5 Northern New Mexico attractions we should have gotten to sooner

This post on Northern New Mexico Attractions first appeared in 2012. It was updated on January 6, 2019, which also happens to be the 104th anniversary of New Mexico becoming the 47th state. We still wish we’d discovered these Northern New Mexico locations earlier.

We play tourist around Santa Fe and try to explore northern New Mexico attractions as much as we can. We love picking a place we haven’t been to and heading out for a day-trip. It’s how we discover new places to share with our clients and readers.  We  explored some new places and revisited some favorites. Here are five northern New Mexico attractions that took us a while to get to. My only question: what took us so long?

Our 5 must-visit Northern New Mexico attractions


New Mexico attractions

One of the wonderful folk art dioramas at Tinkertown Museum, photo/Steve Collins

We’d driven by the road to the Tinkertown Museum countless times our first year in New Mexico when on frequent shopping trips to Albuquerque for the inn we worked at. It sounded too hokey so we never stopped.  We finally got there in the summer of 2012. A chat with the owner that past spring convinced me that we might be missing a treasure. The grandkids  and their parents were visiting and we needed a place to kill a bit of time in the area. We headed for Tinkertown and we’re glad we did.  Read Visiting quirky Tinkertown to see why I fell in love.

Classical Gas Museum

New Mexico attractions

“Damn Fine Stuff” at the Classical Gas Museum, photo/Steve Collins

Another place we’d driven by a lot and never stopped at although we always said we should was the Classical Gas Museum.  We were always on our way to somewhere and short on time. One Sunday, we finally stopped in.  If you are a fan of recycled stuff or gas station memorabilia, you’ll love this special place as much as we did. Photographers will love it too. Steve was in Seventh Heaven.

Las Vegas, NM

New Mexico attraction

Las Vegas, NM, photo/Steve Collins

We’d been through Las Vegas, NM a number of times before we visited in the summer of 2012. We’d stopped for gas, grabbed a bite along the Interstate and once even taken a quick swing through town, but we’d never really explored. One day last summer we did.  It’s a vintage treasure with Victorian buildings, ones that date from the 1920s as well as other distinctive architectural periods. Join as in Discovering the other Las Vegas. We discovered that Las Vegas was in a lot of films. Last spring and summer we made a few more visits to Las Vegas and fell in love with it even more. Read our September 2015 newsletter for more on Las Vegas.

Fort Union

Fort Union National Monument is one of the New Mexico attractions it took us a while to get to photo Steve Collins

One of the eerie building silhouettes at Fort Union National Monument photo/Steve Collins

We’d driven by the sign for Fort Union National Monument (about a half-hour north of Las Vegas) on our way to and from Colorado for years. We were always in a hurry to get from Point A to Point B and we never took the time to get off the I-25 to check  it out. One warm summer day as we were driving home from Colorado we had a bit of time and decided to finally check Fort Union out. We didn’t realize that it was eight miles from the exit and almost got back on the highway but we were determined to finally visit this landmark. The view of the remaining buildings as you approach the fort with the Sangre de Christo Mountains as a backdrop is a beautiful site. We’ve visited since the first time and loved it just as much. It may be the most under appreciated place in Northern New Mexico.

Tierra Wools, Los Ojos

New Mexico attractions

Hand woven treasures at Tierra Wools, Tierra Amarillo, NM, photo/Steve Collins

We discovered Tierra Wools in Los Ojos northwest of Tierra Amarillo, by accident. We were headed on a farm tour only we a week early. Almost two hours from Santa Fe we had two choices: go home or turn lemons into lemonade.  Being intrepid adventurers we went for the second option. Besides discovering this wonderful place we got to go to an old-fashioned church lunch. We had a lemonade day!

What are your favorite New Mexico attractions?


