Michelle Brideaux shakes her head, thinking of all travelers miss when they come to Alamogordo, New Mexico, and see only White Sands National Park, the area’s main attraction.
Brideaux, the city’s communications & marketing manager, doesn’t question that White Sands and its 275 miles of startling white gypsum sand dunes is a must-see. There’s plenty to do there, with step-on guides, museum tours, picnics in vintage pavilions, and sunset and full moon programs.
But, she points out, this town of 30,000, tucked in a basin between mountain ranges in southcentral New Mexico, offers much more.
Go nuts with Alamogordo’s attractions
For example, there’s the opportunity to go a little nuts about pistachios, a cash crop here. Neighboring family-run farms, Heart of the Desert and McGinn’s PistachioLand, offer not only tours but gift shops stocked with all products pistachio, including ice cream. Each farm also has a winery. McGinn’s claims the world’s largest pistachio,
a manmade photo op that’s hard to pass up; Heart of the Desert’s patio faces pistachio trees and the west, perfect for sunset toasts.
Just a few miles up the road at Three Rivers Petroglyph Site, a short accessible trail makes it easy to see many of the 21,000 petroglyphs carved on the basaltic ridge, along with a stunning view of the basin.
Back in town, the Alameda Park Zoo is as old as Alamogordo. What began as a deer park in 1898 to entertain train passengers is today a 12-acre zoo shaded by cottonwoods. Known for environmental and educational programming, the zoo offers behind-the-scenes experiences about species it protects, including the Mexican grey wolf. After a visit, groups can chill with a local brew, live music, and tastes from diverse food trucks on the patio at 575 Brewing Co. or try homemade salsas, tamales, stuffed sopapillas, and enchiladas at CJ’s Si Senior.
Expand your group’s horizons
Given its wide skies and New Mexico’s role in space exploration, it makes sense Alamogordo would be home to the New Mexico Museum of Space History and International Space Hall of Fame. This Smithsonian Institution affiliate gets visitors involved, allowing them to experience how it feels when a rocket lifts off or what it’s like to land a space shuttle. Its New Horizons Dome Theater and planetarium make it easy to explore the Earth and space through large-format films and star shows.
Although Alamogordo is fairly temperate thanks to its 4,500-foot elevation, summertime temps drop another 20 degrees in nearby Cloudcroft. The Old West village is up a winding mountain road and its Burro Street Boardwalk is lined with popular shops. In the winter, skating, skiing, and sledding are popular pastimes.
Speaking of sledding, no one should leave town without renting a disc-style sled from the gift shop at White Sands National Park for a slide down the dunes. Soft sand makes it safe for any age. And, even in the summer, the sand stays cool, thanks to moisture beneath the surface, a remnant of the ancient sea that created the dunes– just one more fun surprise in a destination that’s full of them.
For more information, contact: