Las Cruces at a Glance
Location: Southeast New Mexico
Access: Interstates 10 and 25, El Paso Airport
Hotel rooms: 3,500
Visit Las Cruces
Las Cruces Convention Center
Built: 2010; expanded in 2019
Exhibit Space: 17,245 square feet
Other Meeting Spaces: 13 breakout rooms
New Mexico State University Conference Center
Exhibit Space: 11,666 square feet
Other Meeting Spaces: 15 breakout rooms
New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum
Exhibit Space: 14,355 square feet
Other Meeting Spaces: 7 breakout rooms
Hotel Encanto de Las Cruces
Guest rooms: 201
Meeting Space: 14,762 square feet
Ramada Palms Hotel and Conference Center
Guest rooms: 113
Meeting Space: 8,000 square feet
Who’s Meeting in Las Cruces
New Mexico Municipal League
North American Colleges of Agriculture
International Alluvial Fans
Las Cruces is far closer to El Paso, Texas, than to Albuquerque — 50 miles compared with 225 miles — but it pure New Mexico. This fast-growing city in the southeast corner of the state basks in the desert sun and dishes up stellar hospitality, reams of history and natural beauty in abundance. In addition, there’s an overlay of famous New Mexico green chile peppers served almost any way imaginable. How about green chile vodka, green chile beer or a green chile chocolate milkshake?
Las Cruces exudes the spirit of New Mexico so much that it has one of America’s most famous roadside attractions, a giant roadrunner, which is the state bird, just outside the city on Interstate 10.
Las Cruces is a gem in the Chihuahuan Desert. After millennia of habitation by indigenous peoples, the Spanish began roaming through the region in the 1500s. Today, Interstate 10 connects the city for east-west travelers, and Interstate 25 starts here and heads north to Albuquerque; Santa Fe and beyond.
While the region is growing — the city population is about 101,000 in a county of about 210,000 — it is just the right size to offer an array of facilities and attractions and still be easy and quick to navigate. Classic Southwestern architecture and muted shades of desert brown and gold are the setting for enjoying 325 days of sunshine a year.
Las Cruces spreads across the Mesilla Valley and is marked dramatically on its eastern edge by the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, established in 2019, whose jagged peaks hide miles of hiking trails, along with stories of Billy the Kid, Geronimo and the Butterfield Stage Trail. The peaks jut straight up from the valley floor to almost 9,000 feet. A dramatic view of the city, the valley and the mountains is from Picacho Peak — 4,959 feet — northwest of downtown.
New Mexico State University adds more vibrancy to city life, the arts scene is lively, and the Las Cruces Farmers and Crafts Market turns a seven-block portion of downtown into a pedestrian party every Saturday.
“Our size is one of our advantages,” said Albert Herrera, convention sales manager for Visit Las Cruces. “We have history, culture, facilities and the outdoors all within reach.”
Las Cruces has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to off-site venues. Steeped longest in regional history is the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum on the outskirts of town, a 47-acre plot at the foot of the Organ Mountains. Livestock, barns, farm equipment and informative interpreters make the museum a memorable spot for a catered meal or a special ceremony. It has 14,000 square feet of exhibition space, along with a mercantile and a theater.
Right downtown is a trio of cultural institutions that can be used in a variety of fashions. They are the Las Cruces Museum of Art, the Museum of Nature and Science and the Branigan Cultural Center, all municipal facilities. Nearby is a city treasure, the Rio Grande Theatre, a movie palace built in 1926 that operated until 1997. A $2.2 million project brought it back to life in 2005, and it is available for special activities. It is the only two-story adobe theater in the U.S. and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
For some athletic memories, book the event space at the Stan Fulton Center, adjacent to Aggie Memorial Stadium at New Mexico State University. It overlooks the football field, and you can get your group’s name displayed in impressive stadium lights.
Major Meeting Spaces
The Las Cruces Convention Center is the biggest show in town for meeting space. It opened in 2010 and now has 17,245 square feet of meeting space after a 7,000-square-foot expansion completed in May 2019. It has a 9,000-square-foot ballroom and 13 breakout meeting rooms.
The New Mexico State University Conference Center hosts a wide variety of meetings, well beyond academic gatherings. It has almost 12,000 square feet of exhibit space and 15 breakout rooms. An interesting spot on campus is the Chile Pepper Institute in Gerald Thomas Hall. Learn all about New Mexico chiles and purchase some interesting — and tasty — souvenirs, including chile pepper seeds to try your luck back home. Nearby is the institute’s teaching garden, where guided tours are available.
The New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum is more than a special events venue and is able to host meetings in its 14,355 square feet of exhibit space and seven breakout rooms. On the hotel front, the 201-room Hotel Encanto has 14,355 square feet of meeting space and seven breakout rooms, plus a palm-shaded pool that is great for memorable meeting photographs.
After the Meeting
If you don’t incorporate the historic community of Mesilla into your meeting schedule, definitely plan to spend time here afterward. Herrera recommends an in-meeting dine-around starting with a storyteller or a historian before your group disperses to restaurants such as La Posta, the Double Eagle, Café Felix and Andele.
Less than an hour northeast of Las Cruces is one of America’s most unusual sights: White Sands National Monument. This 275-acre spot is the world’s largest gypsum dune field, and its rolling ridgelines look like a scene from a science fiction movie. Hike, picnic, go sledding — yes, sledding on sand — or enjoy a sunset nature walk or a full-moon program with a National Park Service ranger.
Southern New Mexico is famous for its place in space exploration, and it will become even more famous as Virgin Galactic develops the first purpose-built commercial spaceport north of Las Cruces. Attractions to examine now include the White Sands Missile Range Museum and the New Mexico Museum of Space History. Two other experiences decidedly more down-to-earth are McGinn’s Pistachio Tree Ranch, often called PistachioLand and home of “the world’s largest pistachio,” in Alamogordo and the multistop Mesilla Valley Wine Trail.