With so many great places to visit in New Mexico, it can be hard to determine what to do and when to do it all. This state is a hidden gem of adventure in the United States.
Natural beauty is abounding year-round in the high desert and in the even higher alpine mountains. Determining when to visit New Mexico depends on outdoor adventure, family-friendly activities, and accommodating weather.
Let’s check out the best time to go to New Mexico as well as what you should spend your time doing around the state when you get there. Family fun awaits in New Mexico, where it’s Worth Every Trip!
Why Visit New Mexico?
You will find countless beautiful places to visit in New Mexico. From upper desert adventures to mountaintop exploration New Mexico is bursting with outdoor beauty!
Bike riding through forests, horseback riding in the high desert, hiking across mountaintops, visiting old towns, eating delicious food, and more. Fun for the whole family awaits.
Well-known Albuquerque and Santa Fe are two of the best towns to visit in New Mexico. But don’t overlook the lesser-known towns and random spots off the beaten path, they may just have a piece of beauty you didn’t expect to find. So go where the road (or dirt path) takes you!
Our expectations were low for our first trip to New Mexico…but surprisingly, it blew us away! We absolutely LOVED it!
We didn’t know the best time to travel to New Mexico, but we lucked out and landed in it! FALL!!! I’m sure it’s lovely to see New Mexico in winter, spring, and summer, but fall has got them beat. (I’ll explain below.)
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When is the Best Time to Visit New Mexico?
How can you truly determine the best time of year to visit New Mexico? Weather and activities/events are the two main factors to consider when answering this question.
New Mexico weather in September is going to be significantly different than the weather in January, as will the corresponding events that take place at those times.
I can’t give you the average temperature in New Mexico for a particular month because the state has tons of elevation change. For example, weather in New Mexico in October could have an average low of 7 degrees or 50 degrees depending on where you are. That’s a big difference!
However, outside of the extreme elevation locations, the weather in places like Albuquerque and Santa Fe has highs from the mid-60s to mid-80s throughout the fall.
You can avoid the extreme summer heat and winter cold by visiting in the fall. Find the happy medium with warm highs in the 70s-80s and cool lows in the 50s-60s in September…making it arguably the best month to visit New Mexico.
While it starts to cool down quickly in October, the month hosts the annual world-renown Albuquerque International Balloon Festival. It’s one of the biggest events all year in the state!
So with September’s temperate weather and October’s event highlight, fall is clearly the best time to visit the lovely state of New Mexico.
Let’s break it down and highlight the best time of year to visit our two main focus cities – Albuquerque and Santa Fe.
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Best Time of Year to Visit Santa Fe, New Mexico
The best time to travel to Sante Fe, New Mexico has more to do with weather and less to do with activities and events, although notable.
The summer months hold several art festivals and events, which, for an art enthusiast, may make it the best time to go to Santa Fe. But for families with kids, looking at painting after painting would bore the kids to tears!
On the flip side, Santa Fe’s ski resorts are nice places to visit in New Mexico in the winter. This may be great for families with older kids who all love to ski or snowboard, but younger families will be limited on what they can do.
Santa Fe is one of the best cities to visit in New Mexico because of the things you can see and do year-round. So instead of basing your decision on events, decide when to visit Santa Fe for good weather!
This brings us back to Fall. The lows for Santa Fe in October and November can dip below freezing. If you aren’t focused on skiing, there is no need to be that cold!
Instead, opt to visit the beautiful city of Santa Fe in the early fall. August and September are ideal. You can explore historic buildings and dine on fine cuisine without sweating bullets or taking off 10 layers every time you walk inside.
Fall weather is just right! Experience the beauty of Santa Fe without extreme temperatures.
Best Time of Year to Visit Albuquerque, New Mexico
The best time to go to Albuquerque is significantly skewed by the Albuquerque International Balloon Festival in October.
Thousands of hot air balloons filling the sky above the valley is a spectacle that is only seen in a few select locations around the world. While this stunning festival is taking place, Albuquerque is hands down the best city to visit in New Mexico.
PRO Tip: It may come as no surprise that travel prices are more expensive around the festival dates. Use your reward points to book a hotel room EARLY for free and avoid overpaying for a room.
Be prepared to bundle up a bit on those cool October mornings as you watch the balloons rise. Once the sun is up, you’ll be able to hike and explore the high desert comfortably in minimal layers.
While the Albuquerque weather in October is not bad (highs in the mid-70s and lows in the mid-40s), those temps are a bit on the chilly side for my liking.
If you are not going to visit Albuquerque during the festival, then I would recommend visiting during the month of September for more delightful weather (highs in the mid-80s and lows in the upper 50s).
PRO Tip: Visiting Albuquerque in September allows you to avoid the massive tourist crowds that flood the city for the balloon festival. Plus, you’ll be able to score accommodations for cheaper rates.
Your family can dress for comfortable sunny weather most days! Swim in a pool, ride a horse, ride a bike, take a hike, or explore one of the many places to visit. New Mexico is simply delightful in September!
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What Are the Best Things to Do in New Mexico?
Families will love all the cool places to visit in New Mexico. From big metropolitan cities to small mountain towns, New Mexico has so much to explore.
