Las Cruces, New Mexico Destinations for Snowbirds
Are you a snowbird looking to escape the winter chill? Hop in your RV and check out Jeff Crider's recommendations in Las Cruces, NM!
Albuquerque is often used as a base camp for RV trips to destinations across northern New Mexico. But during the winter months, RV enthusiasts often gravitate roughly 225 miles southward to Las Cruces, where they can enjoy warmer weather as well as a variety of scenic and historical attractions.
“Las Cruces is one of our best locations,” said Zach Weiner, who oversees RV park operations for BoaVida RV Parks and Resorts, which has 17 RV resorts in five Western states that cater to recreational vehicle enthusiasts and other transient guests.
BoaVida’s 113-site Hacienda RV Resort in Las Cruces is a popular destination for Snowbirds as well as travelers bound for White Sands National Park and New Mexico’s Hatch Valley, which is famous for its delicious chili peppers.
“Some Snowbirds stay for the whole winter, while others are just traveling through,” Weiner said.
Winter, in fact, is the busiest time of year at the Las Cruces KOA Journey in Las Cruces. “We are a winter park. That’s our busy season,” said Chris Scianna, general manager of the Las Cruces KOA. “Las Cruces is a nice area and there’s lots of things to do.”
Local attractions include Farmers and Crafts Market of Las Cruces where customers can purchase locally grown produce and homemade crafts. Also nearby is the Old Mesilla Farmers Market, one of America’s oldest markets, which dates back to 1857, where vendors sell everything from jewelry to original artwork and locally grown produce.
According to Mesilla's website, Mesilla at one time was the largest U.S. town between San Antonio and San Diego. But its growth was stunted in 1881 when a decision was made to build the incoming railway through Las Cruces instead of Mesilla. Mesilla today offers a mix of historical buildings, art galleries, restaurants and historical markers, including one for the Butterfield Overland Trail, an overland mail stage route that was later used by the Pony Express.
The town of Mesilla also hosts Christmas Carols and Luminarias on Mesilla's Historic Plaza on Christmas Eve, while the city of Las Cruces offers its annual Chili Drop on New Year's Eve, when a 19-foot chrome chile pepper covered in 2,400 sparkling LED lights is lowered in downtown Las Cruces as a unique and unforgettable way to welcome the new year.
Every year, before the chile drops, people are asked whether they think the chile pepper will be red or green. This is a homage to the official state question: "Do you prefer red or green chile peppers?" If you ask a local what their preference is, they will always have an answer. The Chile Drop first started in 2014 as a way to celebrate the newly constructed Plaza de Las Cruces. Now, it is a popular annual event that pays homage to one of the region's most iconic crops.
Of course, New Mexico’s famous Hatch Valley, the “Chile Capital of the World,” is only 40 miles north of Las Cruces and offers visitors a variety of attractions, including stores and restaurants.
Other Las Cruces area attractions include the 24,000-square foot New Mexico Farm and Ranch Museum, whose exhibits document 4,000 years of farming and ranching history in New Mexico. The museum frequently organizes special events for the community.
Las Cruces is also a popular base camp for excursions to White Sands National Park, which offers ranger-led full moon hikes on the dunes from March to December each year. Longer excursions in higher elevations could include visits to Silver City and Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument in the Mimbres Valley area, which is noted for its pottery.
Other campgrounds in the greater Las Cruces area include:
For more information on Las Cruces and other attractions in New Mexico, check out New Mexico's tourism website.
(Photo courtesy of National Park Service)