Las Cruces, New Mexico, is a relaxed Southwestern city with a thriving economy, rich architecture, vibrant art scene, and spectacular annual festivals. The area offers fantastic outdoor activities with wonderful hiking and riding trails, old mining ghost towns, ancient Indian rock art, desert plants and animals, wonderful local crafts, diverse restaurants and markets, and endless blue sky. Here are the best things to do in Las Cruces.
1. Old Mesilla Village
© Old Mesilla Village
Mesilla is a charming historical community in southern New Mexico. Established in 1848, Mesilla played a major role in the historic, economic, cultural, and political life of the Mesilla Valley. Today's residents of Messila are descendants of Mesilla's early settlers, a colorful mix of American Indian, Spanish, Mexican, and Anglo-American cultures. The town preserved its cultural diversity through its colorful architecture, art, and customs, making Mesilla one of the most visited towns in the region.
The plaza, the buildings facing the plaza, the acequias, and whole blocks of traditional colorful residential adobe buildings beyond the plaza are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The plaza, which was traditionally the social, spiritual, and economic center of town, continues to be a lively gathering place for tourists and locals, with many festivals and celebrations taking place on its worn cobblestones. From the south end of Mesilla Plaza, you can see the 1906 Basilica of San Albino, where an earlier adobe church built in 1857 once stood. Many of the colorful adobe houses are today's restaurants, shops, and B&Bs.
2385 Calle de Guadalupe, Las Cruces, NM 88046, Phone: 575-647-4767
2. Museum of Nature & Science
© Museum of Nature & Science
The Museum of Nature and Science in Las Cruces has a mission to encourage stewardship of the nature of the Chihuahuan Desert and southern New Mexico and to inspire life-long learning and curiosity about the sciences. The museum has three permanent exhibits: Permian Trackways, Desert Life, and Light & Space. The Permian Trackways showcases two fascinating fossil trackways from the Permian Period, a cast of a dimetrodon, touchable trace fossils, and interactive media programs on the featured trackways.
The Desert Life presents five habitats of the Chihuahuan Desert: bajadas, desert plains, desert rivers, sky islands, and desert grasslands. There are 29 live animals, taxidermied birds and desert mammals, and pictures and photos of the most important plant species. The Light & Space exhibit features a four-foot digital globe, a telescope, a light experimenting table, images of the universe from Space Science Institute, a model of the solar system, and an interactive exhibit on stars.
411 N Downtown Mall, Las Cruces, NM 88001, Phone: 575-522-3120
3. Dripping Springs Natural Area, Las Cruces, NM
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The Dripping Springs Natural Area is located only ten miles from Las Cruces on the slopes of the Organ Mountains. With more than four miles of hiking trails, it is a nature-lover's paradise. One of the most popular trails is the easy Dripping Springs Trail surrounded by desert scrub and woodlands dense with pinon, juniper, and oak.
The area is filled with wildlife, and with some luck you might spot a red-tailed hawk, rock squirrel, Gambel's quail, or the rare golden eagle. You can also see year-round coyote, desert mule deer, black-throated sparrow, cactus wren, lesser nighthawk, Scott's oriole, and collared and tree lizard. If you are really lucky, you can see a mountain lion. The Dripping Springs Natural Area has a good visitor center, 12 picnic sites, and a large family picnic site.
15000 Dripping Springs Road, Las Cruces, NM 88011, Phone: 575-525-4300
4. White Sands Missile Range Museum
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White Sands Missile Range is a US Army rocket range covering about 3,200 square miles in southern New Mexico. It is the largest military installation in the US. The White Sands Proving Ground was established in 1945 to test American and German long-range rockets.
The White Sands Missile Range Museum explores the origin of America's missile and space programs, the beginning of the atomic age, and the accomplishments of scientists like Dr. Wernher von Braun at White Sands. Displays also show the prehistoric cultures and Old West exhibits found in southern New Mexico. A missile park outside the museum displays about 50 missiles and rockets that were tested at White Sands such as the WAC Corporal, Loon, Pershing II, and Patriot.
