The interesting thing about White Sands is that it is kind of in the middle of nowhere. You either live near here and day trip in for a visit, or you are driving through to go somewhere else. The closest town of Alamogordo is 15 miles away and provides ample eating and lodging sources. If you are planning a trip to the dunes, give yourself enough time to explore the dunes and the town of Alamogordo. Since we were driving through, we spent 24 hours in the area and felt that was thoroughly enough time to enjoy the sites.
The town and the dunes are nestled in between two sets of Mountain ranges, the Sacramento Mountains and the San Andres Mountains. This view is of the Sacramento Mountains. As you can see, they make their own weather. I knew I wanted to be at the dunes around sunset so first, we set off to check out the New Mexico Museum of Space History. I would highly recommend this museum, with or without kids. It has great space artifacts such as moon rocks and replicas of satellites and missiles. On the walls, you will see photographs of all the people who have been inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame. On one of the higher floors, there is an excellent overlook of the Tularosa Basin, including Holloman Air Force Base and White Sands Missile Range. If you’re really into rockets, the Missile Range has a museum which is free.
White Sand Dunes National Monument
Before heading out to the dunes, be sure to grab any food you may want to bring because once you get there, there really isn’t much. Upon entering, you can get a map of the Dunes Drive when you pay the entrance fee. The fee is $5 for adults and free for children, or just show your Interagency Access Pass. **TIP #1: If you have kids and have the room, pick up a sledding disk at Walmart in town for $5. If you don’t have the room, I believe they may rent them at the Visitor’s Center. Although, if your kids are over the age of 8, I would pass on the disks. The dunes are not that steep and my kids (13 & 11) quickly lost interest.
As you could see from the first photo, the clouds were building up along the mountain ridges. I was hoping for a spectacular sunset but knew that I could also get nothing but cloud cover. As we drove out, we stopped along the Interdune Boardwalk. It is a short little walk and was good to stretch the legs. Here, you can view the vegetation and animal life such as this baby rattlesnake. I was told that snakes are not common, so some might say we were “lucky” to see this little guy. I’m not sure I would use the word “lucky” though. This is the closest zoom my husband could get without disturbing him.
After I ran back to the car, we proceeded to drive out to the Heart of the Sands area. The dunes are a touch steeper here and have less vegetation, providing the photography background I was looking for. It was beautiful hanging out and watching the clouds come in, the light going from light purple to deep blue. And although I did not get the gorgeous sunset I was hoping for, we witnessed an amazing thunder and lightning storm.
**Tip #2- Before you go, make sure you check out the notifications page on the White Sands website. It tells about heat advisories and road closures. The road to the monument will close if they are doing testing.
We had a great time visiting, as I am sure you will too. One last tip: the local Walmart offers great salads, fresh and ready to go. I don’t visit that many Walmarts, but I have never seen these large size ones before. They were perfect for bringing out to the dunes. We tend to eat large lunches and smaller dinners while traveling, so these were just perfect.
A few years ago I heard that a musical instrument museum was being built in the northern end of the city. I didn’t think much about it, I mean really, how could a museum of instruments be interesting? Boy, was I wrong! If you live anywhere near Phoenix or are planning a visit, this museum would be a wonderful way to beat the heat and simply enjoy a few hours.
The best thing they did with this museum is they made it highly interactive. Upon entering the museum, you are given a headset that allows you to fully immerse yourself. It is a completely wild experience! More on that in a minute. When you arrive, head for the middle of the museum, the stairs around the inlay map of the world (which I just love). Upstairs, you will find the galleries that allow you to put on your headset and visit different places around the world.
The galleries are broken up into regions and seamlessly continue from one to the next. My advice is to start on one end of the museum and go from there. As you put on your headphones, the music playing in your ears will change from exhibit to exhibit. You can go from screen displaying the drumbeats of Africa to Classical Austrian chamber music to Spanish Flamenco. It is truly extrordinary! It is not uncommon to see people dancing in front of the exhibit they are watching on the screens.
This is what makes the museum a special experience for any person of any age. Not only do you hear the music of the world but you can also see all the different types of instruments that are from that region. For those that want even more detail, there are placards next to the instruments that tell more about them. Throughout the museum, there are docents eager to instill even more knowledge upon you as they show you instruments that you can touch and interact with.
If you have little ones, be sure to take them downstairs to the hands on gallery where they can touch and play some of the instruments in that room. A warning though, it can get very loud in this room. Also downstairs, is the auditorium concert hall where they regularly have performances. It is a nice small venue in which I hope to see many more preformances.
From historical to modern, from common to unique, the instruments and the music housed in this museum are sure to be a great experience for all. For more information including hours and location, you can find it on their website.
It is almost the end of April and that only means one thing. It is almost road trip time! Every June when the kids get out of school, we like to take to the road and head out somewhere. Trips we have taken in the past, such as Fossil Creek or Exploring the 50 States have been enjoyed with some of these songs playing. Music makes traveling much more fun, don’t you agree? We are still unsure where we will be traveling but one thing is for sure; a proper road trip playlist is a necessity. My playlist is actually quite long but these are 10 that I am sure you will enjoy.
What songs would you add to this list? Tell me in the comments, I am always looking for new music.
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