At times, this town of some 6,000 people seems like a time capsule. You can experience the hot springs that the Native Americans once soaked in, imagine the dusty miners coming down from the hills to the saloon, and sit down for a meal in vintage buildings from the 1950s. Yet at other times, Truth or Consequences seems like a cutting-edge town where the promise of a new boom time driven by two of the richest men in the world, Richard Branson and Ted Turner, is just around the corner.
‘T or C’, as locals know it, is one of the only towns in the country that offers this quirky blend of history and invention. It’s a friendly town where you’ll find hippies, artists, and entrepreneurs alike at the local coffee shop. Here are eight reasons why you should join them.
1. Spaceport America
Beyond T or C’s rugged façade lays a high-tech epicenter: Spaceport America. The world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport sits in a high desert expanse 30 miles west of downtown, housing leaders in space innovation, including Virgin Galactic and SpaceX. The companies’ vertical launches into Earth’s sub-orbit are still in the research and development stage, but public flights (with astronomical price tags worthy of the destination) always seem just around the corner.
For now, you can play astronaut during hangar tours—the only way to visit the facility—departing from T or C’s Spaceport America Visitor Center. The visitor center is a bit of a tease as there’s plenty more to see at Spaceport America proper, but it’s a fitting jumping off point. On public open house days and when tours are offered, take the 30-minute ride into the desert to visit the awe-inspiring terminal. Don’t miss a ride on the G-SHOCK, a centrifugal trainer that simulates the forces of space travel.
Editor’s Note: At the time of this writing, Spaceport tours were on hold. Check ahead for tour info.
Richard Branson isn’t the only mega-businessman drawn to Truth or Consequences. Media mogul-turned-conservationist Ted Turner owns more than half a million acres here. Kept as private land since he purchased it in 1992, within the past couple years Turner has opened Ladder and Armendaris Ranches to visitors via Ted Turner Expeditions.
The outfitting company guides hiking, mountain biking, and history tours on these national park-sized lands. Set along the Rio Grande amid a network of tributaries, Ladder Ranch offers some of the greatest wildlife diversity of any Turner ranch. Sunrise and sunset wildlife tours, as well as birding expeditions, are especially popular. Watch as a cloud of 1.6 million Mexican free-tailed bats depart for an evening of hunting from their summer home in the Jornada Bat Cave on the Armendaris Ranch, or spot a herd of bison, elk, javelinas, or deer as they sprint past the desert landscape. Hot air balloon rides over the ranches are another way to spot the larger mammals.
3. Historic Lodge
Upon visiting the Sierra Grande Lodge and Spa in 2012, Ted Turner was immediately impressed by its timeless presence. Soon after, he purchased the stately hotel and made it the launching grounds for Ted Turner Expeditions tours of the nearby ranches.
Even if you don’t plan to go out on a tour, the hotel stay is a memorable one. Rooms are small—the hotel was built in 1929 after all—but comfortable. Downstairs, the spa offers indoor and outdoor soaking pools that pump in the town’s mineral-rich waters. (The outdoor pool is highly recommended!) In the restaurant, the chef serves up seasonal contemporary American dishes, with the occasional Southwest flare, like pecans from the nearby Mesilla Valley. Don’t be surprised if bison—yes, from Turner’s own herds—pops up on the menu.
4. Caballo Lake State Park
When the waters are crowded at the popular Elephant Butte Lake State Park, those in the know escape to one of the state parks south of town. Caballo Lake State Park was created by the damming of the Rio Grande at the base of the Caballo Mountains and has calm waters for boating, kayaking, canoeing, and swimming. If you’re up for fishing, join the heron, osprey, and cranes wading into the waters here as the waterfowl migrate along the Rio Grande Flyway. There’s an interpretive trail if you want to stretch your legs a bit, and four campgrounds if you decide to stay a night or two.
5. Percha Dam State Park
Even quieter than Caballo, Percha Dam State Park’s spot along the Rio Grande calls to fishermen and birdwatchers. It’s said to be the best place to see land birds along the entire Rio Grande, especially during spring and fall migrations. It has an ample supply of camping and picnicking sites, many shaded by tall cottonwoods from early spring through fall.
6. Truth or Consequences Brewing Co.
New Mexico has more than 60 craft breweries to its credit, and T or C’s resident brewery has several greats on tap, including Albuquerque’s Desert Valley Brewing Company’s local take on Tecate. More of a craft cocktail drinker? Try Pepe the Mule, a desert take on the Moscow Mule that blends malted ginger beer with vodka and is brewed and distilled by Broken Trail Brewery and Distillery in Albuquerque. It’s light, limey, and all the more refreshing in the desert heat.
7. Quirky Museums
One of the quirkiest museums in the country is found right here in T or C. Geronimo Springs Museum has a comprehensive—and eccentric—collection of the area’s history. Look for a mastodon skull, a 1930s log cabin from the Black Range that was reassembled in the museum, and a room devoted to the instruments of the Old Town Fiddlers Hall of Fame. A life-size wax statue of Geronimo welcomes visitors to the Apache room, while arrowheads, Mimbres pottery, saddles, and fiesta dresses are artfully displayed in other rooms. It’s like Sierra County’s grandma’s attic, where an heirloom lies in every crowded corner.
On the edge of town, the outdoor Veterans Memorial Park has an air of respectful contemplation and is worth a visit. Founders of the adjacent Dianne Hamilton Military Museum purchased one of four half-scale replicas of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. and today, it’s the centerpiece of the park. Inside the museum, exhibits continue the solemn vibe with ribbons, life stories, photos, and uniforms—many donated from locals.
8. La Paloma Hot Springs & Spa
T or C has 10 bathhouses to choose from, and La Paloma is one of the best. The 90-year-old bathhouse lies a bit lower in the landscape, so the hot spring waters flow naturally from the ground into thirteen gravel-bottom pools. The water here has no smell and ranges from 98 to 116 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s a relaxing way to end a day of adventure or to just soak your stress away.
Truth or Consequences offers a wide variety of experiences for everyone, whether you are traveling with your family, looking for a relaxing weekend, or trying to breathe some fresh air. The hardest part is deciding where to start!
Originally written by RootsRated for New Mexico.