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Ruidoso New Mexico is a unique off the Beaten Path Destination

Tonya Prater, Owner

This post is sponsored by Discover Ruidoso.

A fan of small towns, Ruidoso, New Mexico is a mix of quirky attractions, history, culture, and the outdoors, an eclectic combination that entices me to add it to my ever-growing list of places I must see.

Is Ruidoso, New Mexico on your bucket list?

My family road tripped from Ohio to California several years ago. Our journey took us through much of the lower Southwest. With my husband at the wheel, I relaxed in the leather passenger seat of our rented Suburban, enthralled at the passing landscape as we drove through Texas and into New Mexico.

The sun began to dip in the horizon and the magic golden hour slowly transformed the scenery into vivid hues of orange and red with a hint of purple along the highway. As I contentedly peered through the window I thought to myself, “This view couldn’t get any better,” but each bend in the road revealed a more spectacular view than the previous mile.

Exhausted from a full day of driving, we pulled into the parking lot of our hotel in Albuquerque to catch a few hours of sleep before we continued our westward journey. Sadly, our schedule did not allow time to explore New Mexico.

For years my husband and I had dreamed of visiting each of the 50 states and then taking our travels abroad to Europe, Asia, or the islands in the Pacific. However, rather than cure my wanderlust, each new state we’ve visited has only fueled my desire to return once more to experience the attractions we missed. Ruidoso, NM is one of those outdoor locales I’d like to explore. Ideal for those of us who like to be outdoors hiking, fishing, or playing disc golf, Ruidoso promises a mix of fun attractions, history, and the outdoors.

Ruidoso is gorgeous to visit in the fall.

Ruidoso is a unique off the beaten path destination.

Ruidoso is a unique off the beaten path destination about 3 ½ hours southeast of Albuquerque. A bit of a drive, but I’m told the jaunt is worth it. With more plenty of hotels, resorts, cabins, and campgrounds, this mountain village is a great place to get outside while relaxing with beautiful mountain vistas. With plentiful wildlife, it’s common to see elk, deer, and bears.

While the scenery certainly gets my attention, for this roadside attraction lover, the initial draw to this small mountain community and outlying area is the fun and quirky. For instance, Fox Cave which once served as a hideout for Billy the Kid turned into a tourist attraction in the 1950’s. Today the attraction lures visitors with animatronic dinosaurs, aliens, an eye-catching giant hand emerging from the ground grasping for the sky, and museum buildings full of artifacts and items of historical importance. According to Roadside America, this attraction claims to have X Files Props- something that just may entice my husband to pull over for a closer look without pleading from me.

In nearby Capitan, The Smokey Bear Historical Park, shares the tale of the real-life Smokey Bear, a cub rescued from a forest fire with burned paws. Having lived in the Washington D.C.’s National Zoo for nearly three decades, the iconic figure was returned to his hometown upon his death and buried on the grounds of the Smokey Bear Museum.

Ruidoso transports you back in time.

One must visit a ghost town while in the Southwest and White Oaks may be the most famous ghost town in New Mexico. Founded when gold was discovered, the town housed nearly equal amounts of lawyers as miners. It was speculated that it would be a major city and perhaps would have been had it not been overlooked by the railroad. Not all is lost in the town. One can grab a drink at the No Scum Allowed Saloon to experience what is considered one of the best bars in the West.

The Billy the Kid National Scenic Byway transports you through history on a drive through the countryside while treating you to amazing views- a must for those who wish to explore the area and grasp the history that took place around Ruidoso.

Learn what it was like to live in the Wild West when Indians, outlaws, miners, pioneers, and the U.S. Calvary roamed the grounds. The scenic byway passes through the Lincoln National Forest, offering a sampling of the million-acre complex. The cool mountain climate offers an escape from the hot summer days.

Fort Stanton is one of the historic sites you’ll encounter. Erected to protect early settlers from the Apache Indians, it was later used as a tuberculosis hospital and then, as an internment center for German merchant seamen during WWII.

The Lincoln Historic Site was the site of a bloody feud that started by competing store owners. Perhaps the most visited monument in the state, this historic site remains frozen in time. One can almost imagine the footsteps of Billy the Kid or Pat Garrett on the dusty paths between outbuildings crafted in adobe, typical of the American Southwest.

Visitors drawn to White Oaks, the former Wild West town, may stroll through Cedarvale Cemetery, now also part of the Lincoln Historic Site. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the graveyard contains the burial site of Deputy Sheriff James Bell who was killed by Billy the Kid during his escape from Lincoln County Courthouse. After taking a stroll through history, it’s time to appreciate the natural beauty of Ruidoso.

Mountain Bike Rear View

Ruidoso is fun for the family.

Ruidoso is an ideal location for a family vacation. My grown children could experience the scenic mountain bike trails and the Apache Eagle ZipRider that glides over the clear waters of Lake Mescalero on the Mescalero Reservation while my husband and I simultaneously try our hand at the slot machines in the Inn of the Mountain Gods Casino & Resort or enjoy a gondola ride and leisurely stroll among the acclaimed art galleries in the small, rustic town of Ruidoso.

The galleries in Ruidoso, NM offer western themed artworks, bronze statues and exquisite jewelry.

Ruidoso offers culture.

If the mood strikes, we could visit one of the many wineries and tour The Spencer Theater. Considered one of the finest theaters in the world, and one of Ruidoso’s finest cultural attractions, this $22-million dollar property showcases four major installations by Dale Chihuly. The collection is the largest private collection in the Southwest that is open to the public.

The cabins in Ruidoso, NM feature stunning views of the moutain vistas.

Ruidoso offers small-town charm with mountain vistas.

A visit to Ruidoso may have alluded me on my first drive through New Mexico, but the mountains are calling my name. I imagine myself relaxing at a cabin with my husband or family. After a full day of traveling back in time, I’d prop my feet up on the railing and with camera in hand, photograph the incredible mountain views as day turns to dusk. And if I’m lucky, perhaps I’ll capture an elk or two.

Would you like to learn more about this destination? Visit Discover Ruidoso to learn more.

Have you been to Ruidoso? What would you most like to see?

*Photos provided by Discover Ruidoso. 

Vicky and Buddy

Sunday 6th of August 2017

The history of the area sounds fascinating. I think it'd be really cool to check out the ghost town and have a drink at No Scum Allowed Saloon. Hopefully you're able to go back and spend time in Ruidoso.

Carmen Edelson

Sunday 6th of August 2017

I love off the beaten path destinations so this place has my name written all over it! Thanks for sharing :)

mark wyld

Saturday 5th of August 2017

Sounds like a great place to visit with ties to some iconic figures such as Billy the kids and Smokey Bear. It would have loved to have been a cowboy

carrie @ frugal foodie mama

Saturday 5th of August 2017

I had never heard of Ruidoso before this post, but it certainly looks like a must-visit to me! :)

Cindy ladage

Saturday 5th of August 2017

What a great western experience I love the history in the beauty in the way you describe it . Protection Status
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