Your Guide to Free and Low-Cost Family Fun
The end of school is quickly approaching and now is the time when parents start to panic about those endless hours to fill. Relax. We’ve got you covered with an assortment of low-cost activities to keep the young ones (and yourselves) busy this summer. All while keeping a sharp eye on the family budget.
There’s nothing more refreshing than a dip in cool water on a hot summer’s day. Here’s a guide to a selection of New Mexico’s invigorating locales.
A perennial favorite with its awesome rock formations (and jumping cliffs) and views of the Cerro Pedernal (no day use fee).
Cochiti Recreation Area
There is the popular swim beach (day use $5) as well as the more rustic Tetilla Peak Recreation on the east side of the lake (no day use fee).
El Vado Lake State Park
Fishing, boating, camping, and hiking await. A 5.5 scenic trail connects El Vado to the neighboring Heron Lake. (Day use $5; camping $8-$18).
With the Jemez Mountains as backdrop along with Ponderosa Pine forests, this is a stunning location for water play and camping. (Day use fee $5, camping from $8).
Heron Lake State Park
This no wake lake (day use $5) is located in Rio Arriba County and offers campgrounds (primitive to more developed from $8 to $18) and a hiking and fishing trail along the Rio Chama near Heron Dam.
Conchas Lake State Park
One of the largest lakes in all of New Mexico, located NW of Tucumcari (day use $5). With secluded cove, sandy beaches, and canyons, this makes a terrific spot for boating, fishing, and camping.
Nambe Lake and Falls
The Pueblo of Nambe operates this special spot with two 1.25-mile trails that lead to the waterfalls—one ends up above while the other goes through the water. If you take the lower water laden trail, expect to get wet (although this year could be quite dry due to the ongoing drought). Entry is $15 per vehicle. At the lake, there are extra fees for fishing and watercraft.
Orilla Verde Recreation Area
Located along the banks of the Rio Grande in Pilar, this tranquil spot is a great place to skip rocks and enjoy a picnic. Day use is free.
Santa Cruz Lake
Located 30 miles north of Santa Fe and managed by BLM, Santa Cruz Recreation Area is a scenic spot for boating, fishing, camping, and hiking. Due to the potential for rough undercurrents only wading is allowed. Day use $5 per vehicle.
Santa Rosa Blue Hole
It is astonishing that this amazing water hole even exists—and the crystal clear view can often reach a depth of 100 feet. However, it’s very chilly (around 62 degrees) year-round. So best to make it a quick dip. And most people enjoy launching themselves off the surrounding rocks. Blue Hole is also a popular diving spot with caves to explore ($20 for a week permit).
Santa Rosa Wibit
For a full day of water fun, check out the Santa Rosa Wibit – open May 26 through Sept. 4. In addition to the incredibly creative interlocking inflatable water park (the Wibit), there’s a water slide, pedal boats, canoes, diving board, and swimming. The Wibit is located on Lake Drive in Santa Rosa; $5 per vehicle, plus $10 per person for all activities (there is a 42” height requirement).
This small but nice lake is located just outside Las Vegas (day use $5).
Sometimes you just need to sit inside in the dark and tune out the summer sun. (Or enjoy movies under the stars.) There are plenty of low cost options around to do just that.
Regal Movies Summer Express
The Regal Movies Summer Movie Express program promises a great selection of G or PG rated movies for only $1 on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 10:00 a.m. Some highlights this year will include Boss Baby, Trolls, LEGO Ninjago Movie, and Ferdinand. Participating theaters are Regal Santa Fe Stadium 14, Regal Winrock Stadium 16, and UA Cottonwood Stadium 16. See the schedule here.
Free Family Film Series at Violet Crown Cinema—Santa Fe
This program has run for the past several years on Wednesday mornings at 10:30. No information is currently available, but visit the theater’s website or call (505) 216-5678 to find out details.
Cineflix in Ilfeld—Las Vegas
New Mexico Highlands University offers free movies to the public. A number of free outdoor movie series make a summertime picnic dinner a special treat. Bring blankets, folding chairs, and picnic baskets.
Railyard Park Movie Series – Santa Fe
Highlights include The Jerk, Black Panther, Coco, and Star Wars-The Last Jedi. Spread out on the Railyard lawn.
