Colorado vs. New Mexico: Which One is Better for a Vacation?


Planning the ultimate vacation can be incredibly perplexing, with so many fantastic destination choices. Colorado and New Mexico are both enticing locations for family holidays, boasting spectacular views and captivating activities. So, which of the two iconic destinations would make for a better vacation?

Colorado offers action-packed and adventurous opportunities for nature lovers, while New Mexico offers a laid-back, unique, and culturally rich experience. Both destinations feature some dynamic natural landscapes and are great locations for summer or winter vacations. 

Colorado and New Mexico cannot be fairly compared on a broad scale, as both locations offer such different experiences. But, there are a few factors to consider in determining which area would be better suited for your intended vacation. Join us as we compare Colorado and New Mexico and discuss what you could expect at either location, with the goal of helping you decide which would be the better vacation destination for you. 

Family Vacation Plans

Although your interests will play a large role in your final decision, your specific vacation plans will also influence which destination would be more enjoyable.

Age Range

Concerning the age range and the related suitability of Colorado and New Mexico activities, the opportunities are thankfully quite similar. Both areas offer a wide range of exciting possibilities for engaging events, sightseeing, and experiences within nature that are enticing to all ages

Interests

Both Colorado and New Mexico are suitable for nature lovers on a broad scale, and both areas offer varying cultural experiences. If you’re interested in traditional western culture and historical sights, Colorado would be the better choice. New Mexico offers a unique cultural experience with a strong Native American feel and hints of Spanish tradition, making it perfect for anyone seeking a truly dynamic and exquisite vacation.  

Budget

The cost of living is undoubtedly higher in Colorado compared to New Mexico. While the prices of accommodation bookings, flights, and general vacation costs may be similar, costs throughout the vacation will differ. There are far more activities in Colorado as well, meaning that one would probably need a more generous budget to fully enjoy a vacation in the area.

New Mexico is not entirely inexpensive, as there are still numerous activities and events that would require some spending cash. But, it’s far more straightforward to have a budget-friendly yet enjoyable vacation in New Mexico without being forced to skip out on most of the fun. 

Similarities Between Colorado and New Mexico

Both Colorado and New Mexico boast a blend of mountains, rocky areas, and desert-like landscapes. There is plenty to do in both areas all year round, as both destinations experience a fair amount of snowfall in winter, contrasted by stunning blue skies and blazing sunshine in summer. 

Differences Between Colorado and New Mexico

While the natural landscapes are relatively similar, New Mexico has more of a desert feel, while Colorado offers more wooded or forest-like areas. The overall atmosphere is probably the most notable difference, however. Colorado is far busier and livelier, while New Mexico has a warm, easygoing, friendly, culturally rich ambiance.

Colorado

Countless travelers venture out to Colorado for stunning and action-packed family vacations. The area is iconic for unique woodland areas, the Rocky Mountains, and exceptionally compelling outdoor opportunities all year round. 

Winter Vacations

Colorado is one of the most iconic destinations for snow sport lovers and thrill-seekers when winter comes around. The area boasts spectacular snowy peaks and pristine terrain for skiing, topped with memorable opportunities for alpine drinks and gorgeous scenery. 

For skiers, Colorado is undoubtedly one of the most alluring destinations in winter. Home to Vail, one of the world’s most infamous skiing destinations, Colorado welcomes countless snow sports enthusiasts every year. Colorado is also home to Breckenridge, a must-visit for skiers, in addition to charming mountain towns such as Avon and Beaver Creek. 

Summer Vacations

Once the snow begins to melt away in spring and summer, the area’s vibrant nature is revealed. A ton of summer fun lies beneath those iconic icy blankets, and many families love visiting Colorado during warmer seasons to enjoy the abundant opportunities for biking, hiking, and climbing.

Even those who aren’t particularly up for adventurous sports would enjoy the tranquil ambiance that falls over the area’s natural settings. A strong mountain vibe hovers throughout Colorado, making it an exceptional spot for relaxing and soaking in the fresh, pine-scented air. 

