Blake Walsh

15 Free Things to Do in Las Cruces, NM

  • Published 2022/12/31

Las Cruces’ charm alludes to the city’s art and natural attractions.

Its vibrant art community is prevalent in its public works and pieces and free municipal museums.

With its wide range of trails and golf courses, it’s also an ideal city to engage in your outdoor sports and hobbies.

Known as the seat of Doña Ana County, this city in New Mexico sits adjacent to the Chihuahuan Desert.

Below are 15 free things to do in Las Cruces, New Mexico, to help you with your itinerary.

See the Recycled Roadrunner Sculpture

Daytime view of the Recycled Roadrunner Sculpture

Nagel Photography /

One of Las Cruces’ famous landmarks is the Recycled Roadrunner Sculpture on Interstate 10.

Considered an offbeat tourist attraction, this 20-foot sculpture has been around since 2001.

Though artist Olin Calk built it in 1993, it wasn’t until 2001 that the art piece became a staple in Las Cruces after its transfer to its current location.

The sculpture, inspired by New Mexico’s state bird, is made of recycled materials.

The enormous bird catches visitors’ attention even from far away.

Head of the Recycled Roadrunner Sculpture

Nagel Photography /

By 2011, it suffered deterioration, and Calk had to bring it back to his house for repairs.

But in 2014, its wings once again soared at the rest stop, gaining new materials like used shoes, toys, golf clubs, and more to adorn its gigantic form.

The Recycled Roadrunner Sculpture is a reminder that art can be eco-friendly, too!

Details of the Recycled Roadrunner Sculpture

Nagel Photography /

Explore the Gem and Rock Collection at The Zuhl Museum

Situated on College Drive, The Zuhl Museum is a must-visit spot for lovers of art and culture.

Opened in 2004, this public museum is a result of Herb and Joan Zuhl’s dedication to collecting earth-borne materials, such as fossils and rocks.

Four years before the museum’s opening, they allowed the display of their most prized treasures in the Zuhl Library, which was then relocated to a much larger space in the museum in 2003.

Now, even after both of them have died, the museum stands to continue their legacy.

Within The Zuhl Museum, browse through galleries of fossil skeletons from varied animal species.

Be amazed by the colorful petrified wood exhibits and sparkling gems and minerals on display.

There’s much to see and explore, so add this museum to your itinerary!

Admire the Scenic Vistas while Hiking at Soledad Canyon Day Use Area

On the west section of the Oregon Mountains, Soledad Canyon Day Use Area offers the ultimate outdoor recreation.

Set between Bar Canyon and Soledad Canyon, this recreation site highlights the three-mile Bar Canyon trail.

The trail is a moderate hike with picturesque vistas of rock formations and unique vegetation, as well as the box canyon’s stark contrast with the skyline.

Its well-marked trails are ideal for hikers of every expertise and range, and they’re dog-friendly, too!

If you’re lucky, you might even come face-to-face with a waterfall at the end of your trail.

Drive over to Soledad Canyon Road to start your hike along the wilderness.

Take a Picture of the Las Cruces Water Tank Murals

The Las Cruces Water Tank Murals take inspiration from the Greek culture of painting vessels.

Back in the earliest days, the ancient settlers used these vessels to correlate content with varying themes to the significance of the container itself.

To add its own unique twist to it, Las Cruces started the water tank mural project.

Set within the heart of Las Cruces is Jornada del Muerto, which details the traveling journey of the early settlers to “the ends of the earth.”

You can see this mural from Lohman Avenue.

Meanwhile, wildlife is the theme of both Ancient Canyon and Quail Morning, which are on Sedona Hill Parkway and Sonoma Ranch Boulevard, respectively.

Check out other interesting murals in the city!

Browse through Vast Collections of Artworks and Antiques at Art Obscura

Along Harrelson Street, Art Obscura adds flavor to your art exploration within Las Cruces with the presence of antique collections.

This welcoming art center highlights local and unusual artworks.

You’ll never know what artwork may be awaiting you on your next visit because this gallery specializes in new and rotating exhibits.

Admission is free, so you can explore it anytime.

Unlike the common fine arts theme in other Las Cruces museums, you can find other vintage gems at Art Obscura, too.

Expand Your Knowledge of Art, Culture, and History with a Visit to the Municipal Museums

When it comes to municipal museums, La Cruces makes sure each one is accessible to locals and tourists.

There are four museums in the city that offer free admission.

The Las Cruces Museum of Nature and Science offers science-based exhibitions and programs.

Its permanent exhibition displays include a perspective on desert, space, and railroad life.

Meanwhile, the Museum of Art showcases various art mediums, like ceramics and paintings.

The enigmatic building of Branigan Cultural Center keeps the culture of the city alive with its exterior architecture and educational events.

The Railroad Museum, on the other hand, provides information through miniature presentations of New Mexico train railway systems.

The first three museums are on North Main Street, while the Railroad Museum is on North Mesilla Street.

Enjoy a Picnic after a Laborious Hike at Tortugas Mountain Recreation Area

Tortugas Mountain Recreation Area is a Las Cruces hiking spot that you shouldn’t miss out on.

This mountain stands like a humped back and resembles a turtle’s form that’s trudging along the desert.

Its trails are ideal for beginner hikers with their short but immersive routes.

