A city noted for its copper mining, Silver City is nestled in the southwest of New Mexico, right beside the national forest that has the wilderness designated as the first wilderness by Congress. It was founded in 1870 after silver ore deposits were found nearby.
The history of Silver City is rich in its mining stories and its violent rate crime around the 1870s among Western outlaws (like Billy the Kid), but don’t let that discourage you from visiting; that history showed how this city played a role in the ol’ Western times. It’s safer now and easily explorable by anyone. Silver City shows bits and pieces of the vibrant New Mexico culture.
Silver City isn’t the most visited city in the state of New Mexico nor is it the most recommended in a lot of tourism sites like Santa Fe and Albuquerque, but it’s still a place worth coming across, especially if you’re traveling around Gila National Forest. Most settle here to visit too to stay around the national forest but if you come here by chance, there are a few things you can do in the city. It impressed me further than my expectations, actually!
1. Silver City Museum
One of the first places you should check out when you’re downtown in Silver City is the Silver City Museum. It is a non-profit organization and it serves to help its visitors learn about the city’s history and diverse cultural heritage. The museum’s building was once owned by a family called the Ailmans and this was their home in the 1880s. However, it became restored as a Mansard/Italianate home. By 1931, the local fire department moved into the house.
Some of the furniture and antiques were left behind and are displayed today in the museum. My favorite pieces were the piano and the black sofa from the 1800s (I don’t know if I’ve ever sat in something so old! Maybe, maybe not..!). You can see contemporary artwork pieces made by local artists and there are many artifacts from the days of ranching and mining with pictures from back in the day and lots of written information to learn more about how this was prominent in the city.
There is also more furniture to come across from back then and it really takes you back in time! The museum features a marvelous gift shop where you can get all kinds of New Mexico souvenirs to bring back home. I absolutely love the variety of stock they have. On the top floor of the museum, you can see outside the window to see what historical building you’re looking at and it depicts a description of what it is.
2. Big Ditch Riverwalk Park/The Big Ditch
Go downtown and behind those buildings is a secret. Just kidding, it’s not really a secret, but it’s definitely not that visible when you roll up downtown. A bridge connects you to The Big Ditch, a riverwalk that contains a walking trail and a park. You can walk down on the side of the bridge to see the ditch at any angle. Some stores actually have easy access to behind this park.
This area was left remains from a big flood that surged through town, especially hitting Main Street. It created this ditch from 1895, the same as you see now, and for a while, it had been used poorly as a sewer one time. The city wanted to preserve it, so a park was built around it.
Coming down here to The Big Ditch, you can sense a feeling of peace and it is a nice quiet escape to anywhere else. You can sit on the benches to sip away your coffee/tea, read a book, or have a heart-to-heart conversation with someone. It’s also beautiful from the many trees surrounding it. During the fall time as we explored, the trees shed leaves and it makes it look like the perfect fall scenery.
There is also a mural to see that are engraved onto some cemented fencing. This mural actually tells the story of what happened when the flood came and how it ultimately changed up the city. It is a very nice, eye-catching piece of artwork and thousands of people helped build it. This place also makes for great picture-perfect spots, especially over their bridges!
3. Walk downtown to find surprising artwork (and shop if you want!)
Silver City’s downtown, Main Street, does a good job representing the vibrant art culture that New Mexico is notable for. In a city where many local artists reside, their work is seen here downtown. You can walk around and find cute bits and pieces of stunning murals.
My favorite would have to be a small mural of a couple holding hand-in-hand with the outline of their bodies and then “Silver City – 1878 – New Mexico” written above it in the bright yellow background, a color that’s used in New Mexico’s flag. I also love the rainbowed painted pathway with symbols on it! It’s probably like the “Abbey Road” (Beatles reference) of Silver City with a twist of colors, haha.
There are also a number of stores lined up downtown. You can find anything from thrift stores to arts and crafts to art galleries to candy and to a cafe. There’s also a theater to see here on Main Street, but upon research, the Gila Theatre is closed but the building remains as a donation to the city, which may be used for something later on. The city sometimes holds events and a farmer’s market downtown.
4. Go to Gila National Forest
Gila National Forest isn’t exactly in Silver City but it is an hour away from the city. It’s still one of the coolest places to discover while you’re by the city and it has nature of rugged mountains, deep canyons, and scenic drives you can go through. There are so many hiking trails, hot springs to find, and hidden gems. The national forest is HUGE and it has the wilderness to see for your own eyes.
You can read my guide here on what to do and more information on this national forest.
Find a place to stay nearby!
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The bike and blues festival seems to be missing these days. I attended this event two times and thoroughly enjoyed myself.