Activities and Attractions

There are plenty of activities to keep visitors entertained for the entire duration of the trip, irrespective of age range of the group, or even particular preferences. 

National Parks and Preserves

Colorado is one of the best places to witness natural wonders, stunning wooded mountains, and a vast range of wildlife. The most well-known National Parks in Colorado include Rocky Mountain National Park, Mesa Verde National Park, and Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. These parks are home to unique attributes and one-of-a-kind vistas for travelers.

Those visiting these treasured National Parks can witness majestic wildlife and gaze across scenic landscapes, ranging from wooded mountain sides to cliffs, canyons, and impressive rock formations. The National Parks of Colorado are incredibly popular amongst travelers and hold fantastic attractions for vacationers of all ages. 

The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve boasts the tallest dunes in North America. This area contrasts vividly with the rest of Colorado’s landscapes, making it quite a perplexing and fascinating find for many visitors. Those exploring the dunes can embark on adrenaline-pumping sand boarding activities, hike trails along the surrounding forest’s edges, or cool off in Medano Creek nearby on hot days. 

National Forests and Landscapes

Pikes Peak, located in Pike National Forest, is one of the most iconic snow-capped peaks in the Southwest, and is visible from Colorado Springs. Pikes Peak is the most frequently visited mountain in the world after Mt. Fuji, boasting various recreational activities, including enticing hiking trails, mountain biking areas, and even reservoir spots for fishing. 

Natural Structures and Iconic Landmarks

If you’re looking to sightsee and explore fascinating natural landmarks, Colorado has plenty to offer. The area is home to Garden of the Gods, a landscape of unique jagged stone towers and fins, which reach heights of around 300 feet, perfectly framed by balanced boulders and a backdrop of rocky mountain peaks. 

The Dinosaur National Monument is perfect for curious minds and especially kids that love everything dinosaur. The Colorado National Monument is famous for breathtaking views of desert-like landscapes, rock spires, canyons, cliff walls, and much more. Lots of visitors enjoy biking along Rim Rock Drive, or traversing along winding hiking trails. 

Durango and Silverton Narrow railway allow visitors to experience a hint of old western culture with an old-time railroad, restored buildings and historic towns. Those seeking exceptional views of the entire mountainous area can traverse the Million Dollar Highway, San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway, and the Mount Evans Scenic Byway. 

Atmosphere

Colorado boasts expansive landscapes adorned by a beautiful blend of natural features. The area flaunts rolling hills, sparkling alpine lakes, crashing waterfalls, breathtaking Rocky Mountains, and high deserts. 

There is plenty of versatility concerning the area’s picturesque scenery, making it a stunning location for any nature-loving enthusiast. The area is, however, relatively urban as a whole, with a vibrant and bustling atmosphere. 

New Mexico

New Mexico is well known for its unique culture, and anyone who’s visited the area would understand why it’s known as the Land of Enchantment. The location offers a beautiful blend of stunning scenery, tradition, history, and activities, making it an incredible destination for summer or winter vacations. 

Winter Vacations

Although New Mexico isn’t the first place that comes to mind when picturing snowy peaks, the area does experience a fair amount of snowfall during winters. There are quite a few relaxed yet enjoyable locations for skiing and snow sports. However, the snowfall is relatively low compared to some of the most iconic winter destinations. 

Summer Vacations

New Mexico is an incredibly popular vacation spot during summer, as it boasts a wide range of picturesque scenery. The area offers a dynamic selection of views, ranging from volcanic vents, plateaus, majestic mountains, and bright blue skies. But, the most iconic trait of New Mexico is its high-desert sand, which frequently hovers in the air giving the atmosphere a magical crystalline quality. 

Visitors can hike, explore natural environments, or engage in a wide variety of fun summer activities. Heritage and culture are a massive part of New Mexico’s overall feel, forming the foundation of many seasonal events. 

Activities and Attractions

Although New Mexico is rather laidback, timid, and usually not crowded, the area still offers many engaging activities and attractions for visitors. 

