There are tons of things to do in Southern New Mexico, but here are our picks for the five best:
1. Go to the Carlsbad Caverns. Explore the underground treasures at Carlsbad Caverns National Park in the Guadalupe Mountains, about a 27-mile drive west of the town of Carlsbad. Of the 118 limestone caves in the park, Carlsbad Cavern, more than 750 feet below ground, is the most famous for its amazing stalactite and stalagmite rock formations. The Big Room chamber is almost 4,000 feet long and reaches up 255 feet at its highest point. Take a self-tour or book ahead for ranger-guided cave tours.
2. See the dunes. The world’s largest gypsum dune field at White Sands National Monument is a sight to behold on a 16-mile round trip scenic drive. The shimmering white sands cover 275 square miles in rippling dunes that appear like snowy crests or ocean waves, depending how you squint at them. For a more intimate view, take to the dune trails on foot or join seasonal events such as sunset strolls, sunrise photography, and moonlight hikes with rangers. Some events require advance registration.
3. Get a taste of culture and the arts. At the International UFO Museum & Research Center in Roswell you can make up your own mind whether the controversial 1947 Roswell Incident was an alien spaceship crash or something more ordinary. When you're all spaced out on the flying saucer theme that infuses Roswell, art-lovers will enjoy the eclectic Anderson Museum of Contemporary Art and the fine works of New Mexico artists at the Roswell Museum and Art Center.
4. Learn about Southern New Mexico’s past. Walk in the footsteps of Southern New Mexico's ancestral inhabitants at the Gila Cliff Dwellings, about two hours from Silver City. Pueblo people built these dwellings in the 13th century and in some places their handprints are still visible. The cliff dwellings are surrounded by the Gila (pronounced Heela) Wilderness, an area home to (rarely sighted!) black bears, mountain lions, and wolves.
5. Soak up the springs. The small Southern New Mexico town originally called Hot Springs changed its name to Truth or Consequences in 1950 in honor of Ralph Edwards' popular radio show. The hot mineral springs are still there though and you can take a therapeutic soak at a number of spa establishments and hotels around town including the walk-in friendly Riverbend Hot Springs on the banks of the Rio Grande River. The quirky town is often dubbed T or C, as it rolls off the tongue more easily.