Las Cruces, meaning "the crosses" in Spanish, was likely named for three long-gone crosses on a hill, but the city's name could just as well be a reference to "crossroads," as it's a perfect destination for fun lovers seeking a mix of outdoor recreation and cultural attractions. Situated in the agriculturally lush Mesilla Valley and adjacent to the historic village of Mesilla, Las Cruces is an easy 45-minute drive north from El Paso via Interstate 10 west. Whether you're here for a day or a week, don't miss these opportunities to learn about the area and its people and see some of its beauty firsthand.
If You Love The City...
You'll find yourself in the thick of things at the Las Cruces Downtown Mall, a six-block, closed-off pedestrian walkway on Main Street, dense with museums, galleries, restaurants, and other amusements. Try to time your arrival for the Las Cruces Farmers and Crafts Market held year-round at the Mall.
While downtown, visit two of the city's top museums. The Branigan Cultural Center, housed in a 1935 Pueblo Revival building, covers 400 years of history in its permanent collection, "Las Cruces: Crossroads of History." Next door, the Las Cruces Museum of Art exhibits contemporary works from regional artists and national and international traveling exhibitions.
The Las Cruces Country Music Festival
Photo by Steve Larese
Music lovers also make tracks for downtown Las Cruces: The Las Cruces Country Music Festival attracts national acts, such as Lee Ann Womack, each year in early spring for a three-day, open-air festival.
If You Want 'Schooled'...
Explore New Mexico State University, founded in 1888 to teach agriculture. It is the oldest public institution of higher education in New Mexico. The university houses five museums, including the University Art Gallery, the largest visual arts facility in Southern New Mexico, and the Zuhl Museum, a showcase for thousands of specimens of petrified wood, fossils, and minerals.
After checking out the university's museums, see who's scheduled to perform at the New Mexico State University's Pan American Center, a 12,000-seat arena that stages national concerts from A-list talent like Carrie Underwood to touring Broadway shows.
For a completely different but just as stimulating experience, tour the Fabian Garcia Science Center, part of the Chile Pepper Institute, the only international, nonprofit organization devoted to the fruit.
If You Crave Adventure...
Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument
Photo by Thinkstockphotos.com
Abundant opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors are just minutes away. The almost half-million-acre Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument is the nation's most recently designated national park and is rich with natural beauty, historic sites, and abundant recreational activities.
Dripping Springs Natural Area makes an excellent destination for families with kids. With more than 4 miles of easy trails and abundant wildlife, you'll likely spot something interesting. Watch for redtailed hawks, golden eagles, desert mule deer, coyotes — and occasionally even a mountain lion.
If you'd rather be near water, the Leasburg Dam State Park, 15 miles north of Las Cruces, is located on the Rio Grande. In addition to year-round camping and hiking, the park has a swimming beach and offers fishing, canoeing, and kayaking.
If you Brought The Family...
New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum.
Photo courtesy New Mexico Tourism Department
Step aboard at the Las Cruces Railroad Museum, housed in a 1910 Santa Fe Depot. Focused on the railroad's legacy in Southern New Mexico, the museum also has a 1909 wooden caboose; a model train room, including one that visitors can run; and a train table for tots.
For a history lesson, check out the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum. Spread across 47 acres, the museum celebrates the state's 4,000 years of farming history while hosting demonstrations like cow milking, livestock tours, and exhibitions, such as the "Antique Equipment Park." Take the kids on Saturday mornings, when pony rides are just $5.
Back in town, the Las Cruces Museum of Nature and Science features exhibitions on the natural world, from stars to fossils. There's also an exhibition on the five habitats of the Chihuahuan Desert.
When You Go
The Branigan Cultural Center
501 N. Main Street
The Las Cruces Museum of Art
491 N. Main Street
Fabian Garcia Science Center
113 W. University Ave.
University Art Gallery
1390 E. University Ave.
775 College Dr.
New Mexico State University's Pan American Center
1810 E. University Ave.
Las Cruces Country Music Festival
Dripping Springs Natural Area
15000 Dripping Springs Rd.
via University Ave/Dripping Springs Rd. east to the end.
Leasburg Dam State Park
199 Leasburg Dam Rd
via Inaterstate 25 North to Exit 19 to Fort Selden Rd. to Leasburg Dam Rd.
New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum
4100 Dripping Springs Rd.
Las Cruces Railroad Museum
351 N. Mesilla St.
Las Cruces Museum of Nature and Science
411 N. Main St.
Prehistoric Trackways National Monument
U.S. Route 70 from Las Cruces to Rocky Acres Trail west to Permian Tracks Rd.