Courtesy Red River Tourism
One mile long and three blocks wide, the town of Red River, N.M., lives by the nickname “Main Street in the Mountains.”
Nestled in the Sangre de Cristo mountain range about 100 miles northeast of Santa Fe and 37 miles northeast of Taos, Red River caters to the resort and recreation crowd, but also offers meetings and conventions options for winter and summer activities.
“Red River is simple,” said Rebecca Latham, tourism and economic development director. “Red River is very easy, very convenient. We really pride ourselves on how laid-back it is here.”
With a conference center and 800 guest rooms, Red River is geared to smaller meetings. The Red River Conference Center has a 10,000-square-foot exhibit hall, two breakout rooms, prefunction space and a commercial kitchen.
Thousands of acres of national forest surround Red River, so groups can hike, bike, ski, snowmobile, fish, four-wheel or horseback ride. After ski areas close in March, jeep tours are popular. The New Mexico Adventure Co. and Red River Offroad take groups on tours where riders see old mines, ghost towns and historic sites, as well as deer, elk, bears and other wildlife.
High-end restaurants, local boutiques, art galleries and Western dance halls provide indoor options.
In Las Cruces, meeting business has been transformed by the 55,000-square-foot Las Cruces Convention Center, which opened in January 2011.
The Gold Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified facility has allowed the city to host larger events but also keep events that were outgrowing Las Cruces, said Rochelle Miller-Hernandez, convention sales manager for the Las Cruces Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“It definitely opened up opportunities for the convention markets here,” she said.
The state-of-the-art center has a 14,500-square-foot exhibit hall, an 8,900-square-foot ballroom, 8,500 square feet of prefunction space, six meeting rooms totaling 3,000 square feet and 5,000 square feet of outdoor event space.
Among the city’s 3,300 hotel rooms are 208 guest rooms at the Hotel Encanto de Las Cruces, where a $1 million project will upgrade the pool area, create a special event garden and add an outdoor lounge with fire pits at the hotel’s nightclub. The work should be done by early fall.
Three venues give meeting planners the chance to ponder this border town’s past and future. At the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum, 24,000 square feet of exhibit space is complemented by meeting rooms, a theater and a large courtyard with views of the Organ Mountains.
For more immersion in local history, events can be held in the plaza of Old Mesilla, which was part of Mexico until Las Cruces became part of the United States in 1854. Billy the Kid was convicted of murder and jailed in Mesilla, and the Mesilla Plaza was once a stagecoach stop.
La Posta de Mesilla restaurant, which opened in 1939, welcomes events as well.
A tour of Spaceport America, the world’s first commercial spaceport, is a step into the future. In 2014, for $200,000 each, travelers will launch into space. For now, groups can take hard-hat tours of the facility, about 100 miles north of Las Cruces, and see areas that won’t be open to the public later, Miller-Hernandez said. Once open, the spaceport will also have space for meetings and events.