Ah, New Mexico. This desert state is far from deserted-- for proof, just take a drive down the Turquoise Trail. This scenic byway, which connects the major New Mexican cities of Santa Fe and Albuquerque, commemorates the state's history of mining for the precious gem as it passes through the stone-and-ore-laden mountains and near former boom towns. What better way to experience all the Land of Enchantment has to offer than a road trip?
Santa Fe is an artsy desert town that was officially founded all the way back in 1610. The Native and Spanish influences are strong in the culture and atmosphere here, making it an incredibly unique place to visit. Really immerse yourself in the vibes with visits to history museums like the Palace of the Governors, which looks into the uniquely long history of the city, art institutions like the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum and the Museum of International Folk Art, and tons more.
El Rancho de las Golondrinas (or, the Ranch of the Swallows) is an incredibly living history museum where you can see what life was like back in the 18th century here in New Mexico. Buildings here date from the early 1700s, before American was even a country, and a few other recreated structures make up a big site to explore. Seeing what life was like for people here is very different than what you'd experience at a museum further East, so it's super informative and interesting.
Route 66 crosses the Turquoise Trail, so you also get some retro mid-century history in addition to the Native cultures and Spanish past. Tinkertown Museum in Sandia Park is a classic roadside attraction. Ross Ward's collection of oddities started off as a traveling exhibition that was put on display at carnivals and fairs, but settling down here allowed him to expand the collection even further, adding huge items like a 35′ antique wooden sailboat that braved a 10 year voyage around the world and Esmerelda, a fortune-telling machine, to his displays of wood-carved figured, glass bottles, and other odds and ends.
As you approach Albuquerque, pay tribute to one of its unique industries at the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History. The Smithsonian-affiliated institution is dedicated to the Atomic Age. Learn about Los Alamos, see planes, rockets, and missiles, find out how nuclear waste is handled, look into nanoscience, find out how uranium is being used, and hear about Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and experience the Cold War at this super in-depth museum.
Albuquerque is pretty famous for being the setting of the hit series "Breaking Bad". You can visit the car wash, where Los Pollos Hermanos was filmed, get candy crystal meth from the lady who made it for the show, and, of course, drive past the house used for exterior shots of the main character, Walter White's house.
Albuquerque also has deep roots with its native past. Experience it firsthand at Petroglyph National Monument, a 17-mile canyon filled with thousands of petroglyphs, drawings left behind by the people of the past. No one is entirely sure what the symbols mean, but they're a fascinating look into another time and culture.
Albuquerque is a high desert city that's just as artsy as Santa Fe, but maybe even quirkier. Admire the Pueblo architecture, explore Old Town, pop into the Pueblo Indian Cultural Center, and learn about the desert at the BioPark Botanic Garden and Albuquerque Biological Park.