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19 Responses to “5 Northern New Mexico attractions we should have gotten to sooner”

  1. Kay Dougherty
    January 11, 2019 at 8:22 am #

    You’re inspiring me. I’ve lived in Florida for a little over 2 years now and haven’t done any real exploring in the state! I don’t know if I”ll find a classic like the Classical Gas Museum but I’m sure there are lots of quirky things to be found in Florida!
    Kay Dougherty recently posted..How to keep travel memories alive + a giveawayMy Profile

    • Billie Frank
      January 11, 2019 at 10:06 am #

      There are lots of kitschy places in Florida. Read Tim Dorsey’s quirky series about Serge and Coleman. Serge is a genius psychopath who loves vintage Florida and hits a lot of places that you might not find on your own.

  2. Rebecca
    January 11, 2019 at 12:49 pm #

    I think White Sands National Park is in NM isn’t it? I went when I was travelling from West to East coast via a very cool bus trip called the Green Tortoise (a 1960’s bus that converted to beds at night!)

    I like NM…I think they also have hot springs there too?
    Rebecca recently posted..The Shard in LondonMy Profile

    • Billie Frank
      January 11, 2019 at 4:07 pm #

      Yes- White Sands is in the southern part of the state. We hope to get there this year. We’ve been to hot springs in T or C- an entire hot spring town- very quirky and funky, Ojo Caliente and in the Jemez Mountains. There are probably more- there’s a bunch of geothermal activity in the state. We once had a 1960s bus and did some traveling in it.

  3. Suzanne Fluhr
    January 11, 2019 at 11:30 pm #

    We lasted visited New Mexico (actually, it was also our first visit) our timing coincided with the last government shut down which meant we missed federally run national parks, including the cliff dwellings of the Bandelier National Monument. Even though we enjoyed the other places we visited (Santa Fe, Taos, Los Alamos and Albuqueque), I’m still retroactively bummed out about not being able to visit Bandelier. I guess we’ll have to make another trip.
    Suzanne Fluhr recently posted..Zentangle© Diva Challenge #250 – Back to Zentangle© Basics EditionMy Profile

    • Billie Frank
      January 15, 2019 at 3:29 pm #

      You’ll just have to come back! Timing is everything.

  4. Donna Janke
    January 13, 2019 at 5:37 am #

    These all look like interesting places to visit in New Mexico. We too have driven through Las Vegas and stopped for gas, but didn’t think to explore. There are often fun and interesting things to see near us that we ignore or pass by without thinking of stopping.

    • Billie Frank
      January 15, 2019 at 3:29 pm #

      I know. I’m slowly learning but we still miss things. It gives us a reason to go back to places.

  5. Caryn/The Mid Life Guru
    January 14, 2019 at 6:33 pm #

    I have skipped visiting New Mexico in the past but your 5 tips have inspired me to plan a visit. Tinkertown and Fort Union sound very interesting!!

    • Billie Frank
      January 15, 2019 at 3:30 pm #

      Everybody should come to Santa Fe once!

  6. Vicki Winters
    January 15, 2019 at 6:32 pm #

    I’ve never been to NM, but you had me at TINKERTOWN. I love diaramas…..
    Vicki Winters recently posted..Menáge A Trois with David Bowie?My Profile

    • Billie Frank
      January 20, 2019 at 7:03 pm #

      These are some of the most whimsical dioramas I’ve ever seen- they just make me smile.

  7. Elizabeth Rose
    January 16, 2019 at 4:44 pm #

    Good choices. I tweeted this!

    • Billie Frank
      January 20, 2019 at 7:04 pm #

      That’s a high complement coming from you, Liz!

  8. Irene S. Levine
    January 17, 2019 at 9:24 am #

    It is so true that we are so conscientious about hitting all the sites when traveling far away from home—and less so about checking out the places around us.

    • Billie Frank
      January 20, 2019 at 7:05 pm #

      When we lived in the Hudson Valley we got to a lot of the area attractions and missed others. If I lived there today and was blogging, I’d get to more of them. You’ll have to do it for me!

  9. Lane Billings
    December 18, 2019 at 2:08 am #

    Tinkertown! Or Fort Union!

  10. Billie Frank
    June 18, 2019 at 11:10 am #

    We keep finding them!

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