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Carlsbad (New Mexico)

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Southeast New Mexico : Carlsbad
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A formation of stalactites found at Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Carlsbad [1] is a small city in New Mexico near the Texas border best known for the nearby Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

Get in

By bus

Carlsbad is served by Greyhound and TNM&O bus lines.

By air

Commuter air service is available from Albuquerque. The nearest airport with full-service airline connections is in El Paso, Texas.

By car

US highways 285, 62 and 180 reach Carlsbad, the former being one of the main north-south routes through New Mexico and the other two (which share a common roadway in this area) passing through en route between the Panhandle and western regions of Texas. These are lonely roads; keep plenty of fuel in your vehicle.

Get around

See

Do

  • Carlsbad Caverns National Park. The town's main attraction is the nearby national park, which is home to a massive underground limestone cave, claimed to be the most beautiful in the world. If you're going there for the first time, rent an audio guide for $3; it has much more information than the boards (available in several languages). The deepest point of the cave is over 1500 feet below the surface, while the unguided tour descends to a depth of about 900 feet. More extensive ranger guided tours are available. The descent can be slightly taxing on the knees, so there's an elevator available that will take you down to a depth of 750 feet. Photography is allowed, food is not, except in the underground "lunch room."
  • Living Desert State Park [2] is on the outskirts of town, near US 285. A small zoo/botanical garden dedicated to local flora and fauna, with a 1.5-mile trail through the (predominantly outdoor) exhibits. Open year round except Christmas, 8-8 in summer, 9-5 in winter; $3 fee.

Buy

Standard consumer goods are easy to get downtown or at a mall on the north side of town. Please do not patronize shops or vendors offering pieces of cave formations! They'll likely disintegrate before you get them home, won't look as good on a shelf as in the cave even if they do survive, and are likely to have been obtained illegally -- which means that your possession of them is likely to be illegal as well.

Eat

Unfortunately, the dining in Carlsbad is rather subpar for a moderate-sized town near an important national park. If you'd prefer an upgrade on the chains (Denny's, etc.), try:

  • The Flume Restaurant, 1829 S. Canal St., +1 575 887-2851. Steaks, etc.; arguably the best restaurant in Carlsbad.
  • No-Whiner Diner, 1801 S Canal St, +1 575 234-2815. Classic diner food and a clean atmosphere; not open on weekends.
  • Happys, 4103 National Parks Hwy, +1 575 887-8489. Classic diner food and breakfasts; fast service.

Drink

Sleep

  • Best Western Stevens Inn, 1829 S. Canal St., +1 575 887-2851. Owned by a two-time mayor of Carlsbad. Full service restaurant and bar with frequent live entertainment.
  • The Trinity Hotel, 201 S Canal, +1 575-234-9891, [3]. checkin: 2PM; checkout: 11AM. $129.
  • US Travelers Inn & Suites (info@ustravelersinn.com), 2429 West Pierce Street, 1(866)994-4530, [4]. This 100% non-smoking Magnuson Hotels affiliate is ideally located near some of New Mexico’s best features such as Carlsbad Caverns National Park, Living Desert State Park, Lake McMillan.


Get out

  • Guadalupe Mountains National Park is just across the Texas state line, if your adventures in Carlsbad Caverns leave you looking for more national-park recreation.
  • Sitting Bull Falls is in an unexpected and pleasant little park about 15 miles northwest of town, reachable via SR 137. Nice for picnics, particularly during the spring when the falls have enough water to be scenic. SR 137 continues on into the Guadalupe Mountains, with interesting scenery and some ferociously rough jeep roads and hiking trails. The "Guads" are honeycombed with caves, including some of the world's most beautiful, but most are for the experienced caver only (serious vertical work), and all require permits from the National Forest Service.
  • Brantley Lake north of town offers water sports (of a sort -- don't expect Lake Mead) and camping.
  • If you happen to be fascinated by UFOs -- Unidentified Flying Objects, or "flying saucers" -- the quirky, schlocky UFO mecca of Roswell is about 80 miles north on US 285.

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