Rio Grande Vineyards & Winery (Organ Mountains in background), Las Cruces, NM


Come experience one of America's most underrated destinations: Las Cruces, N.M.


If You Go...

Las Cruces Convention & Visitors Bureau
211 N. Water St.
Las Cruces
(575) 541-2444
www.staysunny.org

Amaro Winery
402 S. Melendres St.
Las Cruces
(575) 527-5310
www.amarowinerynm.com

De La Vega’s Pecan Grill and Brewery
500 S. Telshor Blvd.
Las Cruces
(575) 521-1099
www.pecangrill.com

Double Eagle
2355 Calle de Guadalupe
Mesilla
(575) 523-6700
www.double-eagle-mesilla.com

The Game Sports Bar and Grill
2605 S. Espina St.
Las Cruces
(575) 524-4263
www.thegamebarandgrill.com

Hotel Encanto de Las Cruces
705 S. Telshor Blvd.
Las Cruces
(575) 522-4300
www.hotelencanto.com

La Posta de Mesilla
2410 Calle de San Albino
Mesilla
(575) 524-3524
www.laposta-de-mesilla.com

New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum
4100 Dripping Springs Road
Las Cruces
(575) 522-4100
www.nmfarmandranchmuseum.org


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For many years, tourists traveling to Las Cruces, N.M., knew they were close to the city when they passed a statue of a giant roadrunner on Interstate 10. The landmark, which was recently moved to another spot around town, represented the long-legged bird indigenous to the rugged terrain in the southwest United States.

After a recent visit, however, I have concluded that the people of Las Cruces have taken for granted their proudest feature — the one item that greets visitors at restaurants and grocery stores and has such an overpowering presence that New Mexico State, the local university, has a research institute devoted to it.
If Las Cruces wants to accurately depict itself, city leaders should quickly commission a sculptor to create a giant statue of a chile pepper, because the local populace embraces chile peppers in much the same way that Wile E. Coyote embraces an encounter with the Road Runner of cartoon fame.

Chile peppers are everywhere. Restaurants feature items such as green-chile alfredo, green-chile chicken lasagna, green-chile ravioli, green-chile stew, green-chile risotto, green-chile macaroni and cheese, green-chile sopaipillas, green-chile stuffed potatoes, green-chile brownies, green-chile hamburgers, green-chile crab cakes, green-chile-infused wine and green-chile-infused vodka.

And that’s not even counting traditional New Mexican dishes.

Green chiles can be a part of every meal. If you happen to find yourself in the morning with something like a plain bagel, there is green-chile butter and green-chile cream cheese.

“In the fall when it starts getting to be harvest time with the green chiles, this place goes crazy,” says Phil San Filippo, executive director of the Las Cruces Convention & Visitors Bureau. “You go to any local supermarket and they’ll be roasting chile peppers outside. It’s great because you buy them, take them outside the store and they roast them for you. People are buying bags of them. I know a lot of people buy 40 to 50 pounds, and they’ll freeze them so they have fresh chiles all year long. “It’s really a big thing here,” he continues. “It’s amazing. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

A city can’t be a great tourist destination without great food, and Las Cruces has plenty of it. It also has places nearby to work up an appetite, most notably the White Sands National Monument — a magnificent work of nature that covers 275 square miles and is the largest gypsum dune field in the world.
It is so scenic, serene and spectacular that it often finds itself starring on screen — 23 movies, 17 documentaries and television shows, and nine music videos have been partially filmed on-site. Among the movies are Transformers, The Astronaut Farmer, The Book of Eli and The Men Who Stare at Goats. Music videos include songs by Pink Floyd, Puff Daddy and Martina McBride.

“And just about every car commercial that has been made in the last 35 years has had a beauty shot taken out here,” says Kathy Denton, a park ranger.