Welcome to Las Cruces. Curious about balancing grad school and having a life? Somehow, we manage, and here are some examples of what we do for fun. Las Cruces is at the Southern end of New Mexico and, as the second largest city in the state, has almost everything. For general information about Las Cruces check out the Visitors Bureau website (which includes general facts and figures about the region) and a calendar of events. Adjacent to Las Cruces is the charming historic town of Mesilla.
Food & Drink
So, where do people hang out for a drink? For a comprehensive guide check out Tom and Joni’s drinking guide to Las Cruces. Some examples of bars we frequent are Bosque Taproom, Spotted Dog Brewpub, High Desert, Picacho Peak Brewery, The Game, Vintage Wines, El Patio, Dublins, and on rare occasions, the country-themed bar/dance club called Whiskey Dick’s.
Speaking of spirits, New Mexico started producing wines in 1629, and some have even won top awards competing agains Californian wines. There are two wine festivals during the summer at the State Fairgrounds: the Southern New Mexico Wine Festival in May and the New Mexico Wine Harvest Festival in September. You can sample wine from the many New Mexico wineries as well as enjoy live entertainment, local arts and crafts vendors, and the grape stomping contest (which one grad student has won).
In terms of restaurants, Mexican food is dominant in Las Cruces. It’s hard to keep track of how many Mexican restaurants there are here, but there are at least many dozens and it’s difficult to find bad Mexican food. Some of the best Mexican restaurants include La Posta de Mesilla, Andele’s Dog House, and Habanero’s. We also have every big chain restaurant you could want, so it is not hard to find variety. Again, a good comprehensive guide is Joni’s Las Cruces restaurant guide. There are also a few specialty grocery stores including organic food at Toucan’s and the Mountain View co-op.
On the Town
Interested in local arts, crafts, and food? Every Saturday (summer and winter!) vendors flock to the Farmer’s Market on the mall in downtown Las Cruces. Mesilla hosts a smaller craft fair, the Mesilla Mercado, Fridays (11 am – 4 pm) and Sundays ( noon – 4 pm). Mountain View also hosts a local produce farmer’s market every Sunday.
Tired of mainstream blockbuster blowout movies? Mesilla also hosts the Fountain Theater, one of the few places in the region to view independent and foreign films. If not try out the Video 4 theater which shows movies for cheap a couple weeks after release.
Like grad students everywhere, we use a variety of online resources to keep ourselves entertained:
Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD)
xkcd “a webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math and language”
Ironic Times humorous headlines you won’t see on the Wall Street Journal
The Onion humorous news articles you won’t see on the Wall Street Journal
Mathematical Humor bad jokes and good laughs from Wolfram MathWorld
The Great Outdoors
Las Cruces enjoys 350 days of sunshine a year. There is plenty to do outdoors and students take advantage of that! The athletic center on campus provides a lot: for example courts for tennis, handball, and racquetball; a climbing wall; two pools; and free camping/climbing equipment rental. They also offer free courses to all students, such as yoga, pilates, kickboxing, and zumba. We participate in group activities, too. Our department participates in many soccer teams including intramural soccer, an intramural softball team, the Tombaugh Sluggers, and plays Ultimate Frisbee on the weekends. Speaking of courses, take advantage of the student discounted rates at the campus golf course.
There is pleasant biking along the Rio Grande or anywhere through the pecan groves in rural Mesilla. Sometimes we organize bike trips on the weekend. People in the department also compete in races, biathlons, and triathlons as individuals and as teams. Just to name a few, we have had students enter the Wind Triathlon (April at the White Sands Missile Range), the Spring Forward 5K run (April on campus), the Raptor Duathlon (April at the Holloman Air Force Base), the Ruidoso Triathalon (June in Ruidoso), the Elephant Man Triathalon (September at Elephant Butte), and the Snowman 5K run (December on campus).
The nearby Organ mountains provide plenty of places to hike, climb, and camp, nearby (at La Cueva & Dripping Springs, Aguirre Springs, Organ Needle, Baylor Canyon, Soledad Canyon, Organ Peak, and the Pine Loop Trail) and further away (at the Gila National Park, Lincoln National Forest, Three Rivers Petroglyphs Park, Ruidoso, and Cloudcroft). There is also good climbing/bouldering at Hueco Tanks, Percha Creek, Rough ‘n Readies, City of Rocks, and The Tunnel.
In general Southern New Mexico offers a variety of stunning natural attractions and parks. A little over an hour North of Las Cruces are the gypsum dunes of the White Sands National Monument. You can hike and bike the park’s trails, sled down the white dunes, and watch the full Moon rise during the summer. Close to home near the Mexican border is the explosive volcanic crater, Kilbourne Hole, which is known for excellent rock hunting. A slightly longer drive of 3.5 hours East will get you to Carlsbad caverns, cousin of the gypsum dunes of White Sands. Incidentally, if you are interested in skiing, don’t despair! The gorgeous Rocky Mountain town of Ruidoso is home to Ski Apache and there are more ski places to the North of Albuquerque.
So, you came here for astronomy, right? NMSU enjoys proximity to some excellent observatories. The astronomy department maintains the Apache Point Observatory, home to the 3.5m, the Sloan Digital Sky Survey telescopes, and the robotic NMSU 1m. APO shares dorm facilities with the Sunspot solar observatory on the neighboring Sacramento peak. A leisurely 2 hour drive North will get you to the Very Large Array, which is West of the small town of Socorro. Slightly further and incidentally in Arizona, is the Kitt Peak National Observatory just outside Tucson. Interested in amateur astronomy? Going any direction outside of Las Cruces will give you the dark skies the Southwest is famed for. The Astronomical Society of Las Cruces, the local amateur astronomy group founded 60 years ago, often meets for star parties. They are very nice and always interested in talking to us.