When you’re done exploring the native lands, there are relaxing spots for picnicking.

The mountain is also known for hosting astronomical observations and studies, mining, tribal ceremonies, and more!

You can find Tortugas Mountain Recreation Area west of Dripping Spring Road.

Pay Tribute to the Fallen Soldiers at Veterans Memorial Park

Heroes of Bataan sculpture at Veterans Memorial Park

Rosemarie Mosteller /

It’s time to reflect and relax when you visit Veterans Memorial Park.

This public park, dedicated in 1999, is home to The Bataan Death March Memorial.

Currently, the park features three memorials set within a walking trail you can follow.

These memorials reflect the history of life-changing wars and the story of the soldiers, including the Disabled Veterans, Marine Corps League, and The Korean War soldiers.

You can also admire the strategically placed monuments of women, also called the Women Veterans Monument.

These statues represent the branches of the military women that served and continue to serve the United States.

There’s also a gazebo where you can view the medallions of military service organizations.

Veterans Memorial Park is on North Roadrunner Parkway.

Watch Robotics Demonstrations and Exhibitions at Las Cruces Space Festival

Every April, you’ll be transported to space and beyond with the Las Cruces Space Festival.

This annual event welcomes everyone to learn more about the universe through various exhibits and presentations.

It also hosts rocket launches and hands-on experiments you wouldn’t find elsewhere.

Technology is also a highlight of the robotics demonstrations within the Spaceport Open House.

Celebrated within the historic downtown of Las Cruces, Las Cruces Space Festival holds its festivities within Rio Grande Theatre on North Main Street.

Besides admission, every show or activity you wish to partake in at Las Cruces Space Festival is also free!

Explore Downtown to See the Murals

With Las Cruces’ reputation for heritage and creativity with its water mural tanks, it’s no wonder that its historic downtown is also teeming with art displays.

Its public murals are a sight to behold, and one of its prime examples is the black-and-white portraits of the Kardashian Sisters set within a neutral green background.

This mural greets visitors from the side of a cinder block house within the heart of the Bellamah neighborhood.

Meanwhile, the All Between Land and Air mural on North Water Street depicts a beautiful woman framed with colorful flowers and birds.

A relevant message presents itself as a mural within North Mesilla Street; this Queen mural by Peskador shines a light on anti-terrorism.

There are tons more you can admire, so be sure to free your schedule for your art walk.

Learn to Dance at Swing on the Plaza

Have time in your itinerary for a quick dance lesson?

Swing on the Plaza is a free event for everyone, held every Tuesday night at Plaza de Las Cruces on North Main Street.

Enjoy a free hour of beginner’s class, after which you can spend the rest of your time jamming to classic and modern songs with the townsfolk’s dance community.

It’s open for all ages, so bring a loved one along to act as your dance partner.

In no time, you’ll be flaunting your Jitterbug moves and Electro Swing figures like a pro!

Add Swing on the Plaza to your New Mexico itinerary!

Expand Your Knowledge of Arthropods at New Mexico State University Arthropod Museum

Want to expand your knowledge of arthropods within New Mexico?

New Mexico State University Arthropod Museum is the place for you.

This free museum houses arthropods, insects, arachnids, and other species for everyone to research and study.

The collection is a result of the dedication of the first curator, Carol Sutherlands.

By the time she had left to pursue other career opportunities, there were over 25,000 pinned arthropod specimens in the museum.

If arthropods don’t make your skin crawl, then you should visit New Mexico State University Arthropod Museum on College Drive at least once!

Catch Migratory Fowl in Flight at La Llorona Multi-Use Path

The La Llorona Multi-Use Path, a part of the planned Rio Grande Trail, is a traverse spot for bikers and hikers.

It’s also easy to follow, making it an ideal route for a leisure walk.

With views of the Rio Grande River, you can expect a pleasant surprise from waterfowl and shorebirds lounging around.

Set by the eastern section of the river near Calle del Norte, La Llorona Multi-Use Path is your best bet for nature exploration.

Take Your Family to Movies in the Park

Las Cruces provides many free entertainment and recreation opportunities for solo and group tourists.

At Movies in the Park, you can bring your whole family for a whole night of fun.

Whether you’re a fantasy animation or live-action film enthusiast, you’ll enjoy this event that takes place from June all the way to September.

Bring blankets and lounge chairs for you and the entire family’s watching comfort.

Keep your Saturdays free for Movies in the Park!

While 2022’s event was in Apodaca Park, locations may change in upcoming schedules.

See Fossilized Animal Footprints at Prehistoric Trackways National Monument

Signage at Prehistoric Trackways National Monument

Dee Rosco, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Prehistoric Trackways National Monument, established in 2009, offers paleontological resources for your inquisitive mind.

It’s also home to mega trackways of animal fossilized footprints from the Paleozoic Era.

The monument spans over 5,000 acres and showcases footprints from various animal species.

In some sections of the monument, you can go on horseback rides and interpretive hikes.

Prehistoric Trackways National Monument is in the Robledo Mountains, north of downtown Las Cruces.

Final Thoughts

Las Cruces offers a perfect blend of art, history, and culture.

With world-renowned monuments and larger-than-life preserves and trails, this city offers travelers a different kind of adventure.

Keep this list of the free things to do in Las Cruces, New Mexico, in mind when planning you trip to the city!

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