For the multigenerational family seeking a fun and affordable vacation, visit Las Cruces to experience New Mexico culture, outdoor activities, and historic sites under endless blue skies. Known for its sunrises, sunsets, and wide-open spaces, Las Cruces is rated #3 in Money magazine’s 20 Best Places to Visit in 2019.
The city’s major employer is the federal government supporting the White Sands Test Facility and White Sands Missile Range. Las Cruces means the crosses in Spanish — legend says the crosses mark early settlers’ graves. Let’s explore Las Cruces in south-central New Mexico, 46 miles north of El Paso.
Things To Do In Las Cruces
Whether you enjoy hiking, exploring museums, markets, monuments, and state parks, or visiting the wineries, families will find many adventures in and around Las Cruces.
Farmers And Crafts Markets
Celebrating 50 years, the Farmers & Crafts Markets of Las Cruces fills seven blocks of downtown Main Street with vendors selling locally grown produce, locally made food, and crafts. You’ll experience the culture of the Mesilla Valley with jewelers, metalwork, paintings, fiber, local art, and craftspeople. Find organic produce and gluten-free options, traditional Mexican food, and even homemade kombucha. You can spend an entire morning exploring the vendors and having lunch on Wednesdays and Saturdays at the market.
White Sands National Park In The Evening
Did you know that the white expanse of White Sands National Park that extends 275 miles does not absorb heat from the sun, making a stroll on the dunes comfortable even in the hot summer months? Take a ranger-led sunset stroll offered daily to learn about geology, animals, and the park’s plants. Walk along the white dunes the night before the full moon from April through October. The park stays open late on full moon nights, where you can listen to live music in the natural amphitheater from May through October.
Located in the historic Santa Fe Railroad Depot, the Las Cruces Railroad Museum explores railroading with hands-on science, technology, engineering, art, and math activities on STEAM Saturdays. At Brown Bag Lunch Lecture Series, learn about railroad transportation or flag and lantern signals or attend kids-only sessions, including transportation storytime and Dino train.
Museum Of Nature And Science
The Museum of Nature and Science offers three permanent exhibitions: stargazing, desert life, and Permian trackways. Learn about animal feedings with snakes, amphibians, lizards, turtles, trace fossils, plant life cycle, and life in the earth’s crust. The museum focuses on providing a fun environment for discovery, community enrichment, and learning new ideas.
Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument
The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument protects five areas that cover almost a half-million acres. The areas include the Organ Mountains, Sierra de las Uvas, the Robledo Mountains, Potrillo Mountains, and Dona Ana Mountains, from Ponderosa trees in the highest elevations to narrow canyons and open woodlands. You’ll find hundreds of dwellings, rock art, artifacts, and other evidence of the Native peoples of the area.
Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park
Located 1.5 miles from historic Mesilla near Las Cruces, Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park is an Audubon designated Important Birding Area, stop number 43 on the Statewide Birding Trail. You’ll find interpretive and hiking trails, picnicking areas, gardens, theater, wildlife viewing blinds, and exhibits at the visitor center.
The Zuhl Museum
If you are a rockhound, you’ll love The Zuhl Museum, part art gallery, part history museum at the New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. Be amazed by giant geodes filled with amethyst and other minerals surrounded by a forest of polished 280-million-year-old petrified wood. Over 1,800 fossils were donated to the university by Herb and Joan Zuhl in 2000. This collection is the largest petrified wood display in the world.
Prehistoric Trackways National Monument
Established in 2009 to protect the significant fossilized mega trackways within 5,280 acres in the Robledo Mountains, you’ll see footprints of amphibians, reptiles, insects, plants, and petrified wood dating back 280 million years — before the dinosaurs. Sites interpreting the fossils are still under development. You can see a 30-foot and a 15-foot trackway on display at the Las Cruces Museum of Nature and Science.
Leasburg Dam State Park
Drive 25 minutes north of Las Cruces to Leasburg Dam State Park for fishing, kayaking, canoeing, river running, and birding in this peaceful picnicking and camping area. Stop at the visitor center for area information. The park has a main restroom with hot showers, a kids’ playground, and an amphitheater that hosts monthly night sky programs, ranger-led hikes, and birding events. The camping hookup sites are available by reservation only.
Las Cruces Museum Of Art
The Las Cruces Museum of Art is an oasis for Friday Night Painting Parties and adult summer classes like drawing, watercolor, jewelry making, or ceramics. Kids’ types include drawing, clay, painting, and recycled art. The museum hosts traveling contemporary art exhibits along with studio class programs.
