Las Cruces, with the Organ Mountains as a backdrop
Las Cruces is a city in New Mexico. The name means "the crosses" in Spanish. It is the state's second largest city, with a population of approximately 101,047 (2012 Census estimate), and is the site of New Mexico State University.
Las Cruces is located at the junction of Interstate Highways 10 and 25 and is the southern terminus of the latter. The nearest airport with commercial air service is in El Paso, Texas, about 50 miles away. Limited bus service is available between El Paso and Albuquerque with stops in Las Cruces.
Las Cruces has some degree of public transportation by the city bus line RoadRUNNER Transit. Service is limited to Monday through Saturday and ends by 7:30 in the evening. In addition, the NM Park and Ride Shuttle operates from as early as 5am from El Paso on weekdays and for a $2-5 one way fee passengers can commute to several towns in New Mexico. Buses can carry bicycles. Otherwise, just plan to drive, bike, or walk.
New Mexico State University is in Las Cruces, with an interesting museum or two, a large conference center, and a comfortable student union.
Chile Pepper Institue.  Located in Gerald Thomas Hall at NMSU, Rm 265. +1 575 646-3028. M-F from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
University Museum.  In Kent Hall at NMSU. +1 575 646-3739. Emphasis on local archaeology and culture. Tu-Sa 12-4; free, but donations accepted.
Zuhl Collection.  In the Alumni Center at NMSU. Fossils, minerals, and petrified wood. M-F from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., except holidays; free.
New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum.  4100 Dripping Springs Road, +1 575 522-4100. East of NMSU on the way out into the countryside. This is a fairly substantial site based on a working cattle ranch, with demonstrations. You can spend half a day here; there are picnic tables as well as food available for purchase. Open M-Sa 9-5, Su 12-5; $3 (student and senior discounts).
Branigan Cultural Center.  500 N. Water St., +1 575 541-2155. A small museum dealing with local history. Open M-F 10-4:30, Saturday 9-1; free.
Las Cruces Museum of Fine Art and Culture.  490 N. Water St. (next to the Branigan), +1 575 541-2137. Predominantly contemporary art with a regional emphasis. Tu-Fri 10-2, Sa 9-1; free.
Las Cruces Museum of Natural History.  700 S. Telshor (in Mesilla Valley Mall), +1 575 522-3120. Includes a small collection of live animals. 7 days, with evening hours on Friday; free, but donations requested.
Las Cruces Railroad Museum.  351 Mesilla St. (in the historic Santa Fe Depot), +1 575 647-4480. The museum interprets the impact of the railroad on the Mesilla Valley and Las Cruces. Open Th-Sa 10-4; free.
Mesilla is a separate town just to the west of Las Cruces which is an older settlement than Las Cruces and contains a historic district with numerous adobe buildings surrounding a plaza and the adjoining church. A visitors center is located at 2231 Avenida de Mesilla, in the Mesilla town hall.
The Organ Mountains just east of town offer good hiking and rock climbing. Follow University Avenue east from NMSU past the Farm and Ranch museum to one of the primary trailheads, in a small park (fee) with interpretive exhibit. Trails lead from here into the mountains. Some campground space is available (additional fee).
The Whole Enchilada Fiesta is a celebration of New Mexican cuisine that takes place annually in late September. Festivities include booths, races, musical acts, tasting, and the making of what is billed as the world's largest enchilada. Small admission fee.
The Farmer's Marketoffers a local flair to the community every Wednesday and Saturday from 8am to 1pm located in the North Downtown Mall. Merchants offer unique arts and crafts, specialty foods, and sometimes a few street performances. Be sure to bring cash as these are being sold by local individuals.
Old Mesilla Festivals Gatherings will usually take place in the downtown plaza of old Mesilla, particularly on days such as Cinco de Mayo (May 5th),Dia de los Muertos (Oct 31st-Nov 1st), and the Christmas holiday (setup usually varying from Dec. 20th-30th). Many additional goods will be sold around this time, along with general gatherings of people and performers to celebrate these festivities which blends popular holidays with local traditions.
