there is clearly a right and wrong side of the tracks. Take Los Angeles for example, where you can start in the shiny buildings of Century City and Beverly Hills, and make your way through hipster gentrification and finally landing in a Dickens dystopia of poverty.


New Mexico isn’t really like this. Yes, you can turn a corner and find yourself on the wrong street. Or you can drive out to the middle of nowhere to enjoy a tour of multimillion dollar adobe style homes owned by famous celebrities. But, the class divide is less clear.


That might be why living and growing up in New Mexico can simultaneously give you a taste and appreciation for finer culture and scrappy street smarts.



New Mexico truly is still the Wild West.

A place where you can carve out your own space and take time to breathe, think, and reset.The exotic desert landscape makes for a gorgeous, dramatic blank canvas for a photoshoot, art installation, or desert adventure escape.

Perhaps that’s why you’ll find such fascinating works of art here, including the carved caves of Ra Palette or the now famous art collaborative Meow Wolf – most of the creators whom I still think of as my childhood classmates. The exotic landscape also provides the perfect cinematic backdrop, which is why so many famous films and television series have been made here.

For example, ‘Stranger Things’ is filming at a high school down the street from me right now. My childhood home was sandwiched between the houses of two screenwriters: one who wrote ‘Groundhog Day’ and the other who wrote ‘Tao of Steve’ (filmed in part at my childhood home).



The New Mexico Mafia



The other strange thing about New Mexico is the networking. I’m not sure if it’s the lack of jobs or stuff to do for twenty-somethings, but many of my high school peers migrated outside the state only to forge incredible careers.


This has formed what we call the ‘New Mexico Mafia’ – an informal collective of surprising success stories far from the tragic tales of Jesse and Jane archetypes you might know from Breaking Bad (although, I do have a few of those to tell).


Say what you will about the school system here (it ranks 49th in the state), but members of my graduating class have gone on to become famous musicians, actors, screenwritersbroadcast journalists, and even entrepreneurs featured on Shark Tank.


My Santa Fe High classmates actually came to be more of a helpful professional network than that of the people I met in college or in my corporate career.


For example, accepting a contract at Google reunited me with my high school best friend who also happened to be a veteran there of ten years. If that weren’t crazy enough, I kept running into other New Mexico alumni in my meetings, providing a camaraderie and mentorship that proved to be truly invaluable.


The die hard passion for green chile really does create a bond that’s unbreakable.


New Mexico Weather




With an average of 293 sunny days per year, New Mexico is the perfect location for filming, planning an outdoor event, or just making vacation plans without concern for rain.


Everyone assumes that as a desert, New Mexico experiences the same scorching hot weather as Phoenix, Arizona.


In reality, New Mexico is also lined with the Rocky Mountains, making the weather temperate and more similar to Colorado. Because it is in high desert, the days are warm and the evening are cool.


The July and August heat is quickly cooled off by mild rain, and more mild than many spots in the United States.



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Rainy season is usually late summer, and a gust of rain rarely lasts longer than an hour, often even evaporating before it touches the ground. All of the rain storms give way to decadent rainbows that leave you certain there must be a pot of gold at the end of them.



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New Mexico also does snow in the winter, but it is the lightest, puffiest snow I’ve ever encountered. The snow in New Mexico makes for excellent skiing and snowboarding. For a perfect powder day, be sure to check out Taos Ski Valley if you decide to take a New Mexico vacation in the winter.



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And then there are the sunsets. Every sunset in New Mexico is like the most magnificent oil painting you’ve ever laid eyes on, with a color palette of orangesicle, royal purple, hot pink, and gold. It’s truly a sight to behold and something you don’t want to miss on your New Mexico vacation.


I suppose the gorgeous skies are the reason the state attracts so many artists and creative thinkers. In fact, buddhist monks come here often because they believe the large blue skies open your mind to higher thoughts.


I can vouch for that. Over the years, New Mexico has become the perfect creative retreat. There is something about the wide open landscape and peaceful, serene calm of empty space that suddenly calls me to be more productive and creative than in any other place I’ve visited in the world.


What is the Best Month to Visit New Mexico?



As a local, I’m biased towards the gorgeous summer and fall months, which are June through September.


Where should I go in New Mexico in the fall?

If you do visit New Mexico in the fall, this is a fantastic time to catch the Balloon Fiesta or the annual Zozobra ceremony, which us locals like to think of as the original Burning Man. This is also a beautiful time to catch the gorgeous golden aspens in the mountains of the Santa Fe Ski resort.



