Socorro is a modern college town with ancient roots. As early as the 1200s, Piro and Apache Indians lived in villages along this stretch of the Rio Grande in central New Mexico. A stroll around the San Miguel Franciscan Mission shows off Socorro's later European heritage, dating to the early 1600s when the Spaniards arrived.
When lead, zinc, and silver were discovered in the surrounding hills in the 1800s, American settlers rolled into Socorro, and it became the mining hub of New Mexico. The School of Mines opened here in 1893, and now, as the New Mexico Institute of Mining & Technology, is one of the top public colleges in the west. A small museum on campus lets visitors goggle at gold, see fossils, and peer at eerie, glow-in-the-dark rocks.