Weekend Warrior: Alamogordo

Famous for the otherworldly White Sands National Monument, south-central New Mexico’s Tularosa Basin abounds with unexpected charms, from ancient petroglyphs to Space Age artifacts to one of the best little steakhouses in the state.

Stay

Marriott’s first Alamogordo property, the stylish Fairfield Inn & Suites, offers free WiFi, large flat-screen TVs, and iPod docks in its spacious rooms; families appreciate the indoor heated pool and hot tub. (575) 437-4000; marriott.com

Info

Alamogordo Chamber of Commerce (800) 826-0294; alamogordo.com

Eat

Set in a converted doublewide trailer next to a horse paddock in La Borcita Canyon, quirky (and BYOB) Nuckleweed Place turns out some of the tastiest American fare in the region, including eggs Benedict at breakfast on weekends, and perfectly grilled steaks and bacon-wrapped shrimp skewers in the evening. (575) 434-0000

Drink

Wrap up an afternoon of hiking with prickly-pear margaritas at Casa de Sueños, a lively cantina decorated with Mexican folk art and funky flea-market knickknacks. Dine on the patio lined with hanging Christmas lights—even the salsa served with tortilla chips is worth writing home about. 35 St. Francis Dr., Tularosa; (575) 585-3494; casadesuenosnm.com

Shop

In the mid-1970s, when former Holloman AFB officer George Schweer started a modest pistachio farm, he had no idea that it would blossom into the state’s largest. A winery was added in 2003. Stop by Heart of the Desert’s Eagle Ranch to sample pistachios in a variety of flavors, and seven varieties of wine—we love the Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. (575) 434-0035; heartofthedesert.com

Explore

Kids and adults love scampering among the rockets displayed outside Alamogordo’s New Mexico Museum of Space History. Inside this five-story glass cube, with views of White Sands Missile Range, exhibits trace the state’s historic and ongoing leadership position in space travel, starting with Robert Goddard’s 1930s rocket launches in Roswell. (575) 437-2840; nmspacemuseum.org

Hike

The 50-acre Three Rivers Petroglyph Site, 35 miles north of Alamogordo, is set on a circa–AD 900 Mogollón village that thrived for about four centuries. It contains one of North America’s largest collections of ancient rock art. Hike the short trails here to view some of the 21,000 depictions, including centipedes, dragonflies, and human handprints. (575) 525-4300; blm.gov/nm

What's Happening
By Rob DeWalt

OCTOBER 1–2

SADDLE UP, CHOW DOWN

 

Hearty country cookin’ and authentic Old West flair abound at the 37th annual Chuckwagons of the West Jamboree, at the Flying J Ranch, in Alto, near Ruidoso. Top national cowboy bands perform at this event, including the homegrown Flying J Wranglers. Kids get a kick out of the mock gunfights and pony rides, and wannabe cowboys and girls love the lassoing demonstrations. “Chuckwagons and cattle drives were a staple of New Mexico life in the 1800s,” says songwriter and Flying J Ranch co-founder James Hobbs, whose grandfather founded the city that bears his surname. “A lot of what we do here is to keep the history alive.” You can taste that history in the chuckwagon cook’s barbecued brisket and chicken, pinto beans, applesauce, soda biscuits, and strong black coffee. $40 for adults, $25 for kids 12 and under, including supper and concerts. (575) 336-4330; flyingjranch.com

OCTOBER 5

NATIVE CROSSROADS

 

The Ancient Way served as a traditional route between the Pueblos of Zuni and Acoma for traders, travelers, and Spanish settlers. Today, small communities, Pueblos, and Indian reservations along the Ancient Way serve as homes for many skilled artists and craftspeople. Each year they join forces with local growers and bakers in El Morro, 11 miles east of Ramah, for the Ancient Way Fall Arts Festival and Ramah Farmers’ Market Harvest Festival. Enjoy fresh breads baked in the on-site horno, farmers’-market bounty, traditional Native American dances, a quilt show, kids’ activities, Zuni pottery, leather goods, Navajo weavings, clothing, and jewelry. In the afternoon, at nearby La Tenaja Restaurant in Ramah, local blues band the Billyhawks take the stage. “It really has the feel of an old-time community festival,” says Pam Pickens, co-owner of Inscription Rock Trading & Coffee Co. “There’s also a pie contest and auction, a Most Beautiful Chicken competition, and a weirdest-vegetable contest, that get pretty heated.” Mile marker 46 on N.M. 53. (505) 783-4710; enchantedlands.org

OCTOBER 5–13

UP WITH PEOPLE

 

Considered the world’s largest ballooning event, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is launched each year at the 365-acre Balloon Fiesta Park. Drawing more than 800,000 attendees, the fiesta has become much more than the gathering of 13 gondolas it started out as in 1972. Beginning in the early morning, as a radiant pink dawn breaks along the ridgeline of the Sandía Mountains, hundreds of balloons take to the skies. In the evenings, “Glowdeo” events entice with a parade of special-shapes balloons. Enjoy a thrilling fireworks display and plenty of New Mexican food, plus an entertainment lineup featuring former Hootie & the Blowfish front man Darius Rucker. Want to get airborne? Purchase a balloon ride at the park. (505) 821-1000; balloonfiesta.com