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What is the prettiest part of New Mexico?


Obviously this will depend on your personal preference. If you enjoy lush greenery, forests, and rivers, you will probably love Los Ranchos or Taos located close to the Rio Grande River. Do you prefer desert, adobe architecture, cool art vibes, and counter culture? Then Santa Fe might be right for you. If you are ready for big skies, wide open views, and blue mountains, Albuquerque is sure to deliver.


Keep reading for a list of what makes each popular city in New Mexico breathe-taking and unique.


Vacation New Mexico Travel Tips


Are you finally convinced a New Mexico vacation might be just the perfect getaway for you after all? If so, here’s a list of my favorite travel tips to keep you entertained for weeks or months, straight from a local herself.


The good news is, once you arrive to New Mexico, it’s easy to reach all of these cities by car. Here is a list of some of my favorite secret spots and sights to see, including spas, hot springs, and outdoor adventures:

  1. Ojo Caliente Hot Springs Spa 
  2. Lake Abiquiu, which is close to Ojo Caliente
  3. White Sands
  4. Carlsbad Caverns
  5. San Antonio Hot Springs in the Jemez Springs mountains
  6. Desert Harbor Retreat – you can read about my mini-moon adventure at Desert Harbor here
  7. Chama Train Ride

Vacation New Mexico: Albuquerque


  1. Nob Hill for a day of shoppping and food
  2. ABQ Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings
  3. Uptown for shopping
  4. New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science
  5. Sandia Peak Tramway
  6. Petroglyph National Monument
  7. For the younger crowd, First Friday Art Walk Downtown



  1. High Noon in Old Town – I’m obsessed with the Shrimp Pappardelle in red chile cream sauce and the Tres Leches. From the hanging Christmas Tree to the chandeliers and rumors of ghosts, be sure to ask about the famous history this place is packed with
  2. The Frontier Restaurant by the airport- my favorite comfort diner food in the world
  3. Happy Accidents bar founded by the first female bartending world champion. Be sure to order ‘Living on a Pear’
  4. D.H. Lescombes Winery and Bistro



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Vacation New Mexico: Santa Fe


  1. 10,000 Waves Spa and restaurant (book in advance!)
  2. Ojo Santa Fe Spa
  3. Meow Wolf 
  4. Santa Fe Ski Basin
  5. Indian Market on the Plaza, known for it’s turquoise jewelry
  6. Canyon Road art walk
  7. Ojo Santa Fe, the sister spa to Ojo Caliente, featured below
  8. The Christmas Eve Farolito Walk, if you happen to be traveling over the holidays



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  1. Rio Chama restaurant, and remember to order the Chama Chile
  2. La Choza – a favorite for margaritas and queso
  3. La Boca or El Meson for a Spanish tapas walk downtown
  4. Kakawa chocolate house
  5. The Cowgirl (green chile cheese fries, ice cream baked potato, drinks and live music
  6. Tia Sophia’s New Mexican spot downtown
  7. The Pantry restaurant which has incredible green chile anything – don’t miss out on the stuffed french toast


Vacation New Mexico: Rio Rancho/ Los Ranchos


  1. Balloon Fiesta
  2. Bosque River Walk
  3. Corrales Grower’s Market on Sundays
  4. Vivify Hot Yoga



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  1. Los Poblanos Lavender Farm which is an elegant farm-to-table restaurant, spa, and shop in Los Ranchos
  2. Vernon’s Speakeasy – a truly unique callback to 1940’s prohibition, and favorite spot where celebs like to dine
  3. The Brew Lab Brewery, for fans of Breaking Bad
  4. Indigo Crow upscale cuisine in in Los Ranchos

Vacation New Mexico: Taos




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  1. Hotel Luna Mystica trailer park hotel, which is much gram-worthy than it sounds
  2. The Taos Gorge, which I found to be more awe inspiring (and vertigo inducing) than the Grand Canyon
  3. Taos River for a swim or float day, and it also dotted with many relaxing natural hot springs which you can find if you are up for a hike



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  1. Medley.
  2. Vivec winery



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As much as I’ve explored New Mexico, I’m still learning about new, fun things to do here. Do you have any favorite secret getaway spots that you love? Or New Mexico vacation travel tips? Comment below to share!

Written by: admin-invested-success
Written by: admin-invested-success

Last Updated: November 16, 2022

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