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New Mexico vs Colorado: Which Is Better?

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Two titanic territories go head-to-head in this comparison review. Both states share a state line and a great standard of living, but those are the only similarities between these neighbors.

Read on to compare the difference between a vacation in New Mexico and Colorado and select the right one.

How do you access both destinations? Let’s answer that!

New Mexico vs Colorado: Accessibility

About New Mexico

Land and Sunset

With a population of 2.1 million people spread over 314,000 square kilometers, New Mexico has an annual GDP of $98.5bn and is known for low taxes. Its capital is Santa Fe.

The Land of Enchantment is renowned for the Carlsbad Caverns, Taos Pueblo, and Chaco Canyon, with millions of tourists visiting yearly. The State is landlocked, limiting travel options to road and air. New Mexico has four primary airports that include:

The Albuquerque International Sunport is New Mexico’s primary airport, receiving over five million passengers annually. You can also access New Mexico through a few interstates, including I-10, I-25, and I-40.

About Colorado

Autumn Trees, Mountain and Skyline

Colorado has a larger population than New Mexico, with five million residents. It also has low taxes, a higher GDP at $382.5bn per annum, and a chillier climate.

However, it has a smaller landmass at 269,601 km2. The State is known for its scenic landscapes, offering the ultimate outdoor experience for potential vacationers.

The Centennial State is double landlocked, restricting access to road and air. The State has only one international and twelve regional airports that include:

Denver is Colorado’s capital and home to the enormous Denver International Airport. The Centennial State is accessible via I-70, I-76, I-80S, and I-225. 

Verdict: Colorado wins this category with more airports and easier access to the State.

See Related: Best Things to Do on West Coast, USA

New Mexico vs Colorado: Vacation Costs

Ah, yes, the money question. Both states have a lot to offer with similar vacation packages. However, it’s vital to see how they both stack up.

New Mexico Vacation Costs

Plants, Sky, and Sunset

The average vacation cost to New Mexico depends on what you plan to do. However, the average cost of a one-week trip to New Mexico will cost you at least $1,000 for a solo trip

If you travel with a significant other, prepare to spend at least $1,620 and $2,500 if you’re going on a family vacation. International flights into New Mexico from anywhere globally range from $613 to $902 per individual for the cheapest flights (economy).

If you fly first class, prepare to pay anywhere from $1,925 to $2,835. You’d also want to set aside at least $50 to $100 for daily transportation, including food at local restaurants.

Colorado Vacation Costs

Snowy Mountain

The average example cost of Colorado vacations is $1,300 for a single person and $1,985 if you travel with your partner. However, the price for a family of four is $4,136. You must set aside $50 to $100 daily for food and transportation.

Verdict: New Mexico edges out Colorado, offering a more affordable vacation for potential visitors.

New Mexico vs Colorado: Accommodations

New Mexico and Colorado offer various accommodation packages suitable for any budget type. While you’ll find the most premium hotels in Santa Fe and Denver, you can still find excellent value across both states in cities such as Pueblo or Albuquerque.

New Mexico Hotels

Drury Plaza Hotel in Santa Fe in Santa Fe, New Mexico
Drury Plaza Hotel in Santa Fe /

Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Ruidoso, and Taos are popular cities in the Land of Enchantment. Coyote South is one of the most affordable hotels, costing only $40 per night. 

A high-quality hotel like the Drury Plaza in Sante Fe costs $160 per night, while premium lodgings like the Inn of Five Graces will set you back $825 each night. In addition to hotels, you can find thousands of vacation rentals across the State. 

The type of rental you need depends on the number of people vacationing with you and the facilities you require. You can find vacation rentals by the pool, near a lake, cabin, or restful getaways for family vacations.

Colorado Hotels

Hyatt Place Denver Downtown in Denver, Colorado
Hyatt Place Denver Downtown /

Tourism saves Colorado households more than $700 in taxes, with the state receiving 86.9 million visitors in 2019. Tourists are spoiled for choice with over 50,000 first-class hotel rooms in Denver’s greater metro area. 

Hotels like the Hyatt Place in Denver cost around $115 per night, while the most premium hotels, like the Park Hyatt Creek Resort, cost up to $1,000 daily. However, you’ll likely get a fantastic deal like the Super 8 by Wyndham Windsor, costing less than $90 a night.

