Travel Tuesdays: Las Cruces, New Mexico

Note: I talked about Las Cruces, N.M. on The Daily Buzz last year, but I think this is the perfect time to revisit the topic. It’s a great place to visit in the winter, thanks to the temperate climate.

New Mexico

Las Cruces, New Mexico: it’s a hidden gem in the Southwest, and whether you live within driving distance or not, it’s the perfect place for a girls’ getaway. Why? It’s laid back and inexpensive, and not only does it offer plenty to fill a weekend, but it allows you the chance to slow down, get pampered, and indulge in a unique blend of cultures.

If you already live in the Southwest, great! Las Cruces is three hours from Albuquerque, and four hours from Tucson, Ariz., and Odessa, Tex. If you’re coming from elsewhere around the country, it’s easy to fly into El Paso, which is 45 minutes from Las Cruces. On your drive from the airport, you’ll be on a part of I-10 that skirts the Mexican border; for those of us who don’t live in a border area, it’s an interesting experience to look a hundred yards off to the left and realize you’re seeing a city in another country.

HERE ARE THE PLACES IN AND AROUND LAS CRUCES THAT WE TALKED ABOUT ON THE SHOW:

To Do:

Old MesillaThe town of Mesilla, which sits just next to Las Cruces, has a wonderful historic plaza perfect for strolling and shopping. This is the best place in the area to buy souvenirs such as locally crafted jewelry and chocolates. There are also some great restaurants (including Double Eagle and La Posta) on the plaza, and you can even duck into the building where Billy the Kid was tried for murder in 1881. A perfect place to spend a lazy afternoon or evening.

White Sands National Monument: The world’s largest gypsum dunefield sits just outside the Las Cruces area; you can reach it easily by car in under an hour. It’s well worth the drive; it feels as if you’ve stepped into another world entirely as you enter through the park’s gates and begin weaving your way through 275 square miles of desert, filled with powder white dunes nearly as far as the eye can see. Plan to spend a few hours there; it’s the perfect place for a picnic, and you can also go sand-sledding, which is a lot like the snow-sledding you may have done as a child, except without the cold and wetness of the snow. It’s a great place to feel like a kid again.You can buy or rent a sled in the gift shop on-site.

Las Cruces Wine Trail: According to the New Mexico Wine Growers’ Association, the state is home to the oldest wine-growing region in the United States. In the
Las Cruces area in particular, there are several outstanding wineries. Click here for a listing of the wineries along the local wine trail. Rio Grande offers spectacular mountain views from its tasting room, along with beautifully crafted reds and whites, while St. Clair features an upscale bistro tasting room. At St. Clair, don’t miss the Hatch Green Chile wine, which highlights the region’s specialty: green chiles. Also available for shipping on their web site.

Cocktails: A girls’ trip isn’t complete without a signature cocktail destination. Try the bar at La Posta in Mesilla for incredible margaritas (including one made with chiles), or dress up and head to Azul Ultralounge at the Hotel Encanto; the crowd is great there on Saturday nights.

The Spa Downtown: It’s the perfect place for a few hours of relaxation on your girls getaway weekend; indulge in a mani-pedi, a facial, a massage, a body wrap or even a haircut or style in their full-service salon.

Duncan Noble Spa: Just a few minutes from downtown Las Cruces, you’ll find the Duncan Noble Spa, a sprawling complex with a wide menu of services. You’ll find a full-service salon, a nail spa, massages, facials and the like, and you’ll also find an expansive skin clinic, which offers more intensive treatments. Luxury at an affordable price.

The farmers and crafters market downtownOn Wednesday and Saturday mornings, from sunup until 1 p.m., visit the farmers and crafters market for fresh produce, local delicacies, and a large array of local crafters selling their wares. Click here to read profiles of the various vendors you can expect to find on your multiblock stroll.

Las Cruces Museum of Art: The city’s art museum features constantly changing art exhibits including national and international traveling collections. “NASA | ART 50 Years of Exploration” is there through Jan. 21; from Feb. 3 through April 12, look for “
New Mexico 100 Years of Art.”

To Stay:

Hotel Encanto: In downtown Las Cruces, Hotel Encanto offers luxury at a bargain price. The hotel features a spa and salon, an outdoor pool and hot tub, and an onsite restaurant and bar. The hotel also allows pets.

Meson de Mesilla: Just a short walk from the historic plaza in Mesilla, Meson de Mesilla offers elegantly appointed rooms starting at just $79/night. The bed and breakfast offers beautiful views of the mountains, a rooftop bar, and an onsite restaurant and wine-bar. Starting at just $119/night upgrade to a Jacuzzi suite.

To Dine:

La Posta: Amazing margaritas, great atmosphere, authentic local cuisine just off the historic plaza in Mesilla.

Double Eagle: One of the best Sunday brunches you’ll ever experience (just $24.95, which includes unlimited champagne); plus the home of both the only dedicated beef aging room in New Mexico, and the world’s largest green chile cheeseburger.

Meson de Mesilla: Casual elegance and locally inspired dishes; look for menu items featuring pecans and green chiles, two local specialties.

St. Clair Winery & Bistro: Featuring French and Italian country dishes that pair perfectly with locally made wines. **