In order to escape icy roads and the hassles of shoveling endless northern snow, more and more snowbirds have been flocking to this southwestern state, a fun in the sun region that’s rich with lakes, rivers, forests, canyons, and mesas—not to mention always mild temperatures (the area boasts six of the Earth's seven climatic zones!), friendly people, tons of activities, and super quiet and economical locales.
It is indeed the “Land of Enchantment,” with the mystique of ancient American Indian tribe traditions having been passed down through the generations, offering unique languages, colorful dances, distinct arts, and cultural stories. What’s more is that the ghosts of famous figures such as Billy the Kid, Pat Garrett, and even Pancho Villa, are still present in many of the well-preserved mining and railroad towns, allowing visitors to dwell alongside old historic charm, a slower pace of life, the state's ever-so-beautiful scenic byways, and all of its numerous national and state parks and monuments. There are even dormant volcanoes, towering mountains, ancient lava flows, ice caves, fossil sites, and archeological digs waiting to be explored! Plus, you’ll have ample recreational options from fishing, boating, rafting, and sailing, to scuba diving in Santa Rosa's famous Blue Hole, and water skiing on some of New Mexico’s greatest rivers and lakes. There’s even plenty for golfers to choose from, with over seventy nine-hole, university, municipal, or world-class resort courses. Get back to your spiritual roots to connect with earth and sky, wind and water, sun and moon, as well as all of your ancestors at this dry and sunny mecca. Here are the five best destinations in New Mexico for snowbirds.
Where to Stay in New Mexico: Snowbirds' Guide
Found in southwestern New Mexico on NM Hwy 187 at mile marker 25, it is a snowbird destination that’s been growing rapidly in popularity. With a city name that derives from wild horses that once roamed the area, the original community of Caballo dates all the way back to 1908 when John Gordon and his family first made the area their home.
Towering above town, the majestic Caballo Mountains serve as the perfect backdrop for Caballo Lake State Park, which by itself, boasts an array of activities from water recreation and winter waterfowl watching, to watching cactus gardens bloom and reeling in some excellent bass, walleye, crappie, bluegill, perch, or catfish. What’s more is that it’s got a reputation of being quiet and super friendly—the ideal spot to sit back, relax, and just get away.
Caballo’s closest airport: El Paso International Airport
It’s one of the American Southwest's best-kept secrets and snowbirds seem to agree, as they’ve flocked down to this ‘spa city’ for over half a century now. Located about one hundred fifty miles south of Albuquerque and almost one hundred twenty miles north of El Paso, the region has remained unspoiled, offering views of breathtaking sandstone bluffs, deep blue skies, as well as numerous nearby state parks to explore.
In addition to all the outdoor recreation opportunities (i.e. water sporting, camping, and RVing)-- courtesy of the nearby Elephant Butte Lake State Park (the state’s largest and most popular lake)-- there are also an abundance of organizations for community service waiting for retirees with ample time and open arms. It’s also a paradise for fisherman, known to have record-breaking amounts of black, white, and striped bass, as well as crappie and bluegill, all throughout the three marinas, miles of hiking trails, sandy beaches, and magnificent views along its over forty mile stretch. Hot springs enthusiasts will no doubt enjoy the hot mineral baths at various bath houses in the area. And in case you do get hurt or sick, there’s the world-renowned 35-bed Sierra Vista Hospital as well as the Sierra Health Care Center, a nursing home that emphasizes rehabilitation. With the sun shining ever so brightly almost eighty percent of the daylight hours, it’s a snowbird hotspot for sure.
Truth or Consequences’ closest airport: El Paso International Airport
Nestled on the mother road better known as Historic Route 66, this stopping point also happens to be a favorite amongst snowbirds and winter visitors. It’s seen as "The Gateway to New Mexico,” with numerous giant billboards spanning hundreds of miles on either side of town. Plus, with more than 1550 motel rooms and an array of services for any weary traveler, this “Gateway City of Murals” is a treasure trove of dazzling neon lights, magnificent mural paintings, scenic byways, and fabulous photo opportunities, especially with the stunning landscapes, grand mesas, gorgeous sunsets, herds of wildlife, and striking monuments surrounding the Quay County region.
Make sure to check out the Mesalands Community College Dinosaur Museum, a first-class museum housing the world's largest collection of full-scale bronze dinosaur skeletons (which were cast at the local foundry!). Or head on down to nearby Ute Lake or Conchas Lake State Parks for some hiking, boating, swimming, water skiing, sailing, picnicking, and fishing for catfish, bass, walleye, perch, and crappie. The city’s name is pronounced as TOO-kum-kair-ee—and its more-than-friendly local residents are always happy to invite new visitors to join in on all the fun. So make it "Tucumcari Tonight, Tomorrow, for a Lifetime!"
Tucumcari’s closest airport: Albuquerque International Airport
Renowned New Mexico artist Georgia O’Keeffe once said, "If you ever go to New Mexico, it will itch you for the rest of your life." Well, my friends, get ready to enjoy the good life! This south-central New Mexico city is home to some of the happiest folks around. Plus, with a seventy degree average annual temperature, adventure seekers have the chance to ski in the mountains on winter mornings, play several rounds of golf in the afternoons, and revel in all that natural beauty in the evening times.
It’s a small town offering the conveniences of a larger one, a hotspot for snowbirds of all sorts who often enjoy checking out the area’s vibrant Senior Center. Located about eighty northeast of El Paso and some over couple hundred miles southeast of Albuquerque, this cozy town in the Tularosa Basin of the Chihuahuan Desert sits comfortably between the Sacramento Mountains in the east and the White Sands National Monument in the west. A truly superb place to spend those golden years for sure. Be sure to check out The Space Center, an outstanding museum featuring the history of space flight (with many revolving and permanent exhibits both inside and outside!) as well as a Planetarium offering daily IMAX shows. There’s also the nation’s oldest zoo, where you and your honey can revel in all the fabulous fauna of the southwest. The Historical Society Museum even has an interesting collection of artifacts and local photographs, while the Mescalero Apache Reservation (home to the Mescalero Apaches) offers a glimpse into the area’s rich history. What’s not to love?!
Alamogordo’s closest airport: El Paso International Airport
Located in the heart of the chili capital of the world, it is home to some of the best and hottest Mexican food in the nation, with numerous local restaurants featuring traditional Mexican food entrees made from the most famous family recipes. Just 225 miles south of Albuquerque and 42 miles west of El Paso, Texas, it’s also a snowbird fave, as many have decided to settle down in this southern New Mexico area that happens to sit on the edge of the Chihuahuan Desert, at the foot of the Organ Mountains, and along the banks of the Rio Grande.
What’s more is that even in the colder months, the tiny town basks in the glory of daytime temperatures ranging from the upper 50s to lower 60s—it’s got 350 days of sunshine a year and offers those who stay a unique mix of wild habitats to check out, especially for bird lovers. Las Cruces was even named the top area in the U.S. to retire by Money Magazine in June 2002! What are you waiting for?
Las Cruces’ closest airport: El Paso International Airport
This article was written by Pamela Chan.