The ancient city of Taos, New Mexico, USA.

8 Offbeat Towns to Visit in New Mexico

The 47th US state is rightly nicknamed "The Land of Enchantment." Aside from its historically rich cities of Albuquerque and Santa Fe, there are tons of unforgettable small towns in New Mexico, including the UFO-themed attractions in Roswell of Chaves County or the cozy town of Chimayo in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The Land of Enchantment also has its collection of offbeat towns recognized for their uniquely distinct characters. 


Ancient dwellings of Taos Pueblo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in New Mexico. Taos Pueblo is believed to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements in the USA.

Ancient dwellings of Taos Pueblo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in New Mexico.

Since the 1920s, Taos fascinated artists and creative souls. Its name is derived from the Taos language, meaning "place of red willows." You don't need to be an artist to appreciate Taos; this town in Northcentral, New Mexico's vibrant heritage and culture makes it unique.

Take a photo of the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, admiring its size and surroundings of dramatic cliffs and flowing Rio Grande River below. This bridge is one of the highest of its kind in the US highway system and was featured in Hollywood films like Terminator SalvationWhite Sands, and Natural Born Killers.

Taos also has over 20 sites that are part of the National Register of Historic Places, including Taos Pueblo at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Learn more about North America's oldest continuously inhabited community, which is home to nearly 4,500 people today. The multi-story adobe homes are a remarkable site and have been inhabited for over 1,000 years.

The churches in Taos are just as beautiful as its adobe homes, beaming with historic character like the 300-year-old San Francisco de Asis in Ranchos de Taos.  Every June, parishioners and community members re-plast the church in adobe to preserve the church's historicity in an event known as "The Enjarre" or "the mudding." Besides its impressive adobe structure, don't forget to check out the mysterious glow of "The Mystery Painting" or "The Shadow of the Cross" by Henri Ault within the church. This painting can be seen in the dark, set inside a controlled environment!


Quaint roadside shop in Madrid, New Mexico.

Quaint roadside shop in Madrid, New Mexico.

Madrid, New Mexico's oldest coal mining region, is hidden in the mineral-rich geography of the Ortiz Mountains. Mining in Madrid started as early as the 1850s, though the town gained fame for its display of Christmas lights in the 1920s and 1930s—so much so that airlines rerouted traffic in the holidays so passengers could see them.

Madrid is only 1 hour north of Albuquerque and makes for a great day trip destination! This Sante Fe county town is recognized as an artist hub and mountain community in the present day, with over 40 shops, galleries, and restaurants, as well as a spa and museum. Shop all things steampunk at 10 PM Steampunk or find the elusive Cerrillos Turquoise at Gypsy Gem. Plus, Madrid's mining history can still be appreciated by history buffs at the Mineshaft Tavern or the Coal Mine Museum. 


Bank of Magdalena building, located at the north corner of First Street (U.S. Highway 60) and Main Street in Magdalena, New Mexico. Viewed from the south.

Bank of Magdalena building, at the north corner of First Street (U.S. Highway 60) and Main Street in Magdalena, New Mexico.

Magdalena is known as the "Trail's End" from the building of the 1884 railroad spur line, which transported cattle, sheep wool, ore, and timber from Socorro to Magdalena. From the 1880s to the 1970s, thousands of cattle and sheep were transported along Magdalena's  "Stock Driveway", which remains intact today.

The small town marches to the beat of its drum. The majesty of the Magdalena Mountains is dazzling, though other attractions beckon curious travelers here.

Less than 3 miles from Magdalena will transport travelers to Kelly, a ghost town that once housed over 3,000 people. Kelly is a relic of a former mining boomtown complete with mine works, a cemetery, and the Kelly Church (which still hosts the periodic festivals).

Visitors will also be close to the world's most powerful radio telescope at the Very Large Array. This system features an 82-foot dish with 8 receivers and 28 antennas. The Bracewell Radio Sundial is also quite the site at the Very Large Array. Here, time can be told using the movement of an upright object's shadow (in the Bracewell Sundial's case, its slim metal post with a large sphere attached to it) as the Sun moves from the east to west direction. This particular sundial can not only tell time but inform visitors of (roughly) the current time of year! 

Silver City

Old historic building in the ghost town of Silver City, New Mexico, USA.
Old historic building in the ghost town of Silver City, New Mexico, USA. Editorial credit: travelview /

Silver City has plenty of selling points to the world. This Southwest New Mexico town borders the Continental Divide and boasts a vibrant history connected to notable figures, from the famous Old Wild West's Billy the Kid to the Hearst Family. Plus, Silver City's blend of Native American, Hispanic, and Anglo settler culture paired with its 300-plus days of sunshine are the cherries on top of this offbeat New Mexico town.

The natural sights of Silver City are also pretty inspiring!

Venture along the Catwalk National Recreation Trail or "The Catwalk," a half-mile-long bridge popular among many visitors of every hiking expertise. This short trail winds through slim canyon walls over the flowing Whitewater Creek.

Nature enthusiasts can come and visit New Mexico's "most remote spot" at the Gila National Forest, bestowed with over 3 million acres of wilderness areas, among them being the Gila Wilderness, the country's first wilderness. The Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument also lies within the Gila National Forest. Go back in time and discover the lives of the Mogollon people, who inhabited the area from the 1280s to the early 1300s!