Las Cruces, NM, Phone: 575-678-2250
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5. Prehistoric Trackways National Monument
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The Prehistoric Trackways National Monument (PTNM) contains the footprints of reptiles, insects, and numerous other amphibians – many of which were previously unknown species. Established in 2009, the Monument is one of the most important track sites in the world, having significant scientific importance; this includes a deposit of Paleozoic Era footprint fossils and 280 million year old petrified wood.
PTNM protects and conserves the land and all of the opportunities it offers to understand and learn the behaviors of the environment and animals that have been recorded there. The main focus of the Robledo Mountains of southern New Mexico, the Monument is an educational, scientific, paleontological, recreational, and scenic location that educates and entertains its visitors no matter their age.
1800 Marquess Street, Las Cruces, NM 88005-3370, Phone: 575-525-4300
6. New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum
© New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum
The New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum is a 47-acre interactive indoor and outdoor museum in Las Cruces, New Mexico that celebrates a 3,000-year history of farming and ranching in New Mexico. The Bruce King Building has six galleries and corridors that display the museum's permanent and temporary exhibits, which showcase fine art, tools, and structures such as a pithouse.
The main building features the Eagle Ranch Museum shop and a theater. The museum also includes the Historic Green Bridge, the Skaggs Dairy Barn, Beef Barn, Blacksmith Shop, the Sheep and Goat Barn, the Greenhouse, orchards, gardens, a pond, and a number of live barn animals.
4100 Dripping Springs Rd, Las Cruces, NM 88011-5067, Phone: 575-522-4100
7. The Zuhl Museum, Las Cruces, New Mexico
© The Zuhl Museum
A part of the New Mexico State University, The Zuhl Museum is both an art gallery and a natural history museum. It is the home of the Zuhl Collection with more than 1,800 rare specimens of fossils, petrified wood, and minerals. The collection was gifted to the university by Herb and Joan Zuhl. Most specimens are on display in the Zuhl Museum, the Zuhl Library, and Gardiner Hall, in the Department of Geological Sciences. Most of the collection is composed of pieces of petrified wood, from a few centimeters long twigs to logs over a meter in diameter.
Some of them are millions of years old, and Zuhls called them “souls of the tree.” Of Zuhl's collection of minerals and rocks collected from all over the world, the most impressive are specimens of malachite, rhodochrosite, and reutilized quartz. They range from a few centimeters to almost a meter in diameter. The Zuhl collection contains a number of fossils of animals from all over the world, and it includes corals, trilobites, ammonites, fishes, and insects.
775 College Dr, Las Cruces, NM 88003-1204, Phone: 575-646-4714
8. Soledad Canyon Day Use Area
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Located on the rolling foothills of the magnificent Organ Mountains, the Soledad Canyon Day Use Area stretches between two canyons -- Soledad Canyon and Bar Canyon. The area presents an easy, lovely hike on the outskirts of Las Cruces and is famous for the three-mile Bar Canyon Trail loop with magnificent views of the Mesilla Valley and the central parts of the Organ Mountains.
The trails in Soledad Canyon are also suitable for horseback riding and mountain biking. After you pass through a narrowing canyon, you will come up to a beautiful waterfall. Occasionally, you can spot deer and other wildlife.
Soledad Canyon Rd, Las Cruces, NM 88011, Phone: 575-525-4300
9. Lake Valley Historic Townsite
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In 1876, Lake Valley was a bustling mining town with almost 4000 people looking for riches from the earth. One vein called the "Bridal Chamber" yielded almost 2.5 million troy ounces of silver on its own. By 1883, the silver was gone, angry Apache were causing trouble and the honeymoon was over.
