After an extremely long two days of driving through West Texas, we crossed the New Mexico border and arrived in Las Cruces, NM. There wasn’t any outstanding reason we chose Las Cruces, other than the fact that it was a good fit for our overall route.
Our week there was laid-back and low-key. We’re saving up for an international trip later this month, so we mostly ate at home and avoided tourist traps (confession: we’re sometimes susceptible to tourist traps). Despite the slower pace, we definitely enjoyed our visit. Here are the things we recommend, based on our experience in Las Cruces!
Luna Rossa Winery
With a 392-mile drive behind us (way beyond our typical max of 250 miles/day), and after setting everything up at the campground, I was not about to cook dinner! Eric and I were both starving and wanted something that was close-by, easy and comforting. Luna Rossa was less than half a mile from our RV park, and met all our requirements!
I had a delicious red sangria, practically brimming with fruit. We ordered a simple pepperoni pizza to share. The crust was slightly thicker than traditional Neapolitan, but I certainly didn’t complain because of how hungry I was. Both the dough and mozzarella cheese are made in-house daily. There’s nothing like a good, wood-fired pizza.
I ordered a slice of lemon raspberry cake for dessert. When it came out, it was almost as big as my head! Luna Rossa also has an extensive selection of gelato for dessert, including my favorite, stracciatella!
1321 Avenida de Mesilla – Website
Mesilla was settled in the mid-1800s and is rich in history. When the railroad asked to come through, Mesilla wouldn’t agree to the terms, while the much smaller town of Las Cruces offered free land. That decision spurred the growth of Las Cruces, causing it to overshadow its much older neighbor!
Today, the two towns run together. Old Mesilla Plaza is the highlight, a town square similar to what you may have seen in Albuquerque or Santa Fe. Although the plaza is relatively small, the buildings are noteworthy.
You’ll find the oldest brick building in New Mexico (make sure you go inside and look at the ceilings).
You’ll also see what used to be the Mesilla Courthouse. This is where Billy the Kid was tried and convicted! Today the building is a gift shop, but the adobe walls and ceilings are original. So cool.
During our weekend visit, there was an elderly couple playing tribal music in the square, and local vendors set up around them with tables.
2385 Calle De Guadalupe
Dripping Springs Natural Area
Dripping Springs Natural Area was the highlight of my week in Las Cruces. If you can only see one thing while you’re in town, this is it (TripAdvisor agrees, btw)!
Managed by the Bureau of Land Management, Dripping Springs features a network of trails, with varied terrain and beautiful geological features. Not to mention the breath-taking Organ Mountains right over your shoulder!
I spent four hours hiking six miles of trails. All of the trails are considered easy, and there isn’t much elevation gain or loss as you go along. The main trail, Dripping Springs, is totally family-friendly.
I knew the hiking was going to be awesome. What I didn’t expect was how much history I would see along the way. Can you believe that there used to be a hotel out here, and people would ride 17 miles by stagecoach from Las Cruces to get to it?
If that’s not surprising, then what about a sanitorium dating back to the early 1900s?
Not impressed yet? I haven’t even gotten to the mining boom town…
Or a hermit’s cave…
Seriously, spend a morning or afternoon at Dripping Springs Natural Area. The combination of natural beauty and interesting history makes for a memorable outing.
(Hover over image below to play video of my favorite discovery.)
15000 Dripping Springs Road – Website
You’re in the southwest, so you’ve gotta have some form of Mexican food, right? So here’s the skinny from the locals. A lot of people rave about La Posta, and for good reason: it’s full of history and the decor is fabulous. Word on the street is that, while the food isn’t the best, the margaritas are rockin’. So go for drinks, and skip the meal.
Since you’re still hungry and now need something to sop up the tequila, go down the street to Andele. Good food, and more good drinks. Because happy hour.
Then there are the folks who are lame and eat at home. That’s us! But we did opt to shop local and get some Andele tortillas for our breakfast tacos. The result: our favorite breakfast tacos ever. Like will-you-ship-some-to-us kind of good. Even better, we got a dozen for only $2.15! Do it. (There’s a mercado right next door to the restaurant that has tortillas in the back. We got the huge flour ones, which are in the small fridge.)
1950 Calle Del Norte
Hacienda RV Park
I should mention that we stayed at Hacienda RV Park in Site 115. It’s a good-sized park with all pull-through sites. Most of the sites are fairly generous in width, and many of them have trees or fences in between for privacy.
There’s a nice lounge with leather seating and a fireplace, co-located with the office. Inside the office, there’s a small shop with local goods, plus a “concierge” area with pamphlets full of things to do in Las Cruces.
Beyond the office, there’s a huge hot tub, laundry room, showers, restrooms and a fitness room. The fitness equipment is dated, but everything is kept very clean. The hot tub was closed the first few days, but we spent three hours in there when it finally opened.
Beyond all that, the location worked out great for us. It took half an hour to get to Dripping Springs, but everything else was extremely close by. We would stay here again.
740 Stern Dr. – Website
All in all, a great week! Now we’re in Tucson, loving the desert plants and animals, and the hiking trails right behind our campground. I’m sure we’ll have an article before too long!