Breathtaking natural beauty and enchanting sunsets. Iconic landscapes and rich Native American history. Welcome to New Mexico, also known as The Land of Enchantment. No state better captures the true essence of the American Southwest than New Mexico -- and the best way to experience this is to go off the beaten path in Ruidoso, New Mexico.
Certain Ruidoso spots are obligatory visitor destinations, such as Ruidoso Downs and the Lincoln National Forest. However make sure not to miss out on these unique and offbeat things to do in Ruidoso:
Ziplining gets exponentially more fun as the elevation increases, it's a scientific fact*
* may not be "scientific" or a "fact" but it is the truth
Like any good ski company, Ski Apache offers plenty of adrenaline-pumping outdoor summer activities as well. These include mountain biking, hiking, a 9-hole disc golf course, and of course the star of it all, their impressive ziplines.
Ziplining at Ski Apache is an unforgettable experience. Located over 11,000 feet above sea level (3,500 metres), this three-part zipline tours covers nearly two miles in distance (over 2.7 kilometres), offers "the most spectacular view in Southern New Mexico" and hits speeds of up to 65 MPH! (105km/hr!) Now tell you me that you don't want to experience this ;)
I have an unhealthy fixation with strange, unique and one-of-a-kind museums. No museum is too small or too quirky. Few museums are worth a second visit but every museum is worth one.
The Museum Of The Horse in Ruidoso changed its name to Hubbard's Museum of the American West but the museum is no less interesting, especially to anyone fascinated by horses or the history of the American West.
"Free Spirits at Noisy Waters" by Dave McGary is a collection of eight giant horse scupltures located on the grounds of the Museum of the American West. Photo via pamwood707
The Hubbards were a racing family, which explains why the museum is located next to the race track, Ruidoso Downs. It focuses on a wide variety of regional history, from wild horses and horse racing to Native Americans, pioneers and frontier life.
Although small, a lot is packed into the museum. Scultpures, horse carriages, weapons, art and a plethora of antiques, all of which have detailed descriptions. There are also seasonal exhibits as well.
Entrance to the grounds is free, but the museum costs $7.
During summer there is horseback riding, disc golf, hiking, mountain biking, cycling tours (on the road), fishing, ziplining, horse racing, camping and more. Pick one (or more) of these that you have never done before and give it a go. What better way to create some unforgettable memories in Ruidoso?
Cold weather means skiing, snowboarding, winter ziplining, tubing, sledding, and all sorts of other snow-filled activities. Decide on one that you've never done and make sure put it on your Ruidoso to-do list.
Ruidoso has nearly a dozen lakes, parks and recreation areas -- one for every 700 residents -- so outdoor activities abound. However the hiking trails around Grindstone Lake are some of the most relaxing, beautiful and enjoyable of all these activities.
There are 18-miles of multiple use trails around Grindstone Lake and on into the neighboring Lincoln National Forest designed by the International Mountain Biking Association. In other words, sure they are suitable for hiking, but they were designed for mountain biking. ;)
screenshot from discoverruidoso.com
Grindstone Lake also offers fishing and has a 27-hole disc golf course.
Go karts, bumper boats and miniature golf, oh my! Pillow's Funtrackers is a unique theme park that is fun for kids of all ages -- including our inner kid. (When was the last time you released that guy?) ;)
Open all year round, Pillow's Funtrackers attracts thrill-seeking guests from all of New Mexico, not just visitors to Ruidoso.
All three go kart tracks, the bumper cars, miniature golf course and mountain maze are open year-round, however the bumper boats and gemstone panning are seasonal activities.
Prices are suprisingly affordable as well. For $100 you can get 20 tickets, each good for one admission on any of the 20 rides.
This article was sponsored in part by Discover Ruidoso, however it should go without saying that all experiences are my own opinion and were not influenced in any way.
Recently I had the pleasure of discovering a refreshing new side to Ohio, the hidden gem known as Hocking Hills. Nestled in the southeastern portion of the state, this area is known for its rolling hills and glacier-carved valleys. As a result of these iconic valleys the region is also home to a surprising amount of migratory fauna and even several types of flora that are usually only found in the cooler climates of .
In addition to offering a wealth of outdoor activities, the nearby towns provide several interesting sightseeing opportunities and tours that cover a variety of interests and hobbies which visitors of all ages will find appealing. Together they make Hocking Hills a fantastic and inexpensive family getaway that proves there is much more to the Buckeye State than simply the "3 C's." Ohio also has the geographic distinction of being located within a single days drive of 50% of the United States population, further strengthening the region as an ideal destination for a refreshing family vacation.
Get Outdoors And Stretch Those Legs!
Surpassed only by their love of football, Ohio residents are extremely proud of the 200,000 acres of state and national parks scattered across this diverse state. Hocking Hills State Park is one of the most prominent in the region and receives as many as four million visitors each year.
An overwhelming one million of those visitors arrive just during October, when the autumn color change transforms the entire area into a vivid and impressive landscape that attract non-stop hordes of "leaf-peepers."
Unfortunately for me I arrived just a couple days after Hurricane Sandy had ravaged this colorful scenery. The storm was so powerful that its effects were felt even this far inland, where 60-70mph winds stripped the deciduous trees of every last leaf and covered the ground in countless shades of auburn. Luckily that in no way diminished the joy of exploring this area.
