The Land of Enchantment offers a range of attractions for everyone in the family, from caves to crests, aliens to outlaws, galleries to galaxies. Head north of the border and explore this romantic land full of history, beauty, art, and excitement. Here are a few suggested day trips from El Paso. (Mileage given is approximate distance from El Paso.)
Santa Theresa (11 miles)
The War Eagles Air Museum makes this small border town a must stop for history and aviation enthusiasts. Aircraft from World War II and the Korean War are displayed here — including a P-51 Mustang. Several bed-and-breakfasts in the area offer gorgeous overlooks of the Franklin Mountains and the lights of El Paso.
Las Cruces (44 miles) and Mesilla (49 miles)
New Mexico's second-largest city offers concerts, shopping, and museums, including Branigan Cultural Center and New Mexico Farm and Ranch Museum. The 13,000-seat Pan American Center is a multipurpose arena at New Mexico State University. Aggies basketball and international music stars fill the arena. A few miles west of Las Cruces, Mesilla and its charming historic plaza have art galleries, cafés, pecan tree-lined back roads, and the ghosts of Billy the Kid and other infamous and famous characters whose boots once tread here.
Alamogordo (86 miles) and Cloudcroft (105 miles)
Near Alamogordo, White Sands National Monument is 275 square miles of stark-white gypsum dunes, unique in all the world. The entire family will enjoy sliding down the dunes. Hikers enjoy the solitude and specialized life forms that have adapted to life in this area. Photographers revel amid the surreal image opportunities. Chances are you've already seen White Sands in any number of movies and commercials. Don't miss the New Mexico Museum of Space History in Alamogordo, and learn about this area's important historic and continuing contribution to space exploration. Although nearby, Cloudcroft seems a world away at 8,668 feet above sea level and surrounded by thick forest. This quaint town, formerly supported by logging, is now home to many artists and several nearby astronomical facilities attracted by the high altitude and clear skies, including the National Solar Observatory.
Deming (102 miles)
This quaint city boasts a historic brick downtown and the impressive Deming Luna Mimbres Museum and Custom House, with items and artifacts from the area's storied past, including an extensive Mimbres pottery collection. It makes a great base for visiting nearby City of Rocks and Rockhound state parks, as well as Columbus, famous for Pancho Villa's infamous raid here in 1916.
Truth or Consequences (118 miles)
Although it sounds like an Old West gunslinger challenge, Truth or Consequences is actually named for the 1950s TV game show, which offered publicity to any community that named itself after it. Geronimo and his Apache warriors soaked in the healing hot springs here (Hot Springs was the town's original name). Today, people from all over still rejuvenate in the soothing springs and enjoy all manner of water play, fishing and boating at nearby Elephant Butte State Park, so named because the shape of the reservoir's center island resembles an elephant.
Ruidoso and Ruidoso Downs (132 miles)
Ruidoso is named for the sound of gurgling water from the Río Bonito and other mountain streams teeming with fish that flow through its forested mountains. In town, visitors explore shops and restaurants when they're not skiing and snowboarding at 12,000-foot Ski Apache. It's America's southernmost ski area that is an enterprise of the Mescalero Apache, who have called this area home for centuries. In the summer, hikers, mountain bikers, anglers, and nature lovers explore the surrounding Lincoln National Forest. At 6,900 feet above sea level, this area provides a cool retreat even in summer. Motorcyclists from across the nation convene here every September for the Golden Aspen Motorcycle Rally, the perfect time to begin looking for the changing fall colors. In nearby Alto, theSpencer Theater offers world-class performances. In the city of Ruidoso Downs, there's horse racing at Ruidoso Downs and Casino Memorial Day through Labor Day, and the Hubbard Museum of the American West displays art and artifacts.
Silver City (155 miles)
Gateway to the Gila Wilderness, Silver City is enjoying its reputation as an artsy, bed-and-breakfast retreat and home to Western New Mexico State University. The 3.3-million-acre Gila Wilderness, America's largest and first wilderness area, is just north of charming Silver City. Here, the Mogollon people's 12th-century cliff ruins at Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument speak to humans' long association with the area.
Carlsbad (164 miles)
Descend more than a mile into Carlsbad Caverns National Park to explore caverns with names such as Hall of the White Giant, filled with fantastic features of stalagmites, stalactites, cave pearls, and other wonders of millions of years of sulfuric acid erosion. For the even more adventurous, don a hard hat and follow rangers through "wild" caves, such as Spider Cave. Of course Carlsbad is more than a hole in the ground. Make sure to explore Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park and the shopping and restaurants in town to see what's happening above ground.
Socorro (189 miles)
Scientists from around the globe use the Very Large Array Radio Telescope, 50 miles west of Socorro, to study distant galaxies and deep-space objects. The visually stunning site has been seen in the movie Contact and many other productions. Socorro itself has a grassy plaza lined with galleries, restaurants, and microbreweries. Just east of the city is Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.
Artesia (202 miles)
Named for the artesian wells found here, Artesia is known for its oil and gas wealth, as well as refurbished historic Main Street, with public art and Heritage Walkway. It has a thriving local theater, arts, and music scene. Don't miss the Artesia Historical Museum and Art Center to learn more about the area's history.
Roswell (203 miles)
If you'd like to have an out-of-this-world time, go to Roswell. World over, the area is known for the Roswell Incident, when in 1947, the U.S. military allegedly recovered a crashed spaceship from another world here. The International UFO Museum describes this and other alleged UFO incidents. Even the streetlights in Roswell are shaped like alien heads. Make sure to also see the Roswell Museum and Art Center and the Anderson Museum of Contemporary Art, showing that this attractive community is more than just little green men, (well, the museum says they were gray).
Hobbs (234 miles)
This quaint town enjoys a colorful, revitalized Main Street and is headquarters to the Soaring Society of America, the nation's largest glider organization. Its open spaces, good wind, and thermals make Hobbs a destination for glider pilots worldwide. From June 27 to July 8, Hobbs will host the Open Standard Class Nationals gliding contest. Hobbs is also home to Zia Park horse racetrack and Black Gold Casino, with 750 slot machines and three restaurants. Hobbs is also home to Southwest Symphony.