9 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Roswell
Located in southeastern New Mexico, Roswell is most famous for the 1947 "Roswell Incident": a purported UFO crash that some suspect was covered up by the military. The town and many of the local businesses take advantage of the UFO theme by plastering quirky images of aliens on storefronts and lampposts. But the small town has a deeper history to discover. Established in 1870, Roswell now has five museums that include UFO exhibits, armament displays, antiques, and artifacts. There are also a number of outdoor attractions with state parks and plenty of things to do nearby.
See also: Where to Stay in Roswell
1 International UFO Museum and Research Center
When the International UFO Museum and Research Center opened in 1992, few imagined that it would become such an international attraction for tourists and UFO fanatics. One of the most powerful parts of the museum is how it is organized. With no attempt to sway the visitor one way or another, the museum encourages people to question, doubt, research, and learn on their own. Exhibits and information are not limited to the "Roswell Incident," and the museum also presents information about alleged abductions, crop circles, and the infamous Blue Book. Tourists who want to get a unique sightseeing experience can take one of the many Roswell UFO tours led by various groups in the area, which typically visit notorious sites like Building 84 at the Roswell Army Air Field, the site that many believe once held the remains of the downed UFO and its occupants.
Address: 114 N Main Street, Roswell, New Mexico
2 Roswell Museum and Art Center
Featuring exhibits on the history and art traditions of the American Southwest, the Roswell Museum and Art Center hosts a fine array of sculptures, artifacts, prints, painting, and photographs. Originally a product of the New Deal Work Projects Administration (WPA), the museum's collection includes works from early modernists, the Taos and Santa Fe art colonies, Native American arts, WPA art, and Spanish colonial works. The museum is also home to interesting historical collections, including artifacts and exhibits that explore the history of the American West, as well as an extensive area dedicated to Dr. Robert Goddard's work on liquid-propelled rockets. The 120-seat Robert H Goddard Planetarium is an adjoining wing to the Roswell Museum and Art Center. The Planetarium presents star shows and multimedia programs, including UFO exhibitions and science programs for children.
Address: 100 W 11th Street, Roswell, New Mexico
3 Bottomless Lakes State Park
A state park located along the Pecos River about 15 miles southeast of Roswell, Bottomless Lakes is made up of a series of nine small and very deep lakes. Carved from limestone by the river and aquifer, the lakes are actually ancient caves that have collapsed. Technically they are known as cenotes, and are fed by underwater seeps. The lakes are the perfect place for a swim and a picnic on a hot day. Other things to do in the park include fishing, boating, and bird-watching.
Address: 545 Bottomless Lakes Road, Roswell, New Mexico
4 Anderson Museum of Contemporary Art
With more than 200 pieces of art spread over nine galleries, the Anderson Museum of Contemporary Art features the work of participants from the Roswell Artist-in-Residence Program, which began in 1967. The museum's collection is a diverse and eclectic one, featuring photographs, drawings, prints, paintings, and sculpture. It offers an excellent opportunity to see the evolution of contemporary art over the last 40 years.
Address: 409 E. College Blvd, Roswell, New Mexico
5 General Douglas L. McBride Military Museum
The General Douglas L. McBride Museum includes exhibits about military history and the history of the New Mexico Military Institute (NMMI) and is also home to the NMMI Hall of Fame, which recognizes the institution's most accomplished alumni. Collections include examples of firearms, uniforms, insignia, decorations, and other historic items, as well as exhibits that further explain relevant topics. The museum is located in Luna Hall on the NMMI campus and is open to the public at no charge.
Address: 101 W College Blvd, Roswell, New Mexico
6 Historical Center for Southeast New Mexico
This institution is located in the century-old home of Mr and Mrs James Phelps White, one of the most important families in the history of southwestern New Mexico. The house has been restored to its original condition and is a valuable insight into life on the southern prairies in days gone by. A new building, located right next door to the museum, hosts a priceless collection of historical archives, including 11,000 photographs.
