The Organ Mountains stand 9,000 feet above the desert floor — creating a vast setting for photography, hiking, horseback riding, biking, and more.
Photo by Wayne Suggs.
Home to New Mexico State University, sun-bathed Las Cruces delivers golf for days, meals of chiles fresh from the field, and outdoor recreation in the Organ Mountains.
Plaza de Las Cruces features a pedestrian walkway, a working large-scale sundial, a stage for community concerts, and a splash pad for kids. It's a fitting jumpingoff 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 works from regional artists and national traveling exhibitions.
The Museum of Nature and Science details prehistoric life and the intricacies of the Chihuahuan Desert. The Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum celebrates 4,000 years of the state's agricultural history with interactive exhibitions ranging from grinding corn to milking cows.
The Organ Mountains – Desert Peaks National Monument protects four discrete areas around Las Cruces, including wild Chihuahuan desertscapes, Native American petroglyph sites, and stops along the Butterfield Stagecoach Trail. Hikers and horsemen head to the Dripping Springs Natural Area and Aguirre Spring Campground.
Things heat up on the Green Chile "Walk of Flame", a trail of tastes for the region's favorite crop. The tour starts at the New Mexico State University Chile Pepper Institute, an organization devoted to the state's official vegetable (though technically, a fruit), and sizzles along many chile-loving restaurants. You may also find this favored crop, along with pecans, another abundant regional harvest, at the Farmers and Crafts Market of Las Cruces.
National touring acts — the likes of Garth Brooks and Broadway shows — and NMSU Aggie's basketball play the 12,000-seat Pan American Center. Blending student and professional musicians, the Las Cruces Symphony performs a handful of pops and classical concerts during its September to May season. Local bands take the stage at the restored 1926 Rio Grande Theatre, which also screens classic films.
Don't Miss: 2018 Las Cruces Happenings
Hatch Chile Festival, Sept. 1–2
Heard of Hatch chile? It hails from Hatch, New Mexico, the self-proclaimed chile capital of the world, 40 miles northwest of Las Cruces and Mesilla. Cruise through to enjoy tastes of locally grown red and green, and join the town's spicy festival held Labor Day weekend.
Las Cruces Wine Festival, May 26–28;
New Mexico Wine Harvest Festival, Sept. 1–3
Sip tastes from southern New Mexico, the state's largest wine-growing region.
Las Cruces Country Music Festival, Oct. 19–21
The city's headlining event features acts straight from Nashville and a few local singers, too.
New Mexico University Chile Pepper Institute.
Photo courtesy New Mexico State University.