Recycled Roadrunner Statue
Kids love the 20-foot-tall Recycled Roadrunner Statue that was first constructed at the foothills landfill to make people aware of how much we throw away that ends up in the landfill. The artist moved the giant bird to the rest area west of Las Cruces on Interstate 10. Look closely, and you’ll see old cell phones, bike parts, shoes, tires, metal crutches, computer keyboards, etc.
Mesquite Street Historic District
Visit Mesquite Street, which meanders through the oldest part of Las Cruces. The same trail brought Spanish explorers from Mexico City to Santa Fe, today part of the El Camino de Tierra Adentro, The Royal Road of the Interior Land National Historic Trail. Start a walking tour at Klein Park and visit old adobe houses, churches, shops, and museums. Eat enchiladas at Nopalitos, where the Gallegos family has operated for more than 50 years. Have a cup of coffee at Beck’s Coffee and purchase a bag of coffee beans.
Take The Las Cruces Wine Trail
Salsa dance or listen to music on the back patio area as you enjoy cabs, Petite Sirah, or malbecs at Amaro Winery in downtown Las Cruces. At Fort Selden Winery, enjoy wine tastings and wine by the bottle or case.
Heart of the Desert Winery presents award-winning wines on the relaxing patio and home-grown pistachios from Eagle Ranch Groves. Sip wines and eat pizza from an extensive menu at Luna Rossa Winery & Pizzeria.
25 miles south of Las Cruces, come and experience tradition at LaVina Winery, New Mexico’s oldest winery. At Rio Grande Winery, sip and paint, enjoy weekly food specials, live music, and drink wine. Enjoy Desert Nights Rose, El Santo “The Saint,” a blend of reds, or Land of Manana, a sweet style Moscato.
“Walk Of Flame” Green Chile Trail
Las Cruces Green Chile Trail is considered the “mecca of green chile production,” where farmers harvest millions of tons a year. You can find many varieties from mild to hot. One fresh, medium-sized green chile pod has as much vitamin C as six oranges. One teaspoon of dried red chile powder has the daily requirements of Vitamin A.
Hot chile peppers speed up the metabolism and burn calories by triggering a thermodynamic burn in the body. Local grocery stores roast the green chiles in August and September, and restaurants feature dishes like green chile burgers, green chile wontons, green chile hummus, and stuffed hatch green chiles.
Restaurants In Las Cruces
La Posta de Mesilla has been famous for Mexican food, steaks, tequila, and margaritas since 1939. The cantina serves over 100 tequilas. Enjoy nachos, shrimp ceviche, enchiladas, fajitas, combination plates, and steaks with shrimp. They offer Pancho Villa Specials for children under 12.
For Neapolitan-style pizzas, visit Zeffiro’s Pizzeria Downtown for the best in Las Cruces. Order the supreme pizza, the chicken parmesan, or build your calzone. Save room for the real thing here, tiramisu or Italian lemon cream cake.
Order a seasonal craft beer and a green chili cheeseburger at the Spotted Dog Brewery. The Black and Tan Onion Rings are the best — thick-cut onion rings coated with beer batter, drizzled with dark stout beer, and served with sriracha ranch.
In the heart of old Mesilla, have dinner at the Double Eagle Restaurant, situated in a historic, elegant home built in 1849, filled with crystal chandeliers, antiques, century-old art, and, oh yes, two ghosts. Start with the house favorite, green chile cheese wontons and firecracker shrimp. The steaks are excellent, the aged double eagle ribeye or the 40-ounce tomahawk beef ribeye for two. Save room for the Bananas Foster prepared tableside so you can enjoy the show. Stop off in the Imperial Bar for the glamour and a margarita from a classic 30-year-old recipe.
Caliche’s Frozen Custard often earns national attention with sweet treats and memories. Try the fudge brownie bliss, Nana Berry Swirl, or my favorite, the mint de caliche.
Hotels In Las Cruces
Stay at Hotel Encanto de Las Cruces, southern New Mexico’s premier Heritage Hotel and Resort. The conveniently located hotel offers luxurious accommodations and amenities, including an outdoor swimming pool and an on-site restaurant and bar. At Mezcla restaurant, you can sample calamari, green chile fondue, a classic burger, or trout escabeche.
Or choose the Springhill Suites Las Cruces or Holiday Inn Express & Suites for families. Lundeen Inn of the Arts is a Mexican Boutique Inn rated one of the top 20 inns in the country. Seven guest rooms boasting 18-foot ceilings, Jacobean-style furniture, and an 1855 German piano serve a diverse clientele. Enjoy stimulating conversations about the area’s art, culture, and history with the art dealer and architect owners.
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