Discovering quirky T or C New Mexico

If the name sounds familiar, there’s a reason. Truth or Consequences, NM is named for the popular radio and TV game show of that name. When a call was put out in 1950 for a town willing to change its name Hot Springs, NM applied and won and T or C New Mexico was born.

Vintage moving theater in Truth or Consequences, photo/Steve Collins

Vintage moving theater in Truth or Consequences, photo/Steve Collins

At first glance, T or C, as it’s affectionately called, seems rooted in that era that also gave us the Cleavers and Father Knows Best. But take a second look. There’s more going on here than first meets the eye. This town, with its old west independent spirit offers a haven for individuality and is attracting people who heed the call of the thermal waters and intellectual and personal space T or C offers. Artists, writers, designers and others have joined the ranks of the old timers who can trace their families back to the city’s beginnings.

A bit of T or C history

For centuries, even millennia, Native Americans, whose traditional lands are in this area, came to soak in the springs. Originally, they were mud flats and swamps where the thermal water bubbled up along the Rio Grande which runs through here. Because this was universally agreed to be a place of healing traditional animosities were put to rest for a bit.

The Spanish discovered the therapeutic waters when they passed through the area as did the US Calvary and local cowboys. The first bathhouse here was built by cowboys from the John Cross Ranch in Engle, east of T or C. It must have felt great to soak after long days in the saddle.

A soaking pool at Riverbend Hot Springs, photo Steve Collins

A soaking pool at Riverbend Hot Springs, photo/Steve Collins

The city, built over a thermal aquifer, started out as Las Palomas Hot Springs, named for the doves that were attracted to the area. The first land claim in town was filed in 1910. The town shot up almost overnight when construction began on the nearby Elephant Butte Dam in 1911. Because the dam was a Federal project, alcohol was prohibited within five miles of the dam site. Las Palomas Hot Springs thrived as the site of saloons and more. The dam changed the course of the Rio Grande causing the mud flats and swamps to dry up. This was the beginning of the commercial hot springs here.

Around 1920 the name was shortened to just plain “Hot Springs”. There was another Las Palomas and it was confusing. That was not to be the city’s final name. In 1950, when radio/TV host, Ralph Edwards put out a call for a city or town to change its name to Truth or Consequences to celebrate the show’s 10th anniversary, Hot Springs applied. They were selected from the pool of applicants. The name change was voted on and became official on March 31st of that year. Edwards and company flew in the next day and did their anniversary show on April 1at. Some people thought it was a joke. T or C celebrates Ralph Edwards Day on that date every year. There is also has a river-front park named after him.

The first annual Truth or Consequences Fiesta was held in May that year and Edwards promised to come back. He returned for Fiesta for many years bringing TV stars with him. Fiesta is still held annually on the first weekend in May.

Geronimo Springs Museum, photo Steve Collins

Geronimo Springs Museum, photo/Steve Collins

If you want to know more about the area’s history, visit the Geronimo Springs Museum on Main Avenue. They’re open daily. They museum is also home to a superb collection of Mogollon and Mimbres pottery dating to as early as 200AD. While most is from the Gila region to the west, some pieces were found as close as five miles away from T or C. The museum is built on the site of the now filled in Geronimo Springs, once a public soaking area. The museum also houses an art gallery.

Sierra Grande Lodge, photo Steve Collins

Sierra Grande Lodge had fabulous private soaking tubs, photo/Steve Collins

 Soaking your cares away

For centuries, maybe even millennia, the warm mineral waters under T or C have been attracting people. Today, there are 10 many springs in town, all but one are open to the public The pools and tubs run the gamut from funky to luxe. Almost all the tubs and pools belong to lodging facilities. Soaking at Pelican Spa is only open to in-house guests and most lodgings give their guests priority booking soaks.

The water here, with its extensive mineral content, is addictive. Just about anyone you ask has their favorite place to soak as do frequent visitors and T or C does attract a lot of repeat visitors. The aquifer is about 130 feet below the ground and bubbles up in places. Most places refill their private soaking tubs after every use with the water draining directly into the Rio Grande through channels. Directly from the ground, water temperatures can run between 105 and 120 degrees depending on the season and the water table. Most pools are between 105 and 108 degrees. If it runs really hot, it has to be cooled before use.

Rio Bravo Fine Art Gallery, photo Steve Collins

Rio Bravo Fine Art Gallery, photo/Steve Collins

Galleries and shops

T or C is an up and coming art town. Once a month the galleries (and some shops) stay open from 6 to 9pm for the Second Saturday Art Hop. Galleries and shops stay open late and people cruise the streets going from one to another. The crowd is a mix of locals and tourists. You may find a bit of food and even some music as we did on our hop. People were friendly and it was a fun evening. There’s also an eclectic collection of shops, scattered on both Broadway and Main, the two main drags, for browsing and buying. Don’t forget to explore the side streets too.

