Photo courtesy Visit Las Cruces
New Mexico's second-largest city boasts an award-winning farmers market, a thriving performing arts scene, and a national monument that affords scenic views — and endless opportunities for outdoor adventure — in all directions.
Plaza de Las Cruces
The downtown plaza features a pedestrian walkway, a working large-scale sundial, a stage for community concerts, and a splash pad for kids. It's also a fitting jumping-off point for exploring the city's fascinating museums: The Branigan Cultural Center showcases 400 years of local history, while the Museum of Art houses changing contemporary art exhibitions displaying the work of regional and national artists. Or discover prehistoric life and the intricacies of the Chihuahuan Desert at the Museum of Nature and Science.
Organ Mountains–Desert Peaks National Monument
This monument protects wild Chihuahuan Desert habitat, Native American petroglyph sites, and stops along the Butterfield stagecoach trail. Immerse yourself in the land's natural beauty by hiking 4 miles of trails at the Dripping Springs Natural Area — or pitch a tent at the popular Aguirre Spring Campground, a popular spot for hiking and horseback riding.
New Mexico State University Chile Pepper Institute
Housed on the campus of New Mexico State University, this international nonprofit organization is devoted to chile pepper education and study. University researchers discover and create new chile pepper varieties here. See some during a tour of the demonstration garden — just don't sample before asking.
HERITAGE, ARTS AND CULTURE
Rio Grande Theatre
Built in 1926, this theater is much more than a historical landmark; it's thriving once again as a stellar performance venue. The 426-seat theater hosts three to four events each week, from modern classic movie nights to touring cello virtuosos. The fully restored two-story adobe theater is the only one of its kind still operating in the country and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Farmers and Crafts Market of Las Cruces
The year-round market takes over downtown on Saturday and Wednesday mornings. In 2011, during the market's 40th anniversary, America's Farmland Trust named it the No. 1 large farmers market in the country. In addition to fresh seasonal produce, you'll find a healthy harvest of arts and crafts vendors ranging from skilled artisans who carve chandeliers out of reclaimed tin cans to fine oil painters.
Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum This city museum celebrates 3,000 years of the state's agricultural history through life-size displays of pit houses, canning rooms, and general stores. Catch a demonstration on quilting or blacksmithing or meet some of the livestock that call the 47-acre campus home, such as Navajo-Churro sheep (whose fiber is used for weaving) and longhorn cattle.
Las Cruces Country Music Festival Now in its seventh year, this music palooza attracts classic country acts like last year's headliner Dwight Yoakam, rising Nashville stars such as Randy Houser, and local bands. The performers rotate across two outdoor stages during the three-day festival held Oct. 11–13, 2019.
Did You Know?
In 1629, Franciscan monks smuggled vines into New Mexico and planted the first grapes along the Rio Grande — making the state the oldest wine-growing region in the country. That tradition continues today with dozens of wine growers, all family-owned and -operated, many of which have vineyards in southern New Mexico.
Photo courtesy NM Wine Association.