The Abó Unit of Salinas Pueblo Missions comprises approximately 370 acres near Mountainair, New Mexico.

The Abó Unit of Salinas Pueblo Missions near Mountainair, New Mexico. By MLMarkel, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Mountainair can be your base for memorable adventures across New Mexico; this town is only hours away from destinations like Santa Fe, Ruidoso, and Albuquerque. Curious travelers will love this small central New Mexico town, though, and it is a bucket-worthy destination itself with its cool summer nights, mild winters, and friendly locals.

Mountainair is known as the "Gateway to Ancient Cities" for a reason; here, visitors can awe at the preserved 17th-century walls of the nearby Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument encompassing three sites—Abó, Quarai, and Gran Quivira.

In August, breathe in the fresh air of Mountainair and be one with the festivities at the annual Sunflower Festival, a family-friendly, art-centric event. Don't forget to sip on a refreshing malt at Meds & More, Mountanair's pharmacy, with an old-fashioned soda fountain!

Pie Town

Gatherin’ Place Cafe and Pie Shop in Pie Town, New Mexico, USA.
Gatherin’ Place Cafe and Pie Shop in Pie Town, New Mexico, USA. Editorial credit: Adam Reck /

Drive along US Highway 60 in New Mexico's Catron County, and eventually, you will pass by Pie Town. This small town got its colorful name from a local bakery that specialized in dried apple pies. This 1920s bakery was run by Clyde Norman, who sold these tantalizing pastries to traveling ranchers.

Pie Town is more than a pit stop for passing cyclists and hikers. The town is also home to Native American relics, from Anasazi and Acoma pottery shards to axe heads. Pie Town is a must-visit destination for passionate pie enthusiasts.

Every September, the town hosts the Pie Town Annual Pie Festival, which includes a pie-baking contest, games, music, and arts and crafts. Pie Town is also the proud home of Pie-O-Neer, a family-owned cafe that's been baking pies in its ovens since the 1920s! Stop by this iconic pie shop for a comforting slice of pie.

Besides delectable pies, the town is near the Continental Divide Trail, a massive trail stretching across the US and between the borders of Mexico and Canada. Adventurous and nature-loving souls embarking on this course will be spoiled with epic views, from the sandy deserts of New Mexico to the peaks of the Rockies.


Blue Swallow Motel at night with a classic car parked in front, located on Route 66 in Tucumcari, New Mexico.

Blue Swallow Motel on Route 66 in Tucumcari, New Mexico. By tpallanch, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Tucumcari in Quay County has welcomed visitors for years, especially travelers venturing on Interstate 40 or the historic US Route 66. Today, tourists remain drawn to Tucumcari to experience its Western hospitality, vibrant culture, and dinosaurs!

Tucumcari is famous for its network of murals, proudly displayed in and around the town's streets and businesses. Find and admire nearly 100 works of artistic murals around Tucumcari, from its historic downtown to spots along the former Route 66.

Then, get up close and personal with the creatures of the Mesozoic Period at the Mesalands Community College's Dinosaur Museum and Natural Sciences Laboratory. This exhibit space hosts a collection of fossils, including a 40-foot-long skeleton of the carnivorous dinosaur, the Torvosaurus!

If you need to cool off from the heat, the Conchas Lake State Park is 32 miles away and is ideal for boating and other watersports. The Ute Lake State Park is another water wonderland and is one of New Mexico's longest lakes, stretching nearly 13 miles long.


San Ysidro Catholic Church in Corrales, New Mexico.

San Ysidro Catholic Church in Corrales, New Mexico. By Always dreamin, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Corrales attracted many American, Hispanic, and European farmers, who set roots in the town, raised livestock and grew a melange of produce. For years, creative minds and artists also flocked to the small town of Corrales. This New Mexico town may be just outside the busy streets of Albuquerque, but it still enjoys its calm and rural ambiance.

Remnants of the past are still visible at Corrales, especially the Casa San Ysidro. This adobe home was built in the 1870s and is home to an exhibit of salvaged architecture, furniture, religious art, tools, pottery, and weavings from the 17th to 19th centuries. The Old San Ysidro Church is another site worth a visit. This beautiful church was built in 1868 and still hosts community events, from concerts to art fairs.

Travelers feeling festive can join the celebrations in Corrales with its year-round events, including the Corrales Harvest Festival, the Starlight Parade, or the annual Garden Tour!

Discover New Mexico's Hidden Highlights

New Mexico's offbeat towns testify to its rich tapestry of history, culture, and natural beauty. From Taos's artistic allure and ancient adobe structures to Pie Town's quirky culinary celebrations, each destination offers a unique glimpse into the state's diverse identity. Madrid's creative transformation, Mountainair's ancient ruins, Silver City's vibrant history, Magdalena's cosmic connections, Tucumcari's Route 66 nostalgia, and Corrales's pastoral charm illustrate the varied experiences awaiting explorers. This concise guide invites travelers to discover New Mexico's hidden gems, where history, nature, and culture converge into unforgettable experiences.

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