Visit this dusty Western state and you’ll find out New Mexico isn’t called the Land of Enchantment for nothing. The state boasts a breathtaking natural landscape and captivating history, thanks to its sweeping desert and Mexican and Native American cultural influences. A visit to New Mexico’s cities and wide-open spaces will allow students to learn from and enjoy the enchanting land that is our 47th state.

Get Blown Away by Desert Beauty

Where can anyone possibly start with New Mexico’s awe-inspiring Western vistas? White Sands National Monument would be a great place to start. As the name suggests, this park features dunes of pale white sands which are home to many unique species of plants and animals native to New Mexico. Educational programs cover topics ranging from plant and animal adaptations for desert life to the sand’s unique geology.

White Sands vegetation. Credits: Daniel Schwen

White Sands vegetation. Credit: Daniel Schwen

Smokey Bear Historical Park near Capitan was founded in honor of the original Smokey the Bear, an orphaned bear cub found in the aftermath of a massive forest fire with his paws badly burned. In addition to beautiful trails and campgrounds, the park has a museum devoted to Smokey’s journey from orphaned cub to world-famous mascot for fire safety.

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument is yet another natural wonder of New Mexico, this one near Cochiti Pueblo. The unique conical rock formations that give this park its name take the breath away of just about every visitor that lays eyes on them. Trails for biking and hiking wind through the park, with many opportunities for bird watching, plant identifying and geological observation.

Tent Rocks. Credits: Julius Ruckert

Tent Rocks. Credit: Julius Ruckert

Student Groups Enchanted by State History

For a great overview of the state’s history, start with the New Mexico History Museum in Santa Fe. Its many exhibits track the state’s journey from wild land to colony to state. Getting multiple perspectives on each key moment in the state’s history is clearly a main mission point for this museum, with artifacts and commentary offered by Mexicans, Native Americans, the U.S. government, and local cowboys and pioneers.

Lincoln Historic Site stands out as a complex of historical buildings in Lincoln, managed and maintained to preserve a wild time in the town’s history. From the 1870s to 1880s, Lincoln was known as one of America’s most dangerous places, with figures like Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett roaming the streets. Students can take a guided tour through the historic site, with several buildings converted to museums and exhibits.

Fort Stanton is yet another historically preserved site that aims to give visitors an up-close and personal look at New Mexico’s past. Located right on a scenic bend in the Bonito River, the fort looks like it did back when it was run as a military fortification from 1855 to 1896 complete with period-dressed guides and park staff. Aside from guided tours of the fort, students can witness live events like historical battle reenactments.

Company Quarters, Fort Stanton. Credits: Allen S.

Company Quarters, Fort Stanton. Credit: Allen S.

The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque offers visitors a chance to learn about and reflect upon Native American life in New Mexico. Artworks from past and present show how the Pueblo people preserve and tell their story. In other exhibits, students can learn about government policies on dealing with Native Americans and how they still affect the Pueblo community.

Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. Credits:Jonny Brownbill

Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. Credit: Jonny Brownbill

A Cutting-Edge Cultural Experience

Alto’s Spencer Theater for the Performing Arts deserves to be pretty high up on any traveling student group’s must-see list of cultural institutions in New Mexico. In addition to music, plays and other theater productions, including educational shows geared toward students, Spencer Theater offers tours of its facilities to show what goes into a production backstage.

Spencer Theater. Credits: Allen S.

Spencer Theater. Credit: Allen S.

Albuquerque Museum is an exemplary collection of old and contemporary art. Students can learn about the work of artists both local and foreign from guided museum tours and lectures. Demonstrations and special programs can also teach students how to create certain styles of art and the influences that went into that school of art. Art in the Afternoon programs allow students to enjoy the music of local musicians as well. In every aspect, Albuquerque Museum works to give students an intimate, hands-on experience with art.

Albuquerque Museum. Credits: Wikipedia

Albuquerque Museum. Credit: Wikipedia

Santa Fe Opera House draws visitors from all over with its enchanting performances. On backstage tours, students can learn that the world of opera is far more than simply waiting for the fat lady in the Viking costume to sing. Group rate performance tickets are available. Come away from your trip to the Land of Enchantment with a new appreciation for opera.

The enchanting sites of New Mexico offer student groups a brilliant time no matter where they turn. This desert state is far from a wasteland, with breathtaking natural vistas, a multifaceted history and thriving cultural scene. This Land of Enchantment welcomes visitors with open arms, ready to show them a good time, no matter what they’re looking for. Have you been enchanted by New Mexico? Tell us all about your trip in the comments below.