Unique History and Culture

New Mexico has been formed from a delicate blend of cultures. The predominant influence is Native American, with hints of Mexican and Spanish culture. While it is of course a state in the United States, there are plenty of fascinating guided tours to help curious travelers unravel New Mexico’s interesting past and cultural background. 

Mouthwatering Traditional Cuisine

If you love Mexican and Spanish food, you’ll find yourself in a foodie’s paradise when visiting New Mexico. Culinary artists use local ingredients and seasonal spices to whip up some mouthwatering recipes. While there are various traditional dishes to tuck into, the unique cultural blend has laid the foundation for innovative and unique cuisine – exclusive to New Mexico!

Natural Structures and Landmarks

New Mexico flaunts quite a few fascinating landmarks, including The Rift – a breathtaking canyon available for kayaking, rafting, hiking, and fishing. Numerous biking trails wind through the picturesque landscapes, framed by golden orange sunsets and steep canyon walls. 

Another interesting sight to visit in New Mexico is the vast selection of volcanoes. Taos Plateau, located in the Rio Grande Rift Valley, contains various volcanic vents and linked lava flows, dating back to 1.8 – 4 million years ago. Some vents are much older, dating back approximately 22 million years. Visitors can enjoy fine dining and curated wines or enjoy spa treatments and massages in the area.

Protected Natural Life

Over 1/3 of New Mexico’s land is protected, including various National Forests such as the Carson National Forest, historical landmarks such as the Rio Grande Del Norte Monument, and much more. There is a surplus of flora and fauna for nature lovers and picnickers, while adventurers can traverse the vast landscapes by biking and hiking.

Artistry and Museums

The area has a strong creative flair running through it, from the streets to quirky stalls and establishments. But, the area prides itself on the Taos Society of Artists, a collection of numerous talented artists, writers, and intellectuals. The Harwood Museum boasts exceptional collections from the Taos Six, while Taos Ski Valley’s The Blake Hotel showcases numerous exquisite art collections. 

Atmosphere 

New Mexico is undoubtedly vibrant and fun for vacations, affording plenty of exciting activities and opportunities. But, the overall ambiance is relatively calm and laid back, with a warm, friendly atmosphere. 

The people of New Mexico are often described as a chill, easygoing, and earthy community. It’s a great place for relaxing amid peaceful natural settings and exciting activities.  

Colorado or New Mexico?

Colorado and New Mexico both make incredible vacation destinations for families and friends – it mainly depends on what you’re hoping to get out of your trip. 

Winter vs. Summer Vacation

If you’re looking for an iconic winter vacation, Colorado would likely be the better choice. While there are many possibilities for winter activities in New Mexico, Colorado boasts far more terrain for snow sports such as skiing, snowboarding, and everything in between. 

Action-Packed Adventures vs. Laidback Experiences

In general, Colorado would be a better option for families seeking plenty of action-packed activities and exciting opportunities. There is over enough to keep occupied – perhaps, too many activities to fit into one vacation! With a natural yet urban feel, the area can be crowded and bustling, which would be ideal if you’re into this sort of environment. 

On the other hand, New Mexico has an incredibly warm and peaceful atmosphere and is typically fairly relaxed all year round. There is still plenty to do for nature lovers and enthusiasts. Still, it would be perfect if you’re primarily seeking a relaxing holiday or are fascinated by the culture that flows through the area. 

Colorado and New Mexico are both incredible vacation destinations. But, they do afford varying experiences for travelers and families, depending on interests and preferences. Ensuring that you know what to expect can make a world of difference in planning the ultimate vacation. Hopefully, assessing the most iconic aspects of both locations has helped you narrow down your final choice. 

Elizabeth Ciobanu

Elizabeth Ciobanu is a full-time (homeschooling!) mom of four, and serial entrepreneur in a variety of enterprises, one of which is producing content for Family Vacation. If free time existed, she would love to spend more time on hobbies.

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