There are a total of nine hiking trails in varying lengths and difficulties and two great biking trails located within Hocking Hills State Park that allow visitors to choose their route based upon whichever sights appeal to them. One of the most popular of these trails is the hike to Old Man's cave, which you can see pictured below.
Although the largest crowds at Hocking Hills State Park occur during the autumn color change, this area happens to be blessed with spectacular wildlife and scenery regardless of the season. In fact each has its own appeal and distinct reasons for visiting. Whether witnessing the first new leaves of the spring awakening or trekking through this snow-covered winter wonderland, Hocking Hills State Park never disappoints!
But believe it or not all of thise natural beauty is trumped by resident naturalist Pat Quackenbush. Pat's all-encompassing knowledge of the local history and climate combined with his vivid storytelling and skills in mimicking the sound of local wildlife culminates in the perfect tour guide. I've traveled extensively through 46 US states, camping and exploring a wide range of both parks and climates, and without a doubt Pat is the all-around best naturalist I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. His love and dedication to the region are undeniable and certainly add that special spark when experiencing the local outdoors.
A more extensive list of the outdoor adventures offered including upcoming events can be found on the Hocking Hills State Park official web page.
For those who crave a more unique outdoor experience there is no better option than a guided tour through Saltpetre Cave State Nature Preserve. The highlight of this two-hour expedition up into the hills is an enthralling session with Wehyehpihehrsehnhwah (pronounced Way-u-per-shenwa), which takes place in the fourth and final cave along the trek. Approaching hikers will be able to hear his traditional Native American flute melodies rising through the hills long before being able to spot the source.
Otherwise known by the much easier to pronounce nickname "Shawnee Storyteller," Wehyehpihehrsehnhwah consistently captivates audiences from his first word to the very last. His stories offer a different perspective on the Hocking Hills region as well as thoughtful insights on our responsibility as the dominant species of this planet. They are comprised of a mixture of local history and knowledge of regional nature and wildlife, engaging Shawnee practices and stories of the past, personal childhood experiences, and even include thought-provoking cultural wisdom that has been passed down through the generations by tribe elders. Visitors are unanimously impressed by Wehyehpihehrsehnhwah and frequently find that leaving is hard to do.
Here are a few of my photos from both the initial hike through the nature preserve and our subsequent session with the Shawnee Storyteller.
To learn more about Wehyehpihehrsehnhwah and his stories please consult Hocking Hills Adventure Trek. They also offer several more challenging trails intended only for experienced hikers.
Get Your Adrenaline Pumping!
Canopy tours are the perfect excursion for those nature-lovers whom are also avid thrill-seekers and typically feature multiple ziplines and sky bridges. Just a few weeks before my visit a group from Discovery.com had popped in for a visit, after which they named the Hocking Hills ziplines as one of the top ten ziplines in the world! (View the article)
The canopy tour includes a total of ten ziplines but the prime attraction of this three-hour excursion is the SuperZip, Ohio's answer to the public demand for a "higher, longer, and faster" zipline. It covers more than a quarter mile and includes a breathtaking stretch directly over the Hocking River that makes the most of the zippers' "Superman-style" flying position.
Individuals are launched in pairs from an 85-foot tower perched atop the hillside and reach speeds of up to 50mph, making the SuperZip a fun race for anyone with a competitive nature.
Although the SuperZip can be experienced either by itself or as part of the full canopy tour package, I strongly recommend the latter -- especially if you have never been ziplining or on a canopy tour before. You may be surprised at just how much fun you have been missing out on.
Canopy tour details and contact information available via Hocking Hills Canopy Tours.
From April through October the Hocking River is popular among both kayakers and canoers, as visitors will notice when ziplining over the river. Two different lengths are offered, both filled with a variety of spots suitable for beaching your craft to rest along the shore or bask in the tranquil sounds of nature, allowing participates to extend this into a all-day event if the mood arises.
To get the best of both worlds, ziplining and kayaking, I suggest what is known as the "Float & Fly" special. This trip will take you down the longer of the two kayaking routes and passes directly underneath the SuperZip. Located there is a small landing area on the right side of the river for zippers to safely stow their kayak and make the short walk up to the SuperZip launch tower. After the group has completeled this exhilirating zip then its back into the kayaks for the remaining leg of the cruise.
Check out a few of the photos from our kayaking adventure below. You may even recognize a couple of my fellow travel bloggers, including Kristen from Hopscotch The Globe and Will from Wake And Wander.
Overnight camping is also an option for anyone wishing to continue this experience past sunset. Visitors can either bring their own tents and set up camp in several designated campgrounds ($7/each) or rent one of the four-person cabins that are scattered along the river. Cabins include basic amenities such as heating/cooling, refrigerator, and microwave and cost $60/night during the week or $70/night on Fridays and Saturdays.
Further details including specials and upcoming events can be found on the Hocking Hills Canoe Livery website.
Of course these activities are but a fraction of all the outdoor adventures awaiting visitors of Hocking Hills and the surrounding area. Depending on the season other great choices include a variety of haunted hikes and ghost stories, wildlife observation and education treks, fishing, hunting, and even occasional nighttime activities/events. Keep this in mind the next time you find yourself passing through Ohio or searching for an affordable family vacation. And as always, if you have any questions that are not answered by the links included then feel free to give me a shout.