14 Best Free Things to Do in New Mexico

This state, fortunate to have spectacular desert landscapes, beautiful snowcapped mountains, and a multi-cultural population, is full of fascinating things to do. Explore the entire state, and you’ll find the state has much to offer at no cost to visitors.

Randall Davey Audubon Center & Sanctuary, Santa Fe, NM

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between a Juniper Titmouse and Northern Flicker bird is? A stop here will answer this birding question and so many more. With about 190 species identified, this is not just a sanctuary; it’s a birder’s paradise! The grounds are filled with various native plants, creating a rich biodiverse environment. Which helps attract all these birds. Open 8 am to 4 pm daily, closed Sunday.

Petroglyph National Monument, Albuquerque, NM

Scrabble up, over, and around boulders on the trails of this volcanic escarpment for an up-close-and-personal look at one of the largest displays of native peoples’ and Spanish settlers rock art in North America. These petroglyphs, images carved into these volcanic rocks, represent thousands of years of cultural history to both ethnic groups. Trails range in length and difficulty. Open year-round. Check seasonal hours.

White Sands Missile Range Museum, Las Cruces, NM

If you want to see a missile up close, this is the place. A specific outdoor area dubbed the Missile Park contains 50 different projectiles. From the earliest developed on the adjacent White Sands Missile Range in the 1940s to today. The main museum has exhibits, artifacts, and other materials relevant to the Range and the history of the Tularosa Basin area. Open every day, except Sunday and Federal holidays.

Museum of Navajo Art & Culture, Farmington, NM

The Navajo Nation covers more than 17,000,000 acres, a small portion of which is located near this town in the state's northwestern corner. Exhibits include Navajo textiles from the early 1900s, an impressive collection of Navajo rugs, a comprehensive selection of native fabrics, and displays on the Navajo people's art, culture, and history. Open Thursday through Saturday, 10 am to 4 pm.

Free Spirits at Noisy Water, Ruidoso, NM

There, perhaps, is nothing more awe-inspiring than wild horses running free. This sculpture captures, in bronze, eight different breeds of horses running through a natural landscape. It is one of the most enormous equine sculptures in the world … 225 in length, each horse weighing between three and five thousand pounds—a spectacular piece of public art not to be missed.

Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, Taos, NM

This three-span steel deck arch bridge is the second-highest on the U.S. highway system and the tenth highest in the country. Called the “bridge to nowhere” because of funding issues at the time of construction, with a 1,280-foot span, it’s been named “The Most Beautiful Steel Bridge” in the long span category. Access is from either side; pedestrian sidewalks make walking across less treacherous. Views are spectacular but watch your step!

McDonald’s Restaurant, Roswell, NM

The golden arches here hover over a shiny metal saucer-shaped dome that, at night, glows like a red and yellow spaceship. Built in the 1990s, it’s one of the few non-McDonald-themed restaurants in the country. Be sure to check out all the intergalactic touches—things like sculptures, artwork, and little green aliens scattered about. There's also a play area for kids that showcases iconic McDonald's items floating in space. Of course, the not out-of-this-world is standard McDonald fare.

PistachioLand, Alamogordo, NM

Yes, this is where you’ll find the world’s largest pistachio—an enormous, faithful representation of this delicious nut that towers 30 feet over the surrounding farm. There's plenty to do once you’ve done a 360 around this giant nut. You can take a motorized farm tour, pick your favorite pistachio at the free nut bar, have some ice cream (pistachio), and stroll through the country store. Be sure to snag a pistachio stress ball key chain before leaving. Open daily from 10 am to 5 pm.

Belen Harvey House, Belen, NM

Fred Harvey developed a succession of lunchrooms, restaurants, souvenir shops, and hotels for passengers traveling along the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe railway lines for whom this house is named. This eatery, built in 1910, showcased all of the elegance and amenities that the Harvey House system was famous for and served passengers until the late 1930s. After falling into disrepair, it was restored by the citizens of Belen. Now a museum, it’s open Noon to 5 pm Tuesday through Friday, and 10 am to 5 pm on Saturday.

The Railroad Museum, Las Cruces, NM

Train travel transformed the U.S, making it easier and cheaper to take a trip. This museum, located in the historic Santa Fe Depot, provides a comprehensive overview of the impact of the railroad on both city and the Mesilla Valley. Peruse the photographs, artifacts, railroadiana, and exhibits on local history; check out the collection of actual train cars. You can even be the conductor on one of three working model train layouts. Hours Tuesday through Friday, 10 am to 4:30 pm and Saturday, 9 am to 4:30 pm.

Bisti Badlands/Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness, Bloomfield, NM

A hoodoo is not a who; it’s a what. You’ll see plenty of these weathered rock formations in this barren area known for the fantastic pinnacles, spires, and other unusual forms caused by erosion. An excellent place to start your exploration of this unique landscape is from Bisti Access Parking Area. There are no designated trails, but you can discover some remarkable sites, stumble across fossils, spot wildlife just a short hike from the parking area. Open year-round; no amenities, so pack in everything you need.

The Loretto Chapel, Santa Fe, NM

A miraculous spiral staircase that defies logic is the focal point of this gothic-style church. The stairs, which provide access to the choir loft, have two complete 360 degree turns with no center pole for structural support; its entire weight rests on the bottom stair. The story behind its construction involves prayers by the Sisters of Loretto and an enigmatic carpenter. Please read all about it at this awe-inspiring chapel. Open 364 days a year; closed on Christmas Day.

Cosmic Campground International Dark Sky Sanctuary, Glenwood, NM

Find a spot here during the day, so you’re ready for a nighttime show that happens just by looking up into the sky. In the Gila National Forest, the remoteness of this campground makes the quality of the starry night experience exceptional. With no artificial light affecting the view, the 360-degree panorama of constellations, stars, and distant galaxies is unobstructed—primitive camping, first-come-first-served, no fees, 14-day stay limit.

Santuario de Chimayo, Chimayo, NM

It is known as a pilgrimage site,  a place of worship, and healing from the time of the Pueblo Indians. Visitors come from around the world for its miraculous healing soil, a potential cure for afflictions of both body and soul. There’s a legend about a crucifix that’s added to its renown. Spend some time meditating in the gardens, celebrate a Catholic Mass, and take time in the shrine whose walls are covered in discarded crutches to reflect on the spiritual power this sacred place holds for so many.

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