Colorado is one of the best places to enjoy a vacation rental because virtually the entire state offers a breathtaking landscape view. These dream location cabins are trendy because most tourists to Colorado want to experience the great outdoors. A vacation rental near the mountains will cost anywhere between $100 and $200 per night.

Verdict: Dead even. Both states offer decent and diverse accommodations, including hotels, guest apartments, and Vacation rentals.

See Related: Things to Do in Albuquerque, New Mexico

New Mexico vs Colorado: Attractions

New Mexico and Colorado are both popular tourist destinations. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of things to do in both states, and we will provide a few points of interest below.

New Mexico Attractions

The Land of Enchantment receives millions of visitors annually and is one of the go-to destinations for tourists in the USA. It mixes everything with teeming marketplaces, picturesque landscapes, and breathtaking deserts.

Carlsbad Cavern National Park

This park is renowned for its maze-like tunnels and passages. You can explore the park at your own pace or go with a Ranger to learn about its history. The park allows kids to sign up for a junior ranger program, and it’s possible to visit the Unesco Heritage Site on a field trip. 

The park provides senior discounts for adults 62 years and above. Additionally, seniors receive ranger-led tour discounts, including anyone with an access pass. 

The park has two trails, the Natural Entrance Trail and the Big Room Trail. You shouldn’t attempt to embark on the Natural Entrance Trail if you have respiratory or heart conditions.

International UFO & Museum Center

Millions of tourists throng Roswell, New Mexico, because it’s renowned for its history with aliens and other paranormal activities. The International UFO Museum and Research Center is a fun place to visit and allows you to learn about “The Roswell Incident” in 1947. The Museum is affordable, costing between $2 to $5 per person.

The White Sand Monument

White Sand Dune and Sunset

99% of the time, when you think of high desert sand, you imagine golden brown dunes stretching beyond the horizon. This fact is true for the most part, except for the White Sands National Monument

It stretches for 275 miles and consists of glistening white gypsum sand shimmering in the Tularosa Basin. The park is one of the popular locations in Hollywood and has been featured in many commercials, movies, and documentaries.

Interestingly, the constantly shifting dunes range between 6 to 60 feet. These tall dunes are ideal for paragliding and dune sliding.

See Related: Amazing Southwestern Destinations


Museum Exhibit

Tinkertown Museum is the brainchild of Ross Ward. He spent more than four decades carving, collecting, and constructing miniature wood figures as part of a traveling exhibit. The Museum currently has around 50,000 bottles, including thousands of animated figures. 

You can learn how to construct a bottle wall or scavenger hunt to find hidden letters within the Museum and reveal a special message. 

Tinkertown has a gift shop that is an attraction by itself. You can pick up hand-carved artwork to preserve your memories of this unique miniature town. 

The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

Colorful Air Balloons

This annual fiesta is a fall event attended by balloon enthusiasts worldwide. It includes coordinated events, showmanship competitions, and amateur shows.

In addition to the balloons, you can also enjoy the local Albuquerque cuisine in addition to games and music. You can also watch the indigenous performances dedicated to the State’s cultural history.

Colorado Attractions

The Centennial State is unbeatable for outdoor activities. Colorado is the best place to connect with nature, from mountain biking to hiking and skiing.

The Rocky Mountains National Park

The Rockies is a national treasure and an iconic national park in the USA. The mountain peaks pierce the skyline, replete with glacial lakes, meadows, and abundant flora and fauna. The park is the subject of many movies and documentaries and is busy all year round. 

Summer activities include:

  • Camping 
  • Horseback riding 
  • Bird watching
  • Hiking 

There’s a diverse trail system that leads you across the mountain range. For instance, Trail Ridge Road is accessible by vehicle and offers a panoramic view of this incredible terrain. 

In winter, the Rocky Mountains burst into life, with hardcore skiers and enthusiasts converging unto the mountains for the X Games. You can also enjoy horse-sleigh rides or explore the cross-country trails.

See Related: How to Pack for a Camping Trip

Mesa Verde National Park

Tent and Campers

Mesa Verde is the closest thing to Machu Picchu; some say it’s even better. It was a thriving Native American city from 600 A.D. to 1300 BC.

For some reason, the people disappeared off the face of the earth, leaving behind one of the most remarkable architectural structures you can find anywhere in the US The Cliff Palace is a must-see and houses impressively preserved ruins. 