Latitude 33, photo Steve Collins

Tje rich colors at Latitude 33 are inspired by the food they serve, photo/Steve Collins


Just about everyone you ask here has three places on their recommend list, Café Bella Luca specializing in Italian cuisine, the pan-Asian Latitude 33 and fans of homemade baked goods will send you to the Passion Pie Café. Read a bit about our T or C dining experiences here.

Get out of town  

When you’ve had your fill of soaking, art, shopping and dining, get out of town. There are a lot of daytrips to choose from.

Day Trips along the Geronimo Trail, is a helpful brochure that you can pick up at the Sierra County Visitors Center and other places around town. We did part of the Jornada Sites tour. The Jornada del Muerto was a section of the fabled Camino Real, the road that led from Mexico to Santa Fe, that was extremely arid and treacherous. You cans see parts of the trail from the road; look for markers. Past this you’ll drive through the tiny ghost town of Engle. Here you’ll find one of the entrances to Ted Turner’s vast (Over 350,000 acre) Armendaris Ranch. Turner opens the ranch to tours a few times a year they are working to develop ecotourism adventures. They also offer hunting is season. Make a right turn here and the road continues to Spaceport America the future sight of Virgin Galactic’s flights into space.

Virgin Galactic's Spaceport New Mexico opening soon, photo/Billie Frank

Virgin Galactic’s Spaceport New Mexico opening soon, photo/Billie Frank

If you want to know more about the Camino Real, the NM state monument devoted to the trail that went from Mexico City to north of Santa Fe is off I-25 a bit north of T or C.

Take the Historic Mining Towns tour and visit Hillsboro and Kingston and Lake Valley. The “Northern Historic Communities Tour” takes you to Winston, Chloride, Cuchillo, Placita and Monticello. Some towns have little more than an old building or two to see and others, Like Chloride and Hillsboro offer more. We went to Monticello to visit Darland Farm where they produce aged organic balsamic vinegar the same methods used for production of Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale in Modena, Italy. We’ll write about this in a future Food Thoughts post. There is also the Agricultural Valley tour that takes visitors to Arrey and Derry where they grow chile and more. Sierra County is just north of the Mesilla Valley also known for chile production and home to the famous Hatch Chile.

Elephant Butte dam, photo Steve Collins

Elephant Butte dam built in the early 1900s changed the course of the Rio Grande River, photo/Steve Collins

If you’re looking for outdoor activities there are a lot to choose from. Boating and fishing on Elephant Butte and Caballo Lakes. Hiking and biking opportunities abound and the area is a haven for birders. From November to February, the Bosque del Apache, a little over an hour north of here, is home to Sandhill Cranes and Snow Geese. The best time to see them is either sunrise or sunset.

Whether you want to soak and unwind, discover new artists, dine or get out and about, Truth or Consequences and Sierra County have to offer and invite you to come visit. Take them up on it!                         



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8 Responses to “Discovering quirky T or C New Mexico”

  1. Irene S Levine
    April 7, 2019 at 12:48 pm #

    Thanks so much for sharing all those rich tidbits of the history of Truth or Consequences. I never would have thought that the town was named by the show instead of the other way around!

    • Billie Frank
      April 7, 2019 at 3:16 pm #

      It was a pleasure to share T or C. It’s a special place!

  2. Carlos M. Gonzalez
    April 9, 2019 at 3:54 pm #

    My wife and I have been going to T or C for several years now.It is only less than a 2 hour drive from El Paso. It is a hidden jewel and we love the town, RiverBend Hot Springs Resort, Latitude 33,Elephant Butte Lake, Turtle Back golf course, Firewater Lodge, Happy Belly Deli.

    • Billie Frank
      April 9, 2019 at 4:03 pm #

      Sounds like you love it there, Carlos. It is a hidden jewel. We hope to go back in the fall.

  3. Jess
    May 24, 2019 at 1:52 am #

    I have driven through T or C a few times on road trips from Texas to Arizona and back. Mostly have just stopped to eat and pass through though. If I happen to be back I’ll make sure to check out some of these tips!

  4. Lisa E
    December 2, 2019 at 7:38 pm #

    Cool town! Visited many years ago and really enjoyed it.
    Lisa E recently posted..Meet El Caribeño, the Coolest Dude in #Colombia #ttot #tbex #CaribbeanMy Profile

    • Billie Frank
      December 3, 2019 at 8:08 am #

      Not surprising to me that you enjoyed it- it’s so quirky!

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