Sierra Blanca, Ruidoso.
Photo by gettyimages.com/weatherlyhammondk
Explore the high country of the Lincoln National Forest, where the state's second-largest ski area, performing arts, and Billy the Kid's former stomping grounds are all close at hand.
Sacred Grounds Coffee and Tea House
This sprawling 7,000-square-foot log cabin with two outdoor balconies overlooking the river in downtown Ruidoso is only matched by its expansive menu, where you'd be hard-pressed to find something that isn't delicious. (We love the green chile stew.) Early riser? Grab a cup of coffee on the honor system before opening hours at this small-town joint.
Broken Arrow Tap House
A top beer destination in the region, this watering hole keeps more than 60 beers on tap and pairs them with savory pub fare. Be sure and try the carnitas fries with their chipotle queso and housemade spicy ranchero sauce.
Sierra Blanca in Winter by Tom Darrah
Photo courtesy The Adobe
Contemporary works overflow this gallery's 10,000-square-foot downtown space with fine art paintings, bronze sculpture, and silver and gold jewelry from top silversmiths and goldsmiths.
Thunder Horse Gallery
Owner Rory Combs is on the artist roster of this gallery specializing in fine Western art. Beyond Combs' bronze sculptures, other regional artists include painters JaNeil Anderson, Mary Beagle, Michael Holter, and Deborah Rae Nelson.
The Spencer Theater doubles as a venue and architectural landmark.
Photo courtesy Spencer Theater/Robert D. Flaherty.
Called the Tiffany of the 21st century, Dale Chihuly's variegated art glass sculpture blazes with color and life in this contemporary theater outside Ruidoso. The show lineup includes a capella singing groups, regional Broadway productions, and music from swing to bluegrass.
Ruidoso Downs Race Track
The only horse track in the United States and Europe with separate quarter horse straightaway and oval thoroughbred tracks is also home to the All American Futurity — the richest purse for quarter horse racing in the country, held in September. The Billy the Kid Casino is also on-site.
Hubbard Museum of the American West
This Smithsonian-affiliated museum features one of the most extensive horse-related collections in the world, all thanks to heiress Anne Stradling, whose personal acquisitions make up its equine-related collection. Museum founders R.D. and Joan Dale Hubbard gifted their art collection, making a visit here an immersive Western experience.
Lincoln Historic Site
Most of the town of Lincoln comprises buildings protected by the Lincoln Historic Site — it's like an 1870s time capsule. Tour the Tunstall Store, where 19th-century merchandise is still in the original cases, and spot the bullet holes in the walls of the Lincoln County Courthouse put there by Billy the Kid when he made his famous jail-cell escape.
Did You Know?
The town of Carrizozo, population 996, fights above its weight as an arts destination. That's largely thanks to Joan and Warren Malkerson, who founded Gallery 408 in spring 2005. That contemporary art gallery is now the center of the 12th Street arts district, which you'll know by the painted burros lining the street. The Tularosa Basin Gallery of Photography, part of that district, is the largest all-photography, all-New Mexico gallery in the state.
Ski Apache is the state's second-largest ski area and the southernmost continuously operated ski area in the country. An eight-passenger gondola — the only in the state — carries passengers to prime slopes. Its zip line tours are another adrenaline-inducing way to experience the mountain.