“We’re about 90 percent done with the new Human Spaceflight Gallery,” says director Chris Orwoll, of the exhibit, which includes vintage, space-inspired watercolors created by NASA–commissioned artist Chrystal Jackson in the 1960s. And that’s just one of several new exhibits at the Smithsonian–affiliated museum, which highlights space exploration and honors the important role Alamogordo played in the development of America’s space program.
The museum makes a stellar launchpad for a family visit to Alamogordo, a city also known as the gateway to White Sands National Park. Kids and adults can pilot a simulated space shuttle landing, tour the museum’s International Space Hall of Fame, and see a star show in its New Horizons Dome Theater and Planetarium. Sci-Fi and Sci-Fact, an exhibit opening this year, looks at fictional gadgets of the past (like the two-way wristwatch worn by Dick Tracy in 1940s comic books) that seem to have predicted today’s real-life technologies (see: your smart watch). It features props from the hit Netflix series Stranger Things, too.
After exploring outer space, why not get a little nutty? Alamogordo is home to the world’s largest pistachio, a 30-foot-tall sculpture celebrating the area’s most famous crop. You’ll find it—along with pistachio candy and pistachio ice cream—at PistachioLand, a working farm and vineyard. Learn more on a tour of the orchards, offered daily.
At Alameda Park Zoo, established in 1898 and now the oldest zoo in the Southwest, shaded paths lead to naturalistic habitats and more than 200 animals, from black bears and mountain lions to kangaroos. Kids can learn more about conservation, take a behind-the-scenes tour, and check out a hands-on reptile show.
Alamo Jump! Indoor Play Place & Trampoline Park, in historic downtown Alamogordo, offers a chance for the kids to catch some air.
With live music, a revolving lineup of food trucks, and local brews for mom and dad, 575 Brewing Company is a popular, dog- and kid-friendly spot for a laid-back meal. You can also grab a slice at the Pizza Mill and Sub Factory, then walk next door to the Arcade Dungeon for a night of old-school arcade games and pinball.
When the weather warms up, head back to the Museum of Space History for the Flickinger Center for Performing Arts Summer Tailgate Concert Series, where music and dancing fill a wide lot overlooking the city.
Lodgings in Alamogordo range from budget motel rooms to more upscale hotel suites. Just be sure to set an early alarm: Watching the sun rise over the gypsum dunes at White Sands is unforgettable.
Eat Like a Local
Grab a gordita or fried apple turnover at CJ’s Si Señor Restaurant, a longtime local favorite.
At D.H. Lescombes Winery & Bistro, try a honey pepper BLT or the pistachio-pesto pasta with a glass of cabernet or syrah.
Kick back on the Tuscan-inspired patio, nibble on pistachios, and enjoy a glass of Corazón Gitano at Heart of the Desert Pistachios & Wine.