Las Cruces New Mexico

Las Cruces, New Mexico

The City of Crosses

Las Cruces, New Mexico is the largest city in the southern part of the state. With its warmer climate and university campus, Las Cruces is a great place to live or have a second house. In fact, it's a well-known "snow bird" destination for the winter months.

I spent a lot of time in Las Cruces, NM when I was growing up. My mom’s family grew up in Deming, and several of the siblings moved 1 hour away to Las Cruces. As such, my sister and I got shuttled off every summer to spend 6 weeks to 2 months staying with various family members. I would almost consider it my second home because I spent so much time there. A lot of locals refer to it just as "Cruces", which I also find myself doing.

You know what's funny, though?

The things that stuck out in my mind the most as a kid were the palm trees. Palm trees seem so exotic and foreign to a kid raised in Albuquerque that it was almost like going to another world to see them lining the streets. The weather is very mild compared to Albuquerque, and freezing is rare, so the palms (while imported) do ok.

Las Cruces History
las cruces new mexico, las cruces nm
Lightning Storm In Las Cruces

Las Cruces, also known as the City of the Crosses, is located in the Mesilla Valley and was once home to the Manso people. The Spaniards first colonized it in 1598 and then by the Mexican Empire in 1821. However, when the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed in 1848, ownership was transferred to the United States of America.

Today, Las Cruces, New Mexico is the central economic and geographic district in the Mesilla Valley. As of 2008, the population has risen to more than 90,000 and continues to grow as the city has become a favorite destination of retirees, people looking to reside in a mid-size city with a small town feel, and tourists. The city also boasts 350 days of sunshine per year, which makes it really appealing for Northerners escaping cold winters, outdoor activity enthusiasts, and artists.

It offers numerous activities for locals and visitors such as golfing, biking, hiking, bird watching, and more. There are also Mesilla Valley excursions, La Morena walking tours, and Southwest expeditions that anyone can join. For the curious, the ghost tows Chloride, Hillsboro, Winston, are within a short drive and open to visitors and adventurers. 

Museums include the Branigan Cultural Center, Fort Selden State Monument, and the Las Cruces Museum of Art. These are fantastic options to avoid the midday summer heat and to learn more about the history and culture of the region.

las cruces museum of natural history, las cruces nm
The Las Cruces Museum Of Natural History

Las Cruces, New Mexico Attractions
Las Cruces Event Calendar- Definitely check out the annual events in Las Cruces. Also, use this resource if you want to see what's happening this month.

The Farmer’s Market

The Las Cruces Farmers and Crafts Market is open on Wednesdays and Saturdays and give patrons the chance to try local produce and buy locally hand crafted art. The region is known for their fine produce and I encourage you to check it out. It's a fun way to spend a couple hours and even if you only buy enough to eat while you wander around, it's worth it.

Old Mesilla

Old Mesilla is found on the outskirts of Las Cruces, NM and is a historic plaza dating back to 1848. Actually, Mesilla abuts Las Cruces, so it’s kind of a like a tiny suburb. This is where you’ll find Old Mesilla.

Old Mesilla harkens back to it's inception and is a wonderful adobe center with dining, shopping, galleries, bed and breakfasts, and tons of history & photo opportunities. While there is a multitude of shopping to do with jewelry stores, apparel boutiques, home d├ęcor stores, and gift and souvenir stores, the reason I love going to Old Mesilla is the food.

Specifically, I love La Posta. It’s been in business for over 70 years and is a staple dining establishment. Yes, there’s a full bar which is known for having the widest selection of tequila and margaritas, but they are also renown for their steaks and Mexican food. Since opening in 1939 customers have been loyal to the good food, great service, and delightful atmosphere. I, personally, get the La Posta Grande, which is way more food than anyone could ever eat but it is worth it to take it home and reheat later.

I choose the starter of chips and queso (chile and melted cheese dip), but you can choose also from guacamole salad or a tossed green salad. Then follow with a taco, chile relleno, green enchilada con carne, rice and beans all served on a platter. Follow up with a warm sopapilla and honey (or skip the honey and do like my husband does; sop up all the chile sauce off your platter) and you’ll wonder if you ever need to eat again.

Don’t worry. You will.

The food is really that good, though.


Finally, I can’t forget the pecans. Pecans flourish in Las Cruces, New Mexico and it’s evident at Stahmanns where hundreds of pecan trees can be seen in their grove off Highway 28. Stahmanns has been growing the best pecans for over 75 years and we were never allowed to leave the city without picking up a pound (or two) of pecan bark. Pecan bark is milk or dark chocolate with mounds of sweet pecans mixed in.

So simple. So delicious.

las cruces nm, stahmanns, stahmanns pecans
Mmmm- Fresh Pecans

The pecan bark, and tons of other pecan confections (try the Zias- they’re like turtles with a carmel and chocolate center and pecans jutting out to form the zia symbol), are made on-site and sold at the peak of freshness. You can also buy raw pecans for your own baking enjoyment. Stahmanns has long been a tradition in our family and I hope it becomes one in yours too!

Update May 2012: Stahmanns closed both of their retail businesses. They will continue their wholesale offerings, but sadly no more stops at their country store for us.
New Mexico State University
Generally speaking, there are 2 large universities in New Mexico; UNM and NMSU. And the rivalry between the two runs deep. I attended UNM and one of the favorite jokes going around was “The students at NMSU need a recipe to make ice.” Haha! I know, not very nice, but you know how college spirit is.

NMSU, new mexico state university
Zuhl Library, NMSU

NMSU is similar to UNM by being the only other state institution to offer PhD degrees. Their course offerings cover just about any discipline including nursing, health and social sciences, engineering, business, languages and arts, criminal justice, journalism, history, and English. Most interestingly, due to the heritage of its locale in the agricultural epicenter of the state, there is a strong emphasis in agricultural degrees.

NMSU is based in an agriculturally rich environment and embraces this with their College of Agricultural and Home Economics. Here students can receive degrees in agricultural biology, agricultural economics, agricultural business, general agriculture, horticulture, and animal science. Their mascot is the Aggie (short for agricultural, of course). At approximately 20,000 students the campus is large, but feels like a smaller, intimate campus.

Read About New Mexico State University Here.

Las Cruces And You
Las Cruces is a truly dynamic place that offers the unique experience of a rich culture mixed with modern recreational activities. With everything it has to offer, The City of Crosses is definitely a destination everyone should visit once when in New Mexico. Just remember to bring your sunscreen and a camera.

So go! Enjoy the sun, the food, and the activities in Las Cruces, New Mexico.