Address: 200 N Lea Ave, Roswell, New Mexico
7 Spring River Park and Zoo
Covering about 34 acres, the Spring River Park encompasses several habitats, a children's zoo, miniature train, antique wooden horse carousel, and a trail system that features native species. The Capitan Trail educates visitors about the Pecos River system, native wildlife, and the southern Great Plains ecosystem - including prairie dogs and burrowing owls. The children's zoo has a variety of animals including lemurs, miniature horses, and pygmy goats, and the zoo's ranch area includes miniature horses and Texas Longhorn cattle, while South American llamas graze around the perimeter.
Address: 1306 E College Blvd, Roswell, New Mexico
8 Roswell Historic District
The historical Society for Southeast New Mexico offers a free walking tour brochure that leads visitors past some of the city's most remarkable historic homes. Roswell's oldest homes represent a surprisingly diverse range of architectural styles, including Hipped Box, Queen Anne, Tudor, Colonial Revival, Italianate, Mission Revival, and Spanish Pueblo Revival. Roswell is also home to some architecturally significant public buildings like the Gothic revival First Presbyterian Church. The Neoclassical Chaves County Courthouse on Main Street opened in 1911 and is known for its green tiled dome and tile floors, enormous entry doors, and decorative plasterwork. The New Mexico Military Institute is also an impressive site, designed in Military Gothic style with crenelated parapets and decorative brick designs.
9 Walker Aviation Museum
Located in a wing of the Roswell International Airport, the Walker Aviation Museum is fun to visit while waiting for a flight or heading to your hotel. The museum's exhibits focus on the role of Walker Air Force Base as an arm of the Strategic Air Command during the cold war between 1945 and 1955 while the base was active. Although small in size, the museum is packed with interesting artifacts and information. Collections include an extensive number of model military aircraft, a flight jacket, and an array of WWII-era firearms including Japanese rifles and bayonets, as well as German and Russian weapons. Other exhibits feature flight and communications equipment, uniforms, videos, and documents. There are also displays that focus on daily life at the Roswell Air Base, featuring mementos like movie ticket stubs and other memorabilia from the 1940s and 1950s.
Address: 1 Jerry Smith Circle, Roswell, New Mexico
Where to Stay in Roswell for Sightseeing
Roswell, the Alien Capital of the World, is a small city, and where you choose to stay is more about hotel preference than location. Most hotels are a mile or two outside the main downtown area, where many of the attractions, restaurants, and eclectic shops are found. Below is a list of highly-rated hotels in the city:
- Luxury Hotels: Roswell is lacking true luxury hotels but has some lovely, well-kept, mid-range properties worth considering. The new Holiday Inn, in the north end of town, has an indoor pool and a highly-regarded restaurant. Near shopping and several restaurants, the Hampton Inn includes a free hot breakfast and also has an indoor pool. The Best Western Sally Port, also well positioned, features oversized rooms, an indoor pool, and an airport shuttle. For families and those wanting a kitchen, the TownePlace Suites Roswell, just under a mile from the Roswell Museum and Art Center, features large rooms with separate living areas and full kitchens.
- Mid-Range Hotels: Just off Main Street, in a quiet location, La Quinta offers large rooms and an indoor pool. A little more than a half a mile from the General Douglas L. McBride Military Museum is the newly renovated Fairfield Inn & Suites. Also recently updated is the Best Western El Rancho Palacio. This hotel is within easy walking distance of several restaurants and close to the Military Museum.
- Budget Hotels: On the western edge of town, the Rodeway Inn has recently been remodeled and offers good-quality rooms at a low cost. Offering an indoor pool and a hot breakfast, the Comfort Inn is next door to a popular Mexican restaurant. A 1950s-style drive-up option, within walking distance to a number of good restaurants, is the Budget Inn. This hotel has been updated and offers family rooms.