You can ask for a park ranger to guide you through the ancient relics. The Pueblo People built Mesa Verde hundreds of years ago. Today, the park is home to numerous archeological sites, with cliff dwellings being the most popular.

Estes Park

Lake reflecting the Sky

Estes Park is close to the Rocky Mountains Park and has over 25 museums, including three luxurious spas for the leisurely traveler.

The park provides a free shuttle bus to ferry you across the major attractions. Outdoorsy travelers are spoiled for choice with so many activities to enjoy, including:

  • White water rafting 
  • Biking
  • Horse riding 
  • Snowshoeing 

Less adventurous individuals can enjoy watching the wildlife, playing golf, or taking in the River Walk’s scenic view.

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Sand Dunes

You can drive to the South of Colorado, close to the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, to take in the Great Sand Dunes that rise above 750 feet. The neighboring mountain’s whistling winds shape the sand, making these sand cliffs the highest dunes in the North American continent. 

Some popular activities at the park include sand sledding, skiing, and sandboarding. You can even find smaller-sized dunes to go sand tubing.

Denver Museum of Nature & Science

The Denver Museum of Nature & Science features world-class exhibits from mummified Egyptian corpses to dinosaur bones, creating a sense of wonder for the first-time visitor. 

The Museum houses various scientific artifacts from paleontology, geology, anthropology, and space science. The museum has many exhibits with habitat scenes that provide information about the animals on different continents and regions. 

The Museum also has a gift shop where visitors can purchase memorabilia and a cafe where they can socialize. You can watch notable documentaries in the IMAX theater or planetarium. However, this will cost you extra.

Verdict: The tourism industry provides over 180,000 jobs, and it isn’t a surprise The Centennial State has more ways to have fun.

New Mexico vs Colorado: Best Time to Travel

You want to travel at a time when you get the best value for your experience. So when is the best time to travel to both states?

New Mexico Best Time

Sunset and Downtown Albuquerque Cityscape in New Mexico
SeanPavonePhoto / Adobe Stock

September to November is the absolute best time to visit New Mexico. These months feature the best weather, with many balloon shows happening now. The spring season also offers mild weather with fewer crowds at events.

Colorado Best Time

Panorama of Dillon, Colorado
Penni / Adobe Stock

The best time to visit The Centennial State is from June to October. Colorado’s winter activities are exceptional, but you can only experience the true might of the Southern Rockies when the ice thaws in June.

Verdict: Both states offer all-year-round activities.

See Related: Warm Winter Backpacking Destinations

New Mexico vs Colorado for Families

There’s no better way to bond as a family than to go on a vacation. New Mexico and Colorado are both family-centric destinations.

New Mexico for Families

Below are some events to enjoy with your family.

Santa Fe Scavenger Hunt

Historic Monument and a Woman Sculpture
Photo by GetYourGuide

This experience is best suited for families with older children and lasts three hours. It’s a wheelchair-accessible activity that allows participants to experience Santa Fe from a unique perspective. 

The fun-filled family activity begins in the heart of the city, allowing you to discover historical aspects of the town, like the town square and cathedrals.

You aim to look for clues and complete the challenge with your smartphone. Of course, you can take as long as you want or compete with another team to see who finishes first!

Rio Grande Paddle Tour

People on a Paddleboard
Photo by GetYourGuide

This activity is water-based, and the venue is North America’s 5th longest river, The Rio Grande. You’ll need to gear up before embarking on this exciting adventure.  You can enjoy learning how to paddleboard for three hours on the water, including basics like learning to paddle backward, forward, stand on the board, kneel, or stop. 

Your river guide will provide information about the flora and fauna as you paddle to the sounds of the birds and flowing rivers. It is an activity suitable for all family types. It allows you to take in the fantastic scenery of the Bosque. 

It’s worth mentioning this activity isn’t ideal for individuals with mobility impairments.

Cibola National Forest Guided Snowshoe Tour

Tourist on a Snowshoe Tour
Photo by GetYourGuide

The Cibola National Forest opens during winter and is an excellent tour for beginners. The snowshoe tour allows you to connect with nature as you hike through the Sandia Mountains

Your guide will also provide information about the local plants and wildlife, including knowledge about backcountry travel and wilderness medicine. The guided tour provides appropriate gear and hot drinks as you snowshoe for up to six miles at 10,000 feet. 

The Cibola Snowshoe Tour gives you a first-hand snowshoeing experience while teaching you the fundamentals of layering to retain heat, control moisture, and cook in freezing conditions.

