New Mexico

New Mexico has a blend of Native American, European, and Central American influences. A look at the state foods alone will clue you in to the heritage of this place: state cookie is bizcochito (literally little biscuit), and state vegetables are frijoles (refried beans) and chiles. That's hot. The natural attractions of New Mexico are quite stunning. You can walk through the deepest cave in North America and view hundered of thousands of Mexican free-tail bats at Carlsbad Caverns. Trek around the almost blindingly bright dunes at White Sands National Monument in Alamogordo. Food and water are de rigeur (it can get really hot here!). You can bring frisbees, baseballs, or kites for some extra fun in the sand, or just roll down hills. It's a great place to let go of yourself away from civilization. The Gila National Forest and the Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in Socorro are great places to take in scenery and wildlife. Architecture buffs will appreciate the culturally significant structures of Bandelier National Monument and Santuario de Chimay├│. There are Pueblo cave dwellings and a particularly revered church. Roswell's International UFO Museum and Research Center claims to have the largest assortment anywhere of materials related to UFOs and potential alien activities. In Albuquerque, interesting collections include the American International Rattlesnake Museum and the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology at UNM, which focuses on human evolution and the cultural heritage of the American Southwest, among other topics. The Bradbury Museum at Los Alamos provides the skinny on atomic bomb development and other scientific projects conducted here. As you might expect, the Latin American cuisine in New Mexico is enormously varied and often inventive. Eggs, pork, corn, and avocados are typical staples of much of the Mexican cooking, and barbecued brisket and buffalo burgers are pretty much straight-up Southwestern fare. In Santa Fe, you can get a sweet tamale that has not only corn, but beans, fruit, and chocolate, or roasted poblano chile rellenos with three-mushroom quinoa and chipotle cream. On the other end of the geographical culinary spectrum (and physically between Roswell and Alamogordo), you can taste inventive interpretations of Thai, Chinese, and Indian foods while sitting at a communal table where you pay by the hour and eat whatever the chef decides to make. While in Taos, try flavorful organic or free-range regional dishes like posole with shepherd's lamb sausage or grilled trout with chipotle cream. You can also have a satisfying soup/salad combo, or go to a place with fresh wheatgrass, the most popular salad bar in town, an avocado and cheese sandwich, and a tempeh burger. If you want to fuel up after a Breaking Bad tour, visit one of the great local bakeries in Albuquerque and you just might get a free cookie with your coffee. There's also an authentic cafe at a Pueblo cultural center; you can observe bread-baking demos along with traditional dances.