As someone who’s fairly new to Albuquerque and pretty much the entire state of New Mexico, it's exciting for me to discover what this sacred soil has to offer. To me, one of the greatest things about living in New Mexico—allow me a little cliché here—is the fact that while you're blasting through the desert at 70 miles per hour, you're never quite sure what mirage will pop up on your quest for self-discovery or a good burger. Having found my heart has always ventured toward the Southwest—you can check my college transcripts—this section of the state was a serendipitous locale to dissect and share with those wanting to explore New Mexico this summer.
Who doesn't like music? Whether you're one of those people who digs through obscure piles of LPs at your local record store or someone who jams top-40 favorites on your commute, music is a universal language, a common lingo. If you're looking for some fine Southwest music this summer, the Silver City Blues Festival may be your best bet. The fest takes place May 24 to 26 at Silver City's Gough Park, and it's a great way to share a festive experience with friends and loved ones while partaking in blues, a genre that never goes out of style. There's even a beer garden, but, naturally, a valid ID is required for that slice of desert heaven.
Since we're already in the Silver City area, it behooves me to mention that Silver City sits beside one of the biggest natural forests in the country, the Gila National Forest. My only real memories of indulging in natural surroundings were forays into Austin's Barton Creek Green Belt, and those were few and mostly on days featuring hangovers. The Gila National Forest is a place to forego sentiment and truly get in tune with your surroundings. Whether you're up for camping, hiking or just taking a nice stroll through some mountains, you'll find exciting adventures on these “500,000 acres of rugged land.” Operation times vary, so if you want to visit, make a phone call first.
After you've tried all of the previously suggested places, head down to Truth or Consequences to immerse yourself in geothermal mineral water baths. The city houses about 10 commercial spas, so you can feel tension exiting your body as you descend into warm, clear water.
Since you'll be in Southwest New Mexico, you may as well skip down to Las Cruces. Not only does this town boast some rich culture, it's also a mecca for wine enthusiasts. Who doesn't like a nice glass of wine? You can be the type who indulges in a postprandial goblet every night—it’s heart-healthy and all—or you can be a certified connoisseur of the vino arts: Either way, this is the place. Take a trip to local, family-run Amaro Winery on Melendres Street to learn which new pinos they’re selling (like I know what I'm talking about). Head down to Heart of the Desert Winery in Alamogordo, where they sell a heart-stopping merlot that won the gold at the 2009 New Mexico State Fair Wine Competition. Some other wineries for those interested in the grape include: Fort Selden Winery, Luna Rossa Winery and St. Clair Winery & Bistro, La Vina Winery in Anthony and many more.
This next one is for the New Mexican nerds, a.k.a. those who spend most of their time looking skyward. Southwest New Mexico is not only home to amazing forests, hearty wines and a breathtakingly desolate landscape, it's also host to the Very Large Array, one of the world's “premier astronomical radio observatories.” The VLA consists of 27 radio antennas on the plains of San Agustin. According to the good ol’ internet, the nearest town serving travelers is Magdalena. In other words, it boasts fine antiques and folk art. If you're looking for more in the area, Socorro is only 50 miles east of the VLA. But who wouldn't want to stick around while scientists and astronomers get feeds from outside Earth's atmosphere and dissect what those signals mean. Ever heard of the “Wow” Signal? The VLA has free tours on the first Saturday of each month from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
For your final slice of Southwest New Mexico—after you've tried all of the previously suggested places—head down to Truth or Consequences to immerse yourself in geothermal mineral water baths. The city houses about 10 commercial spas in Downtown, a.k.a. the Hot Springs District, so you can feel tension exiting your body as you descend into warm, clear water. If that doesn't sound appealing, I don't know what would.
These are just a few suggestions of things to do and try while in the Southwest region of this fine state. Some things are educational, some interesting, some adventurous and some that just seem downright memorable. And if things don't turn out the way you want, a nice drive through the desert is always a good cure-all in and of itself. That's one of the reasons I moved here.