Hear the name Roswell and images of secreted-away debris of a 1947 flying saucer crash and a clandestine cover-up cordoned off from the public with chain-link fencing and armed patrols start popping up in your head. There are even dubious, grainy black-and-white photos of surgeons performing autopsies on slit-eyed aliens.
The myth or scandal (whichever you prefer) is rich with notions of UFOs visiting Earth and an evil military subverting investigations. It’s all deteriorated into a kind of tongue-in-cheek period in American history that has spawned comical parades that parody the event, serious allegations about conspiracies, and opportunistic cafe owners rebranding their establishments to capitalize on the fanfare.
All scientists and aluminum foil-wrapped weirdos are welcome in Roswell, earning it a status as the UFO capital of the world.
All in all, Roswell is merely a town in New Mexico with a fanciful and entertaining myth that has grown up around it—which many of us kind of wish to be true. Little green men aside, Roswell is in the Land of Enchantment, with 120,000 square miles of diverse landscapes and a mere two million residents.
Although beautiful desert and wide-open spaces abound, the riding here will tend toward the straight-line variety, with limited choices for twists and turns. That said, New Mexico provides a nice tableau of scenery, alongside enough attractions to keep even the most reluctant of tourists entertained.
The town of Roswell has its own slew of UFO-inspired oddities in the form of murals and bizarre business facades featuring paper mache extraterrestrials. Even the local K-Mart is in on the act.
When in Rome—why not visit the International UFO Museum and Research Center and see exhibits curated by “ufologists.” Time your visit for the first week of July and you can see Roswell in all its glory during the annual UFO Festival, featuring music, games, and local cuisine.
You can walk the historical district year-round to learn about the local story beyond little green men, such as the downtown buildings that were built with German prisoners of war. For a small out-of-the-way place, Roswell has an interesting past.
Today, Roswell is a famous retirement destination, the relatively moderate climate making it ideal for those of a certain age. Being in the enchanting landscape of New Mexico, you’re never far from interesting geological and historical sites.
With such a strong relationship and history with Mexico, you can naturally find some very good, authentic Mexican food in Roswell.
A visit to the capital, Santa Fe (191 miles), rewards you with unique Southwest arts and culture, together with some classic Old West-style bars and funky cafes. Venture a little farther into the spiritual center of Taos and experience a rich dichotomy of cultures both old and new.
Wherever you go in New Mexico, you will be entertained with amazing sunsets, the deep shades of crimson and orange lending their own magic to the land of enchantment.
Facts & Info
An active missile range, White Sands is an amazingly tantalizing landscape of smooth, wind-combed sand dunes. It’s worth the ride. Bring some food and enjoy a picnic in the muffling quality the fine-grain sand brings to the area. Tranquility abounds here, especially if you get here during off season and secure some privacy.
Legend has it the Carslbad Caverns were discovered by a cowboy who every evening saw smoke rising on the horizon. One day he ventured to find out who it was, only to discover the “smoke” was bats emerging at dusk from the caverns. Millions of them come spiraling up and out of the caverns to feed in the night. Down in the depths, you can tour the stalagmites and stalactites in the pristine, constant coolness of the underground.
If you have the vehicle for it, the Mescalero Sands North Dune OHV park is a perfect place to ride the dunes. This motorized playground offers a thrilling backdrop of desert. Or, you can simply park and stroll the dunes.
New Mexico is ostensibly desert, so summer months are going to pound with heat and sun. Be prepared, bring plenty of water with you, and keep an eye on the fuel gauge since civilization can become sparse. Winter and spring are great times to visit, with lower temperatures and fewer crowds.
Perhaps most popular motorcycle-friendly road in New Mexico is the Turquoise Trail, which winds its way from Albuquerque (which is 200 miles northwest) and takes you over 75 miles to Santa Fe. Another option for sightseeing is Carlsbad Caverns, 95 miles south.
Once in the vicinity of Carlsbad you’ll find a turn-off at Whites City, where there’s an entertaining piece of road. The Carlsbad Highway eases over the Chihuahuan Desert and into the Guadalupe Mountains.
Recommended Lodging: Roswell Inn
You’ve come this far, so you might as well go all-in and stay at the funky Roswell Inn that has an alien theme. Offering the basics for a modest price, the Roswell Inn is just 1.5 miles from the UFO Museum and Research Center.
The New Mexico Military Institute is just one block away, and there’s Farley’s Food Fun & Pub within a 15-minute walk. Rooms have free Wi-Fi and cable TV, air conditioning, a fridge, and a microwave.