Families, art-enthusiasts, couples, outdoor adventurers, and many more will find something to appreciate on a visit to any of New Mexico’s best southern attractions. From casino gaming to alien-themed museums, and rolling white sand dunes to hidden caverns, check out our list of the best things to do in southern New Mexico!
1 | SKIING & SNOWBOARDING AT SKI APACHE
Where: 1286 Ski Run Road, Alto
Contact: (575) 464-3600
Ski Apache is southern New Mexico’s top destination for snow skiing and snowboarding. Located at the alpine peak of majestic Sierra Blanca, this premier New Mexico ski and snowboard resort offers some of the best warm-weather powder skiing in the world. The resort features slopes for all skill levels, bump runs, a terrain park, and a bowl.
No skis? No problem. Ski equipment rentals are available for all ages. Ski Apache also offers lessons, dining options, and the only eight-person gondola in New Mexico that takes you to the top of Sierra Blanca. Learn more about the best time to ski in New Mexico at Ski Apache and how to make the most of your New Mexico winter vacation. The park is also open during the warmer months for hiking, biking, and ziplining.
2 | SKI APACHE MOUNTAIN BIKING & HIKING TRAILS
Where: 1286 Ski Run Road, Alto, NM
Contact: (575) 464-3600
Even those who don’t ski will find things to do in the mountains of southern New Mexico. The mix of terrain in this area is fun to explore by bike or on foot. Ski Apache features summer mountain biking trails for all skill levels, and they even rent the bikes, helmets, and other gear right on site. Outdoor lovers will also enjoy hiking or walking the trails at Ski Apache. There are three trails that vary from a 10- to 15-minute trek to an all-day hike, each offering breathtaking views of the areas around Ski Apache.
3 | INN OF THE MOUNTAIN GODS OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES
Where: 287, Carrizo Canyon Road, Mescalero
Contact: (800) 545-9011
Fishing. Ziplining. Horseback Riding. Oh my! Those are just some of the things to do at the Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort & Casino. Nestled among the lush mountain peaks on the Mescalero Apache Reservation in scenic Mescalero, New Mexico, Inn of the Mountain Gods offers no shortage of outdoor entertainment to get its guests out enjoying the beautiful surroundings.
Below are just a few of our favorite outdoor things to do in southern New Mexico while staying at Inn of the Mountain Gods:
- Fishing at Lake Mescalero is a favorite thing for families to do.
- Rent kayaks, row boats, and stand up paddle boards for many lake activities
- Glide over the waters of Lake Mescalero at the Apache Eagle Ziprider.
- Take a horseback ride with your family.
- Rent a bike and take a trip around Lake Mescalero.
- Hit the links at the Inn’s Championship Golf Course.
4 | INDOOR ACTIVITIES IN MESCALERO
Where: 287, Carrizo Canyon Road, Mescalero, NM
Contact: (800) 545-9011
The Inn of the Mountain Gods boasts a variety of things to do indoors that are ideal for anyone on a casino trip or families and others just passing through. Our New Mexico casino has made this resort a favorite spot to pass the time in southern New Mexico. Here are some of the best activities:
- Try your hand at blackjack.
- Spin the slot reels while sipping drinks in The Enclave.
- Enjoy a day of pampering at The Spa at the Inn.
- Rent a Topgolf Swing Suite to play games or practice your swing.
- Catch a weekend game on the Casino Apache Sportsbook’s 12 large-screen TVs.
5 | INN OF THE MOUNTAIN GODS NIGHTLIFE
Where: 287, Carrizo Canyon Road, Mescalero, NM
Contact: (800) 545-9011
The Inn of the Mountain Gods is southern New Mexico’s source for things to do when the sun goes down. You’ll find the best New Mexico concerts, entertainment, and events at Inn of the Mountain Gods. The concert lineup changes from R&B to country, plus the Sunday Under the Stars free movies and Cirque Zuma Zuma are family favorites. The lounges also offer adults a place to unwind—try a signature cocktail at the 1852 Treaty Room, head to Club 49 for karaoke or comedy, or watch the big game at the sports bar.
