UFOs and Starry Skies: A Themed Vacation Itinerary

UFOs and Starry Skies: A Themed Vacation Itinerary

UFOs and Starry Skies: A Themed Vacation Itinerary in Texas and New Mexico

UFOs and Starry Skies is a fascinating itinerary that was part of our 5,000 mile southwest trip. Yet, it’s easily adaptable to add on to a long vacation or for a shorter road trip. Traveling through Texas and New Mexico, you’ll get to see the mysterious Marfa Lights, attend a Star Party at McDonald Observatory, explore the UFO phenomenon in Roswell, climb White Sands, and continue to feel very small next to the Very Large Array.

UFOs and Starry Skies

To accompany this itinerary, stay tuned to The Castle Concierge for more in-depth reviews.

Read on for an itinerary with optional stops to add to your aliens and starry skies exploration.

Pre-Trip To-Do List

Your pre-trip to-do list for your UFOs and Starry Skies vacation gives you an idea of some of the logistics that will need to be addressed before setting out on the open road.

  • Book a hotel in Alpine, Texas, Roswell, New Mexico, and Las Cruces, New Mexico.
  • Reserve the Star Party at McDonald Observatory, 3640 Dark Sky Drive, Fort Davis, TX 79734.
  • Look up sunset time for Fort Davis, TX.
  • Reserve a Roswell UFO Tour with Dennis Balthaser.
  • Reserve hotels, if needed, before and after this itinerary.

Begin the Road Trip

Day 1
Drive to Alpine, Texas.
We made the 5 hour journey from San Antonio, departing around Noon and arrive about 5PM. Plan your trip according to your starting point!

Road from Alpine to San Antonia Texas

On Road to Alpine from San Antonio, Texas.

Note that this town has limited lodging and dining options (Pizza Hut, Subway, McDonald’s, Dairy Queen), so consider making reservations early.

It’s going to be a late night so we recommend resting at your hotel (we stayed at the Hampton) until it’s time to travel to the McDonald Observatory, which is 50 minutes away from Alpine.

Frank N. Bash Visitors Center McDonald Observatory

Arriving before sunset at Frank N. Bash Visitors Center at McDonald Observatory.

Depending on the time of year that you are visiting, you may be able to see the Marfa Lights at dusk, followed by the Star Party. Since we were visiting in May, we went to the Star Party first (9:30-11:30PM), then stopped at the Marfa Lights in the late evening.

For reference: Marfa to McDonald Observatory is 45 minutes. Alpine, Texas to Marfa is 22 minutes.

McDonald Observatory

The scenery along the way to the McDonald Observatory was beautiful. We left before sunset and were there with plenty of time to explore the Visitor’s Center, have a snack, and watch the sunset (8:49PM, during our visit).

Due to the elevation of 6,700 feet above sea level atop Mount Locke and the dark skies, McDonald Observatory is a great location for viewing the starry skies.

McDonald Observatory Star Party

See the stars at McDonald Observatory.

Unfortunately on our night, the skies were cloudy. The Observatory added extra lectures and were able to point out some stars. We were also able to view several planets through the telescopes. Best of all, I saw a shooting star!

Marfa Lights

Marfa, Texas is known for the mysterious lights that appear on clear nights.

The dark drive down the mountain, plus the added anticipation of seeing the mystery lights definitely gave us a spine-chilling ride. We located the Marfa Lights viewing center and parked our car in the pitch darkness. As late as it was, we were not the only ones making the stop. There were some people already there (locals and tourists) as well as people coming and going while we were there.

UFOs and starry skies travel theme

As instructed we gazed into the blackness toward the Chinati Mountains and some locals told us where to focus our attention. At first, we didn’t see much of anything but we heard cows grazing nearby. And then it happened, a light flickering. Another one bouncing. Two or more lights would appear seeming to hover and then dance.

What are the lights? I don’t know. Are they headlights? I can’t say. I do know that the feeling of being out there in the dark between Marfa and Paisano Pass was other-worldly. And, I’m glad we made the stop.

