Carlsbad, New Mexico: Without the Caverns

This past weekend I had the chance to spend some time exploring the Land of Enchantment: New Mexico. New Mexico is a favorite of mine, I think there are few states with as much varied landscape, outdoor opportunities, and unique blends of cultural influences. The list of places I have been able to visit in this state is long; the list of places I still want to visit is longer.

Since Carlsbad is the home base for several of my other family members, it has been one of my more frequented stops naturally. I have had the chance previously to visit the highlight of Carlsbad, which are its caverns. Absolutely worth the visit! There are options to make the trek down, through, and up the caverns as challenging or leisurely as you want. You can stay into the evenings in the spring and summer and watch the bat flights. There are stargazing events, Halloween themed tours, and other unique ways that the caverns have tied into the community. But my visit this weekend was all about exploring the other side of Carlsbad – what is there outside of the caverns. This town may get overshadowed by its namesake landmark, but there is a lot of charm and stories to Carlsbad!

The Best of Carlsbad, New Mexico

Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park

I love zoos, and I have my favorites, but overall I do not think I have had a bad experience with a zoo anywhere. I was more than pleasantly surprised by my visit to the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park. Removed from the city center, the zoo is located on a perch overlooking the city of Carlsbad. This zoo had the feel of actually being a part of its surroundings, rather than its surroundings being a part of it. The shrubbery and plant life lining the little pathway that wound its way up and down and over little hills and past scenic overlooks was quite refreshing from many of the zoos I have been in which feel like a part of another concrete jungle.

Local succulents of Carlsbad
Local succulents of Carlsbad


Thorny inhabitants of Carlsbad


This zoo does a great job of highlighting the indigenous plant life and wildlife of New Mexico, including cacti, succulents, bobcats, cougars, elk, bison, deer, bears, javelinas, birds of prey, various reptiles, and a rambunctious prairie dog town! Maybe it was due to smaller and more sporadic streams of visitors, but the animals all seemed very friendly, curious, and inquisitive. They were perfect hosts! Being from the heart of the city, I felt completely spoiled being able to linger outside these animals exposures for as long as I wanted, unrushed, unpushed, and with unobstructed views!

“Is it safe to come out?”

Carlsbad Community Theatre

I also got to experience another local staple in Carlsbad, the Carlsbad Community Theatre. We went and saw a production of “Dixie Swim Team”, which was nostalgically humorous. I learned that the Community Theatre is housed in the old commissary building which was used by the Carlsbad Army Air Field from 1942-1943. During intermission of the play, volunteers served complimentary drinks, snacks, and light desserts in the lobby, where guests were free to mingle or sit and relax on the couches and talk. I will be keeping my eye on their upcoming productions!

A Morning Run Through Carlsbad

Finally, I have always found desert scenery to be the most enchanting, and since Carlsbad has so much of its share of wide open desert spaces, I just had to go on a morning run to see if I could discover anything new.

Heritage Park

I ran across Heritage Park, which houses an old windmill, antique farm equipment, and a replica of a “chosa”. This particular “chosa” is dubbed a “Texas chosa”, which is essentially a dugout utilized by early settlers around the late 1800’s to early 1900’s. Also at this site was the “Eddy House”, the first substantial dwelling in Carlsbad. Built around 1890 by rancher Charles B. Eddy, this home was the beginning of the establishment of the city of Carlsbad and the subsequent irrigation infrastructure and railroad development. Charles B. Eddy also gave Eddy County, New Mexico, its namesake.

C.B. Eddy House

Further on down my run, I crossed over the Pecos River, and observed fisherman leisurely enjoying their Sunday mornings on the uncrowded banks of the Pecos.

Views of the Pecos

For such a small town, Carlsbad has substantial access to a large amount of riverfront spaces, and seems to utilize them quite well with kayak rentals, a dog park, fishing, parks, walking trails, and a noticeably large amount of turquoise painted bridges.

I must be in the Southwest…

Seriously, once you are looking for them you cannot help but notice all the turquoise- a sign you must be in the Southwest! The Pecos River plays a large role around Christmas time for the annual Christmas on the Pecos festival, which includes evening boats tours with panoramic, illuminated views.

I would absolutely recommend you visit and experience Carlsbad Caverns on any visit to Carlsbad, but I would also recommend enjoying some of the small town charm this town has to offer. There is more to this town than just its caverns!

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