Nestled in the Tularosa Basin, at the top end of Mexico's Chihuahuan Desert, Alamogordo has its most prominent link to our country's military history. It has been the home to Holloman Air Base (and its various historical predecessors) since World War II and serves as the gateway to White Sands Missile Range. This makes it, of course, the birthplace of the atomic bomb. The A-bomb was conceived up in Los Alamos, N.M. But J. Robert Oppenheimer and his colleagues conducted the first explosive test of a plutonium-based weapon (code name “Trinity”) in the desert north of Alamogordo. The Trinity Test Site is opened to the public just two days a year—the first Saturday in April and the first Saturday in October. (Go to wsmr.army.mil/
Walk into any bar or restaurant in Alamogordo and you're likely to be greeted by the logos of various Air Force units that have been stationed in the area over the decades. Since 1996, the German Luftwaffe has maintained a German Air Force Tactical Training Center at Holloman. Unfortunately that contract is coming to an end—and the German Air Force hosted its last community Octoberfest celebration in 2017. (Sorry you missed it.) Still, Alamogordo serves as home base to countless retired military folks. And if you head a short distance out US82, you can hit the American Armed Forces Museum. This DIY exhibit spotlights all kinds of military memorabilia. Another local highlight is the rocket-filled New Mexico Museum of Space History, located at the base of the Sacramento Mountains, an essential stop that fully emphasizes the town's link to high-altitude history.
Back in the '90s, the old Sierra Theater in downtown Alamogordo was renovated into the Flickinger Center for Performing Arts. A variety of plays, concerts, musicals, dance recitals and beauty pageants are held there these days, making it the hub of the city's art scene. (Check out flickingercenter.com for a schedule of upcoming events.) Given the city's military history, it's not surprising that Alamogordo is a conservative place. (In 2001 the local Christ Community Church sponsored a public book burning of the Harry Potter series.) Perhaps that's why it's home to The Shroud Exhibit and Museum. This tiny, highly focused institution is described as an “interactive” exhibit, featuring a “full-sized, backlit picture of the Shroud of Turin.”
Even if your aren't into militaria, the natural wonders of the Tularosa Basin are abundant. Take a trip to White Sands and you can body-surf down towering sand dunes of glistening white gypsum. (Be sure to bring plenty of water and sun protection. There ain't no water at this beach.) Head in the other direction, drive to the top of the Sacramento Mountains, and you'll find yourself in the cool, pine-covered, ski area environs of Cloudcroft, N.M. Head a little deeper into that forest and you'll find yourself at the Mescalero Apache-maintained Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort & Casino, one of the state's most beautiful Native-owned resorts. ()