Discover Historic Old Mesilla -
Old Mesilla Plaza bandstand with Butterfield Overland Trail sign.

Mesilla, a hub of culture, transportation, and trade since its founding in 1848, draws visitors from throughout the Southwest and Mexico. With its theaters, shops, bars, and local color, this walkable village invites exploration.

La Mesilla Historic District, which includes Mesilla Plaza, was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1961. Once situated on the border with Mexico, this village was a crossroad for many cultures traveling the Camino Real Trail from Chihuahua to Santa Fe or on the Butterfield Stagecoach from San Antonio to San Diego.

Pause for music and dance performances

The Mesilla Plaza, which is listed as a National Landmark, is the social, spiritual, and economic center of town. Take a stroll around the plaza with its classic gazebo, used for photo shoots, filming, weddings, and performances. 

A lively gathering place, the plaza hosts a variety of activities and events, including regular craft markets. You may hear mariachi or jazz musical performances or watch Native American or folklorico dances. On Christmas Eve, the plaza is lit by hundreds of luminarias, a Southwest holiday tradition.

Mexican dancer celebrates Cinco de Mayo in La Mesilla Plaza by DReiselman

Peruse local arts and crafts 

The area surrounding the Mesilla Plaza features many local galleries displaying the talents of local artists. Shop for Native American sterling silver jewelry and Nambe ware, a New Mexico Native American specialty. New Mexican potters also have boutiques in the village.

Explore Old West architecture

History buffs will be enchanted by the Basilica of San Albino, originally a traditional adobe building, which was replaced in 1906 by a yellow-brick building whose facade is dominated by square belfries with pyramid towers and soaring, arched stain-glass windows. In 2008, the Roman Catholic church raised San Albino to the status of minor basilica.

Most of the historic Southwest buildings on and near the plaza still stand. Ghost hunters will find many stories and locations to visit. Some of history’s famous and infamous characters, such as Pancho Villa and Billy the Kid, were active in Mesilla.

Shop a variety of boutiques

The perimeter of the plaza is lined with boutiques and restaurants housed in the historic buildings. Step into the bookstore to discover books by local authors or about the Southwest. As you wander, be sure to treat yourself at the local chocolate shop. Sample local pecans. And, of course, discover all things chile related from salsa and wine to a range of souvenirs. Take home a dried chile ristra to hang by your door.

Café de Mesilla offers breakfast and lunch indoors or on the outdoor patio shown here.

Enjoy a meal

There are numerous restaurants on the Mesilla Plaza and on Avenida de Mesilla where you can stop for a delicious meal. Try Café de Mesilla for New Mexican breakfast, brunch, and lunch fare and coffee drinks that will keep you going.

Sample wine, beer, and spirits

A local distillery features crafted spirits just across the street from one of several Mesilla outlets for New Mexico wines. Step into history for the experience of an Old West bar or relax on a restaurant’s outdoor patio to sip classic margaritas, local and Mexican beers, and New Mexico wines. 

Just at the edge of Mesilla, a local brewery provides crafted brews on an outdoor patio with an excellent view of the rugged and majestic Organ Mountains.

Watch a modern movie in a historic building

Take in a film at the historic Fountain Theatre and note the murals decorating the walls. In 1905, Albert Fountain Jr. built a new theatre on property that had served as the Confederate headquarters of the Territory of Arizona in 1861. The theatre was a showcase for plays, vaudeville, light opera, and silent films. Today, it is the oldest documented theatre in New Mexico still in operation.

Visit a historic home turned museum

Mary and J. Paul Taylor, an influential former New Mexico legislator, preserved the Taylor-Barela-Reynolds buildings, one of the most historically significant structures in Mesilla, as their home. This historic building houses their major collection of New Mexican art and furnishings. The Taylor-Mesilla Historic Site is not yet open to the public, but you can wander by it on your tour of the plaza.

Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park sign at entrance to the park.

Explore the desert

Toward the river, the Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park is a microcosm of the Chihuahuan desert. Hiking trails, bird walks, and a native plant garden offer numerous opportunities to experience the desert environment. Stop by the visitor center for more information on the desert and the local history.


Story sponsored by CAFÉ DE MESILLA


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