Now, explore 7 things you need to know before visiting New Mexico:

1. Christmas is served 365 days per year.

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Red, green, or Christmas. Photo: IANM

Walk into any New Mexico restaurant, order an enchilada or burrito and the waitress will ask the inevitable: Red, green, or Christmas? That’s local parlance for “How do you prefer your chile?” The spicy, capsaicin-rich sauce made from the official state vegetable smothers most everything that comes out of a New Mexico kitchen. Whether you prefer spicy green, mellow red, or “Christmas,” a combination of the two, the little-known secret about New Mexico chile is that red and green are one and the same. The difference is how ripe the pepper is when picked, according to I Am New Mexico.

2. White Sands National Monument isn’t your typical sand.

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White Sands National Monument. Photo: USA Today

We may be getting hung up on a technicality, but the “sand” in these 275-square miles of shifting dunes 15 miles west of Alamogordo is actually gypsum crystals. (Most inland sand is made from silica in the form of quartz crystals or coral.) That’s not the only reason White Sands is surreal: 93 African oryx were imported from the Kalahari Desert and set free between 1969 and 1977. Today more than 3,000 animals, each weighing up to 450 pounds with horns that average 34 inches, roam the dunes.

3. You will leave with an eternal craving for green chile.

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Green chile. Photo: McCormick

Pretty much everything and everywhere you’ll eat here — from El Patrón Café in Las Cruces to The Shed in Santa Fe — comes with heaps of smoky green chile, and by the time you leave, you’ll never want a meal without the stuff ever again. Luckily, there are services that ship roasted, fresh, and frozen green chile to other states — Albuquerque’s UPS stores have special chile-shipping guidelines and even a dedicated chile-shipping webpage. Or hopefully you befriended some locals who can hook you up, as said by Matador Network.

Top 10+ Best Destinations to Travel in New Mexico

4. The drives may be long, but the list of landscapes is longer

When you look at the size of neighboring Texas, New Mexico might look kind of small…as if it wouldn’t take that long to drive from, say, Santa Fe to Roswell. But the distances are deceiving — that’s more than a three-hour commitment you’re talking about. If you’re staying in the Fe and want to visit places a bit farther afield, like White Sands or Carlsbad, it’s better to plan to stay a couple days down in the southern end of the state.

And we don’t blame New Mexico — how long would it take you to turn from desert garden to white gypsum sand dunes to Ancient Puebloan ruins to artists’ enclave to funky alien hotspot to the fifth-largest cave chamber in North America? Yeah, the drive will be worth it.

5. Seasons don’t play by the rules

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Awesome skiing and snowboarding. Photo: Matadornetwork

Most places tout their summer vacation chops and then close up shop. New Mexico is not most places. Though summer is great, fall and winter might be even better.

Fall brings beautiful foliage (yes, there’s foliage in the “desert”), tons of festivals like Fiestas de Santa Fe, and green chile roasting. Winter has seriously awesome skiing and snowboarding, like at Ski Santa Fe or Ski Apache, one of the most southernmost ski areas in the States. Plus, there’s nothing like the holidays in a New Mexican town — snowy adobes covered in glowing farolitos? Postcard perfect.

Pro tip: Just because this is the Southwest doesn’t mean the weather is sunny and hot all the time. New Mexico has actual seasons, and you should definitely pack accordingly.

6. Bring Sunscreen and Moisturizing Lotion

If you’re from a climate where theres any moisture, you’re going to have to bring sunscreen and lots of lotion. New Mexico has a dry climate for the most part and you should consider bringing a high SPF sunscreen and a good lotion to keep your skin moisturized, otherwise your skin may feel a little tight after a few days and the last thing you want to do is be lotion shopping while you could be enjoying the sunshine.

7. An Additional Food Budget

Although you may have heard of our delicacy, the Green Chile and the Red Chile? Until you have tasted recipes from New Mexico that are hundreds of years old, you haven’t tasted it the way it was meant to be. Knowing this, it takes a lot of pride and love when it comes to making a good meal and that’s a reputation that New Mexican’s won’t fall short of. So, make sure you bring an appetite when you visit. There are numerous places throughout the state that will satisfy you taste for New Mexican food and we New Mexicans will assure you of that, I Am New Mexico.

Boasting one of most incredibly scenic and diverse landscapes in North America, New Mexico offers endless opportunities for exploration and adventure.

With strong influences of both Native American and Hispanic culture, the state offers the visitor a multitude of unique attractions both in large cities like Santa Fe and Albuquerque, as well as the smaller hubs of UFO-focused Roswell and the artists' colony of Taos.

Center of the American Southwest, the "Land of Enchantment" didn't gain statehood until 1912, as said by Planet Ware.

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