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Nerd-tastic New Mexico

Nerds looking for an interesting place to vacation need look no further than the Land of Enchantment.

New Mexico is home to three – count them, three – of the top 25 spots on The Best Nerd Road Trips in America, according to the August issue of Popular Science magazine.

In fact, the lead photo for the article, subtitled “twenty-five curious, mysterious or otherwise beguiling destinations to satisfy your inner science-history geek,” is from the Very Large Array west of Socorro, listed as the No. 4 place to visit.

“Astronomers have used the glinting white receiving dishes to make discoveries for decades – including ice on Mercury and microquasars,” according to the story by Geoff Manaugh and Nicol Twilley.

A portion of the Very Large Array dishes near sundown at the site west of Socorro.

A portion of the Very Large Array dishes near sundown at the site west of Socorro.

The pair is traveling across the country visiting what are described as built, natural and virtual landscapes of the United States. They call their project Venue and are documenting it at


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They picked their 25 favorites for Popular Science, “each one open to the public and perfect for a late-summer road trip.”

The second New Mexico spot on the list is Sierra County’s Spaceport America, also warranting a photo, touted as the place where Virgin Galactic will take folks to the edge of space as early as next year for a mere $250,000.

Finally, at No. 24, is the Chile Pepper Institute Garden in Las Cruces.

The garden contains 150 pepper varieties, “including the new world’s hottest – the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion, packing 2 million Scoville heat units – and the former world record holder – the Bhut Jolokia, deposed in 2011,” according to the story. This one, too, has a nice shot of a variety of peppers.

Some of the other top spots are: No. 1 Soudan Underground Mine State Park in Minnesota, now used for deep-earth physics experiments; No. 7 Fort Irwin National Training Center, a Rhode Island-sized piece of Mojave Desert in California with 11 fake towns for U.S. armed forces combat training; and the No. 22 Sugarloaf Key Bat Tower in the Florida Keys.

All the entries say whether there are free tours, paid tours or both.

And accompanying the headline of each of the 25 is the latitude and longitude of each place, ostensibly so you can locate them by GPS.