Editor’s Note: “Time to get spooky” is a series in the Vail Daily that explores the scary, weird and supernatural..
Short of going to the annual Roswell UFO Festival in the summer, the only way to fully experience Roswell, New Mexico, in my humble opinion, is to go all out – far, far out. Walk the streets in your favorite alien costume, take campy photos with the variety of wood-carved, inflatable or gargantuan plastic alien statues on the streets, read testimonials at the UFO museum, fully immerse yourself in the virtual reality of the landing and alien government of 1947. and add the trip ends with a drive to the otherworldly White Sands National Park (plastic green saw in hand, of course).
I spent October 22-23 celebrating my birthday in Roswell and White Sands with believers and non-believers alike. As “Ancient Alien” aficionados, my mom and I fall into the first camp, while my dad and husband balk at the idea of little green men. I admit, the theorists on the History Channel’s Ancient Aliens make ridiculously big leaps with some gaping holes between their coverage of historical sites and their conclusions that foreigners explain almost all strange phenomena, including the Egyptian pyramids. But we seem to be the only game in the galaxy to be a bit egocentric, so my mind tends more towards the weird, open side of the spectrum.
My husband refuses to watch the squid, but he humored me all weekend by dressing up in a green one we picked up at a thrift store the weekend before and wearing the squid, or, well come to think of it, an alien hat, I. bought in 2020, when we originally planned to go to Roswell for my birthday – until we found out that the state was closed to tourists because of COVID. My father, a decorated Vietnam vet who lives the more tangible life of building houses and fixing almost anything mechanical, walked out of the International UFO Research Center and Museum thinking “something happened,” but his a story focusing more on the military messing something up. up and creating a cover story, which morphed into stories about aliens and UFOs after military guys discovered that they themselves had little to entertain themselves after WWII, therefore the outlandish alien stories.
Honestly, I thought for sure that my father and my husband would become believers, or at least entertain aliens, after spending more than an hour in the UFO Museum. I personally found it compelling: military men encountering technology they couldn’t explain, government agents threatening their lives if they claimed the Roswell crash was just a weather balloon – just enough the large number of stories I saw around the country convinced me. that something very strange is going on. And, one walk through the adjacent research library filled with the number of books and reports added to the substantial evidence.
Despite all the heavy research and testimonials, Roswell doesn’t take itself too seriously, which is refreshing. Even the UFO Museum, which is full of accounts of sightings and even abductions, has a UFO on stage, often enlivened with smoke and aliens speaking in their native language (uh, that is, if they have languages).
Foreign travel program
The first stop on your Roswell adventure is the Roswell Visitor Center and Store, where your campy photos begin (or, maybe you want to pick up a cool pair of exotic glasses – the visitor center is the cheapest bet). This includes a photo stage with a seasonal theme (this time of year, picture yourself smiling under a “I believe” sign, among the hay bales, scarecrows and, of course, the ever-present, costumed aliens currently in fall clothes), which is free. Printed photos pop out as the perfect keepsake.
The International UFO Museum and Research Center is a must to fully familiarize yourself with the culture of Roswell, as well as NASA data and research. There’s a lot to read on the walls, but it’s worth it. Photos, movie posters, various short videos and various exotic scenes provide an alternative to reading documents, explanations and encounters, resulting in a fun, interactive, imaginative adventure.
On the short walk from the Roswell Visitor Center to the museum, take at least a few minutes to take some creative photos or videos at the giant UFO wall mural, which features the hot pink headline: “ROSWELL …we believe!”
Along the historic downtown strip, you will pass many creatively decorated and painted shop windows; if you’re a shutterbug like me, they’re all worth it. The alien themed shops are fun, too; beyond the funny T-shirts and mugs, you’ll find everything from alien water-squirt guns to baby Yoda cookie jars and alien-themed dog leashes. Speaking of dogs, Roswell is a very dog friendly town. Most stores allow the four furry legs to sniff around for strangers.
Spaceport Roswell has one of the most impressive and exciting activities, in the form of virtual reality experiences. Our receptionist, dressed as a future flight attendant, wasn’t looking at our costumes – she didn’t want to know if we had any fluorescent capacitors in our carry-on or luggage or any foreign goo, slime, mucus or glop . on our people (because these are forbidden) before we show our pod.
Once there, we adjusted our VR goggles and went on a wild, dizzying ride through the 1947 alien crash in our swivel chairs. The adventure takes you face to face, bodies with aliens before their ship crashes and lands in the hands of the investigating military officers. This experience is a must-see, even if you don’t opt for the alien adventure: Spaceport Roswell also offers Apollo 11 and other interstellar adventures. One tip: Take the complimentary disposable earplugs when offered, because you never know if you’ll end up sitting next to a pod like we did, with four oohing, wheewing and crying as they go; you’ll want to be able to focus on your own virtual reality, and the earplugs add to that ability.
Visitors can also buy tickets to BrickTown, which features aliens, pirates, a moon landing, a railway, a town and wonders of the world built from more than 250,000 toy bricks. Press a button and some of them light up, while the World Buildings section tells you all about the structure via video.
Across the street, the Roswell UFO Spacewalk and Gallery takes you through a family-friendly art blacklight into another world. Pets are allowed, and you can go through as many times as you want and take as many photos as you want. Tip: Wear something like white that shines for the best photo frames.
If you’re into laser tag, check out the 15,000 square foot Area 52 Tactical Laser Tag.
Across “the strip,” you’ll find more great photo ops. Dunkin’ Donuts has a giant green alien, and, next door, McDonald’s competes for attention with its own UFO-shaped fast food restaurant, complete with streaming colored lights and silver aliens (in case you’re tired of the green. variety). Further down the road, you’ll find a few more photo booths, especially ones attached to the Invasion Station store.
I found the people in Roswell to be very friendly and welcoming; I never felt “out of place” in an outfit. In fact, passersby and shop owners seemed to be entertained. One 5 or 6 year old boy called out the window, “foreigner!” how his parents drove past us; tourists wanted to take pictures with us, or of us (granted, one of them jokingly asked my husband if he had lost a bet) and people nodded (in a friendly way, I think) as the four of us (and two dog) , all dressed in exotic clothing, located at the bottom of the almighty green Dunkin’ Donuts.
We ended our day with a relaxing visit to the Robert H. Goddard full-dome digital theater; it’s a bargain at $5 (seniors, kids and military get a discount) for about 45 minutes of film on a variety of topics. immersed ourselves in Revealing the Invisible Universewhich suited the theme, with its depiction of x-rays, gamma rays, neutrinos, black holes and cosmic rays.
The next day, we took the 2 hour 20 minute drive to White Sands National Park. This time, my dog and I dressed up as Yoda, because the big white dunes seemed perfect Star wars background. Granted, I didn’t stay in costume the whole time; I didn’t want to get my too-tight pjs (okay, so I just wore them as a costume – until now) full of sand while I was sliding and skiing (with vintage silver Volants, of course ) down the hill. On that particular day, the first snow of the season hit Colorado, and southern New Mexico was very windy, so I didn’t get as much skiing, sledding or walking in as I wanted, although I did manage to carve a sand angel out too. . My clothes prevented me from full-body exhaustion, but my face definitely stood out, and my hair felt like straw after being blown through by the wind. So, if you’re planning a visit, try to avoid a windy day.
It will be a long weekend full of seeing Roswell and the national park. Located a little over 8 ½ hours from Vail, Roswell is a completely different world where you can land, exercise your imagination and maybe even find yourself transported.