How to See New Mexico in Four Days
Day One ... Eve
Let me start by saying thank you to the genius who invented the Cabeau travel pillow. May you never get the middle seat.
On the eve of day one we landed in Albuquerque and picked up our rental car from Enterprise. I usually rent from Turo, but someone else booked it and I wasn’t going to say no to some help planning. Once we got the car we raced over to Isleta Resort and Casino so our bodies could collapse from exhaustion. We were really excited though, I swear.
Day One: Part One
After a very basic breakfast of matcha lattes and avocado toast at Grove Cafe and Market, we were off to Truth or Consequences; and although the town sounded like a scary movie you don’t want to be in, we knew we loved New Mexico already.
During the drive between Albuquerque and Truth or Consequences we stopped at Bosque del Apache and Elephant Butte to break up the drive. Bosque del Apache… very cool. Elephant Butte… not so much. Neither place is worth breaking your back to get too, but if you have the time, Bosque del Apache is a National Wildlife Refuge known for watching the migration of the Sandhill Cranes in the fall.
Day One: Part Two
When we arrived at our scary movie destination, I mean Truth or Consequences, we checked in at our accommodation, the Riverbend Hot Springs Resort. At the front desk checking in we got asked, “Is this your first time soaking?” … Uh, can you please repeat the question? ... “Have you soaked with us before?” … add that question to the list of first timers. But on a serious note, make these accommodation reservations in advance. It’s a popular spot and rooms fill up.
We spent the day in one of their three public hot springs. It was a Pinterest dream: hot springs overlooking the Rio Grande, hammocks and swinging chairs ... the only thing missing was a string of hanging light bulbs. When the time came, we switched from the public hot springs to the private one we had booked for an hour, the Tierra. For $10 per person we had the hot spring to ourselves and watched the sunset over our private balcony. Clothing was optional...or so we were told ten times. Sorry to ruin the fun, but we kept our clothes on.
Day Two: Part One
Naturally starting our day with breakfast, Passion Pie Cafe had incredible ham egg and cheese sandwiches that were melt in your mouth good. Perfect for a hangover. Which I was not … Ok I’m lying. Anyway, my also not hungover friends and I started our drive to the White Sands National Monument where 275 square miles of white gypsum sand dunes waited for us. Bring a hat when you go if you want to avoid the painful head sunburn… I did not. I was having too much fun sledding on the sand to notice. For $10 you can rent a sled and they’ll give you $3 back when you return it. We ended up giving ours to a couple of kids that didn’t have one along the way out.
If sledding is not your thing and you’re looking for a hiking experience there are four trails ranging from half a mile to five miles. To avoid sounding like my mother I won’t ask you to please bring water… but please bring water. They have free fountains at the visitor’s center where you can fill up your containers.
Day Two: Part Two
Half way through the day we left the White Sands and were headed for Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Now I know this article is titled “How to See New Mexico in Four Days,” but if I’m being honest, we probably should have split this day into two. Carlsbad features more than 100 caves and as visitors you’re able to walk inside of them and see the stalactites clinging to the roof. We got there too late for this. But cheer up because after waiting until dusk exploring Rattlesnake Springs, we watched 300,000 bats fly out of the cave. There is never a guarantee the bats will come out at night so we felt pretty lucky in this moment. We also felt hungry so we ate at the only restaurant open... Chiles.
The next two days you could have found us at La Posada de Sante Fe, a Tribute Portfolio Resort and Spa. That is if we weren’t abducted by aliens first. Roswell’s UFO Museum is a great place to stop and break up the drive to Santa Fe.
While we waited for our room to be ready we spent two hours going into fireplaces, walking through refrigerators, and poking our heads into washing machines. Think I’m crazy? Then you’ve never heard of Meow Wolf, an immersive art experience filled with multiple realms. I won’t tell you anymore because you need to experience this for yourself. Tip: buy the glasses.
Once we worked up an appetite getting road trippy, we ate at Rooftop Pizzeria and settled at La Fonda on the Plaza. Although La Fonda has some small plates, we were thankful we ate before we got there. It’s a perfect chill spot for cucumber margaritas and sunset watching. Once the sun sets it can get a little breezy, but they hand out blankets to cuddle around the fire pits with.
If breakfast burritos are your thing, head to Palacio Cafe. Don’t go if you like good service, don’t go if you’re in a rush, go if you have time to sit and wait around a while for amazing burritos.
To digest our massive burritos we walked around Santa Fe before heading to Bandelier State Park. Bandelier is filled with archaeological sites and protects over 33,000 acres of canyon and mesa country. So much culture still survives here; the petroglyphs alone are worth seeing. You drive about an hour to get there, park, and take a shuttle to the visitors center. In the interest of time, the main loop trail was perfect for us. We saw the park in 1.2 miles then made our way over to Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, our last New Mexico excursion.
We were sad to see our trip come to an end, but we were thankful we fit so much into four days.