Located just beside the Chihuahuan Desert, the New Mexican city of Las Cruces is also known as the "happiest city in New Mexico."
Home to New Mexico State University, the state's one and only land-grant university, this city is a mix of subtle warm-toned mountainous backdrops, vast Mexican fields, and modern state-of-the-art architecture and infrastructure.
It was also named one of the top three places to go for a vacation in 2019, which speaks volumes about how fine of a travel location Las Cruces is.
The second-largest city in New Mexico, Las Cruces has a population of approximately 103,432.
Famous for its scenic beauty, friendly locals, safe atmosphere, and its land-grant university, Las Cruces is also well-loved for its top-notch Mexican delicacies.
The young crowds from the university, and the lively population in general, keep Las Cruces' nightlife active—so don't think of it as a city that sleeps at night!
The city has a lot more to offer than just fun, as it boasts a long list of heritage museums, classic art galleries and theaters, and scenic wildlife centers and parks.
Its exciting downtown area, old village, and mountainous and desert monuments and memorials will surely grab your heart and make for an unforgettable journey.
To make the most of your visit, check out this list of the best things to do in Las Cruces, New Mexico:
Visit the Dripping Springs Natural Area
The Dripping Springs Natural Area is one of the most scenically blessed and geographically prosperous locations in New Mexico.
This location covers a vast area of geological formations in a pure desert-like landmark.
Like a Tarantino movie location, this place has a quintessential mountainous and desert beauty, with water springs falling from in between the rocky structures.
The vegetation also witnesses a wide variety, with some areas having dry bushes while the others have thick green trees.
Believe it or not, amongst these rocky formations bloom some of the biggest Mexican flowers.
Evidently, the most famous activity to try out here is hiking.
There are facilities and paths available for all types of hikers, from beginners to experienced ones.
These amber mountains are vast and unending, so photography is another heavily practiced activity.
Also, get ready to encounter some real wildlife here—a herd of deer may even come close and inspect you.
The thrill is, therefore, pretty real.
Tour the Amazing New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum
The New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum tells a captivating story of how the lands and people of New Mexico have been growing their food over the last 4,000 years.
Its mesmerizing contents range from equipment used by the earliest natives to top-notch gorgeous statues of famous figures and artworks by renowned artists.
This museum also features animals, which adds to the thrill.
There are visual representations, exhibits, and skilled guides to help you.
There are barns, amphitheaters, a greenhouse, a library, a heritage garden, a gift shop, a snack bar, and more.
Catch a Glimpse of the Beautiful Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument
This place probably gives the most outstanding view of the Organ Mountains in Las Cruces.
One of the most rugged yet picturesque locations in New Mexico, this place has been a top attraction for many filmmakers.
It is filled with monuments and structures, and the rocky golden brown mountains simultaneously create a backdrop with the lush green ones.
There are wooden cabins to give that gorgeous American feel to the area.
There are loads of things to do here, like training, hiking, birdwatching, or visiting the parks and gardens.
There are beautiful picnic spots at the mountaintops, too.
Enjoy an Active Day at the Museum of Nature and Science
The Museum of Nature and Science is one of the most unique and well-equipped museums in Las Cruces, with some good competitors.
What makes it unique is the amalgamation of scientific equipment and significant natural pieces.
This museum also features a lot of animal content, and learning about tourism and animal welfare is a bonus here.
All the quintessential thrillers like dinosaur skeletons, reptiles, snakes, and numerous frog species are present.
Apart from this, some precious stones and gems, electro spectrum lighting equipment, and live displays are also available for visitors.
Explore the Lively Las Cruces Farmers & Crafts Market
Located at the heart of the city's downtown area, the Las Cruces Farmers & Crafts Market is a fine example of why Las Cruces is known as the happiest city in New Mexico.
Once you enter the zone, prepare to be taken aback by the array of colorful and lively shops and the hustle of people all around.
You'll enjoy the sight of older men and women dressed in vibrant costumes, singing to their heart's glory while playing mandolins.
The Las Cruces Farmers & Crafts Market has everything from flower markets, multiple food trucks, and gorgeously decorated handicraft stores to showpieces, costumes, beverages, and traditional clothing.
