30 Ultimate New Mexico Bucket List Activities & Food

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When considering top travel destinations in the United States, you might not think of New Mexico right away. Yet, with some of the most awe-inspiring national parks, world heritage sites, and rich history, there are so many reasons to create your own New Mexico bucket list. 

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The right travel bucket list inspires you to go farther and explore the world beyond your backyard. Whether this is your first trip to New Mexico or you’re a local, there is so much to see, explore, and taste. Known for its art, culture, and history, this arid desert state has more than meets the eye. Predated by thousands of years of Native American history, New Mexico is truly a must-visit state. 

Are you planning a trip to the Land of Enchantment? Here is your ultimate New Mexico bucket list to inspire your trip through this southwestern wonderland. 

New Mexico Bucket List Destinations

Whether you’re a fan of Native American art or cowboy culture, these New Mexico bucket list destinations will have you feeling like you’ve found an oasis in the desert. Add these destinations to your New Mexico bucket list for an unstoppable trip. 

1. Experience the Taos Pueblo

An UNESCO World Heritage Site, this settlement has been the home of the ancestors of the Taos people for over a thousand years. Their homes are known as “Adobe,” and they’re made of compacted earth formed into bricks. You can easily see how these “Adobe” structures influenced New Mexico’s architecture.

2. Look beyond this world in Roswell

Roswell, New Mexico is home to one of the most famous UFO sightings in history. Regardless of what you believe, you must visit the International UFO Museum and Research Center inspired by the 1947 “Roswell Incident.” 

3. Take in the eroded wilderness of Bisti Wilderness Area

Though most people think of Roswell when they think of otherworldly activities, the truly extraterrestrial landscapes are found in the Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness Area. Though very remote, it’s well worth the hike. 

4. Visit the oldest capital of Santa Fe

New Mexico’s charming capital city, Santa Fe, is also the oldest capital city in the United States. With an easily walkable historic plaza, explore the city’s Native American heritage and Spanish colonial history. 

5. Travel to the “Town That Never Was” 

Nicknamed the “Town That Never Was” after the Manhattan Project, Los Alamos, New Mexico, is the birthplace of the atomic bomb. Learn about the town’s history at the Los Alamos Historical Museum and the Bradbury Science Museum. 

Outdoor and State and National Park Bucket List Ideas in New Mexico

It wouldn’t be a trip to New Mexico without exploring the great outdoors. Home to some of the most breathtaking views in the country, this state offers some great outdoor and park bucket list ideas that will redefine what it means to experience nature. 

6. Explore the Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Found in the Chihuahuan Desert, the Carlsbad Caverns National Park has over 100 natural caves and caves. Though there’s a lot to explore, you absolutely must see the “Big Room,” the third-largest cave chamber in North America. 

7. Sand sled at White Sands National Park

If you thought sledding was only for snow, think again. The glistening, otherworldly sands at White Sands National Park are perfect for hiking and sand sledding. 

8. Go off the grid at Gila Cliff Dwellings National Park

If you want to explore one of the most remote national parks in America, you have to head to the cliff-side dwellings of Gila Cliff National Park. This is the only remaining Mogollon ruin site in the state, and they’re said to be almost a thousand years old. 

9. See the Chaco Culture National Historical Park 

For another UNESCO World Heritage Site, visit the epicenter of native Pueblo culture at Chaco Culture National Historical Park. The well-preserved buildings served as homes over centuries. 

10. Dare to visit Ground Zero

If you’re looking for something riskier, venture into Ground Zero, the site of the world’s first nuclear detonation. Located in White Sands National Park, this area is typically off-limits except for special tours. 

Family-Friendly Bucket List Ideas in New Mexico

If you’re wondering how to make a travel bucket list for your family in New Mexico, you’re in the right place. There are so many adventures that are perfect for the whole family. 

11. Step back in time at Bandelier National Monument

Over 11,000 years ago, the Pueblo Native American tribes built permanent settlements into the walls of desert cliffs. Today, you can see these ancestral Pueblo dwellings at Bandelier National Park. 

12. Go rafting in the Rio Grande

While the waters of the Rio Grande are too fast for swimming, water rafting is super popular in the summertime. Making up much of the border between Mexico and the United States, the best way to see this river is by water.

13. Ride the Cumbres-Toltec Scenic Railway

One of the best ways to see the American Southwest is by train. The Cumbres-Toltec Scenic Railroad runs between Chama, New Mexico, and Antonito, Colorado. 