We certainly had a lot to chat about on the ride back to the hotel! In fact, we still talk about that entire evening. Amazing!

Day 2


We had pre-booked the Holiday Inn in Roswell, New Mexico. While there are more accommodations here, you’ll still find that your options are limited compared to other touristy stops.

Since we were out late star-gazing and looking at mysterious lights, we slept in. Departing by 10AM, we were in Roswell by 2PM. The four hour drive is quite desolate so plan accordingly.

Road to Roswell New Mexico from Alpine Texas

Prepare for your road trip before heading out on the desolate roads.

After checking into our hotel, we decided to rest and then go out to dinner. We had underestimated how tired we would be from the previous late night. If you arrive with energy, I would recommend touring the UFO Museum (allow one hour).

Day 3

Meeting us in our hotel lobby, Dennis Balthaser picked us up for our pre-arranged private Roswell UFO Tour. We spent from 9-11AM riding around Roswell in his vehicle. There wasn’t a single boring minute. He kept us completely captivated with accounts of the alleged UFO crash. It was extremely interesting to how this event affected the town of Roswell and its people.

Hangar 84 Roswell New Mexico on our UFOs and Starry Skies Road Trip

Hangar 84 in Roswell, New Mexico. Were alien bodies and debris kept here before being flown elsewhere?

After the tour, we had lunch, then spent an hour at the UFO Museum.

White Sands National Monument

Begin your two-hour drive to White Sands National Monument. The other-worldy landscapes glistening with white gypsum sand are stunning.

White Sands National Monument

Glistening white sand!

Continue to Las Cruces where you’ll spend the night before continuing your itinerary. An optional morning stop at White Sands Missile Range Museum makes for a fascinating tour surrounded by gorgeous scenery. Be sure to have photo ID to enter the gates.

White Sands Missile Range Park

White Sands Missile Range Park has an impressive display.

Day 4

Very Large Array

Plan to drive to the Karl G Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) located on the San Agustin Plains. This drive to 7,000 feet above sea level is also rather isolated so be sure to gas up, get food, and stop for breaks when you are near civilization. Fifty miles west of Socorro, New Mexico, this astronomical radio observatory is made up of 27 radio antennas (each 82 feet in diameter).

Very Large Array from Road

Very Large Array from Road. Wow!

A video presentation (Jodie Foster from Contact narrates) and self-guided tour will take about 1.5 hours from the small VLA Visitor Center.

Very Large Array Antenna

Standing next to one of the antenna at the VLA.

For sci-fi fans, the VLA is iconic. Stop here and try to take in some of the mind-boggling science!

Very Large Array Antenna

Very Large Array Antenna focuses on the science of black holes and more!

Post-Itinerary options:

Drive to Meteor Crater near Winslow, Arizona and/or Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona. Due to a travel delay, we had to skip Meteor Crater and drove right to Flagstaff.

One of our favorite itineraries, the UFOs and Starry Skies theme was a highlight of our summer trip.

Are you ready to set out on a UFO and Starry Skies adventure?

Roswell, New Mexico: UFO Tour and Kitschy Close Encounters

Roswell, New Mexico: UFO Tour and Kitschy Close Encounters

Roswell, New Mexico: Southwest Road Trip Overnight Stop

During the summer of 2016, our family took an extended road trip through the southwestern portion of the United States. An exciting journey that allowed us to check off several destination-related bucket list items, including a stop in Roswell, New Mexico.

Aliens and UFOs in Roswell New Mexico.

Visiting and touring the area surrounding Roswell, New Mexico has been a bucket list item of mine for decades. The events that allegedly occurred at Roswell shortly after the end of the second World War have always intrigued me. As a sci-fi/fantasy fan, I also have a related interest in the history of the phenomenon of UFO sightings. Luckily, both my wife and my son share this interest. Our road trip was the perfect opportunity to make the pilgrimage.

Roswell Highway Driving the Roswell Highway

Part of the mystique of Roswell is due to its remote location.

Roswell Highway Road to Roswell

New Mexico History

Regardless of your interest or level of skepticism related to such topics, it cannot be denied that Roswell, New Mexico holds a significant place mark in the history of post World War II America and has influenced aspects of our culture for decades.

