I am a roadtripper at heart, so I knew I wanted my big trip of 2021 to include long drives, new scenery, national parks, local art, and goofy roadside attractions. So I headed to my 45th state: New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment. Here are some highlights:
Getting Your Kicks On Route 66
Stretching from Chicago to Santa Monica, Historic Route 66 still maintains many of it's iconic roadside attractions and small towns boasting Route 66 memorabilia. Downtown Albuquerque is one of these historic districts, plus there are tons of fun stops to see depending on how you make your way to NM!
Sandia Peak Tramway
This was terrifying yet beautiful ride I recommend to everyone visiting Albuquerque. Be sure to buy tickets ahead of time and note that as of October 2021 they were enforcing masks in the visitor centers and trams. I enjoyed the views and relaxed with a book but there is hiking and skiing options available too if you're feeling more adventurous.
Indian Pueblo Cultural Center
Petroglyph National Monument
This was one of my favorite trails (NW Albuquerque)! Petroglyph National Monument protects one of the largest petroglyph sites in North America - consisting of over 20,000 Puebloan and Spanish carvings. You won't be able to see anything from the road or visitor's center. There are three different areas to choose from with trails of varying levels of difficulty. Select the best trail for you and enjoy the beautiful scenery while spotting the various symbols carved into the volcanic rock. Some are easier to see than others!
Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Also, from May to October they open the Bat Flight Amphitheater where you can watch thousands of bats spill out from the cave at around sunset. No phones/cameras/video/electronics allowed - so everyone is just in the moment, mesmerized together. Definitely worth circling back to the park for or planning your hike later in the day.
White Sands National Park
Another incredible national park experience I recommend to everyone visiting. I swapped my hiking shoes for sandals for this one! Brings LOTS of water, sunscreen, and be mindful of where you park your car. Climbing the dunes blocks out the road and most sound - so a few dunes in you feel like you are completely isolated in a beautiful, serene, landscape. Sleds are also available for purchase at the visitor center!
Meow Wolf has been on my bucket list for over a decade and didn't disappoint. It's an immersive, interactive, art installation featuring over 70 rooms to explore with collaborations from over 250 artists. (For those from Columbus, it was the inspiration for Otherworld). Schedule your tickets ahead of time and give yourself a few hours to wander around intricately designed rooms and secret passageways.
Canyon Road is a half-mile stretch of road in Santa Fe that is home to hundreds of galleries, boutiques, and restaurants. If you love admiring local art, definitely carve out some time to stroll and explore everything Canyon Road has to offer. There is such a wide variety of amazing artists and so much to see!
Bandelier National Monument
Bandelier National Monument is a 33,000+ acre site located near Los Alamos (about an hour from Santa Fe) at the base of Frijoles Canyon. The park is gorgeous with tons of hikes, wildlife, and history. You'll be able to see ancestral Pueblo cliff dwellings and structures - some you can even climb into!
- Check museum and park websites before your visit, especially peak season. I missed out on the Georgia O'Keefe museum in Santa Fe because I didn't plan ahead for it. Don't make the same mistake I did! (Guess I'll just have to go back, right?)
- Water. All the time. I kept a case in my car to grab throughout the day.
- If you know you'll be visiting a few of the National Parks and National Monuments, consider the Annual Pass. It's $80 and good for a year. In just this trip I got my money's worth! Keep in mind too, you may want to purchase it at your first park or monument visit so you have it in-hand. If you order it online you'll have to wait a few weeks to receive it in the mail. So plan accordingly!
- As of October 2021, most places enforced the mask mandate. Make sure you pack a few along with some hand sanitizer and always respect local guidelines when traveling. For longer excursions (long plane rides, exploring the caverns, etc.) consider bringing 2 masks to freshen it up, as needed.
Written by Ali Iovino
Ali is the Director of Marketing at Uniglobe Travel Designers. She is an avid road-tripper and will use any excuse to hit the open road. In her spare time she can be found volunteering in Columbus, hanging out with other people's dogs, or visiting family on Long Island.