Spring break 2018 has come and gone and we are moving full steam ahead toward the end of the school year. As the kids are growing up quickly- too quickly it seems- we are more and more ditching our typical summer vacation schedule in exchange for spring and winter vacations. This year, spring break was spent hitting the road right after Easter festivities at our house and heading east over 800 miles to Ruidoso, New Mexico.
Ruidoso is a small, kind of off the beaten path, mountain town located in south-central New Mexico, 118 miles northeast of Las Cruces, and 181 miles south of Albuquerque. It the largest community in Lincoln County, however, that’s not saying much considering that Lincoln County’s total population is just under 20,500 according to the Census Bureau. But therein lies the charm. Located in the Sierra Blanca mountains, the views were spectacular and the clean air and quiet were a refreshing reprieve from the smog and bustle of So Cal.
We drove literally through the night from the San Gabriel Valley to New Mexico. After a stop in Phoenix, the husband and I switched off so that I would drive the night shift from about 11 pm until the sun started to come up. This works well for us. I tend to be better on the long stretches, he’s a pro at parallel parking the car in a space that is two inches smaller than the car itself. We arrived safely in Ruidoso just before 8 am, and took a good nap to recover from the drive before heading out to start exploring.
While quiet, there is really much to do in Ruidoso and the surrounding communities. It is an old town of Old Western significance. The Lincoln County wars were fought in the area, and Ruidoso was a known hideout for the infamous Billy the Kid and other outlaws.
Fun places to visit in Ruidoso and Ruidoso Downs:
If you’re into horse racing, Ruidoso Downs Racetrack is home to quarter horse and thoroughbred racing during the summer months.
Close to the racetrack is the Hubbard Museum of the American West. The kids had a great time visiting this two-story museum. Featured on the bottom floor are the collections of Mrs. Anne Stradling, the daughter of a wealthy land developer in New Jersey. She had an avid love of horses and became a trick rider at a young age. In her early 20s, she married a cowboy and moved out West. She later inherited four generations of family heirlooms, including carriages, silverware, and art. These items, numbering over 10,000 are put on display and rotated for exhibit in the museum and give a glimpse into life in the Old West. Also on display are Native American antiques. The first floor features artwork relating to the American West. I am no artist, but I did appreciate the paintings depicting life in old New Mexico. The kids especially liked the children’s area which had dress-ups, a horse and carriage to climb on, and of course plenty of toy guns (it is the Old West, after all).
The downtown area on Sudderth Drive has some cute clothing and jewelry stores, along with art galleries, antique stores, and of course a few kitschy souvenir shops. We did not get to take full advantage of the shopping opportunities as the town seemed to be on spring break as well, and so many of the shops were closed. However, it was a lovely walk, and the bubbling Rio Ruidoso runs right behind the downtown area.
There are the usual fast food chain restaurants- McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Subway, Sonic, etc.- if you just want a quick bite. However, if you want a great BBQ place with some good deals on family packs, Can’t Stop Smokin’ on Mecham Drive is the place to go. The food was fantastic. Meats were “melt in your mouth, fall-off-the-bone smoked heaven” according to the kids. And while I’m still a vegetarian, I can vouch for the delicious savory sides and the berry cobbler.
Casa Blanca Restaurant was an option for a sit down Mexican restaurant. The service was friendly, and the food was good. It was different from what we would expect from a Mexican restaurant back home, more of a Tex-Mex flavor, and not a lot of spice. Unless of course, you ordered the habanero chicken, which really packed a punch.
Other fun stuff:
The areas surrounding Ruidoso offered up sites of historical significance and interest. White Sands National Monument is only an hour away in Alamogordo, as is Roswell. Carlsbad Caverns National Park is a 2.5-3 hour drive from Ruidoso and so made a good day trip. Our return trip included a two-day stay in Flagstaff resulting in more opportunities to explore more national parks and monuments. These will be featured in my next few posts.
Lastly, if you ever do make it out to Ruidoso, check out Bears R Us for some fun, rustic home décor. These chainsaw sculpted wooden bears were everywhere in Ruidoso and can be purchased online or in-store. Of course, I had to have one for my suburban home, along with a few of the smaller $20 ones to bring home to the grandparents. It’s a cute memento of time well spent in the Land of Enchantment. Happy travels!