Movies Under the Stars – Rio Rancho
Still a little early to view the roster, but check back soon!
Movies in the Park—Bernalillo
This popular summer series returns –check out the website for details.
Turn it Up!
There’s no better way to enjoy a summer eve than with family and friends, enjoying the sounds of talented musical artists.
Amazing free entertainment throughout the city from the Heights and Nob Hill to Downtown and the Westside.
Summer Music in the Park—Rio Rancho
Sundays nights at 6:30 p.m. at Haynes Park—musical styles including jazz, big band, folk, pop, soft rock, barbershop, and symphonic pops.
Santa Fe Summer Music in the Railyard
A summer of eclectic sounds awaits: from Ozomatli to alt-country Anthony Leon and the Chain to a salute to Tom Petty. There’s a ton of free concerts on the schedule.
Amp Concerts – Albuquerque
Throughout the summer and at various library locations, check out some free performances such as from Da Tierra Meija and Joe Daddy and Hoodoo Jeff.
Santa Fe Bandstand
Locals and visitors alike rejoice in this annual summer institution of music—on the Plaza, all summer long (south side shows added at SWAN Park)! Season starts June 21 and runs through August 11.
Music on the Hill at St. John’s College—Santa Fe
Always a great time on the athletic field—starts June 13.
Domingos en Arte—Albuquerque
A summer music and dance series in NHCC’s Fountain Courtyard featuring Latin artists such as Son Como Son, Baracutanga, and Calixto Oviedo y Son Sabroso. (Most tickets are $11 in advance, free for 12 and under).
A Smorgasbord of Unusual Ideas/Happenings
May 26 Reggae By the River
Featuring Native Root and Mala Maña at Coronado Historic Site (Bernalillo). ($7 in advance, 16 and under free).
June 9 -10 Brain Freeze Ice Cream Festival – ABQ
This is a incredibly tasty way to beat the heat with 21 scoop stations and toppings galore—all to benefit Rio Grande Down Syndrome Network. At Balloon Fiesta Park $5 (free for 3 and under).
June 15 Summer Comic Con for Teens
Experience fandoms, take photos with superheroes, and show off your fab costumes. For teens going into 7-12th grade—at 3 p.m. at Loma Colorado Mail Library, Rio Rancho.
June 29 Ice Cream and Karaoke for Teen
Indulge in banana splits and root beer floats while singing those karaoke favorites. For teens going into 7-12th grade—at 3 p.m. at Loma Colorado Mail Library, Rio Rancho.
American International Rattlesnake Museum—Albuquerque
View the biggest collection of species of live rattlesnake on the planet. This museum’s got some bite! ($4-$6).
Echo Amphitheater—Tierra Amarilla
If you happen to be heading to Abiquiu, this natural echo phenomena is worth a stop. Have your kids scream in delight at the striated cliffs, where they’ll hear the echoes of their voices. (Located four miles up the road from Ghost Ranch, $2 entry fee).
Route 66 Auto Museum –Santa Rosa
Check out a stellar collection of vintage cars, trucks, toys, gas pumps, and more. Vroom! ($5, $3 kids 12 and under)
Tinkertown Museum—Sandia Park
Some people collect while others create museums dedicated to their obsessions. From miniatures to circus memorabilia, you can’t possibly be bored here. Be sure to bring some quarters to work some of the coin-operated pieces ($3.75, $1.75 kids 4-18, under 4 free).
Roswell UFO Museum—Roswell
Mystery still surrounds the Roswell incident. Visit and draw your own conclusions…($5 adults, $2 kids).
Every Kid in a Park Pass
And don’t let this summer pass without getting your Every Kid in a Park pass if your child is eligible! This federal program that lets every fourth grader get a year-long pass to all national parks. So visits to Chaco Canyon, Bandelier, Pecos National Monument, Carlsbad Caverns—are all free for fourth graders, any accompanying kids up to 16, and three adults. Kids who just finished fourth grade can still get a pass to use through Aug. 31, 2018.
We hope this wrap up of free and low-cost activities gets you inspired to explore some of the amazing sites and events taking place in New Mexico this summer. Let us know here if we missed something awesome that State members should put on their calendar!