Near Alamogordo is the birthplace of the Atomic Age. In 1945, the first atomic weapon was detonated at the Trinity Site—a 146-acre/59-hectare area of snow-white gypsum sand dunes about 50 mi/80 km northwest of town. The site is now part of the White Sands Missile Range and is only open to the public on the first Saturday in April and the first Saturday in October.
In Alamogordo itself, visit the New Mexico Museum of Space History, which includes a model space station and a space park that exhibits rockets from around the world (including a Chinese launching system called the Long March). The museum's International Space Hall of Fame honors famous astro- and cosmonauts, and the Clyde W. Tombaugh Space Theater presents laser shows and IMAX movies about space. Special "Shuttle Camps" for children take place at the museum, and there's a memorial garden honoring those killed aboard the Challenger shuttle. The museum is also the final resting place of Ham, the first chimp in space.
For a close-up look at the powdery dunes that are found in this part of New Mexico, don't miss the White Sands National Monument southwest of Alamogordo, which contains some dunes as tall as 45 ft/15 m. Oliver Lee Memorial State Park, 10 mi/16 km south of Alamogordo, is a good place for camping, picnicking or hiking. The park's 19th-century ranch house shows life as it was back in pioneer days.
Cloudcroft, 20 mi/32 km east of Alamogordo, is a high-elevation oasis of pines and cool temperatures. It's a popular year-round recreation area with golf courses and its own small ski slope, Ski Cloudcroft. The town hosts a variety of festivals throughout the year, including celebrations of choral singing and light opera. Check to see if any events are scheduled while you're in the area. Alamogordo is 170 mi/275 km southeast of Albuquerque.
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