OCTOBER 17–21

LEST WE FORGET

 

In 1983, Vietnam veterans John Devitt, Gerry Haver, and Norris Shears sought a way to share the profound emotional experience of visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, in Washington, D.C., with Americans who couldn’t make the journey. The result of that ambition, after two years of fundraising, design, and construction, was The Moving Wall, a half-size replica of the memorial that has been seen by millions of people at more than 400 locations across the country. It stops in Rio Rancho; call, or check website for location. (906) 885-5599; themovingwall.org

OCTOBER 5, 19, 20

TRAILS OF GLORY

 

Inaugurated in 1981 as a friendly competition between horseback riders and bicyclists, the Road Apple Rally (roadapplerally.com) is the nation’s longest-running annual mountain-bike race. The horses have since moved on, but between 200 and 300 mountain bikers from across the U.S. still gather each year at Lion’s Wilderness Park, in Farmington, to compete. Choose between the 15- and 30-mile loop races, both of which ride like extended manmade tracks. If running’s more your speed, the Deadman Peaks Trail Run (Oct. 19; dp50.org), along the Continental Divide Trail just south of Cuba, offers a punishing 53-mile ultramarathon, a 26.5-mile marathon, and 10K and 5K runs through the rocky, hilly Río Puerco Valley. Competitors in the 30th annual Duke City Marathon, in Albuquerque (Oct. 20; dukecitymarathon. com), can choose among marathon, marathon relay, half-marathon, 10K, and 5K runs, and 20K and 5K walks.

OCTOBER 10–13

CALL OF THE WILD

The majestic elk is celebrated during the Jémez Mountains Elk Festival, held each year near the Valles Caldera National Preserve. Kids can learn, among other activities, how to use an atlatl—a device ancient hunters used to throw spears. Festivalgoers can also watch demonstrations of flint knapping and elk calling, and snack on elk jerky. Self-guided elk-spotting hikes are also available. Valle Grande Staging Area, mile marker 39.2 on N.M. 4. (505) 412-5930; vallescaldera.gov

OCTOBER 19–20

LET’S GET NUTS!

In 2011, New Mexico growers harvested an estimated 46 million pounds of peanuts from 20,000 acres; most of that land is in southeastern New Mexico’s Roosevelt County. To celebrate the peanut harvest, the town of Portales hosts the Peanut Valley Craft & Music Festival, and 2013 marks its 40th anniversary. More than 50 arts and crafts booths offer everything from T-shirts, jewelry, and leather goods to handmade soaps and ceramics, and boot-scootin’ live music keeps the crowd dancing. Kids can compete in the Peanut Olympics, take a train ride, and visit the petting zoo. The event’s High Plains Quilt Festival is also a huge draw. Roosevelt County Fairgrounds, Portales. (575) 356-8541; portales.com

OCTOBER 23

GOOD VIBRATIONS

Known internationally for his sunny, socially conscious blend of reggae, hip-hop, funk, jazz, R&B, and rock—and a regular fixture at the Taos Solar Music Festival—singer-songwriter Michael Franti is always a winning ticket in New Mexico. “I think people love him here, and everywhere,” says promoter Jamie Lenfestey of Heath Concerts, which brings Franti and his band, Spearhead, to Santa Fe for the first time in four years, “because he is so positive and life-affirming. A Franti concert isn’t just a concert; it is a celebration of life, love, and the human spirit.” Santa Fe Community Convention Center; (505) 988-1234; ticketssantafe.org

OCTOBER 25–27

SCARY SCIENCE

 

The Bradbury Science Museum, in downtown Los Alamos (505-667-4444; lanl.gov/museum), celebrates All Hallow’s Eve with High-Tech Halloween, a program that has served up a blend of scientific discovery and engineering know-how for kids for almost 20 years. The event is part of downtown Los Alamos’s Halloweekend celebration, which includes trick-or-treating, a climbing wall, and a pumpkin glow. (505) 661-4844; lamainstreet.com

OCTOBER 10–13

ALL THAT JAZZ

 

The eighth annual Roswell Jazz Festival brings top-tier musical talent from around the country and Canada, and this year’s guest of honor is guitarist-vocalist Rebecca Kilgore. A highly skilled interpreter of the Great American Songbook, Kilgore performs and preserves songs from the 1930s and ’40s. The lineup of this year’s festival—which takes place at outdoor and indoor venues such as the Pecos Flavors Winery tasting room, housed in a 100-plus-year-old saloon—includes performances by 12-year-old jazz-trumpet phenom Geoff Gallante, who, by age six, had already guest-soloed with the Duke Ellington Orchestra. Also on the bill is saxophonist Evan Arntzen (below), from Vancouver, British Columbia. roswelljazzfestival.org

 

White Sands National Monument at Dawn