When you look at Roswell on the map at first glance, it appears to be a small, quiet town in a remote part of southeast New Mexico. Maybe it would have been like this, if it wasn’t for the curious Roswell Incident in 1947.
Instead, the personality of Roswell ventured in a completely different direction, becoming a quirky tourist destination. Much of the town has chosen to embrace this new-found persona, leading to an abundance of things to do in Roswell that will let you unleash your inner oddball.
But among the alien-inspired museums, offbeat attractions and buildings, remains the same charming town. One that’s home to a renowned artist community and only minutes from rare natural geography, including state parks and wildlife refuges.
In this post, we'll cover:
12. Roswell UFO Spacewalk
If the weather isn’t ideal in Roswell, that doesn’t mean you can’t go on an adventure. The Roswell UFO Spacewalk in a thrilling indoor amusement center that is also part of an interactive art exhibition.
Whether you’re traveling with the family, friends or your partner, there’s plenty to keep you entertained. Some of the fun includes the sensation of flying through outer space along with the chance to walk through a UFO. This isn’t some basic UFO either, with the center taking some creative liberties to ensure the UFO is complete with the latest technology, sparkling lights, and a friendly alien or two.
11. Alien Zone Area 51
As you explore Roswell, you’ll have plenty of experiences with the city’s love of all things, UFOs and aliens. Its quirky history has taken on a life of its own. But in order to commemorate your time in Roswell, the location of the Roswell Incident, you have to stop by Alien Zone Area 51.
The fun attraction has several rooms set up for photo ops with aliens, that will make for a hilarious photo album to look back on. There is also a store packed with clothes, gear and souvenirs inspired by Area 51 and the many weird events that have taken place around town.
10. Take a photo at the Welcome Sign
Much of the attractions in Roswell have taken inspiration from the extraterrestrial activities that have occurred in the area. Heck, there’s even a McDonald’s in the shape of a flying saucer. But if you approach the town from the south end, the first thing you’ll see is a huge mural of an UFO with several aliens.
The mural is a part of the Roswell Welcome Sign and yet another example of the town embracing its unique standing within the sci-fi and UFO community. It was created in 2013 and has been a popular stop on the way into town ever since. At some stage, you must take a selfie with the UFO and its resident aliens.
9. Spring River Park and Zoo
On East College Boulevard, the Spring River Park and Zoo is a central preserve within walking distance of downtown. In fact, you can reach the park by walking or cycling along the beautiful Spring River Parkway.
The zoo has plenty to offer visitors despite its relatively small size. The modern environment is split into five separate areas, a highlight of which is the Capitan Trail. Along the trail, you’ll discover several animals that are native to the state, along with bison and deer.
Those traveling with kids will also enjoy the Children’s Zoo that allows the young ones to enjoy an interactive experience with animals. The other spaces include the Mountain Habitats and Around the World, which feature black bears and kangaroos, respectively.
8. Pecos Flavors Winery
Comprising wine from throughout the state, Pecos Flavors Winery is a great way to indulge in some New Mexico vino. The winery is in the center of town, on Second Street, making it easy to get to, with other bars in proximity to continue the fun.
Pecos Flavors Winery is packed with ranching decor, which represents this section of New Mexico. From within the tasting room, which comes with a century-old bar, you can sample wines from a dozen vineyards comprising over 80 blends. To complement the tastings, you can also try several local delicacies including cheeses, nuts, and chocolates. If you’re not much of a wine person, come along and enjoy their range of New Mexico beer.
7. Downtown Historic District
Owing to the convergence of three major rivers, the Pecos, Hondo and Spring, Roswell has been inhabited for centuries. The Mescalero Apache and Commanche tribes are known to have lived the area from at least the 1400s.
A ranch was later established in 1867 and quickly brought about a population boom and the development of an assortment of architectural styles. Today, the Downtown Historic District presents a series of well-preserved 19th-century buildings that feature Italianate, Prairie, Spanish Pueblo, and Victorian designs, among others.
