Spring Break means travel! And since my husband has been in college our entire marriage, we love to take advantage of a freer schedule. Where does a family go on Spring Break in New Mexico? Picture white sands, bright sunshine and warm temps . . . just forget the cool, blue water.
White Sands National Monument is a perfect getaway for families.
White Sands is about a 3 ½ to 4 ½ hour drive south of Albuquerque. We chose to stay overnight in Las Cruces to make it a getaway instead of just a day trip (stopping in Las Cruces made our trip to White Sands closer to 4 ½ hrs). The monument is situated between Las Cruces (about 50 min to White Sands) and Alamogordo (about 20 min to White Sands). It is truly in the middle of desolation, so if you are heading from Las Cruces or Alamogordo, remember to fuel up before you leave, take lots of water, and any other essentials (snacks for the kids because apparently, children can’t ride in a car longer than thirty minutes before going feral with hunger).
White Sands is the world’s largest gypsum dunefield.
It covers 275 square miles of desert and is absolutely breathtaking to discover. The sand is so fine and so white, it looks like snow! There are a few things to know before even entering the national park.
- Visit the National Parks White Sands website to check operating hours, fees to enter, and times when the park may be closed due to weather or missile testing. (Since White Sands Missile Range is right next door, testing causes road closures and no admittance to the park).
- Stop by the Visitor’s Center to grab yourself a map, use the restrooms, and check out more information about the national park. PS – please don’t forget your sunscreen! I had to hand over my firstborn child in order to buy a small tube of sunscreen. (I joke, but seriously–yikes my wallet hated me after that).
- Sleds! White Sands can be hiked, camped, horsebacked–you name it–but the real kid-friendly fun is the sledding. You can buy sleds at the Visitor Center for around $16 and then sell them back for $5. If you don’t want to haul your own sleds down south, then this might be a good option.
- Safety! White Sands is beautiful, but folks it gets very hot, very bright, and very disorienting. I left my husband and kiddos sledding to take a quick hike exploring. And by “hike” I mean I walked barefoot for about ten minutes. I could hear my kiddos squealing with delight the whole time, yet when I hiked back, I misjudged where they were and had to double back. I instantly understood how dangerous the dunes are. Use common sense and bring lots of water!
My kids are 3 yrs old and eighteen months, and they had an absolute blast.
My 3 yr old positively wore himself out sledding down and climbing back up the dunes. Even my eighteen-month-old loved sledding. However, since she couldn’t climb back up herself, it was quite the work out hauling her back up. Climbing up sand is difficult! I wish we would have brought sand toys with us (duh me!) And I noticed several families brought beach umbrellas and coolers. The white sand really is a bit blinding, so we all had hats and sunglasses on.
We spent about three hours total in the national park. The temps were in the upper 70’s, but it still felt pretty hot due to the bright sun and blinding sand. However, the sand itself was just fine. Below the very top layer, it was even quite cool. My 3-yr-old definitely did not want to leave, but both kids were exhausted by the end (and the parents too!)