Head to the Famous New Mexico State University
One of the most prestigious universities in the state, New Mexico State University is the only land-grant university here.
Apart from being an educational site, it is also a favorite among visitors because of its environment, architecture, and youthful atmosphere.
You can even head inside and go on a tour of the university, focusing on the different departments like performing arts, geography, and the sciences.
There is also a treasured art museum located inside this very university, so do not miss out on that.
There are inventions and monuments outdoors, which are worth checking out, along with the top-notch architecture.
Go Hiking in the Soledad Canyon Day Use Area
It's nearly impossible for anyone not to be enthralled by the breathtaking Soledad Canyon Day Use Area.
This spot is situated at the juncture of the Bar Canyon and Soledad Canyon.
Slim brooks flow down between the two canyons, creating one of the most gorgeous American locations one can witness.
The entire area around it boasts a range of scenic views, from lush green woods and rocky trails, to narrow channels flowing from in between the canyons and mysterious hiking paths in between the mountains.
Activities like hiking, picnicking, photography, rope climbing, animal watching, and detailed touring are some of the most enjoyable things you can do at this location.
Witness the Stunning Zuhl Museum
The motto of the Zuhl Museum is quite lively, as they themselves state that "rocks come alive" here.
You can only expect to be thoroughly mindblown here, as the collection is praiseworthy, to say the least.
In addition to a varied range of precious rocks and gems—ancient, old and even young—they also delve into the fossil world.
There are multiple exemplary forensic artifacts at this museum, such as numerous skeletons or skeletal figures of extinct creatures like dinosaurs and giant lizards.
Their imprints on rocks will surely blow you away, as will their displays of minerals and petrified wood.
Relax by the Scenic La Llorona Park
If you've been enjoying loads of traveling, hiking, biking, trailing—and perhaps an information overload—on your Las Cruces trip, you may want to take a break and relax.
La Llorona Park will give you that much-needed solace, as you'll find yourself amidst soothing natural landscapes.
This minimalistic park is ideal for activities like trailing, sitting by the river, jogging, and picnics.
There is a biking path and an outhouse, too.
You won't want to miss out on the views of the river and the mountains beyond it, which are lovely no matter the time of day.
Sunsets are particularly lovely here.
Pay a Visit to Veterans Memorial Park
Located on Roadrunner Parkway, Veterans Memorial Park is more than just a park.
It is a memorial that was built to commemorate and pay homage to the war veterans who bravely fought for the country.
There are many interesting markers here, including shoe prints that mark where the fallen heroes have walked, a humbling sculpture of three soldiers, and a helicopter heading towards the ground.
This attraction focuses primarily on military history, and you will surely be moved by the memorials here.
There are BBQ grills, a field, and playing areas here, too.
Visit the Historic Las Cruces Railroad Museum
The Las Cruces Railroad Museum is dedicated to the trains and all the locomotives and their history.
It is a true treat for true-blue train enthusiasts and curious people in general.
The museum houses a miniature model town that was created with functioning railways, the functioning of which will amaze you.
Different pictures and information are given in great detail with regard to the evolution of local models.
There is also a gorgeous gallery with all the equipment you could want to see.
Children will surely enjoy visiting this place.
Check Out the Las Cruces Water Tank Murals
Apart from the city's museums and art galleries, the very walls of Las Cruces are ready to dazzle you with their art.
The Las Cruces Water Tank Murals are some of the most prolific artistic creations, and this attraction is well-loved by both locals and tourists.
These vast murals are painted right on the walls of the water tanks located by the sea.
The water tank walls feature a mix of pop art culture and classic ethnic art, starting with paintings of legendary running horses to those of space, satellites, and famous astronauts, and paintings matching the surrounding landscape.
Take a Tour of the Lake Valley Historic Townsite
To get to know the true roots and ancestry of Las Cruces and feast on a scenic location, a tour of the Valley Historic Townsite is mandatory.
With an exceptionally peaceful ambiance and huge mountainous fields, this site bears witness to the remains of some of the earliest establishments of Las Cruces and, thereby, New Mexico.
The old wooden houses and cabins on the crevasses of these mountains, with local vegetation blooming all around, will be worth your visit.
