The following are some historic sites south of Albuquerque that can make for a great day trip. The furthest is Chloride, which is about a 3 hour drive so 6 hours driving total, which is just about where I cap out for a day trip. Many of them are much closer!
- Los Lunas & Belen: in Los Lunas there is a well-maintained 19th century AT&SF railroad depot–super cute! There is also the well-known Tomé Hill and somewhat mysterious Decalogue Stone. I haven’t had a chance to see the stone myself as you need to get a permit to hike in the area and I haven’t gotten around to it yet. Further south in Belen you can visit the Harvey Girl Museum, an unexpected gem! On this site you can see the description of some other Fred Harvey buildings in the state.
- Salinas Pueblos: I think that the Salinas Pueblos are one of the ultimate day trips from Albuquerque in the state! Easily done in a day, there are three sites you can visit–Abo, Quarai, and Gran Quivira. This summer I drove further east along Route 60, which is along the general route of the old salt trail, and it was really lovely. In the small town of Willard, you can see Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church, which I found to be very interesting architecturally.
- Fort Craig: there isn’t much left of this 19th century fort and so may not be worth it if you aren’t a history buff (Fort Stanton further south and Fort Union up north are better visits) but you could pop over after doing some hiking at San Lorenzo Canyon or bird watching at Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge.
- Chloride Ghost Town: New Mexico has quite a few interesting ghost towns, most of them I haven’t had a chance to visit as they are often quite isolated. If you’re looking for a typical Old West-looking ghost town, Chloride fits the bill. Like many of the ghost towns, there are some residents, which is why there is an active museum and art gallery. The Pioneer Store Museum is incredible as it was locked up for 60 years with everything kept inside, reminds me a bit of the Tenement Museum in NYC.
- Trinity Site: only open twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall, visiting Trinity Site is a must do. It’s a very sobering and somber experience to visit the site of the world’s first nuclear explosion. Get there early as cars line up for hours before opening (looks like they may be taking reservations for October 2021).
- Lincoln: there are Billy the Kid sites all over New Mexico because he really got around! There’s his gravesite and a museum in Fort Sumner, the old courtroom in Mesilla, and then there’s Lincoln–his old stomping grounds and an incredible New Mexican ghost town. As you walk down the main street, most of the buildings are enterable and have been turned into museums, although a few are still private residences so look out for signs! Every August there is a reenactment of his last escape. There are quite a few sites around Lincoln, making up the Billy the Kid Scenic Byway. As a big ole Smokey the Bear fan myself, my favorite is definitely the Smokey museum in Capitan!