The quiet, unassuming village of Hatch, NM, is the most renowned chile-producing community in the state, that delivers more chilies than any other spot on earth. Each Labor Day the town hosts the Hatch Chile Fiesta, celebrating the red and green spicy peppers that decorate enchiladas throughout the state and beyond. New Mexico's second largest city, Las Cruces, is home to the only chile institute in the country, and the town stages their own annual celebration in honor of the chile pepper. At the Whole Enchilada Fiesta each September, everyone gets together to build the world's largest enchilada.
In addition to being renowned for its piquant chile peppers, the state of New Mexico is also well-known for being home to Billy the Kid, one of the Wild West's most legendary desperadoes. As a young man, Billy the Kid waited tables at the Star Hotel in Silver City, a rowdy mining town wherein much of the original 19th century Victorian architecture still exists. Many tourists choose to stay in Silver City, using it as a home base for exploring the surrounding ghost towns of Shakespeare, Kingston, and Mogollon. The nearby remains of an ancient Indian culture can be explored at Gila Cliffs Dwellings Natural Monument.
The New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum, which opened in 1998, chronicles the history of New Mexico's agriculture and rural life over the past 3,000 years. The museum is spread out over 47 acres, and features a working farm with live animals, demonstration kitchen, restaurant, old-fashioned general store, and a produce market. Nearby is the village of Mesilla, a lovely adobe village that was a center of Spanish Colonial influence. The well-preserved Plaza in the center of town still stands as it did on the day the Gadsden Purchase was signed in 1853. Mesilla hosts a variety of historic celebrations including a colorful Cinco de Mayo Fiesta in May.
For spelunkers, New Mexico offers numerous mountains and caverns for exploring. Rock and mineral hunters can trek through the Florida Mountains and find agate, jasper, opal, quartz crystals, and other stones at Rockhound State Park. To the northwest, the City of Rocks State Park offers a spectacular display of sculpted monoliths. Both parks are open to campers and hikers.
One of the most scenic drives in southern New Mexico winds from Alamogordo up through Lincoln National Forest east to the mountain village of Cloudcroft, and on to the all-season resort town of Ruidoso. This quaint little mountain town is favored by outdoor enthusiasts because of its terrific hiking, biking, fishing, and golf courses, and horse lovers are drawn to Ruidoso Downs for some of the finest thoroughbred and quarter horse racing in the West. The Mescalero Indian tribe operates a huge casino and the sprawling Inn of the Mountain Gods resort, as well as Ski Apache. The nation's southernmost major ski area is situated on the slopes of the 12,003-foot high Sierra Blanca Mountain.
Perhaps the most famous legend in all of New Mexico is centered in the southeastern plains community of Roswell. Just about everyone in the country knows the story of a farmer in 1947 who discovered a crashed UFO in his field along with the bodies of several aliens. The 'Roswell Incident', as it came to be known, has been the subject of a steady stream of controversy and speculation, and the ongoing publicity has resulted in Roswell becoming an international focal point for UFO-related activities. There are even two museums displaying information about the subject, and for a small fee you can visit the site where the supposed crash was found.
White Sands National Monument, near Alamogordo, is a tremendous 275-square mile ocean of crystal-white gypsum sand crafted into the most spectacular sand dunes in the western hemisphere. Just to the north, at Trinity Site on White Sands Missile Range, the first atomic bomb was detonated in 1945. Tours of the site are offered twice a year, on the first Saturday in April and October.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park has been the leading tourist attraction in New Mexico for over 75 years. The main cavern, known as the Big Room, is a breathtaking expanse that is the largest natural cave in North America. The Big Room is roughly the size of 14 football fields, and a mile-long guided tour takes tourists through a field of incredible limestone formations, some of which are millions of years old.
If you want to experience a trip through history, explore natural wonders found nowhere else on Earth, tour sites you've only heard about or seen in the movies, and enjoy some of the nation's finest golfing, skiing, hiking, and camping, you only need to point your car in the direction of New Mexico.