To many people around the world, Roswell, New Mexico, is the place where allegedly a flying machine from elsewhere in the universe crashed in 1947, and dead aliens were found—and then, to the true believers, the whole event was hushed up and called a weather balloon crash landing.
Uh huh, yeah, you bet.
Certainly the notoriety has been beneficial to Roswell, an otherwise unassuming farm, manufacturing, ranch and oil community on the staked plains of southeastern New Mexico. But there is so much more to this town. It’s the county seat of Chaves County. Roswell was the city that hosted the record-breaking skydive by Felix Baumgartner on Oct. 14, 2012. It’s flanked by Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge, a few miles to the northwest along the Pecos River and a place to see many gorgeous IFOs—Identified Flying Objects—in the form of ducks and other waterfowl from throughout the West. Twelve miles east on US 380 are the Bottomless Lakes, a state park that is a joyful spot for campers, hikers, swimmers, boaters and, unexpectedly in the high plains, scuba divers. Families will love the Spring River Park and Zoo, New Mexico’s only free-admission zoo, which features a special fishing lake for children, exotic animals and an antique carousel.
Roswell also is an art center for this side of New Mexico. It’s where the artist Peter Hurd was from and lived in the Hondo Valley with his wife Henriette Wyeth Hurd. Their work is featured at the Roswell Museum and Art Center, increasingly known in the art world for support of emerging artists through a residency program. History buffs will like the Historical Center of Southeast New Mexico, a grand old house filled with area antiques, artifacts and a changing gallery of historical exhibits. Speaking of history, famed rocketry pioneer Robert Goddard conducted many of his rocket experiments at Roswell.
Roswell has a year-round slate of special events, including a grand Electrical Lights Christmas Parade that starts in the neighboring town Carlsbad and winds up the highway into Roswell on Thanksgiving weekend. There’s the Labor Day Pops concert and the Dragonfly Festival at Bitter Lake Refuge.
The annual Mike Satterfield Memorial Fireworks Extravaganza on the Fourth of July is what you’d expect in a town that has one of the only fireworks manufacturers in the state. And of course, Roswell also has its annual UFO Celebration on the Independence Day weekend. Your visit would not be complete without a stop at the International UFO Museum and Research Center downtown, where you can find out what really happened when “something” crashed near Roswell in 1947—or maybe not.