Another favorite for both locals and visitors is Mesilla, a 2,000-person town that abuts southwest Las Cruces and is, essentially, a living historical monument. Nearly every building in Mesilla, also known as La Mesilla or Old Mesilla, dates to the 1800s. Old Mesilla was part of Mexico until the Gadsden Purchase of 1853, when a 30,000-square-mile strip of southern Arizona and New Mexico was incorporated into the United States. One day, Mesilla residents were Mexican; the next, they were American, Miller-Hernandez said.
The tiny town oozes history: Billy the Kid was convicted of murder and jailed there — the Billy the Kid Gift Shop is located in the courthouse where he was sentenced to hang — and the Mesilla Plaza that was once a stagecoach stop is now a National Historic Landmark. The plaza is ringed by adobe casitas and historic buildings, including the Basilica of San Albino, a brick church with twin belfries that was built in 1906, replacing the original 1852 church.
The historic gazebo that sits in the center of the plaza and the surrounding park are available for receptions and parties. Groups can also arrange private dinners and events at the historic and quirky La Posta de Mesilla restaurant, which opened in 1939, although the compound itself dates to the 1840s. With a courtyard lobby where parrots greet guests and a maze of festively decorated rooms, La Posta “is just a stop they have to make,” Miller-Hernandez said.
Visitors can learn more about Mesilla’s history with a stop at the Gadsden Museum or a tour with La Morena Walking Tours.
Las Cruces, New Mexico
Location: Southwest New Mexico
I-10 and I-25. The El Paso International Airport is an hour’s drive south.
Las Cruces Convention Center, Ramada Las Cruces Hotel and Conference Center,
Hotel Encanto de Las Cruces
Hotel Rooms: 3,300 guest rooms citywide
New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum, La Posta de Mesilla, Mesilla Plaza,
New Mexico State University’s Corbett Center Student Union