Slowly but surely, the people left, and when the last one wondered off in 1994, Lake Valley officially became a ghost town. The Bureau of Land Management has restored the schoolhouse and chapel to offer a glimpse of life in the early 20th century. People are free to roam around on a self-guided tour and imagine a life full of hope. Hiking is always fun, and you might spot some wildlife.
Lake Valley, Las Cruces, NM, Phone: 575-525-4300
10. Corralitos Trail Rides
© Corralitos Trail Rides
The Corralitos Ranch is the 1000-square mile working ranch located west of Las Cruces, and it mostly spreads over endless expanses of desert. The tranquil terrain offers fantastic horseback rides with a beautiful vista of canyons and hills, spectacular sunsets, and interesting historical landmarks such as the old ruins of ranch houses, forts and settlements, Indian rock art, abandoned homesteads, and old mines.
Riding with the ranch will take you above the Rio Grande 25 miles north of the rugged Sierra de las Uvas. Experienced and safe trail horses and mules are used to handling riders at all skill levels. Most rides take about two hours.
Soledad Canyon and Bar Canyon, Las Cruces, NM, Phone: 575-525-4300
11. New Mexico Spaceport Authority
© New Mexico Spaceport Authority
With the goal of making space travel as accessible as air travel is, the New Mexico Spaceport Authority is one of the world's first commercial spaceports built specifically for this purpose. Visitors can't get a more authentic experience anywhere else; the fun, hands-on activities inside the commercial space launch facility will entertain visitors of all ages.
The interactive space exhibits that journey through time are both educational and entertaining while the spaceport site that lies in New Mexico's desert is visually stunning. There are opportunities for visitors to experience what the astronauts feel in a G-Shock simulator, take memorable photos in front of the iconic Gateway to Space terminal and hangar, or to buy some souvenirs in the on-site gift shop.
301 S. Foch St, Truth or Consequences, NM 87901, Phone: 844-727-7223
12. Things to Do in Las Cruces: Dion's
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Known mainly for their pizzas and subs, Dion's is a casual counter-serve family restaurant chain founded in 1978 in Albuquerque. One of the two locations in Las Cruces, their El Paseo Road location, is a spacious, modern place popular in the neighborhood for delicious traditional pizzas made with fresh local ingredients and offering a fast and excellent service. They have a nice selection of original and gourmet pizzas, but you can also make your own combo. Kids particularly like to watch their pizza being put together before it goes into the oven. Their salads are exceptionally fresh and come in interesting combinations, such as the Crunchy Spinach with spinach, edamame, romaine lettuce, mushrooms, cranberries, provolone, and croutons.
1060 El Paseo Rd, Las Cruces, NM 88001, Phone: 575-623-2321
13. Las Cruces Railroad Museum
© Las Cruces Railroad Museum
Railroading had a significant impact on the development and history of Las Cruces and the Mesilla Valley. The Las Cruces Railroad Museum commemorates this influential past by promoting the understanding and appreciation of it through public programming, events, and exhibitions. Interpreting and preserving the museum, which is housed in the notable Santa Fe Depot, the museum has been listed on the National Register of Historic Buildings.
Visitors can explore and better understand not only the role the railroad industry played in Las Cruces, but the background of the railway workers, the construction of the building itself, and how railroad communication has transformed over the years. Unique aspects of the museum include a wooden caboose and a model train room that visitors can run themselves.
351 N. Mesilla Street, Las Cruces, NM 88004, Phone: 575-647-4480
14. Model Collection of Rolf Mitchel at the Las Cruces International Airport
© Las Cruces International Airport
The Las Cruces International Airport has three runways and is an ideal place for general and corporate aviation. Located a few miles from downtown Las Cruces, the airport is more than just the runways, tie-down space, and a full-service FBO – they also have a wonderful model collection on display.
The collection, which includes 60 models of ships and historic planes, were assembled and donated by Rolf Mitchel, a former member of the Airport Advisory Board and a longtime resident of Las Cruces. Visitors will love the in-depth look the collection gives into the sea and air vessel models, many of which were similar to what was used in historic battles including World War II.