Prominent buildings to see include the Chaves County Courthouse, the Military Institute and the Presbyterian Church. The best way to explore is on a tour run by the Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico.
6. Roswell Visitors Center
Roswell is an intriguing town, with more things to do than would immediately meet the eye. It’s a place to discover the history of UFOs but is complemented by a range of rare ecosystems and a thriving artists’ community. A great way to get your bearings, up to date information, and learn even more about the town, is at the Roswell Visitors Center.
This list is a great starting point. But the friendly local experts at the center will be able to give your itinerary a check along with helping you find the best places to eat and drink. If you like to collect souvenirs, then the center gift shop will also have everything you need.
5. Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge
Featuring one of the top biological wetlands in Southeastern New Mexico, visiting the Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge is a great way to see local wildlife. The refuge was created in the 1930s to protect migrating sandhill cranes and other waterfowl who frequent the wetlands in substantial numbers.
It’s a unique ecosystem that’s pressed against the Chihuahua Desert on one side, with the prairies and the Pecos River on the other. All three landscapes come together to create a popular watering hole for a vast range of animals.
Aside from the cranes, you can find over 350 different birds around Bitter Lake. While the birds are a major attraction, the refuge is also the home of 50 reptile species along with dozens of ducks, fish, and mammals. To explore, walk the hiking trails, or take the car along Wildlife Drive.
4. Anderson Museum of Contemporary Art
In 1967, the Roswell Artist-in-Residence program was established. This gave the opportunity for studio artists to showcase their talents within the local community while enjoying the support of fellow artists. Today, much of the amazing work is housed within the Anderson Museum of Contemporary Art.
The museum itself was developed in the 1990s, to both combine the works from the program and inspire the residents of Roswell. But for travelers, it’s the art on display that makes it all worthwhile. Discover over 400 unique pieces of art, from objective to abstract visual art. Afterwards, check out the gift shop to take home some artistic inspiration.
The Anderson Museum of Contemporary Art is open seven days a week and holds a variety of events and workshops throughout the year.
3. International UFO Museum
In 1947, an event occurred in Roswell that would change the identity of the town forever. That summer, the Roswell Incident happened, which involved the discovery of a so-called flying disk. It’s an event that puzzled people then and continues to spark curiosity today.
You can explore the timeline of the Roswell Incident, and more, at the International UFO Museum. The museum was founded in 1991 and is within a classic movie theater from the 1930s. Learn all about the unforgettable incident along with the history of UFO encounters through a range of interesting exhibits.
Importantly, the museum isn’t for or against the idea of alien life and simply allows you to make up your own mind with the information provided.
2. Roswell Museum & Art Center
Showcasing the artistic history of America’s Southwest, the Roswell Museum and Art Center is a must visit for lovers of art and history buffs. The art exhibits are particularly striking. The collection comprises a range of artists, including art from the historic community of Taos Pueblo, other Native American tribes, and pieces from the Spanish colonial era.
The genres include ample work from the 19th and 20th centuries, age old relics, prominent photographs, and ornate sculptures. To complement the sheer amount of historic art, the museum has a series of exhibits that explore life in the Old West. In addition, you’ll find more space-inspired fun within the adjoining 120-seat planetarium that offers UFO shows and science workshops.
1. Bottomless Lakes State Park
With plenty of time spent enjoying local culture and indulging in some UFO fun, you’ll feel the itch to spend some more time out in nature. In typical New Mexico fashion, the local landscapes are out of this world.
The Bottomless Lakes State Park is 20 minutes southeast of Roswell and features a brilliant system of nine lakes, with each of them deeper than the last. The lakes were carved by an underground river which ripped through the limestone for thousands of years. Eventually, these caves collapsed.
In the height of summer, it can be hard to escape the blistering heat. But you can do that by diving into the lakes. As they are fed from underground aquifers, the water remains refreshing all year long. Aside from swimming, you can scuba dive, fish, or journey along the mountain bike trail.