Most of the fun places to visit in New Mexico exist outdoors. The state’s natural beauty provides the perfect backdrop for adventure for all ages.
Fascinating history comes to life as you explore old buildings and plazas in downtown Santa Fe.
Shop from local merchants outside the Palace of the Governors. Each day local artisans bring their handcrafted goods to sell in the plaza.
Visit the beautiful grounds of The Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi. Admire the ornate fountains, stroll through market stands, or walk around The Labyrinth.
See the oldest church structure in the U.S.A.-- San Miguel Chapel.
Walk through the De Vargas Street House, which claims to be the oldest house in the U.S.A.
Restaurants are scattered throughout Santa Fe plaza and its surrounding blocks. Your options are plentiful.
Grab a bite at the highly-rated Cafe Pasqual’s for Mexican fare in a quaint spot on the corner.
Want to try a blue margarita while eating on a rooftop? Head over to Coyote Cantina. You’ll walk up through the more formal Coyote Cafe up to the rooftop for Mexican food and creative cocktails.
If you take a 30 min scenic drive up into the mountains just outside of Santa Fe, you’ll arrive at Ski Santa Fe. If you happen to be here in the winter, then hit the slopes.
BUT…in the fall you’re in for a special treat!
Buy tickets for their ski lift and enjoy breathtaking views on the ride up and at the summit. Take in the beauty of the alpine trees dawning their vibrant fall colors.
Purchase a one-way ticket and hike back down, or purchase a round-trip ticket and enjoy the view from a different angle on your return journey.
PRO Tip: Make sure you know when the last ride departs the summit so you don’t get left on top of the mountain for the night.
When you return back down the mountain, hang around the resort to enjoy snacks, beer, and live music on special days too!
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Sandia Peak Tramway
The Sandia Mountains are often a gorgeous peachy pink color at sunset, which is where they get their name – “sandia” means “watermelon” in Spanish. Gazing at the mountains from afar is purely delightful, but riding up the Sandia Peak Tramway takes it to the next level (literally)!
Sandia Peak is the best place to visit in New Mexico because you can see so much of New Mexico from one summit. It was hands down our favorite experience of our entire trip!
PRO Tip: Purchase your tickets online before heading to the tramway. You’ll reserve the specific time slot you want, so you don’t have to worry about availability or waiting in lines.
The tram construction displays incomprehensible engineering with ONLY TWO towers between the terminals on the 2.7-mile tramway. Its design was inspired by European tramways, so you’ll feel as if you’ve been transported to Europe in the air. I felt like I should be seeing the Swiss Alps out my window.
Ride up a swiss-built gondola to the 10,378-foot summit. Disembark and explore hiking trails for the whole family, take in stunning views for miles upon miles, or dine at TEN3 with the high altitude mountain view as your backdrop.
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Head into Albuquerque and savors the flavors from 27 local vendors at Sawmill Market. This refurbished lumberyard building was transformed into an urban market with food and drinks from all around the world.
Grab your cocktail or empanada (my favorite!) and head outside to THE YARD. Sit and eat your food, listen to live music, or play yard games with friends and family.
This unique space creates an atmosphere where you want to linger and embrace the vibrancy of life!
Old Town Albuquerque has similar vibes to historic downtown Santa Fe but on a smaller scale. Restaurants, museums, and shops galore fill the historic buildings around the plaza.
PRO Tip: If you can’t make it to Santa Fe on your trip, then I recommend you make time to visit Old Town Albuquerque. However, if you’re going to spend time in Santa Fe, don’t feel like Old Town Albuquerque needs to be a priority.
At the very least, you can savor delicious New Mexican food at over a dozen restaurants. If you like to shop for artistic pieces or cultural trinkets, you’ve found a gold mine full of them! And as is similar with several locations in the state, there is always more cultural history to learn about the area.
Want to sip local flavor instead of eating it? Then check out any of Albuquerque’s local breweries.
Hang out with friends and live music at La Cumbre Brewing Company where you can try seasonal and year-round beers. If you enjoy drinking your beer alongside delicious food, then head to the award-winning Nexus Brewery.
Make yourself at home and enjoy a world-class beer at Bosque Brewing Co alongside their yummy food. Ask about their seasonal beers to explore new flavors that go beyond their staples.
PRO Tip: Try their Guava Cider if it’s in season. This cider kicks it up a notch with tons of guava flavor mixing with the traditional apple taste. YUM!
10 Best Outdoor Activities in New Mexico
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again — New Mexico has INCREDIBLE natural beauty! While you might be wondering where to visit in New Mexico, rest assured that adventure is found all over the state. Check out these incredible outdoor adventures for you and your family to enjoy!
Although the railroad is technically not an outdoor activity, you would get to see all the incredible beauty around New Mexico from the ride. So instead of being out in it, you get to soak it all in.
10 Top Places to Visit in New Mexico
Albuquerque and Santa Fe have so many amazing things to see and do. But they are only the tip of the iceberg. This list includes hot spots all over the wonderful state of New Mexico.
Leave a comment below, and tell what your favorite thing to do in New Mexico is and what time of year you love to visit. As long as your spending time outdoors in New Mexico, it’s sure to be Worth Every Trip!