8990 Zia Blvd, Las Cruces, NM 88007, Phone: 575-541-2471
15. Las Cruces Museum of Art
© Las Cruces Museum of Art
With fun events and activities such as Japanese folk dancing or the Reading Art Book Club, the Las Cruces Museum of Art is a great way for the entire family to spend a day when visiting Las Cruces. The museum hosts contemporary art exhibits that are constantly changing; this includes an eclectic collection of local, national, international, traveling, and invitational exhibits. With so much variety on display, no two visits to the Museum of Art are ever the same.
Visitors of all ages can take part in an extensive class or program in the museum's art studio. One program in particular is SNAP (Science, Nature, and Art Program) which allows visitors to embrace their creative side while engaging in educational aspects such as engineering and technology.
491 North Main Street, Las Cruces, NM 88001, Phone: 575-541-2137
16. No Strings Theatre Company
© No Strings Theatre Company
As a non-profit organization, the community-based No Strings Theatre Company aims to enable contemporary and up-and-coming artists by giving them an opportunity to develop new works or showcase little-known works that are sometimes overlooked. No Strings also features less traditional theater forms such as performance art, improvisation, and puppet theatre.
The theater company itself focuses on artists, playwrights, and bringing a story to life, but it's at the Black Box Theatre that visitors can see the final product. Built as a home for the theatre company in 2000, the Black Box Theatre opened with its first production, Edward Albee's Seascape, and has had much more for visitors to enjoy since then.
430 N Downtown Mall, Las Cruces, NM 88001, Phone: 575-523-1223
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17. Fountain Theater
© Fountain Theater
The Fountain Theater's history is as captivating as its architecture. Although it had been in the family since 1873, it wasn't until 1905 that Albert Fountain Jr. bought the theater building and used it to entertain the residents of La Mesilla with plays, lantern shows, light opera, and other shows.
Over time, the building was modified to play films and for many years Albert and his family would add live music to the films, include Spanish subtitle cards, and play and sing when the projector broke down. Now, visitors can go see the renovated Fountain Theater and revel in its amazing architecture and history while enjoying a show with the family.
2469 Calle de Guadalupe, Mesilla, NM 88046, Phone: 575-524-8287
18. Rio Grande Theatre, Las Cruces, New Mexico
© Rio Grande Theatre
Home of the Dona Ana Arts Council, the Rio Grande Theatre has been in operation, on and off, for the last 70 years. In 2005 it was renovated and reopened to the public, offering a state-of-the-art performing arts facility with 422 seats. Visitors can enjoy one of the many performances held at the theater, most of which are events sponsored by the Arts Council.
Artists who have graced the Rio Grande Theatre with performances include the Moscow Ballet, George Winston, the Vienna Boys Choir, and the world famous Glenn Miller Orchestra. Visitors who are more interested in the architecture and history of the facility can schedule a tour of the unique two-story adobe theatre that has played an important role in Las Cruces' history.
211 N. Main Street, Las Cruces, NM 88001, Phone: 575-541-2290
19. D.H. Lescombes Winery & Bistro
© D.H. Lescombes Winery & Bistro
The Las Cruces restaurant of the D.H. Lescombes Winery & Bistro is a highly rated restaurant and a favorite among both tourists and local residents alike. The Master Chef and Winemaker of D.H. Lescombes Winery have collaborated to create a unique menu featuring epicurean-style dishes that pair well with the winery’s award-winning New Mexico wines. During the evening on Fridays and Saturdays, visitors can also enjoy live music while sipping one their glass of wine. In addition to the variety of wines, the winery also offers a wide selection of gift items, wine accessories, local craft beer, and gourmet foods.