Fat Man Bomb Casing Fat Man Bomb Casing at White Sands Missile Range

New Mexico, in general, surprised me by both its beauty and the wide-ranging cultural influences it holds. Undeniably, one of those cultural influences is the importance it played during the last half of World War II and in the infancy of the Cold War.

After 20 months of development, the world’s first atomic bomb was detonated 200 miles south of Los Alamos at Trinity Site on the Alamogordo bombing range on July 16, 1945.

Trinitite Trinitite – debris from Trinity Site on display at White Sands Missile Range

Today, New Mexico continues to harbor a significant military presence at the White Sands Missile Range.

Kitschy Close Encounters

Visiting Roswell can include experiencing its quirkier side, such as the dozens of green alien figures of various sizes decorating businesses throughout the area.

Roswell New Mexico Alien Alien take-over in Roswell

The International UFO Museum And Research Center is located in Roswell and is an informative place for those desiring to dive deeply into the specifics of the 1947 incident at Roswell as well as for those who are simply curious.

UFO Museum UFO Museum

Additional UFO and alien theories, as well as the expected tourist trappings of T-shirts, books, and other paraphernalia, can be found at the museum.

Close Encounter Kitschy Close Encounter at UFO Museum

We spent about an hour or so pouring through some of the more detailed exhibits related to the supposed UFO crash. The museum is definitely worth visiting while in Roswell in order to get a more intimate view of the cultural impact the incident in 1947 has had on the town.

UFO Museum Exhibit Exhibit at UFO Museum

UFO Tour

The primary purpose of a more serious visit to Roswell should include a plan to visit several of the actual locations integral to the Roswell incident. While you could surely work to do this on your own, we found it advantageous to have assistance in not only finding the locations, but in explaining the importance of each place within the context of the Roswell story.

Fortunately, there are several options for guided tours of the Roswell area. Researching months in advance of our visit, my wife came across solid reviews related to the tours provided by Dennis Balthaser.

Ballard Funeral Home Ballard Funeral Home in Roswell

The experience we had with Dennis was fantastic. He picked us up at a designated time in our hotel lobby, and then spent the next several hours driving us around Roswell showing us the specific locations and detailing the events that transpired before, during, and after the incident at Roswell.

Dennis is widely considered to be an expert on the incident at Roswell and has developed a significant resume of research and presentation on the topic.

Roswell International Air Center Driving onto the Roswell International Air Center

The tour included numerous stops and drive by locations: drive by of rocket scientist Robert Goddard workshop; drive by former homes of Intelligence Officer Major Jesse Marcel, and Public Relations Officer Walter Haut; current City Hall (Roswell Police Station in 1947), and more.

Most exciting, was driving onto the Roswell Industrial Air Park, known as the Roswell Army Airfield in 1947, to see Hangar 84 where “bodies and debris” were briefly stored before being shipped elsewhere.

Hangar 84 Hangar 84

Dennis Balthaser

Dennis was extremely courteous and knowledgeable throughout the entire tour. His tour allowed us to gain a much better understanding and appreciation of the events. Not only was he able to provide us with fascinating information that was new to us, he demonstrated an interest in why we wanted to visit.

Clearly, Dennis has found his passion and was able to share that with us in an accessible manner. I would strongly recommend his tour for anyone interested in diving deeper into the incident at Roswell. We took the private tour for up to 4 people. With Dennis doing the driving and unfolding the story in chronological chunks, we were able to really absorb the scenery and mind-boggling information.

1947 Roswell Dennis Balthaser shows us a 1947 photo. Original water tower still stands.

Bucket List

Our visit to Roswell was extremely satisfying. We were able to appreciate the importance of the event while gaining additional perspectives on what may or may not have happened.

This overnight stop on our 5,000 mile trip gave us lots to discuss and think about!

Von Braun and Roswell Von Braun Exhibit

Plus, Bucket List item checked!

Roswell New Mexico Road Trip Overnight Stop.

What U.S. destination is on your bucket list? Let us know in the comments!