11 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Roswell, NM

Written by Becca Blond and Michael Law
Updated Feb 22, 2024
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Roswell throws its extraterrestrial obsession right at you the moment you reach its city limits. Whether you enter from the north or south, it's impossible to miss the bold neon flying saucer-themed welcome signs rising in each direction from the stark desert landscape.

An alien streetlight in Roswell
An alien streetlight in Roswell

It's been more than 75 years since the "Roswell Incident," when a UFO supposedly crashed here in July 1947, an event some say the U.S. military covered up. But this small southeastern New Mexican town is still cashing in on the alien theme, attracting hard-core believers and skeptics alike in search of the truth (or lack thereof).

The town and many of the local businesses take advantage of the UFO phenomenon by plastering quirky images of aliens on storefronts and lampposts. A giant alien holds up the Dunkin Donuts sign, the McDonald's is shaped like a flying saucer, and another ET creature beckons you at Dominos.

But the small town has a deeper history to discover. Roswell has five museums and plenty of things to do nearby. If you don't care to prove the existence of extraterrestrial life, check out the outdoor attractions. Bottomless Lakes State Park is home to a series of small but very deep lakes, known as cenotes (like what you find in Mexico's Riviera Maya) in collapsed limestone caves that you can swim in. There are also hiking and biking trails and plentiful bird-watching opportunities at the Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge.

Find out more about the best places to visit with our list of the top attractions in Roswell, New Mexico.

See also: Where to Stay in Roswell

1. Discover if the Truth is Out There at the International UFO Museum and Research Center

International UFO Museum and Research Center
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.

If you want a unique sightseeing experience, 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

Official site: www.roswellufomuseum.com

2. Other Alien Attractions

Welcome to Roswell sign
Welcome to Roswell sign

UFO Spacewalk

The UFO Spacewalk is just down the street from the UFO Museum and is another one of Roswell's most popular alien-themed tourist attractions. The creation of Bryan Ward, it's a trippy blacklight experience that you walk through.

Upon entrance, you'll be "beamed up by an alien spaceship" (Ward's words) and taken to another planet where you'll encounter extraterrestrial creatures, galaxies, and other special effects before exiting into a gallery filled with Ward's neon-hued, space art. There is a small fee to enter this attraction.

Alien Zone: Area 51

The Alien Zone: Area 51 is also located on Main Street downtown and where enthusiasts come to snap social media pics and videos. Pay a small admission fee and you can take photos of yourself dining with an alien or hopping on the back of its motorcycle.

Signs Around Town

You'll also want to take pictures at the Roswell welcome signs on either side of town. The sign on the north side is the most iconic, a large neon green with red letter affair with a flying saucer perched on its edge like a hat. The sign on the south side of town is sponsored by the Roswell Chamber of Commerce and features an extraterrestrial family getting a jumpstart for their spaceship from a local farmer.

Finally, don't miss a trip to the town McDonald's. The kid's play area here is shaped like a flying saucer and lit up neon at night and this is the only space-themed McDonald's in the world.

3. Visit the Roswell Museum and Art Center

Roswell Museum and Art Center
Roswell Museum and Art Center | PunkToad / photo modified

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, paintings, 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

Official site: www.roswellmuseum.org

4. Spend a Day at Bottomless Lakes State Park

Bottomless Lakes State Park
Bottomless Lakes State Park

When you've had your fill of UFOS, move on to Roswell's best natural attractions. The series of nine small but very deep, blueish-green lakes that make up Bottomless Lakes State Park offer plenty of things to do and is especially well-known for its scuba diving.

Along the Pecos River, these lakes are really sinkholes (also known as cenotes), made from ancient limestone caves that have collapsed into themselves and then filled with water fed by underground seeps.

Lake Lea is the only body of water here that allows swimming. The water is cold, but on a scorching hot summer day feels super refreshing. Lake Lea is the deepest of the lakes with depths up to 90 feet and is one of the few places in this landlocked state where you can go scuba diving. Divers can check out endangered fish species and even see the large group of springs that feed this cenote.

Non-motorized boating is also permitted on the lake. The sandy beach is popular with sunbathers. Other activities include fishing, hiking trails, birdwatching opportunities, and even a 3.3-mile mountain bike trail. If you want to pitch a tent, the park campgrounds are open between mid-May and Labor Day.

