The world's largest statue of nut in Alamogordo, New Mexico. Editorial credit: Kristi Blokhin /

The Best Small Towns In New Mexico For A Weekend Retreat

Known as the land of enchantment, New Mexico is a mystical place with a diverse landscape and rich culture. The Sangre De Cristo and Guadalupe mountain ranges soar high into the bright blue sky and rest beneath vast desert floors and grasslands. The scenic Rio Grande River cuts right through the state, and the area is home to 15 national monuments and parks. The beauty here is like no other, and you could say it all feels a bit magical. Home to the Pueblo people, there’s a deep Native American history here that can be felt with the spirit that each little town holds. There are numerous old trading posts and art galleries one can visit, and the food scene here is like no other. Hatched green and red chile is served with almost every dish, and the spicy aroma from the peppers drifts through the air from roasters cooking the chile outside. New Mexico is one of those states you just have to experience for yourself. Discover the best small towns to travel to for your next weekend getaway as you explore the awe-inspiring southwest!


Ancient dwellings of the Taos Pueblo in New Mexico
Ancient dwellings of the Taos Pueblo in New Mexico.

Taos is a mythical art town with magical light. The community is surrounded by the Sangre De Cristo Mountains and is located in the north-central part of the state. About 6400 people live here, and artists from across the globe set out to call this incredible place home. The heart of the community is at the plaza, where old mercantile stores now house shops and galleries that celebrate the Indigenous culture, which is still very active. You can witness this at Taos Pueblo, an adobe building that has been the center for local trade for centuries. It’s the only living Native American community designated as both a World Heritage Site and a National Historic Landmark. A short drive from town, you can explore the serene Rio Grande River, which spans over 1800 miles in its entirety. A good destination point is the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, one of the tallest bridges in the country, resting 650 feet above the river. And if you’re up for an adventure, there are spectacular guided rafting tours that take visitors on a ride of their life down juicy whitewater rapids.

For a day of relaxation, Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs and Spa is a great place to stop. The mud baths and mineral springs in a desert setting will leave one feeling refreshed and recharged. Afterward, a great place to kick up your feet is at the Historic Taos Inn. The adobe-style architecture captures the culture of the town. It's located near the Taos Plaza, where you can find plenty of dining options, too.


El Santuario de Chimayo in Chimayo, New Mexico
El Santuario de Chimayo in Chimayo, New Mexico.

Situated in the foothills of the Sangre De Cristo Mountains, Chimayo is a darling little community of 3200 people that’s rich in history. The sky is clear and bright blue here, and it’s a place of spiritual exploration. People travel from afar to see the historic church, El Santuario de Chimayó. The National Landmark has been a space of worship since the early 1800s, and people visit the grounds for healing. It’s believed that the mud beneath the church has mystical powers that can vanish sickness and disease. Aside from history, there are several restaurants and weaving shops to explore around town. The patterns on the weaved quilts, rugs, and pillows here are recognized all over the world. Trujillo’s Weaving Shed is a good place to stop, and you can learn about the generations of Chimayo weavers at Centinela Traditional Arts. To explore more of the state's art scene, you can head to Santa Fe, where there are over 250 art galleries and 400 restaurants. Located 27 miles east of Chimayo, Santa Fe is equally as beautiful. It's referred to as "the dancing ground of the sun."

As far as places to stay, Casa Escondida is a peaceful bed and breakfast on six acres of land that's surrounded by mountains. For dinner, Rancho de Chimayo is a hidden treasure serving Mexican cuisine that’s internationally recognized.


Gallup, New Mexico
98th Gallup Inter-tribal Indian Ceremonial in Gallup, New Mexico. Editorial credit: Joseph Sohm /

Located in northwestern New Mexico on the Puerco River near the Arizona state line, Gallup sits in the heart of Native American ancestral homelands. The small town of 2100 people sits right next to the Navajo Nation, one of the largest tribal governments in the US. With that said, the community is teeming with Indigenous history. You can find over a hundred shops, galleries, and trading posts with authentic Native American art. The Hubbell Trading Post, 50 miles west of Gallup, is one of the oldest operating trading posts in the Navajo nation. Within a short drive, there are also ancient Indian ruins and stunning views to enjoy. At Chaco Culture National Historic Park, you will find a concentration of pueblos and ceremonial grounds. Or, for a fun day trip, you can head to Four Corners National Monument, which is about 125 miles from Gallup. It is the only place where four states meet, and you can stand in the spot where Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah intersect.

As far as places to stay, the historic El Rancho Hotel is iconic and has quite a decorated story. Some of Hollywood’s biggest movie stars stayed here when the area was romanticized as the Wild West. The hotel has a southwestern feel, and there’s a restaurant inside to enjoy a nice supper after a day of exploring.


Hatch Municipal Building,
The Hatch Municipal Building in Hatch, New Mexico. Image credit: AllenS, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Situated on the Rio Grande river valley in southern New Mexico, Hatch is a small community home to the best hatch chile in the state. With a small population of 4900 people, you will find locals selling the peppers around every corner. Hatch Valley used to be a floodplain for the Rio Grande Valley and has nutrient-rich soil that’s ideal for pepper growing. At the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum, about 45 miles away, you can learn about how chile farmers have been growing here for generations. Another worthwhile spot to explore is the Lake Valley Historic Townsite. It’s a ghost town that’s surrounded by an old mining site that had become a major settlement when silver was discovered. The area is now well-preserved, and there’s a small museum visitors can walk through to learn about the history.