Hiking, rope climbing, and trailing are particularly enjoyed here.
The ambiance evokes both an aesthetic thrill and an eerie feeling.
View the Beautiful Works at the Las Cruces Museum of Art
If you're interested in contemporary art, then you probably look for every opportunity to view interesting pieces wherever you are.
The Las Cruces Museum of Art may have just what you need and want.
Walk through its halls to see the various exhibits there; the displays change throughout the year, so no two visits to this museum are ever the same.
The museum also hosts classes and programs for visitors of all ages, so give those a shot if you have the chance.
Learn about the Area's Colorful History at the Branigan Cultural Center
The Branigan Cultural Center, located at 500 N Water Street, is the place to visit if you want to learn more about the local culture of the area.
It features various exhibits about the history and different interesting aspects of the area.
These exhibits rotate throughout the year to keep things fresh and exciting for visitors.
They also host classes, educational programs, and special events, so be sure to join in and participate if you get the chance.
Go on a Date at the Lovely Rio Grande Winery
There's nothing more romantic than a stroll through a winery, walking past the blooming grapevines, while you're hand in hand with your special someone.
The warm atmosphere is enough to make someone fall in love all over again.
Rio Grande Winery is the place to visit if you're looking to get a true glimpse of a southwest romance.
You can schedule a tour, go on a date with your partner, and sample some of the finest wines in the city.
Marvel at the World's Largest Chili Pepper
As you drive through Picacho Avenue, you'll be greeted by a sight you won't find anywhere else: a gigantic chili pepper sitting by the roadside as if it has always belonged there.
Forty-seven feet long and painted a bright, searing red, this gargantuan concrete chili pepper was first built to draw attention to itself and the hotel right next to it.
While it was once gated, there are no longer any barriers standing between this chili pepper and the rest of the world.
So, when you find it, feel free to walk up to it and snap as many pictures as you want; it's definitely a sight you'll want to remember.
Climb Picacho Mountain
Picacho Mountain, also known as Picacho Peak or El Picacho, is a summit that's thousands of feet high and a prime destination for outdoor adventurers.
The trail to the summit is moderately challenging and can take more than an hour's walk, so make sure to come prepared.
You'll experience a gradual ascent as you're walking to the first rock formation, and it only gets steeper and more challenging from there.
Following this trail is a full workout, but the view at the top will make the effort more than worth it.
Other Things to Do Nearby
Take a Trip to the Great Old Mesilla Village
Brimming with old-world charm, Old Mesilla Village is located just 12 minutes away from Las Cruces.
It is a historic site of massive significance in the US formation history, dating back to the 1800s.
What is astounding is that the entire village has been kept running not only as a visual area but as a properly functioning unit.
There are loads of things to do and lovely buildings to admire here.
As you reach the area, the very ambiance and architectural pattern will set the mood, taking you back to the 1800s.
Rugged, colorful, and mystic buildings are sure to make your tour worth it.
The Old Mexican architecture makes itself gracefully evident at this location.
There is an unending list of shops, plazas, galleries, bars, restaurants, mini-museums, and some breathtaking chapels for you to visit.
Do not miss out on the Parish Hall, which will leave you spellbound with its regal decoration and royal atmosphere.
The capitol house where Billy the Kid was sentenced is located here as well.
The ethnic memorabilia of the natives are still very well preserved and will surely amaze you.
Spend a Day at Mesilla Plaza
Mesilla Plaza is part of the Old Mesilla Village.
However, it deserves special attention and a separate spot on this list, as the plaza alone can take up to four hours to finish seeing.
Here, fabulous restaurants beckon you to see the classical way of cooking traditional Mexican dishes and taste them.
Enjoy quintessential Mexican music as old ethnic singers perform hymns and tunes while sitting by their porches.
Mesilla Plaza also boasts an endless, maze-like paradise of shops, ranging from precious antiques and handicrafts to contemporary art pieces.
With everything from museums to mountain trails, Las Cruces will provide you with a wide variety of activities while you're visiting.
Whatever your interests may be, there will surely be something for you to enjoy.
To top it all off, you'll be greeted with postcard-worthy views wherever you are in the city—so give it a shot and book your vacation today.