My family and I recently took a road trip from Dallas to New Mexico, AKA the Land of Enchantment, and I received a ton of questions about it on Instagram. I've added our day to day itinerary and the most FAQ at the end. Hope it helps!
How long was the drive?
We visited 3 places in NM. Alamogordo, Santa Fe, and Taos, and they are all about 10 hours away from Dallas. So you can choose either as your starting point. We went for 1 week.
We went to Alamogordo first, which is where White Sands is located. 10 hours is a long time to drive with kids, especially when you are driving through Texas and all you see are oil fields and nothing else for miles and miles and miles! We left Friday evening and drove 6 hours to Hobbs, NM, and spent the night there. Warning, Hobbs smells like oil fields, and there was nothing else to do there besides sleep for the night. We woke up early, and got right back on the road to drive another 3 and a half hours to Alamogordo.
Alamogordo is located in the Tularosa Basin, so it's surrounded by mountains on pretty much all sides. The town is about a 15 minute straight shot to White Sands Desert. Compared to the emptiness of our drive, this town was bustling with life!
We stayed at Fairfield Inn and Suites, which was probably one of the fancier hotels there lol. Don't expect too much from this town, people mostly stay there to visit White Sands.
White Sands was breathtakingly beautiful! It's been on my bucket list for so many years, and I was so thankful I finally got to see it in person. On the first day we were there, we did a little maternity photo shoot and just soaked in the stunning sunset and the beauty all around us.
The second day we got there around 7:30am, the sand was still pretty cold, but there were barely any people around. We spent a couple of hours sand sledding, walking around, and discovering new areas of the massive desert.
**TIP** Once you enter White Sands, there will be a road that loops around, the entire drive is about 20 minutes long. Most of the people stop at the first few sand dunes. These are overcrowded and not as pretty. Keep driving until you hit the dirt road, and then for about another 10 minutes. This area has the prettier sand dunes, less people, and it's just a lot more serene.
**TIP** You can buy sleds from the visitor center, but we brought our own. Plastic saucer sleds work best. Make sure to bring some wax with you! Without the wax, the sleds won't go down the hill. We waxed our sleds every other time we used them.
Going down the sand dunes on a sled was so much fun, but climbing it back up was such a workout! We all had sore thighs the next day. But so worth it!
The ticket to enter was $25 per vehicle, but it's good for the entire week. And it's considered a National Park, so if you have a National Park pass you can get in for free.
White Sands is part of the very large Chihuhuan Desert. Most of it is closed of to the public, or not accessible. Also, the government does a lot of missile testing there, so before you visit make sure to check the schedule, because White Sands is closed during the testing.
Drive from Alamogordo to Santa Fe took us about 3.5 hours. Not a lot in between those two cities, apart from a number of Trump signs and tumbleweeds passing in front of our car. BTW, I've always wanted to see real tumbleweeds, and I kept telling my husband I hope we see some, and when we finally did I screamed from happiness :) They're much smaller than the ones I grew up watching in Looney Tunes cartoons though. But the drive was beautiful, NM has mountains and so much natural beauty everywhere!
We stayed in a rental really close to Santa Fe plaza. We spent a total of 4 nights in Santa Fe. The night we got there, NM got hit by an early snowstorm. Because of the storm, and because of Covid, and it being off season, some stores in Santa Fe plaza were closed. It's a nice little place to walk around and shop though.
We personally loved and welcomed the snow, because we rarely get to see it in Dallas. Kids had fun playing in the backyard of our rental and making a snowman.
We weren't able to see Albuquerque because the roads were awful the first 2 days. Albuqurque is only about an hour away from Santa Fe. Once the snow storm was over, the snow melted pretty quickly, and we were able to visit other places.
Santa Fe is filled with cute little museums, art galleries, and boutiques! Canyon Road in Santa Fe is really charming, and I loved all the little art galleries there.
Meow Wolf is a really popular interactive gallery in Santa Fe, but it has been closed recently due to Covid19.
Prescott Gallery and Sculpture Garden was a fun hands on experience for the kids. Both inside and outside areas are filled with kinetic sculptures kids can touch and move. We spent just over an hour there, it's kind of small, but the kids loved it!
Bandelier Park is about an hour away from downtown Santa Fe and was one of our favorite places we visited, definitely worth the trip!
The park itself is really big, surrounded by snow covered mountains on one side, and carved out volcanic mountains on the other side. You can hike different trails, but we did the main loop, which is around 2 miles. We saw the preserved village of old Pueblo people, and the carved out homes they had built into the mountains. These date back to as early as 1150AD.