Colorado for Families

As you can see below, there are many activities for families in Colorado.

Haunted Walking Ghost Tour

Haunted Mansion
Photo by GetYourGuide

Explore the haunted and dark side of Denver’s oldest neighborhood, Capitol Hill. This tour lasts approximately two hours and takes you on a deep dark dive as you discover disturbing secrets and events that shaped the city’s history. 

You’ll learn about The Ghost of Molly Brown, a famous Titanic survivor, including the Sheedy Mansion. The interactive journey will take you through thirteen different sites to witness a side of the city unseen by visitors. It’s a suitable tour for everyone and is available in wet or dry conditions.

Foothills & Garden of the Gods

Jeep Going a National Park
Photo by GetYourGuide

This tour gives you a thrilling perspective of the Rocky Mountains riding in a custom Jeep 4×4. You can bask in the beauty of the Rocky Mountains while learning the unique history of the Pikes Peak region. 

Your cowboy guide will take you through Colorado Springs‘ most famous landmarks. Some points of interest include:

Prepare to live in a jeep for eight hours as you drive through  Colorado Springs to experience the unrivaled views.  

Golden: Beginner Outdoor Rappelling Lesson

Group Rappelling
Photo by GetYourGuide

It’s worth mentioning that this tour isn’t suitable for kids under 13, people with heart or respiratory problems, and pregnant women. That said, the ultimate way to get the whole Colorado experience is through a mountain adventure. 

After all, that’s what the State is known for. This guided tour aims to take you up to the top of North Table Mountain before returning to the base using a rappel. Sounds daunting, huh? 

This tour includes a rappelling guide who’ll teach you how to use your equipment correctly. It’s an exhilarating adventure for thrill-seekers. 

Resorts in New Mexico vs Colorado

Both states offer skiing during winter. However, you have many more choices in Colorado. New Mexico represents the Taos/Hispanic culture, while Colorado has a better urban appeal. Let’s look at how both states stand out using the best resorts both have to offer.

New Mexico Resorts

Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado Santa Fe
 in New Mexico
Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado Santa Fe /

The resorts in New Mexico are more diverse, with a getaway for every type of visitor. For instance, one glance at the Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado shows this resort has a hacienda feel. 

Resorts in New Mexico offer more cultural events and are more diverse than in Colorado. In winter in Colorado, you can find ski resorts, although the options are not as varied as in The Centennial State. 

New Mexico also has far more authentic Mexican food and cuisine. More importantly, the price to visit a resort is more affordable with fewer crowds, and there’s so much to experience, from the Silver City to the Carlsbad Caverns.

Colorado Resorts

The Peaks Resort and Spa
 in Colorado
The Peaks Resort and Spa /

Resorts in Colorado are more suitable for outdoor adventurers. The Centennial State has the edge for fishing, white water rafting, mountain biking, and snowboarding. For instance, The Peaks Resort and Spa in Telluride offers direct access to the mountains and allows you to reconnect with nature. 

Verdict: Similar resorts abound in New Mexico and Colorado. New Mexico offers a more cultural appeal, while Colorado has the edge regarding the mountains and scenic landscapes. That said, New Mexico comes out on top because the cost is more affordable and less crowded.  

New Mexico vs Colorado: Food 

What’s a vacation without food?  Let’s see which state has the best eats.

New Mexico Food

Enchiladas  in an iron skillet
Adelina / Adobe Stock

The Land of Enchantment is renowned for its unique cuisine that ranges from sweet to fiery. New Mexico has a richness of culture that makes it a culinary destination. The cuisine mixes tastes from Spanish culture, Anglo culture, and Native American culture.

While you’ll find similarities between Tex-Mex and Mexican cuisine, they differ. There are hundreds of world-class restaurants in New Mexico, like Geronimo, one of the winners of TripAdvisor’s Top 10 Restaurants in the US.

Colorado Food

Outdoor tables in Mizuna, Colorado
management / TripAdvisor

The Centennial State may have less Hispanic and Mexican influence in its cuisine. However, it still has some of the best places to eat in the entire North American continent.

Denver is saturated with top-tier restaurants like Frank Bonanno’s Mizuna, which offer exquisite cuisine. Colorado is the place to go if you love to vacation for the culinary experience.

Verdict: Both states offer excellent cuisine with similar culinary experiences.

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