Located in southeastern New Mexico, Roswell is best known for its associations with the 1947 Roswell UFO Incident. The crash of the mysterious aircraft happened about 75 miles from the town but the name has stuck, encouraging a steady stream of tourists ever since. Today, the town has numerous attractions relating to the incident, as well as other interesting sights.
The Roswell UFO Incident refers to the July 1947 crash of a strange object in the desert outside of Roswell. The local air base investigated the huge debris field and announced it had recovered a flying disk. After that initial announcement, the U.S. Air Force revised the account, stating that the craft was merely a weather balloon. The 'incident' was revived in the 1980s by the tabloid newspaper National Enquirer, and conspiracy theories have proliferated ever since.
- The UFO Festival - Every July, the town holds the annual Roswell UFO Festival. Among the events are lectures, parades, a running event called Alien Chase and a pet alien contest.
- Alien Zone - Alien Zone is basically a gift shop selling alien related memorabilia such as t-shirts, cups and such - with an added feature. In addition to low prices, Alien Zone offers an opportunity to get your photograph taken with aliens. One Trip Advisor reviewer who did just that said, "We laughed so hard it hurt."
- Museum and Research Center - Roswell has a small, but worthy, museum dedicated to the incident. Of particular interest to sci-fi fans are letters from witnesses, newspaper clippings and posters.
- Roswell UFO Tours - Army vet and UFO enthusiast Dennis Balthaser gives two-hour tours of the airfield where the UFO crashed, the homes of several witnesses and the town itself. Expect to hear endless fascinating stories and theories. The cost is $100 for up to four people.
Roswell is not just about the UFO incident. The New Mexico city has some beautiful scenery and great non-UFO related attractions. Examples include:
- Roswell Museum and Art Center - The adobe-style museum opened in 1937 with a grant from the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The museum highlights the work of regional artists. Their collection includes work by Henriette Wyeth and artifacts by New Mexico aerospace pioneer Robert H. Goddard.
- Spring River Zoo - Located in the heart of Roswell, this diverse zoo is free to the public. Attractions here include a youth (15 and under) fishing lake, an antique carousel, a miniature train, and a children's petting zoo. Of course, there are lots of animals too, many representing the fauna of New Mexico.
New Mexico Military Institute - Founded in 1891, the New Mexico Military Institute's attractions include the McBride Museum, a golf course and an on-campus art collection. They also conduct tours.
Bottomless Lakes State Park - The green-blue color of the park's lakes creates the illusion that they are bottomless. In reality these rainbow trout populated waters are between 17 and 90 feet deep. At Lea Lake, the deepest of them all, you can swim and set up camp.
Pecos Flavors Winery - Pecos Flavors Winery celebrates New Mexico wine with tastings and other special events. Particularly popular are the music events, including an open mic night.
If you have the time and the means to travel a little further outside the town, also consider visiting Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Carlsbad is a little over 100 miles from Roswell and is well-worth the drive.
Places to Eat
Roswell has over 100 eateries, including the following selections.
- Chef Toddzilla Mobile Cuisine - Not exactly a traditional restaurant, this place is actually a mobile burger joint. As well as combining dark chocolate and bleu cheese (a tasty combination apparently), Trip Advisor ranks it as number one of all the places to eat in the town. As of January 2014, none of the people who reviewed it on Trip Advisor gave it fewer than five stars. Said one reviewer, "This is the reason to come to Roswell not the aliens." It costs from $7.95 for a burger and fries.
- Cowboy Cafe - A traditional diner with simple but quality American-style food, Cowboy Cafe's menu includes biscuits and gravy and homemade pies. According to one Yelp reviewer, "... the real gem is the Chicken Biscuit and Taters. Oh. My. Guys, this is ridiculously good." Yelp rates Cowboy Cafe as a budget restaurant, describing the price range with a single dollar sign. A customer posted on Yelp that she ordered two omelets, two biscuits and gravy and two coffees for a total cost of around $20.
- Cattle Baron Steak and Seafood - This New Mexico chain is a steak house with a fantastic salad bar, great food, and a pretty wide selection. Among other dishes on its menu are the All-American burger, the steak New Mexico and the garlic trout. Main dishes cost from $15.25.
Roswell is a medium sized town of only 45,000 people. Most of the accommodations are situated on the north main street, just off Highway 70 - within reasonable distance of all the major attractions.
- Holiday Inn- Roswell's most luxurious accommodation is a three star Holiday Inn. Prices run around $85 to $150 per night, which includes, as well as spacious guest rooms, a full service restaurant, room service, an indoor pool and a whirlpool. One customer states "it was a nice stay...The room itself was really nice and a good use of space."
- America's Best Value Inn - You can find cheaper rooms at the Best Value Inn, a chain that was named best economy hotel of the year for 2012 an 2013. Rooms come with a microwave, a mini-fridge, a coffee maker and a 46 inch flat screen cable television. In the mornings guests can enjoy a free continental breakfast. The room rate is typically between $65 and $75 per night.
- Country Club Bed & Breakfast - The Country Club Bed & Breakfast has two rooms - the Sage room and the Rose room. The Sage Room has a four poster bed and overlooks the front yard. The Rose room has a king bed. Both rooms come with a private bathroom, wireless Internet and breakfast. "A very pretty and beautifully styled house in a quiet neighborhood... an all round first rate experience," said one happy customer." Nightly rates range from $75 to $85.
- Burntwell Guest Ranch - The Burntwell Guest Ranch is more of a family getaway than just accommodations. It has two bedrooms - the Rodeo Room and the Indian Room. The Rodeo Room has one king sized bed and a bunk bed, while the Indian Room has a queen size bed and two sets of bunk beds. Each bedroom has its own private bath and fees are based on the number of occupants. The nightly charge is $265 per adult and between $108 and $200 per night per child (based on age). Kids under three are free. They offer a 10 percent discount with their six-day package. Activities include horseback riding and old fashioned family-style meals around a table. Top 50 Ranches.com states that "the hospitality of the owners Kim and Patricia is unparalleled."
There is a small airport about five miles outside the city of Roswell. If you are driving, the town is accessible via U.S. Highway 285 from Albuquerque and Carlsbad.
Not Just Aliens
For science fiction fans, a visit to Roswell is a must. For everyone else, the town offers great chance to experience peace and tranquility in one of the country's most beautiful regions. In addition to attractions located in Roswell, there are a host of other sights for you to see in the surrounding areas. With a center geared towards tourists, this unassuming town makes for an excellent base for any southern New Mexico vacation.