The best place to buy native american art or other characteristic types of durable mementos is in the near by town of Mesilla. If you want something to remember your visit by, one idea is food, specifically chile peppers, which are grown in abundance in the Mesilla Valley. The long strings of red chiles that you see hanging from porches, gables, etc., are called ristras and are available for purchase at many locations. These are largely for ornamental purposes, but edible chiles are also widely available, with spiciness levels ranging from mild to downright inedible (New Mexico State University has a substantial chile research program that grows peppers so hot that they function as bug repellents).
If in town in late summer or fall, make a pilgrimage to the outlying town of Hatch on I-25 to the north. Hatch is the center of the chile-growing business and has several shops with chile paraphernalia. Better, it hosts a "Chile Festival" in early September, usually around Labor Day, that's fun to visit as well as a great source of chiles. (Hatch is a tiny town with little or no lodging, so you'll want to stay in Las Cruces and make a day trip to the Festival.) If you're getting your chiles for cooking rather than ornamentation, and can get them home/in a freezer quickly, get them roasted while you're there; roasting is a key step in preparation for the table, and doing it in a Hatch roaster will save you all manner of peculiar odors resulting from doing the roasting at home.
For more pedestrian, day-to-day purchases, Las Cruces has all of the usual shopping associated with a town of 80,000. Mesilla Valley Mall is convenient off I-25 just north of NMSU for this purpose.
St.Clair Vineyards and Bistro 1800 Avenida De Mesilla, +1 575 524-2408.  Warm atmosphere, live music, great food and wine selection. French country menu includes interesting appetizers like European cheese plates that pair wonderfully with flights of wine. Entres include dinner salads, fish, steak, pastas, and more.
University Avenue, on the north side of NMSU, has the usual assortment of student-oriented eateries, with the usual properties for such places: lots of food, reasonable prices, less than haute cuisine. Some, by no means all, of the restaurants along University are:
Lorenzo's, 1753 E. University, +1 575 521-3505. Italian; lunch and dinner. Also has a location in Mesilla and a new location in the shopping center on Lohman & Roadrunner.
Old Mesilla, to the southwest of Las Cruces is on the El Camino Real traveled by Onate and Coronado and is the home of many restaurants.
Double Eagle in Mesilla, on the Plaza. More of an upscale restaurant. Standard New Mexican fare and locally-inspired dishes. One of the few places in town that serves aged steak. Supposedly haunted, local lore says star-crossed lovers perished here and continue to visit one of the dining rooms. Their bar has an extensive liquor selection, suitable for all tastes. The ambiance is almost unmatched in the area. The Sunday brunch is a popular choice.
Andele, 2184 Avenida de Mesilla. Mexican with a salsa bar. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Check out the green chile pork enchiladas, tacos al cabon and roasted jalapenos.
Lorenzo's, 1750 Calle de Mercado #4. Italian; lunch and dinner.
El Paisano Cafe, 1740 Calle de Mercado. New Mexican food with a European flair; Seasonal dishes using fresh ingredients. Open breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Luna Rossa, 1321 Avenida de Mesilla. A winery and pizzeria serving their cuisine in an authentic Italian way. It also has a gelato stand with a variety of flavors.
Chope's Bar and Cafe 16145 S Hwy 28 La Mesa, NM 88044, +1 575 233-9976, offers the best rellenos in New Mexico. The restaurant is located approximately 12 scenic miles south of University Ave on Highway 28, which winds through the Stahmann's Pecan orchards.
International Delights, 1245 El Paseo Rd., +1 575 647-5956, . Mediterranean/Mideastern food, rather hard to find owing to its somewhat obscure location in a strip mall. 7 days, 7AM-midnight, to accommodate the student clientele. Wireless access. In the shopping center on El Paseo and Idaho, slightly behind the Rent-A-Center. Look for the Albertson's, then look in the corner of the "L" shape. Many of their dishes are halal.
