Out-of-This-World Quirky Desert Road Trip

Otherworldly experiences abound on this unique adventure looping through Arizona, New Mexico, and West Texas

Allison Young
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Queen Mine Tour

Bisbee, AZDon a hard hat, yellow slicker, battery-pack flashlight, and a back-in-time mindset and straddle the small train that transports you 1,500 feet into Bisbee’s once-booming copper, gold, and silver mine. As authentic as it gets, the tour is led by real-deal retired miners who recount quarry lingo and lessons learned. Reservations recommended, $13; queenminetour.com.

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Copper Queen Hotel

Bisbee, AZIf you hear a bump in the night, don’t be surprised. Arizona’s longest continuously running hotel has a storied past—and three resident spirits. Guests log supernatural occurrences in journals at the front desk or take the Thursday night Ghost Hunt and feel like real-life Ghostbusters. From $89; Ghost Hunt 1st & 3rd Thursday of the month; 11 Howell Ave., Bisbee, AZ; copperqueen.com.

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The Bisbee Séance Room

Bisbee, AZ
Part campy, part spooky, the hour-long show takes you through card tricks and Ouija readings while detailing Bisbee’s haunted history, all in an intimate parlor setting. Master of ceremonies Magic Kenny Bang Bang, with his macabre mustache and machismo, is the icing on the mystic cake. $25; thebisbeeseanceroom.com.

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White Sands National Monument

Northern Chihuahuan Desert, NM
The world's largest gypsum sand dune field spans 275 square miles, creating a vast sea of white waves as far as the eye can see. (It is the film location for the home planet in David Bowie’s The Man Who Fell To Earth, after all.) Hike, bike, sled, picnic, and pinch yourself. $5 entry fee; https://www.nps.gov/whsa/index.htm.

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Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument

Near Las Cruces, NM
Like pipe organs rising from the desert floor (or the spines of a prehistoric dinosaur), these stark granite spires rise up to 9,000 feet. Park at the Dripping Springs Visitor Center and take the 3-mile Dripping Springs Trail; snap photos of old ruins, or veer off to Fillmore Canyon Trail for waterfall views. $5 per vehicle; blm.gov/visit/dripping-springs-natural-area.

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El Cosmico

Marfa, TX
It’s a caravan! It’s a campground! It’s El Cosmico! Located in the artsy West Texas town of Marfa off U.S. 67, the 21-acre grounds boast a cosmic array of tepees, yurts, safari tents, and vintage trailers, plus wood-fired hot tubs, a Hammock Grove, and a must-peruse sundries shop. It’s unplugging at its best. From $85; elcosmico.com.

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Food Shark

Marfa, TX
When in Marfa, eat the Marfalafel, a spicy falafel topped with tahini, tomatoes, and cucumber wrapped in a jumbo tortilla. Arguably serving the best food in town, the lunch-only Mediterranean food truck is known for its hefty portions, long lines, and ample people watching. Open noon-3pm Wednesday through Saturday, cash and check only; foodsharkmarfa.com.

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Prada Marfa

Marfa, TX
The storefront off U.S. 90 in the middle of the West Texas desert is as fake as a Prada knockoff—it’s actually a permanent sculpture by artists Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset—but its commentary on commercialism is priceless. Ditto for the selfies you’ll score.

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Star Party at McDonald Observatory

Near Marfa, TX
Replace turntables with telescopes, DJs with astronomers, and electronic beats with celestial wonders and you have a party celebrating the night skies. Located in the Davis Mountains 45 minutes north of Marfa, telescope-hop as astronomers from the University of Texas at Austin play guide. Every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday evening, reservations recommended, $12; mcdonaldobservatory.org.

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New Mexico’s Best Hot Springs

Truth or Consequences, NM
Originally called Hot Springs, Truth or Consequences was renamed after a popular radio game show in 1950, but no way can you visit the one-stoplight town without enjoying its hotbed of geothermal mineral baths. And there are plenty of ways to get your hot springs on, from the colorful (Pelican Spa, pictured), to the scenic (Riverbend Hot Springs), to the upscale (Sierra Grande Lodge & Spa).

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Very Large Array (VLA)

Near Socorro, NM
You need more than a telescope to view the furthest reaches of the universe. Meet VLA’s 27 radio antennas located 50 miles west of Socorro. Take the self-guided walking tour and stand at the base of one of the 230-ton, 80-foot-diameter behemoths—just like Jodie Foster in Contact. $6; vla.nrao.edu.

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Green Jeans Farmery

Albuquerque, NM
When you want a cold one, whether it’s local beer or homemade organic nitrogen ice cream, this funky foodie hall is your place. Built from a bunch of converted storage containers, the one-stop eating experience also houses a wood-fired pizza restaurant, burger joint, coffee shop, taqueria, and distillery. greenjeansfarmery.com.

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Meow Wolf

Santa Fe, NM
Paintings hanging on walls can be meh. Not so at Meow Wolf. This 22,000-square-foot interactive art installation is the collective imagination incarnate of 135 artists. After entering the “House of Eternal Return,” secret passageways, foreboding hallways, and cryptic messages take you on a heady journey through fantastical realms. Solve the riddle or just immerse yourself in the trippy spectacle. Alice’s wonderland has nothing on this place. $20; meowwolf.com.

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Winslow Meteor Crater

Near Winslow, AZ
Visit the best-preserved meteorite impact site on Earth. Twenty miles west of Winslow, the mammoth crater—570 feet deep and 4,100 feet across—happened when a 40-meter-wide asteroid slammed into the Earth some 50,000 years ago. Take a guided tour, visit the rock shop, or just stare at the vastness—quite the impressive sight. $18; meteorcrater.com.