The Land of Enchantment that is New Mexico is full of fascinating locations. Rich in culture and heritage, Las Cruces is the state’s second largest city. It sits just about 3 hours south of Albuquerque and 1.5 hour north of Ciudad Juarez in Mexico. Las Cruces is surrounded by natural beauty everywhere and is an often-overlooked place to visit. Although not a tourist favorite, Las Cruces definitely offers a few gems worth checking out. If you are willing to do something different and go down the road less traveled, here are 20 things you can do in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
20. Las Cruces Water Tank Murals
Art is a big part of life in New Mexico, and Las Cruces offers art that you can’t really find anywhere else. Throughout Las Cruces, you’ll find monumental murals that depicts the history of the area and the many stories of its people. The best part about this is the fact that these murals have been painted onto water tanks. It makes driving around Las Cruces even more fascinating, but you can make your trip purposeful and find these murals on a single drive. It’s just the kind of experience that could make a Las Cruces trip extra memorable.
19. Red Hawk Golf Club
You don’t necessarily have to be a golf enthusiast to enjoy a round at the Red Hawk Golf Club in Las Cruces. The grounds here are worth seeing because of the incredible surrounding landscape. The golf club offers players of all skill levels an opportunity to play at such a beautiful location. After a round of golf, you can always enjoy a meal at the Red Hawk Bar & Grill, which is open for lunch and dinner everyday.
18. Fountain Theatre
Home to the Mesilla Valley Film Society, the Fountain Theatre is the oldest movie house in all of New Mexico. This structure has been associated with Mesilla since the early 1870s, and it has provided entertainment for the people in the area since 1905. The Fountain family was deep patrons of the theatre arts, and their legacy remains strong to this day. The Fountain Theatre is operational and shows a carefully curated set of films. It’s an exceptional opportunity to do something different while in Las Cruces and be part of the local area’s history.
17. Las Cruces Railroad Museum
Las Cruces seem to be filled with small museum gems, and the Railroad Museum is another must-see. The excellent exhibit here offers a detailed railroad history of the area. The miniature railroad setup is something that train lovers of all ages could enjoy. This museum is actually housed inside the old railroad station and is run by knowledgeable and dedicated volunteers. It’s a quick visit that can be done in between visits to other museums. Being that it’s part of the Las Cruces cultural program, admission to the Railroad Museum is free of charge.
16. Corralitos Ranch Trail Rides
Explore over 1000 square miles of a working ranch on horseback with the Corralitos Ranch Trail Rides. The landscape in the ranch is absolutely breathtaking. You can discover abandoned mines, homesteads, and fortified settlements here. You can also follow ancient migration routes. For those that are first-time riders or those that aren’t confident riding horses, the company provides basic riding instructions prior to going out. If you happen to be traveling with your own horses, you can arrange to ride the country with them as well.
15. White Sands Missile Range Museum
The White Sands National Monument in Alamogordo is only about an hour away from Las Cruces. The White Sands Missile Range sits just on the outskirts of the National Monument and pays tribute to the important part that the area has played in military history. Over the years, the museum has expanded its purpose to also support the history, natural geology, landscapes, and peoples of the surrounding area. This is another unique opportunity that only Las Cruces offers. Be prepared for strict identification processes in order to get in. It’s a military facility after all.
14. Las Cruces Museum of Fine Arts and Culture
For fans of contemporary art, the Las Cruces Museum of Fine Arts and Culture is the place to be. It may be a small venue, but it surely packs a punch. The museum features rotating exhibits only, so the collection is constantly changing and evolving. There’s a good chance that the exhibit on display is something you might be interested in during your stay in Las Cruces. It can be quite impactful for the whole family.
13. Rio Grande Vineyards and Winery
If fun, food, and good times are what you’re after, spend the weekend at the Rio Grande Vineyards and Winery. There’s always live music happening here and plenty of wine to go around. The winery also hosts painting events every other Thursday. This area boasts to be America’s oldest wine region, and the care the company puts towards their products are obvious. Be careful, however, cause you might find yourself bringing home more than just a bottle or two.
12. Basilica San Albino Catholic Church
There’s something about visiting churches in different locations that can bring a sense of serenity. Every church has its own story and architectural personality, and the Basilica San Albino Catholic Church in Las Cruces is no different. The first church was built here in 1852, and the church as it stands now was built in 1902. It’s still a functioning church, so there are services held there daily. It’s a beautiful structure that’s worth exploring even if you aren’t religious.
11. Lake Valley Historic Townsite
It may be a historic townsite, or it may very well be a ghost town. You can be the judge. The Lake Valley Historic Townsite in Las Cruces has long been abandoned by those that settled here to mine some silver, and there’s a slight eeriness to the area. This place was founded in 1878 after silver was discovered here. Much like how it happened with the gold rush, people suddenly flocked the location to find their fortunes. Today, Lake Valley Historic Townsite features a restored schoolhouse and chapel. Many of the other sites have been stabilized, so visitors like you can enjoy a self-guided walking tour.