The best part is you can climb up the ladders to sit inside these cave dwellings. There are also ruins of the old village in the center of this main loop.
There was so much beauty everywhere subhanAllah! Mountains on all sides, valley in the middle, and a creek running through it. We spent about 3.5 hours on the main loop because we had little kids with us, and we spent a lot of time just hanging out and admiring the views. But it can be done a lot quicker.
If you're an adventurous hiker, then try the Tsankawi trail. We couldn't attempt it because of little kids and me being pregnant.
Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks are not too far from Bandelier Park, but they were closed due to Covid19.
After Santa Fe, we drove about an 1.5 hours north to the ski resort town of Taos. The drive there, like everywhere else in NM was stunning. We stopped by the side of the road to check out the Rio Grande River. Such a beautiful, picturesque setting. Kids had a blast getting their feet wet in the cold, fresh river water and tossing pebbles. And just when I started to love nature, i stepped on a dead birds head. Besides that part, it was beautiful :) We also weren't really appropriately dressed to go in a river, as you can see below.
Then we made our way to Taos town, which is located right at the foot of Taos Ski Valley. Ski season officially starts Thanksgiving weekend in Taos, but because of Covid, only 50% occupant is allowed and prices will be double than norm I was told.
We stayed in a hotel called El Month Sagrado in Taos. It was beautiful and highly recommend it. We got a suites with a private hot tub, and each suite has it's own worldly theme. I was kind of hoping to get the Marrakech suite, but we ended up in the Mexico suite, which was also really pretty! I think my kids liked the hotel better than Taos itself, and they were done sightseeing by the time we got to Taos
Taos has a little downtown area with local shops, restaurants, and book stores.
About 20 minutes away is the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. I've seen this iconic bridge on the covers of so many books, especially ones about American road trips. Pictures don't do it justice, it's scary and beautiful!
You can literally walk on the bridge, and the areas surrounding the bridge. It's not fenced in really well, so make sure to keep a close eye on the kids!
We stayed in Taos for 2 nights, and headed back to Dallas. We broke up our trip again. We stopped for dinner and salah in Amarillo which is about 5 hours away. And then stopped for the night in Wichita Falls. The next day we only had a 2 hour drive back to Dallas.
Does it snow in NM? Yes! It even snows in Alamogordo and White Sands desert!
Did we stay in rentals or hotels? Both. I would've preferred rentals, but I could only find hotels in Alamogordo, Taos, and our stops in between. I had an arsenal of lysol spray and clorox wipes, so we wiped everything down before we settled in. Santa Fe has plenty of nice rental options though, and we loved our rental.
Halal places? Nope. The only halal places I found were in Albuquerque, and we didn't get a chance to go there because of the storm. There were 2 restaurants in Santa Fe, but they both served alcohol and seemed iffy from online reviews. Taos and Alamogordo didn't have any halal options.
How was it being Muslim there? I got asked this question a lot! Looking back, I didn't see any other hijabista/muslims there as far as I could tell. I was happy to see Taos, Santa Fe, and even Alamogordo were normal towns. In Santa Fe and Taos, we only came across Biden/Harris signs all over, but literally everything in between those towns is Trump country. We stopped at a couple of places like these for food, alhamdulillah nothing happened, besides a lot of stares.
Other places to check out? If you have more time, then visit Carlsbad Caverns on the southern side of NM, as well as Roswell area. I really wanted to take the sky tram over Albuquerque, but the weather prohibited that.
On the drive back from Taos to Dallas, we passed by the Capulin Volcano National Monument. You can drive around the rim, up to the top. Once up there, you can take a trail that goes into the volcano itself.
Williams Lake is close to Taos. We planned to hike there, but kids were exhausted and didn't want to do anything besides sit in the hot tub. But it's a beautiful area!
What to bring? Tons and tons of moisturizer. The elevation in all of these places is quite high, some higher than 10,000 ft.
CuloClean, I bought it from Amazon, and it's soo convenient to have!
Sense of adventure and just going with the flow :)
Favorite place out of the whole trip? If I really had to choose, I'd say White Sands. I loved being there the first night and getting to watch the sunset.
But overall I loved the drive itself surprisingly, because I hate being in cars for too long. Some of my favorite moments from our trip was seeing long stretches of road, without a single person in sight, and stopping on the side and just hanging out. We stopped at so many unplanned places, and saw so much beauty all around us. Parts of New Mexico felt like we were driving through the Colorado Rocky's and some parts felt like we were in the Grand Canyon.
Though I still prefer flying, I have definitely changed my mind about taking longer road trips. Yes it's long, but I like the flexibility and spontanaity of road trips!