Address: 545 Bottomless Lakes Road, Roswell, New Mexico

Official site: http://www.emnrd.state.nm.us/SPD/bottomlesslakesstatepark.html

5. Tour the Anderson Museum of Contemporary Art

Anderson Museum of Contemporary Art
Anderson Museum of Contemporary Art | PunkToad / photo modified

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 has over 500 pieces and is a diverse and eclectic one, featuring photographs, drawings, prints, paintings, and sculptures. It offers an excellent opportunity to see the evolution of contemporary art over the last 45 years.

Works of art in various mediums are spread out over 12 galleries in 22,000 square feet of exhibition space.

Address: 409 E. College Blvd, Roswell, New Mexico

Official site: roswellamoca.org

6. Walk the Trails or Drive through Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge

Dragonfly at the Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge
Dragonfly at the Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge

Just outside Roswell lies one of New Mexico's most unique and rare ecosystems. A mash-up of the Chihuahua desert, shortgrass prairie, and the Pecos River combine to provide a year-round supply of water that attracts a diverse array of animals.

Over 350 species of birds call the Bitter Lake area their home, and it's this incredible fact that draws birders from across the country and around the world. It's not all about birds; the refuge is also a hot spot for the more than 100 species of dragonflies and damselflies, also known specifically as odonates.

The area away from Bitter Lake is a fascinating topography of sinkholes, sand dunes, plateaus, and marshy areas. Throughout the refuge, you'll also find 59 species of mammals, 20 duck species, and 24 different kinds of fish. Keep an eye out for one of the 50 species of reptiles and amphibians sunning themselves on a log or rock.

The best way to experience the refuge is to take one of the three walking trails or one of the two longer hiking trails. Most of the trails leave from the scenic eight-mile-long Wildlife Drive that leaves from the main visitor center.

Official site: https://www.fws.gov/refuge/Bitter_Lake/

7. McBride Museum

Named for General Douglas L. McBride, the 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

Official site: https://www.nmmi.edu/mcbride-museum/

8. 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 on the National Register of Historic Places. It's one of Roswell's best museums and 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

Official site: www.roswellnmhistory.org

9. Take the Family to the Spring River Park and Zoo

Spring River Park and Zoo
Spring River Park and Zoo | Steve Crenshaw / photo modified

Covering about 34 acres, the Spring River Park encompasses several habitats, a children's zoo, a miniature train, an 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

Official site: https://roswell-nm.gov/1382/About-the-Zoo

10. Explore the Roswell Historic District

Chaves County Courthouse
Chaves County Courthouse

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.

Official site: www.roswell-usa.com/historic

11. 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

Official site: www.wafbmuseum.org

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 lacks true luxury hotels but has some lovely, well-kept mid-range properties worth considering. The newer Holiday Inn Roswell, in the north end of town, has an indoor pool and a highly regarded restaurant.
  • Near shopping and several restaurants, the Hampton Inn & Suites includes a free hot breakfast and also has an indoor pool.
  • The Clarion Inn & Suites Sally Port, also well positioned, features oversized rooms and an indoor pool plus a Jacuzzi.
  • For families and those wanting a kitchen, the TownePlace Suites by Marriott 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 by Wyndham offers large rooms and an indoor pool.
  • A little more than 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 Quality Inn & Suites is next door to a popular Mexican restaurant.
  • Park right outside your unit and be within walking distance to a number of good restaurants when you stay at the Roswell Inn. This hotel has been updated and offers family rooms.

Roswell, NM - Climate Chart

Average minimum and maximum temperatures for Roswell, NM in °C
13 -4 17 -2 21 2 26 6 30 12 34 17 35 19 33 18 30 14 24 8 18 1 13 -4
Average monthly precipitation totals for Roswell, NM in mm.
10 10 9 15 33 41 51 59 50 33 14 15
Average minimum and maximum temperatures for Roswell, NM in °F
56 24 62 29 70 36 78 43 86 53 94 62 95 67 92 65 86 58 76 46 65 33 56 25
Average monthly precipitation totals for Roswell, NM in inches.
0.4 0.4 0.4 0.6 1.3 1.6 2.0 2.3 2.0 1.3 0.5 0.6
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