Part 2: Roswell, New Mexico and the Carlsbad Caverns
Roswell, New Mexico
Welcome back! Next stop is Roswell, New Mexico to scope out some aliens. I am not afraid to admit this was not a high priority stop for me, but the family really, really wanted to go to Roswell. According to my teen daughter we had to arrive at night, and eat dinner at the UFO McDonald’s. (So prepare yourself for a good ole healthy dinner, if you ever get a chance to visit!) I was ready to be unimpressed by this sci-fi filled city, but even I can say I am wrong once in a while.
Roswell is well known for the 1947 Roswell UFO incident. What many do not know is that the actual crash happened about 75 miles outside of Roswell, but the Roswell Army Air Field handled the investigation. The military claim there was never a UFO or aliens, and that the crash and debris was from a conventional weather balloon. After the initial interest faded away, it was almost 30 years later that the conspiracy theories started popping up when ufologists started claiming that it was a UFO that crash landed in 1947, and that aliens had been found and the military was involved in a cover up.
This little town has capitalized on all the hype, and instead of coffee shops on every corner you find UFO and alien gift shops. There is also the famous International UFO Museum and Research Center, which was our first stop the next day! We arrived a little early, so we were the first guests when it opened. There is a minimal admission fee of $5.00 for adults, $2.00 for children (ages 5-15), and children 4 and under are free. They also offer a discount for military and seniors.
We didn’t make it to the research center, but the museum was filled with information, artifacts, and of course aliens. It is a self-guided tour, as you walk along the chronological exhibits. It was fun to read the newspaper clippings from the initial incident, and then to see the insider reports. In the middle of the exhibits in the back is where you’ll have your first alien sighting. Make sure you keep an eye on them, because you might catch them moving to observe you every few minutes! While some might find it hokey, I think the museum is a great little tourist spot, and definitely worth the small admission. Of course don’t forget to stop at the gift shop on your way out as I’m sure you’ll find something you have to have!! I found a handmade alien ornament to remember our time in Roswell. Don’t worry, if you don’t find what you’re looking for as there are gift shops every few feet along Main Street. Trust me, I know because the kids made us stop in a few on the way back to the car.
Roswell, NM is a must do for everyone at least once! This little town has taken what they are famous for, and capitalized on it in the best possible way.
The Carlsbad Caverns National Park
The Carlsbad Caverns National Park was yet another stop I was less than enthusiastic about, however, it was the once place my husband wanted to visit. I am not a fan of the outdoors, and I was worried about bats… but I sucked it up, and boy am I glad I did. The beauty of the caverns won me over, and it was fun to explore.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park is located in the Chihuahuan Desert in southeast New Mexico which is about two (2) hours from Roswell, NM. The caverns resources have been used by humans for thousands of years even dating back to prehistoric times. As you’re driving up to the visitor center, make sure to stop at the little historical sites set up along the way. They are filled with fun little historical tid-bits about the caverns. There is one that shows you a Indian rock shelter, which is under a large cliff overhang where they have found all sorts of different artifacts including pieces of bone, and flint flakes. There are also signs along the small trail that tell you about different plants that were used for food, medicine, and crafting material.
There are different ways to explore the caverns from self-guided tours or ranger guided tours. We choose the self-guided tour. Make sure to research your options before deciding on one. There is an entrance fee for those 16 and older, and this includes the self-guided tour. If you want a ranger guided tour there is an additional fee depending on which tour you choose. Also keep in mind children under four (4) are not permitted on any ranger guided tour. There are also some special programs to look into, including the bat flight program that allows you to view the bats leaving or returning to the caverns. They only offer the bat flight program late May to mid-October, as the bats migrate to Mexico for the winter. We unfortunately did not get to take advantage of this free program.
Here are a few tips to know before you go on the self-guided tour of the caverns: wear good supportive shoes, you are going on a hike (Um, yeah, I was not informed this was a hike!), only plain water is allowed in the caverns, bring a sweatshirt or sweater because you are going 700+ feet underground and it gets cold, and cameras are permitted so make sure to bring yours! The hike through the cavern is steep, and about a mile and a half long, so make sure to keep young children close. While I was uninformed about this being a hike, not sure what I was expecting, we were lucky enough to all be wearing tennis shoes. If you’re not prepared though there are elevators in and out of the caverns (boy, was I happy to find that out at the end of our hike!).
Even on the self-guided tour, you might run into a ranger that will share interesting details about the caverns with you. One interesting fact we learned from one of the rangers was that these caverns were not formed by running water like many limestone caves are, but they were dissolved by aggressive sulfuric acid.
The journey to the end of the trail was breathtaking, and something you really do not want to rush so give yourself the time to enjoy it! Again I happily admit I was wrong. I am glad we took the day to explore the Carlsbad Caverns National Park.