Located along the Rio Grande in middle of the vast deserts of southwestern New Mexico, the green “Truth or Consequences” exit sign on Interstate 25 is a favorite photo op for passersby. While the name in itself is an attraction, a trip inside the town yields even more quirks.
Truth of Consequences was originally named Hot Springs after the dozens of geothermal spring-fed spas that came to dominate the town. By the late 1930s, Hot Springs was filled with 40 different natural hot springs spas—one spa for every 75 residents at the time.
But then, to draw in even more tourists, the town took a bolder move. In March of 1950, the popular NBC radio show “Truth or Consequences” promised free publicity to the first American city to rename itself Truth or Consequences. Hot Springs decided to take up the offer, and after a citywide referendum voted in favor of the name change, was awarded the honors. The “Truth or Consequences” radio show was aired from Truth or Consequences on April Fool’s Day, 1950, a major event for such a small town.
Since 1950, the radio host, Ralph Edwards, revisited Truth or Consequences every year for 50 straight years on the first weekend of May. Upon each visit, he was welcomed by a “Fiesta” of beauty pageants, parades, rodeos, rubber duck races, and the Hatch Chile Queen, a tradition that, despite Edwards’ death, is still celebrated today.
Since the 50s, Truth or Consequences has been featured on multiple “unusual place name” lists and was even the site of the Doctor Who episode “The Zygon Invasion”, which based its plot on the city’s unique name. T or C, as it’s known to locals, has also used its unique name to its advantage for promoting its spas. Says a local resident, “it is the truth that we have the health-giving waters here. The consequences are that people get results.”
Throughout the city, a variety of interesting sites can be found. The Geronimo Springs Museum, for instance, features old windmills, Native American art, and wooden figurines. The adjacent Las Palomas Plaza is a public park where you can dip your feet in rushing spring-fed water in a surreally designed setting, resembling the set of a Star Trek episode. Past the historic WPA-built downtown are murals, a bull statue, and a war memorial with an eagle standing atop a globe on one leg. Also found throughout town is a painted water tank, a wigwam, and a polka dotted bench reading “WET PAINT.” In fact, from the town’s visitor center, you can even take a tour of Spaceport America, the world’s first purpose-built spaceport, just 25 miles down the road.