7 Hot Spots in Las Cruces, N.M.

Once part of Mexico, the area offers an incredibly rich culture woven together with strong strands of traditional Mexican influences. Here are the top seven things to do while visiting this university town.
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1. Walk of Flame Green Chile Trail

Green chili dishes at Hotel Encanto in Las Cruces, N.M.

Green chili dishes at Hotel Encanto

Why Go: Sample the vegetable that serves as a cornerstone in southern New Mexico culture. Taste everything from vanilla custard with green chile marmalade at Caliche’s Frozen Custard to a New Mexico pecan green chile roll at Aqua Reef.

Tip: If your mouth is burning from chiles, drink milk, say researchers at New Mexico State University’s Chile Pepper Institute. Milk has a protein in it that neutralizes the capsaicin in the peppers that makes your mouth feel like it’s on fire.

2. Farmers & Crafts Market of Las Cruces

Shopping at the Las Cruces Farmers & Crafts Market.

Shopping at the Las Cruces Farmers & Crafts Market.

Why go: If you want to experience Las Cruces and have limited time, head to this market lined with fresh produce and vibrant handmade crafts.

Tip: Started in 1971, the market takes place every Saturday year round from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on seven city blocks along Main Street. On Wednesdays, you’ll find it at Plaza de las Cruces from 8:30 -1 p.m. year round and at night from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. May through October.

3. Coas Books

Why go: This used bookstore is so incredible that LonesomeDove author and book shop owner Larry McMurtry allegedly stopped through here on road trips to browse the collection.

Tip: Filled with books from every genre, find this local institution at 317 North Main St.

4. Mesilla

Doorway on an adobe building in Mesilla near Las Cruces, N.M.

Doorway on an adobe building in Mesilla.

Why go: Founded in 1848, this charming village about a 10-minute drive from Las Cruces has a traditional plaza surrounded by boutiques and restaurants, some of which occupy the town’s original adobe buildings.

Tip:Eat lunch or dinner at La Posta, which serves delicious authentic Mexican food, or Double Eagle, home to the only dedicated beef-aging room in New Mexico, which is probably why the venue’s locally sourced steaks are so good. Try the green chile cheese wontons with pineapple jalapeno salsa as an appetizer.

5. Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument

Wildflowers at Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument near Las Cruces, N.M.

Wildflowers at Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument

Why go: Established in 2014, this relatively new national monument has four areas to explore. Bring extra water and sunscreen while hiking.

Tip: Just 10 miles east of Las Cruces lies Dripping Springs trail where you can take a leisurely 2.7-mile, out- and-back walk to ruins. Take University Avenue to Dripping Springs Road to get there. It costs $3/vehicle for day use.

6. Rio Grande Theatre

Why go: See the nation’s only operating two-story adobe theater (built in 1926), plus get additional information at the Las Cruces visitor center there.

Tip: The 426-person theater is home to an art gallery that showcases local artists, along with entertainment like classic films, children’s matinees and local, regional and national acts. It’s located at 211 N. Water Street.

7. White Sands National Park

White Sands National Monument

White Sands National Monument

Why go: The sparkling white sands of the world’s largest gypsum field are mesmerizing. Hike or sled down them to experience them.

Tip: Start at the historic visitor center in a 1930s-era Pueblo Revial building to see exhibits, get information on daily activities and watch a great film A Land in Motion.

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