1720 Avenida de Mesilla, Las Cruces, NM 88005, 575-524-2408
20. Recycled Roadrunner Sculpture
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Artists Dan Smith and Olin Calk worked on a recycling education program in the early 90's – the recycled roadrunner sculpture was the final component of that installation. Since 1993, the 20 foot tall, 40 foot long sculpture has been attracting tourists and visitors from all over the nation.
It initially stood tall over a landfill to draw attention to unnecessary wastage and reusing and recycling materials. The Roadrunner now stands in a rest area and the site of the sculpture has become a well-known community landmark. It's a must-see for visitors in Las Cruces – after all, where else can one go to see a towering roadrunner?
I-10 (between mile markers 134 and 135), Las Cruces, NM
21. Las Cruces Water Tank Murals
© Las Cruces Water Tank Murals
Keeping with the traditions of ancient Greeks and many others who would paint the cups, vases, cauldrons, and other pots and containers that held water, Anthony Pennock and his sons have been doing something similar.
The only difference is that their works of art are canvassed on the sides of water tanks up and down Las Cruces. The water tank murals are beyond decorative and should be considered more so as fine art. Depicting moments in history and telling stories, each of the amazing water tank murals are a site to see in Las Cruces. Visitors can spot these interesting murals in many locations across the area.
22. Red Hawk Golf Club
© Red Hawk Golf Club
The Red Hawk Golf Club was designed to offer golfers of all skill levels an opportunity to enjoy themselves on the course. Visitors who are novice players can still have fun on the intricately landscaped grounds as the course is designed to accommodate all levels. The golf club was designed by the Red Hawk's designer, Ken Dye, who is a member of the American Society of Golf Course Architects.
The golf club features five sets of tees, five beautiful lakes, yardages ranging from 5,502 to 7,523, and great views on every hole. The breathtaking setting is a popular place for weddings, concerts, gold lessons, or for simply grabbing a bite to eat and a drink at the bar and grill.
7502 Red Hawk Golf Road, Las Cruces, NM, 88012, Phone: 575-373-8100
23. Toucan Market
© Toucan Market
Having opened in 2005, the Toucan Market has been bringing affordable, healthy, and exotic foods to Las Cruces for over ten years. The 15,000 square foot space is filled with your everyday needs such as fresh produce from local growers and regional farmers, bulk economical packs of nuts, snacks, coffee, tea, and special items.
The more unique aspects of the market which attract many visitors are the imported items such as wines from all over the world, import and craft beers, a butcher block, and a bakery with some of the freshest, most delicious, baked goods in the area.
1701 #1 E. University Pan Am Plaza, Las Cruces, NM 88001, Phone: 575-521-3003
24. Rio Grande Vineyards and Winery
© Rio Grande Vineyards and Winery
Both Gordon and Sandi Steel have been envisioning their own vineyard and winery for over 25 years. Having been in the Air Force, they were both able to visit the numerous wineries throughout Europe during their tours.
Once they returned to New Mexico, they started up their 10 acre vineyard with over twelve varieties of European grapes. On request, visitors can take a tour of the on-site winery and see how these delicious wines are created. Visitors can explore the exquisite land, speak to the owners about their travels and passion for wine, and relax and taste the delicious offerings in the tasting room.
5321 Highway 28 (at Mile Marker 25), Las Cruces, NM 88005, Phone: 575-524-3985
25. Amaro Winery
© Amaro Winery
Founded in 2009, the family-owned Amaro Winery is a great site for Las Cruces visitors to explore southern New Mexico and taste the different flavors that are grown on the lush New Mexico soil. Visitors can explore the on-site winery and see the resident winemaker work his magic on each varietal red or white, sweet or dry, wine bottle.
Visitors can then rest their feet and enjoy a glass or two in the tasting room or on outdoor patio; wine tastings are available in both locations. The award-winning wines are a great way to experience premium New Mexico wine from grapes grown right in their southern yard.
402 South Melendres Street, Las Cruces, NM 88005, Phone: 575-527-5310