High Desert Brewery, Hadley Avenue just off Valley (head East). Microbrew beer and excellent food. Try their seasonal brews (Hefeweizen in summer and Holiday Ale in winter are choice) and order their outstanding nachos. Beware, the portions (especially on the nachos!!) tend to run large, ask your server for advice. Open for lunch, dinner, and a pre-bed beer. Live music many nights, but no cover, ever.
Nellie's A local favorite. On Hadley, across from High Desert Brewery. Their hours are breakfast-lunch only, closing mid-afternoon. Expect a wait, and with good reason: this is some of the best New Mexican food in Las Cruces. Nellie still cooks, her son Danny Ray is the manager, and the rest of the family can be seen serving and cooking. Prices are all below $12, with most of the best plates in the $7 range. If you like your chile hot or your meals traditional, this is the place to go.
Chinese Phoenix On Madrid, off Solano. Located in a strip mall, this is easy to miss, so stay sharp! Daily lunch special priced at $2.99, with a large menu of standard Chinese fare. Some of the best traditional Chinese food in town, everything on the menu is under $10. Portions are large and tasty.
Sweet Indulgence/SI Italian Bistro Located on Idaho off El Paseo (behind the Albertson's), this restaurant has great ambiance to go with the food! All desserts are handmade or baked by the co-owner. An extensive menu of Italian and italian-inspired fare, along with coffee drinks, italian sodas, and beer & wine. Lunch menu varies from the dinner menu. A popular spot for business lunches, "date night" or parties (especially for weddings). Seems much more upscale than their prices admit! Lunch is $4-12 range, dinner $8-20. Daily soup changes and specials.
Si Señor Best chips & salsa in town (available to-go). You will NOT be hungry leaving Si Señor. 1551 E Amador Ave, 575-527-0817
Mesilla Valley Kitchen A variety of food, from breakfast burritos to kaiser-roll style burgers, not to mention their signature potato chips. 2001 E. Lohman, 575-523-9311
Thai Delight Great Thai food. Prices are moderate and servings are very large. A great addition and worth the drive. 2148 Avenida de Mesilla, Mesilla, (575) 525-1900
The Lundeen Inn of the Arts, 618 S. Alameda Blvd., . Beautiful bed and breakfast housed in an art gallery.$80 +. edit
Best Western Mission Inn, 1765 S. Main Street, +1 575 524-8591. Adequate if unexceptional lodging in a commercial area; not adjacent to NMSU, but still reasonably convenient for visitors to the university. Rooms from $55.
Comfort Suites, 2101 S. Triviz, +1 575 522-1300. Close to NMSU and Interstate 25; more adequate, unexceptional lodging. From $60.
Hotel Encanto de Las Cruces, 705 South Telshor Blvd (off of I-25 to Lohman exit), ☎ 1 575 522-4300, . checkin: 3PM; checkout: 12PM. A full-service pet friendly hotel near the convention center. Meeting & wedding facilities, swimming pool, restaurant & bar.edit
Ramada de Las Cruces, 201 East University Avenue, +1 575 526-4411. Newly remodeled, and rooms include breakfast. From $60.
SpringHill Suites Las Cruces, 1611 Hickory Loop (off of I-10 & Avenida de Mesilla, Exit 140), ☎ 1-575-541-8887, . All-suite hotel.edit
Ski Apache is about 90 miles away. Decent skiing just past the town of Ruidoso.
White Sands Missile Range is a short detour on the way to White Sands National Monument and has a missile museum.
Cloudcroft is about 85 miles away with breathtaking views and mountains.
If you're in the vicinity in the latter part of August, consider driving 60 miles west on I-10 to the Great American Duck Race -- seriously -- in the small town of Deming.
Truth or Consequences, about 70 miles north of Las Cruces and commonly called "T or C," has traveler-friendly hot springs. The new Spaceport America -- again, seriously! -- will be constructed about 30 miles southeast of T or C, and should be easily accessible from Las Cruces.
This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!