9 Can’t-Miss Experiences in New Mexico

We packed our Allpa bags and headed out to test our newest Gear for Good in the wild. The destination this season? New Mexico. Think chile peppers, hot air balloons, and bright blue doors. From the architecture and art to the food and landscapes, the “Land of Enchantment” is just as worthy a destination as other southwest states (looking at you, Colorado). After spending a week everywhere from the skies of Albuquerque to the waters of Taos, we’ve rounded up 9 can’t-miss experiences organized by region to hit during your next trip to NM.   


Santa Fe

  • Eat at Pasqual’s Cafe. This quirky restaurant-gallery combo only seats 50 people at any given time, so be sure to make a reservation. The cozy atmosphere, community tables, and unique seasonal dishes make Pasqual’s a must. Some dinner favorites included the Pan-Seared Arctic Char in Lemongrass Coconut Sauce and Roasted Spaghetti Squash in Brown Butter. 
  • Visit the Sante Fe Farmers’ Market. Stationed at the Santa Fe Railyard, this iconic farmers’ market takes place on Tuesdays and Saturdays. With everything from local produce, pastries, and coffee to handmade jewelry, chile ristras, and bouquets, it’s the perfect stop for all things New Mexico. 


  • Grab a string of Chile Ristras at a local shop. What’s a chile ristra, you ask? Chile ristras are a strand of dried chiles (a staple in Southwestern cuisine) that are typically hung by front doors, on patios, and used in kitchens all over New Mexico. They’re said to bring good health and good luck–and a fun pop of color–to your home. 

    • Wander around the local art galleries. There are tons surrounding the Santa Fe Plaza. From well-known places like the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum and the immersive Meow Wolf installation, to smaller galleries featuring local artists, there’s something for everyone in the Santa Fe art scene.  

    Las Cruces

    • Hike the Bar Canyon Trail. This quick and moderate 2.7-mile hike features gargantuan rock features, wildflowers, sprawling grasses, and a waterfall to top it off.

    • Check out the Organ Needles Trail. Featuring a 3,579 ft climb, this challenging 5.8-mile out-and-back trail offers some rugged views, waterfalls, gnarly terrain, and the chance at a little scrambling. 



    • Book a hot air balloon ride. Home of the International Balloon Fiesta that dates back to 1972, Albequerque’s optimal wind conditions and air temperatures make it the hot air balloon capital of the world. While we were there, we took a hot air balloon ride on a whim through Rainbow Ryders and they were top-notch. Our pilot Brad was great–he made everyone feel super comfortable in the air, shared colorful stories about the history of ballooning, and finished the ride off with a Champagne toast. 


    • Float the Rio Grande. Launch at John Dunn Bridge and take out at Arroyo Hondo Campground to float under the iconic Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. This fairly chill segment of the river makes for a great day trip, with just enough rapids to spice things up. Have time for a quick bonus trip? Check the river out from above on the rim of the gorge–it’s a great way to put things into perspective, literally.

    • Camp in the Orilla Verde Recreation Area. Nestled along the banks of the Rio Grande, camping on this BLM land is free and first-come-first-serve. The area is pretty quiet, sunsets make the desert colors pop, and views of the moon are insane on a clear night. 


    Whether you’re floating a river, camping, or hiking always remember to leave the area cleaner than you found it so everyone can enjoy the New Mexican wilderness.

    Looking to support a local nonprofit to give back to the community you're visiting? Connect with New Mexico Appleseed Poverty Action Lab. Focused on alleviating child poverty, NMA is working to improve socio-economic mobility and racial equity in New Mexico. They create long-term solutions by partnering with local communities to help with poverty prevention. See how you can get involved.


    Caroline Maahs is a writer based in Salt Lake City, UT. Follow along on IG @carolinemaahs