You’re new to Las Cruces and the Mesilla Valley, either as a visitor or a new resident. Welcome! One of the first things you’ll ask is, “What should we be sure to do here?” Here are 20 things to cross off your bucket list in Las Cruces and the Mesilla Valley. Enjoy!
1. Explore the Farmers & Crafts Market of Las Cruces
Saturday mornings on Main Street in Las Cruces you can find a wide range of handmade crafts and locally grown produce. This dog-friendly venue offers everything from chile adorned steering wheel covers to delicious kettle corn, along with the fresh produce of the season. Find local artists and craftspeople offering the perfect memento of a visit or just the ingredients you need to create a market-fresh dinner.
2. Follow the Spirits Trail
Time to enjoy a refreshing adult beverage? The Mesilla Valley is home to numerous wineries, breweries, and distilleries where you can wet your whistle. New Mexico was the first region in the country to grow wine grapes and you can visit wineries throughout the area to taste their offerings. Breweries are popular as well and you can drop in for a drink and a meal or grab a growler to take with you. Distilleries offer locally produced specialty drinks that will help you wind up your tour.
3. Find your favorite green chile cheeseburger
Green chile is a must-try food when you’re in New Mexico and you may just decide you like it on just about anything! Green chile cheeseburgers are a tradition here and bragging rights are hard won in a competitive market. There’s even a green chile cheeseburger trail where you can eat your way to contentment and make your own decision about which one deserves the blue ribbon. Check out the best burgers in Las Cruces.
4. Visit the historic Mesilla Plaza
Don’t miss this gem just a few miles from Las Cruces! Shops and restaurants line the edges of the traditional plaza, anchored on the north by the Basilica of San Albino. Stroll the same streets that Billy the Kid, Sheriff Pat Garrett, George Patton, and many others visited. Stop in La Posta for a meal or a margarita and be sure to wander the rooms that once held a tannery, blacksmith shop, schoolroom, and much more. The plaza is host to special events throughout the year, such as Diez y Seis de Septiembre and Christmas Eve, along with music events.
5. Go bicycling or take a walk
Las Cruces is developing a series of multi-use trails which will eventually circle the city. Currently, sections include the Triviz Multi-use Path, La Llorona Trail, and the Outfall Channel Trail. If you are a mountain biker, there are numerous mountain biking trails in the area, including the Sierra Vista Trail, which stretches almost 20 miles and connects with trails that take you into Texas.
6. Explore Old West history
Billy the Kid was (briefly) in jail in Mesilla before he escaped. When you visit Mesilla, you’ll be sure to figure out where when you spot the Billy the Kid Gift Shop. Pat Garrett, the man who shot and killed the Kid, was sheriff here and was shot down himself on the outskirts of Las Cruces. The Gadsden Purchase was commemorated on the Mesilla Plaza. The Double Eagle Restaurant on the plaza was for a time the Confederate headquarters in the region. Fort Selden, just north of Las Cruces, was home to Buffalo Soldiers who helped keep the peace. Walk in the footsteps of the first people in our region on El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro near Spaceport America. There’s a lot of history to explore here, pard’ner!
7. Say “Fore!”
With our abundant sunshine, there’s hardly a day when you can’t grab your clubs for a game of golf. Las Cruces is home to several great golf courses: Sonoma Ranch Golf Course, the New Mexico State University Golf Course, Red Hawk Golf Club, and the members-only Picacho Hills Country Club. Don’t forget to bring your clubs when you visit!
8. Try some New Mexican food
Mexican or New Mexican — what’s the difference? One important difference is that New Mexican food will likely have a form of green chile involved. (Yes, it is spelled with an “e” at the end rather than an “i.” In New Mexico, chili is the stew with beans, meat, and other spicy ingredients. Chile is a plant with green chile pods which ripen to become red.) Another New Mexican twist on Mexican food is adding a fried egg to top an enchilada. Be sure you know the answer to our state question: “Red or green?” While you can decide if you prefer red or green chile sauce on your smothered burrito, the official state answer is “Christmas,” which means some of each! Check out some of our favorite restaurants.
9. Discover the museums
Las Cruces is home to four museums operated by the city and one state-run museum. Discover the history of the railroad in the Mesilla Valley at the Railroad Museum, learn more about local history at the Branigan Cultural Center, and just across the way, the Museum of Art and Museum of Nature and Science await. There is no charge to visit the city’s four museums. The New Mexico Farm & Ranch History Museum is just the place to learn about our state’s rich agricultural and ranching heritage with indoor and outdoor exhibits, plus plenty of animals to visit and pony rides for the kids.