10. The Zuhl Museum
One of New Mexico State University’s five museums, the Zuhl Museum is a favorite of residents and visitors alike. The museum showcases the Zuhl Collection, which is comprised of over 1,800 specimens of minerals, fossils, and petrified wood. The tagline of the museum is “Where Rocks Come Alive,” and Zuhl definitely makes rock a lot more exciting. Some of the highlights of the collection includes an extremely rare baby mammoth fossil, a fossilized skeleton of one Dimetrodon milleri, and a real space rock—a 135 pound meteorite that landed on Earth approximately 4,000 to 6,000 years ago.
9. Spaceport America
Formerly known as the New Mexico Spaceport Authority, Spaceport America is truly one of a kind. In fact, it’s the world’s first commercial spaceport. Although the spaceport is a closed facility, you can schedule a tour ahead of time through Final Frontier Tours, a private tour provider. Spaceport America is an active test facility for all things space travel-related. You can also visit the Visitor Center as well. It may be a little out there, but you can’t say you’ve visited New Mexico properly if you didn’t at least try to do something space-related.
8. Prehistoric Trackways National Monument
Located in the Robledo Mountains north of Las Cruces, you’ll find the Prehistoric Trackways National Monument sitting gloriously at 4,500 feet above sea level. This National Monument seeks to preserve an important deposit of Paleozoic Era fossilized footprint megatrackways. You’ll find footprints of reptiles, amphibians, insects, plants, and petrified wood that date back to 280 million years. It’s a significant place for science and history, and you have an opportunity to view a limited portion of the trackways. However, there are portions of the National Monument that’s open for hiking, horseback riding, and even off-highway driving.
7. Soledad Canyon
Soledad Canyon has an area visitors can enjoy for day-use only. Sitting in between two canyons—Bar and Soledad Canyons, this day use area offers scenic vistas of the Organ Mountains and the southern Mesilla Valley. There’s a 3-mile trail loop here that you can hike, bike, or even explore on horseback. There’s a waterfall to explore on the trail, and there’s even an old rock house you can look for.
6. Farmers and Crafts Market of Las Cruces
If you’re looking for some local crafts to take home or local foods to enjoy, the Farmers and Crafts Market of Las Cruces is the place to be. The world-class market is right at the heart of downtown. You’ll find stalls with hanging chiles, plenty of skilled artisans selling their work, and incredible handmade goods by local New Mexico artists. It might take you a couple of hours to really see everything the market has to offer, or you can just sit and enjoy the live music for a while.
5. Museum of Nature and Science
There’s no better way to do an educational and enjoyable family outing than a day at the Museum of Nature and Science. It’s a fun and engaging museum for all ages. You can learn about the natural history of the area here through their various nature and science exhibits. The museum even features incredible live animals you can interact with. There’s a great astronomy and life science section and plenty of hands-on activities for younger children. The museum is free to visit, but donations are suggested in order to support the operations of the museum.
4. Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument
If you’re looking for even more breathtaking mountain views, the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument is the place for you. This mountain range is considered to be the jewel of the Southern Rockies. There are a variety of geological features to explore here—from valleys to slot canyons, craters to grasslands, and many more. You’ll find historical and archaeological features as well such as petroglyphs and prehistoric sites. The Organ Mountains feature the Organ Needles, unique quartz monzonite spires that’s enjoyed by many Las Cruces residents. The Sierra de las Uvas Mountain Complex and the Greater Potrillo Mountain Complex is part of this area as well.
3. New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum
There’s a story to be told about the relationship of the people of Las Cruces and the land they’ve lived on for so many years. The New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum tells weaves this story beautifully in its educational programs and art exhibits. This museum could easily be an all-day trip. Facilities can also be rented out privately for events. Keep an eye out for specific events that you might want to personally visit. The museum also regularly updates their exhibits.
2. Dripping Springs Natural Area
10 miles east of Last Cruces is the Dripping Springs Natural Area. The area is managed by the Bureau of Land Management and features a desert scrub area and woodlands. There are four miles of hiking trails to enjoy here, which ranges in skill level from beginner to experienced. There are stunning mountain views to enjoy here and even some waterfalls to find. Dripping Springs is as picturesque as many of the more popular New Mexico natural areas. Enjoy a picnic here if you can.
1. Old Mesilla Village
Go back in time and walk the streets of New Mexico as it was a hundred years ago. That’s the charm of the Old Mesilla Village just 5 minutes south of Las Cruces. There’s a lot of history here dating back to the 1800s, and the residents of the town are direct descendants of the people that first populated the area. You can take a slow stroll around the plaza, enjoy lunch in one of the traditional restaurants nearby, and do some local goods shopping.
Written by Liz Flynn
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