14. Enjoy winter sports at Taos Ski Valley

Considered one of New Mexico’s best ski resorts, the Taos Ski Valley is a must-visit in the wintertime. Located in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, finding good conditions here is never a challenge. 

15. Visit the Billy the Kid Museum

In the town of Fort Sumner, discover the Billy the Kid Museum. Located where the lanky youth was shot and killed at age 21, here you can see old firearms, cars, trucks, and even some of Billy the Kid’s hair. 

Couples Bucket List Ideas in New Mexico

There’s a charming romance to be found in the Wild, Wild West, and this comes to life in New Mexico. These ideas below are the perfect New Mexico couples bucket list activities to keep that spark alive. 

16. Fly high at the International Balloon Fiesta

What could be more romantic than soaring above the earth in a hot air balloon? This infamous hot air balloon festival in Albuquerque is held for an entire week every year in October. 

17. Visit New Mexico’s wine country

Did you know New Mexico has its own wine country? After a long day of adventuring, this is the perfect way to unwind. 

18. Take in four states at once

If you’ve ever wanted to see four places at once, now’s your chance. By hiking to the top of Mt. Capulin at Capulin Volcano National Monument, you can spot a view of all four-corner states. 

19. Find the Tsé Bitʼaʼí (Shiprock)

Rising over 1,500 ft, Shiprock holds a lot of significance within the Navajo Nation. Stunning to behold, Shiprock is an experience you’ll just have to find for yourself. 

20. Take the Sandia Peak Tramway

Lastly, you’ll find the Sandia Peak Tramway outside of Albuquerque in the Sandia Foothills. Take the tramway up 2.7 miles to Sandia Peak, seeing panoramic views of the Rio Grande Valley along the way. 

Bucket List Foods and Restaurants in New Mexico

One of the best ways to explore a region is through food. These New Mexico food bucket list items will keep you coming back again and again. 

21. Sample blue corn pancakes

This is breakfast food like you’ve never tried before. Created with blue corn, these pancakes have a special nutty flavor.

22. Sip on piñon nut coffee

Speaking of nutty flavors, piñon nut coffee is a flavor loved by New Mexicans. Created with the pine nut from the piñon pine tree, this is the boost you need with your morning joe. 

23. Dish out on a biscochito

The state cookie of New Mexico is crumbly and oh-so-delicious. Made with lard, it tastes distinctly of cinnamon, making it the perfect way to celebrate the holiday season each winter. 

24. Try New Mexican pizza toppings

Every state has its own twist on pizza, and New Mexico is no exception. For a bit of spice, New Mexicans add green chiles to their pizzas, typically paired with ham or pepperoni. 

25. Grab a breakfast burrito

In New Mexico, you should start your day the traditional way: with a breakfast burrito. Created with potato, egg, cheese, and meat and topped with red or green sauce, this is a hearty way to begin your day. 

Albuquerque Bucket List Ideas

Last but not least, explore New Mexico’s biggest city of Albuquerque. Previously founded as a Spanish colony, this is the best place to explore Native American, Spanish, and Pueblo Culture in New Mexico. 

26. Wander Old Town 

If you only see one thing in Albuquerque, it should be Old Town. Founded in the early 1700s, this is home to the oldest church in the city. It’s also where you’ll find most Adobe-style buildings. 

27. Attend a festival

No matter when you visit, Albuquerque is a town of celebration. There is almost always something going on, from the Rio Grande Arts Festival to the New Mexico Wine and Jazz Festival. 

28. Spot the street art

Known as one of the most art-focused cities in the country, Albuquerque also has some of the best public art on display. A quick walk downtown is all you need to spot giant murals, statues, and more. 

29. Visit the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center

With 19 Pueblos in New Mexico, you must visit the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center for the perfect introduction to the Pueblo cultures, art, food, history, and more. 

30. See the petroglyphs

Lastly, you can’t visit Albuquerque without seeing the Petroglyph National Monument. Located just west of the city, this rock art is over 700 years old. Created by both Native American people and Spanish settlers, this is the largest petroglyph site in the USA. 

Uncover the New Mexico Melting Pot

When looking for the perfect blend of adventure and beauty, look no further than New Mexico. Known as the Land of Enchantment, this is truly a magical spot in the American southwest. Home to thousands of years of Native American and European colonial culture, as well as the infamous wild west cowboys, this is unlike anywhere else on earth and is perfect for travelers of all ages. 

Are you planning a trip to New Mexico? Make sure your bucket list is ready to go with these must-do ideas. What will you discover next?

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