As far as a great spot to stop and eat, Sparky's is somewhat of a roadside attraction. It is famously known for its green chile cheeseburger, and there are fun music events during the week. As for where to rest your head, you can go for a unique experience and sleep at a church. The historic St. Francis de Sales has rooms visitors can stay in that are attached to the old adobe church.

Silver City

Bullard Street in downtown Silver City, New Mexico
Bullard Street in downtown Silver City, New Mexico. Editorial credit: Underawesternsky /

The high desert town of Silver City is located in the southwestern part of the state at the foothills of the Pinos Altos Mountains and sits just east of the continental divide. The small town of just over 10,000 people has a decorated backstory of the Old West and parts of its heritage can be found around the community. Popular outlaws of the West, such as Billy the Kid, lived here. With its storied past, the downtown has an Old West feel mixed in with a vibrant art culture. It has transformed into somewhat of a hippie town now. With that said, over 30 festivals and events take place here during the year. The Silver City CLAY Festival takes place in the summer, and visitors can attend workshops and purchase gorgeous pottery.

As far as outdoor adventure, the town is considered the gateway to Gilla National Forest, where hiking trails and national monuments offer a peek into the past. The Gilla Cliff Dwellings are 45 miles north of Silver City and give visitors an idea of how the Mogollon people lived centuries ago. What makes the dwellings unique is they were built inside natural caves. Also nearby is a unique hike along the Catwalk National Recreation Trail that meanders through a narrow slot canyon and leads to gorgeous pools of water. It follows a water pipeline built in the late 1800s that used to supply water to an ore mill during the mining boom.

After a fun day of exploring, you can take a step back in time and stay at the Murray Hotel. Built-in the 1930s, the hotel is known for its Art Deco and its historical features have been preserved. It’s located in the downtown area near restaurants and shops.


Alamogordo, New Mexico
Alamogordo sign at the city limits on Highway 82 in Alamogordo, New Mexico. Editorial credit: Nagel Photography /

Home to White Sands National Park, Alamogordo is surrounded by unbelievable landscapes and is situated in the foothills of the Sacramento Mountains and Lincoln National Forest. The town has a population of 31,300 people and is a perfect in-between point for several tourist spots. White Sands National Park is about 16 miles west of town. Visitors can explore the 275 square miles of dunes. The largest gypsum dune field in the world is here, and it was created from an epithermal lake. Visitors can learn about how minerals form gypsum in the sand that is carried by the wind to form the magnificent white dunes. Another nearby spot is Pistachioland, home to the largest pistachio. It’s really just a statue, but it makes for a great family photo and conversation starter while telling people about your trip. You can learn about how pistachios are best grown in desert-like climate and how New Mexico is one of the three main suppliers in the country.

This is a great place for outdoor adventurers. With that said, there are plenty of places to camp. If you prefer a hot shower in the morning, the Classic Desert Aire Hotel might be a better option. It is reasonably priced and nestled in the foothills. There's a cafe and gift shop on site as well.

Los Alamos

Morning view of the Ashley Pond Park at Los Alamos, New Mexico
Morning view of the Ashley Pond Park at Los Alamos, New Mexico.

Located in northern New Mexico between the Rio Grande and the eastern rim of the Valles Caldera, Los Alamos is a beautiful town with quite a story about our nation’s defense. It has a population of 13,900 people and is known as one of the creation places of the atomic bomb. With that said, you can visit Bradbury Science Museum, which tells the story of the Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Manhattan Project, a program during World War II that focused on producing the first nuclear weapons. There are over 60 exhibits visitors can explore, going over the history of the atomic bomb and our national security system. You'll find Kasha Katuwe Tent Rock National Monument about an hour away, a site known for its gorgeous cone-shaped rock formations sculpted from volcanic eruptions. There’s a trail system that’s excellent for hiking and birdwatching. The Cave Loop Trail is an easy one-miler at the monument and has amazing views.

After an eventful day, the Pueblo Canyon Inn is a great place to unwind comfortably. The rooms and cabins are in a quiet setting with nature all around. It's about four miles away from downtown, where there are shops and restaurants.


Aerial view of Raton, New Mexico.
Aerial view of Raton, New Mexico.

Located in northeastern New Mexico just south of Raton Pass and near the Colorado border, Raton is a gorgeous little town with breathtaking scenery. It has a population of 6,000 people and is close to abundant outdoor recreation. About 30 miles east of town is Capulin Volcano National Monument, which showcases the volcanic geology of northeastern New Mexico. There are views of four different states from the volcanic rim, and when the sun goes down, you can experience one of the darkest night skies in the country. About 94 miles south is Fort Union National Monument, the main guardian of the Santa Fe Trail. Visitors can learn about how the path was one of the most important trade routes in the early to mid-1800s. The fort is on Pueblo land and was a stopping ground to protect travelers and commerce from attack.

A great pit stop to stay overnight is the Raton Pass Motor Inn, which is surrounded by mesas. The funky roadside motel has a 50s vintage feel. Each room has its own unique story and feel, highlighting the region’s greatness, such as the Santa Fe Trail.

New Mexico is an incredible state with a gorgeous and diverse landscape. From mesas to towering mountains, the views will simply take your breath away. The little towns are teeming with character and celebrate the arts, which you can see when visiting old trading posts or when wandering through art galleries. One can learn about the vibrant Native American culture in most of the towns and explore ancient Indian ruins as well. There are mystical churches to discover in places like Chimayo and stories to hear about the Wild West in towns such as Silver City. And there is no shortage of National Monuments and parks. The magic of New Mexico will surely have you booking your next trip in no time.

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