10. Stroll the First Friday Downtown Art Ramble
Art lovers won’t want to miss the popular downtown ramble when art galleries and museums stay open late. Held from 5 to 7 p.m. on the first Friday of the month, it’s the perfect time to discover a new piece of art to grace your home, find fellow art lovers, meet artists, and maybe even nosh on some appetizers. Then visit a downtown restaurant for dinner to wrap up your evening.
11. Go to a game, museum, or a live performance at NMSU
Las Cruces is a college town and with that comes a lot of perks! Sports lovers can cheer on the Aggies at the Pan Am Center or the football or baseball fields. Arts aficionados will want to visit the university’s art gallery and museums, including the Zuhl Collection of fossils and gemstones. The Center for the Performing Arts and the Atkinson Recital Hall are home to live theatre and music performances while the Pan Am also doubles as a venue for concerts by top names like Pentatonix, Carrie Underwood, and Brad Paisley.
12. Head to White Sands National Park
One of our newest national parks, White Sands is the largest gypsum sand dune in the world. In fact, if White Sands were an envelope, the next largest dune field would be the size of the postage stamp! It is home to animals that live nowhere else, having adapted to this unique environment. Take your snow disc and sled the dunes, bring a picnic, come for the nightly ranger-led sunset stroll, or attend a special full moon event. In September, check for information about the White Sands Invitational Hot Air Balloon Festival, where colorful balloons sail silently over the sparkling gypsum sand dunes.
13. Hike the Organ Mountains
The iconic Organ Mountains, named because they reminded early visitors of organ pipes, reach high above the Mesilla Valley to the east. Popular hiking destinations include Dripping Springs Nature Area, Aguirre Springs, and Achenbach Canyon. The Baylor Pass Trail takes you up and over the mountains through a pass named after a Civil War general. Hardy climbers can even challenge themselves and ascend the highest peaks. The mountains and surrounding areas are now part of the Organ Mountains – Desert Peaks National Monument.
14. Watch the sunset reflect off the Organ Mountains
While the sun rises over the Organ Mountains, sunset reflects off the steep, stark peaks. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch the rosy hues of an aspenglow reflecting from the spires. You can never grow tired of that view and seeing how the colors change throughout the day. Be sure to see the full moon rise over the mountains for a beautiful end to a day.
15. Catch a show at a local theatre
Las Cruces has a strong community theatre tradition, with several local companies and locations, such as the Black Box Theatre and the Las Cruces Community Theatre on Main Street. Enjoy a performance at the historic Rio Grande Theater where kids of yesteryear caught a double feature or a film at the adobe Fountain Theatre in Mesilla, operated by the Mesilla Valley Film Society, where the snack bar features real butter on the popcorn and margaritas can be ordered from the adjourning La Posta restaurant.
16. Go climb a mountain
In addition to the Organ Mountains, you can take a hike up Tortugas, dubbed A Mountain for the giant A put in place to represent the Aggies of NMSU. Several trails lead to the top, where you can get a great view of the Organ Mountains to the east and the city to the west. Another popular hike is Picacho Peak, a dormant volcano on the west side of the valley.
17. Add to your life list
Southern New Mexico is an amazing place for birdwatching, especially during spring and fall migrations. Popular birding hotspots include Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park, Dripping Springs Natural Area, and Leasburg Dam State Park. The Mesilla Valley Audubon Society is a great resource for birders new to the area, who are sure to add a white-winged dove to their life list!
18. Get spacey
Not all our history took place in the Old West; some of what’s happening here is very space age! The first purpose-built spaceport in the country is located north of Las Cruces at Spaceport America, where Virgin Galactic plans to launch the White Knight II into space. The Space Murals Museum tells some of the history of space exploration (and a day trip to Alamogordo’s Space History Museum will tell you even more of the story). White Sands Missile Range, where the first atomic bomb was tested at Trinity Site, has a missile museum, including many of the rockets tested at the base and indoor displays.
19. Become a rockhound
Petrified wood, geodes, crystals, and other minerals await you in a variety of locations in our area, including some former mines. Serious rockhounds may want to make a day trip to Rockhound State Park near Deming to the west of Las Cruces, one of the few parks that encourage you to take home a souvenir!. Those fascinated by geology may also want to explore Kilbourne Hole Volcanic Crater on BLM land in southern Doña Ana County. You might find some “volcanic bombs,” which look dull, but when cracked open, may reveal sparkling olivine glass granules.
20. Visit the galleries or explore public art
Las Cruces and Mesilla are thriving arts communities and are both home to well-known artists whose work is shown in galleries and museums in other parts of the county . . . and even the world! In addition to art displayed in galleries, including one at New Mexico State University, you can find a wealth of murals, sculptures, and other public art in the area. Areas to explore include Mesilla and Las Cruces’ historic Mesquite District, downtown, and University Ave.
Posted by LasCruces.com