So you may have noticed I have been on a bit of a hiatus. I have been dealing with some constant personal legal crap that has, until this point, prevented me from sitting down and writing. You can expect a post on how to avoid being scammed by your tenants as soon as all our court dates have ended. [Insert scream of frustration here].
My hiatus has been quite nerve-wracking and may have driven me slightly crazier but one thing it hasn’t done is prevented me from doing some really cool things with my family over the past few months.
As a family with young kids, we usually shoot for the long-weekend type trips. Take off late in the week and return home in time to get back to school and work on Monday. That’s not to say that we don’t take the kids on long-haul trips, like this 15-hour road trip, but for the most part, we like to stick to the shorter drive-times because there is only so many Trolls Soundtrack on repeat we can stand.
One of my favorite places to take my family for a long weekend is Las Cruces, New Mexico. For us, it’s close enough to drive, but it’s only 30 minutes away from the El Paso International Airport so I highly suggest visiting Las Cruces if you’re visiting El Paso. It’s also located off I-10 and I-25, so if you’re making a road-trip plan, you must include Las Cruces.
Now, I have been going to Las Cruces annually for going on nearly 10 years. I am an alum of The University Of New Mexico (Go Lobos!) which is the rival of New Mexico State University, situated in gorgeous Las Cruces. I have been making the trip from Albuquerque to tailgate football games since college. I used to make the drive with a car-load of drunk 20-somethings singing Toby Kieth songs. This is by far the best preparation I could get for making the drive with a car-load of toddlers and kids songs on repeat. The number of pit-stops to pee on the side of I-25 are relatively the same, too.
Las Cruces is a mid-size college town with the perfect desert weather year round. Las Cruces is rich in history, has some of the hottest culinary experiences you can find in the world, unique museums and breathtaking parks to fill your weekend with one-of-a-kind experiences at a pace that only New Mexico can offer.
So here are the best things to do on a long weekend in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
Drink a Margarita… or four.
There are amazing restaurants all throughout Las Cruces, but perhaps the most iconic is La Posta De Mesilla in Old Mesilla. This old adobe compound was originally built in the 1840’s and was a main stop on the Butterfield Stagecoach Line following the Civil War. It has operated as a restaurant and lodge since the 1870’s. In 1939 La Posta de Mesilla was established in a corner of the compound and since has grown to occupy the entire building with its amazing New Mexican cuisine, exotic birds, and killer margaritas.
You can start by sipping a Prickley Pear Margarita while you indulge your kids on the crazy-cool history of Old Mesilla. La Posta sits directly across the street from a known hangout of Billy The Kid, adjacent to the Basilica of San Albino and surrounded by the feel of the Wild West. While your kids are chattering about this amazing place you have brought them to, try a Cucumber Jalapeno Margarita. These are the most incredible Margaritas I have ever had (and believe me, I’ve had a lot!)
Indulge your kids in a basket of Sopaipillas while you try the Coco Loco Margarita and then take a walk around the Old Mesilla square. (To burn off all that alcohol)
Take a Stroll Through The New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum
The New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum in Las Cruces is a truly unique living museum that showcases 4,000 years of farming and ranching in the Southwest. From the Pueblo Indians and their advanced farming practices to the evolution of cattle ranching, there is much to learn here. There are 24,000 square feet of interior exhibition space that houses permanent and rotating collections such as oral history in the Southwest, Pueblo Textiles, and Period dwellings. The New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums and is a gem of Southwest History.
They also have hands-on heritage events for the kids (and parents!) such as quilting, natural dying, and their famous Ice-cream eating contest in the middle of July. Death by Brain-freeze never tasted so good, believe me. You can see their monthly line-up of awesome events here, to help you plan your trip.
The kids will love walking through time and through replicas of pueblo building, covered wagons, and The Old Mercantile.
After you have meandered like a herd of cattle through the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum interior exhibit space, you can venture outdoors on a guided tour that will school you in blacksmithing, antique farm equipment, and saddle making. There is a blacksmith present that will make you a horseshoe nail on the spot. In case.
There are many long-term exhibits and livestock throughout the property. You can meet and greet the dairy cows at Skaggs Dairy Barn, watch the sheep be sheered for wool yarn, and learn all about the best beef cattle and how they’ve evolved through the ages. Guides are very knowledgeable and can tell you the history of your steak from Angus to Kobi and everything in between.
This is one of those really fun, one-of-kind places that the kids are really going to enjoy. The New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum is a hands-on environment that you and your family will adore. Located at the base of the Organ Mountains, the views are just as captivating as the history within the walls!
The museum is located just off Interstate 25 in Las Cruces at 4100 Dripping Springs Road.
Spice it up.
There are some pretty unique experiences to be had in Las Cruces and the culinary one is no exception. Las Cruces, New Mexico is in the heart of the Mesilla Valley and famous for a few things that will tickle your tongue. Chile is New Mexico’s claim to fame (and don’t let Colorado tell you otherwise!) and Las Cruces is home to the World Renowned Chile Pepper Institute. Yes, friends, this is a non-profit organization within New Mexico State University that is devoted the study of capsaicin and Chile Peppers. These guys actively seek new peppers with Scovil Heat ratings that will burn your face off, and then bottle and sell them for consumption. YUMMY.
I am a native New Mexican so I don’t hesitate to sprinkle some Ghost Pepper (Jolokia Pepper) sauce on everything from eggs to pop-corn. I have basically been consuming copious amounts of chile since early childhood.
There are plenty of other peppers that you can purchase from the Institute if you want to try your hand at growing your own.
The Chile Pepper is located on New Mexico State University campus, Las Cruces, NM in Gerald Thomas Hall, Room 265 (575-646-3028)
If you’re just in the market for some spicy merchandise, you can order online here.
Taste the Southwest
Las Cruces has some of the best New Mexican cuisine to offer in the state. You can start your day with a burrito the size of my first born child smothered in red or green chile (or order Christmas like a local!) at Mesilla Valley Kitchen. Priced right and will totally fill up the kids for a full day of fun in Las Cruces.
Take in lunch at The Game Sports Bar and Grill. This is the only NMSU Aggies themed restaurant, well, anywhere. Actually, there are two. One on either side of Las Cruces. Goooo AGGIES!
The Game has some truly unique menu items, and my favorite is the Corked Bat. This is locally grown green Chile Pepper crusted with locally grown crushed pecans deep fried to crisp perfection. Dip this puppy in some ranch and it’s basically the most delicious thing ever. OR you can order a juicy hamburger topped with one of these puppies and eat yourself into a food coma. it happens to the best of us. There are classic spots bar staples, like hot wings, burgers, quesadillas packed full of meat and Chile and nachos piled high and a unique and friendly atmosphere. Sip your drinks on the patio and play a round of beer pong or darts.
If you’re in the mood for something fun head to the Pecan Grill and Brewery. This is a top-notch restaurant in Las Cruces that is very kid friendly while maintaining its modern ambiance. Head Chef Arturo Tovar has created some exceptional dishes that will wow any foodie, experienced or novice. Classic New Mexican staples like Green Chile Stew or Green Chile Pasta will spice things up or go for the unexpected like Honey Glazed Duck or a Classic Seafood Boil. No matter what direction you choose to go you really can’t go wrong. Also, any restaurant that serves Drunken Mussels alongside a giant PB&J sandwich for my kidiots is a winner in my book!
The Pecan Grill also has a plethora of unique Margarita’s and Craft Brews – might I suggest a Pecan Ale and a Blackberry Jalapeno Margarita?!
Surf the Dunes
Las Cruces is near one of the unique National Parks in the country. White Sands National Monument is 275 miles of gypsum sand in the middle of the Tularosa Basin neighboring Las Cruces, New Mexico. This is the worlds largest gypsum dune field and is one of the most breathtaking sights to witness in the desert southwest.
This place is a spectacular place to take the kids and bury them neck deep in gypsum sand. You can rent toboggans and sled the dunes for hours, have a picnic and walk the trails and boardwalks into the park. Nature is amazing and most of the wildlife around White Sands has adapted to blend in – white lizards are a truly spectacular sight. The most iconic sight to see is a giant Yucca set in contrast to the stark white of the land and bright, clear blue of the sky… that and mom tumbling down a gypsum dune with a toddler.
Early Spring and Late fall are the perfect time to visit White Sands National Monument, but remember to pack lots of water and sunscreen! If you’re the type of adventurous family that like primitive camping you can hike into the center of the dunes and camp, but if you’re like me and are all about that RV life, you can stay at one of the nearby RV Parks outside the Park.
Las Cruces is home to the annual Las Cruces Country Music Festival. This annual music festival celebrated its 5th year in 2017, drawing crowds from across the Southwest to downtown Las Cruces. This 3-day charmer of a Country Fest boasts some of the hottest up-and-comers in country music such as Kacey Musgraves, Eli Young Band, The Cody Johnson Band gracing the stage with legendary heritage country music acts like The Charlie Daniels Band, Travis Tritt, & The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.
The festival takes place in April and country music fans fill the streets of Downtown Las Cruces. We have been going to the festival for the past 5 years and its growing and putting Las Cruces on the map as the Country Music Capital of the Southwest. The festival also coincides with the NMSU Rodeo finals at the NMSU Rodeo Arena. You really can get your fill of Bull-Riding and Honkey Tonkin’ in Las Cruces at the Country Music Festival.
One of my very places, Las Cruces, New Mexico has tons to offer traveling families year round. Whether you are going to make it your final destination or are just passing through you can plan easily with this app from the Las Cruces Convention and Visitor Bureau.
Find a hotel, get directions in real time, or choose your own adventure. Las Cruces will never disappoint.