6 | FAMILY DAY AT WINGFIELD PARK
Where: 300 Center Street, Ruidoso, NM
This public park offers visitors plenty of things to do, including disc golf. The pitch-and-putt course is beginner-friendly so your entire family can enjoy the game. The course offers 9 holes that you can play year-round. The park also features walking trails, a playground, and a picnic area, and hosts ice skating in the winter and a farmers market in the summer.
7 | HIKE AT CARLSBAD CAVERNS NATIONAL PARK
Where: 727 Carlsbad Caverns Highway, Carlsbad, NM
Contact: (575) 785-2232
Carlsbad Caverns National Park is home to 119 caverns that lay beneath the Chihuahuan Desert’s surface. Once referred to as “the Grand Canyon with a roof over it” by famous actor Will Rogers, Carlsbad Caverns is truly a sight to behold. Visitors must secure reservations online or by calling (877) 444-6777, and then purchase tickets at the visitor center upon arrival. You can experience the caverns via two trails with each hike taking over an hour to trek.
The Big Room Trail is home to a variety of stunning cave formations and is a relatively flat path. The Natural Entrance Trail is very steep, but you’ll get to see famous formations like Iceberg Rock and the Whale’s Mouth on this trail. Ranger-guided tours are also offered.
Outside of the caverns, the national park includes a visitor center, hiking trails, and the Bat Flight Program where visitors can learn about the Brazilian free-tailed bats that call Carlsbad Caverns home, and enjoy the spectacle of bats exiting the caverns each evening from late May through October.
8 | EXPLORE ROSWELL, NEW MEXICO
426 N. Main Street, Roswell, NM
Contact: (575) 623-3442
Just a quick day trip from the Inn of the Mountain Gods, Roswell, New Mexico is the perfect place to learn about cowboys, artists, and aliens! Start your exploration at the Roswell Visitor Center where they’ll offer trip advice and help plan how you’ll spend the day.
Visitors will find plenty of alien-themed museums and shops to feed any appetite for out-of-this-world adventure. The fifth-largest New Mexico city is also home to many outdoor recreation areas, art museums, the Roswell Invaders minor league baseball team, magnificent state parks, and the Spring River Zoo.
9 | VISIT THE DUNES AT WHITE SANDS NATIONAL PARK
Where: Located off of Highway US-70 between the cities of Alamogordo and Las Cruces between mile markers 199 and 200. Use these GPS coordinates 32° 46′ 45″ North, 106° 10′ 19″ West.
Contact: (575) 479-6124
This breathtaking national park is at the top of nature lovers’ and wildlife enthusiasts’ lists of things to do in Southern New Mexico. Encompassing 275 miles of desert, White Sands National Park is the world’s largest gypsum dune field. Listed as a national monument in 1933, the rolling white sand dunes are truly a sight to behold. You can hike, bike, sled the dunes, drive them, or attend a ranger program during your visit.
Sledding the sandy dunes is something all ages like to do. Snow saucers for sledding are available at the park’s gift shop.
Nearby is the White Sands Missile Range Museum, home to a collection of missiles and rockets that encompass several periods in United States and New Mexico history, including the Cold War and the Manhattan Project. Call (575) 678-3358 for more information about the White Sands Missile Range Museum.
10 | ENTER THE OLD WEST AT FLYING J RANCH
Where: 1028 Hwy 48 North, Alto NM
Contact: (575) 336-4330
Step back in time to a period of hearty chuckwagon suppers, Old West showdowns, and toe-tapping western music at Flying J Ranch. One of the best things to do in New Mexico, let alone southern New Mexico, Flying J Ranch is open every evening except Sunday all summer through Labor Day.
This family-friendly Old West showcase features tons of attractions and activities for all ages, including cattle roping, pony rides, gold panning, and an Old West town complete with a sheriff’s office, gift shops, and a blacksmith.
11 | LEARN & PLAY AT SMOKEY BEAR HISTORICAL PARK
Where: 118 Smokey Bear Boulevard, Capitan, NM
Contact: (575) 354-2748
Smokey Bear Historical Park is a fantastic educational activity for anyone visiting southern New Mexico. Learn about the origins of Smokey Bear, a North American Black Bear who rose to fame as an icon for wildfire prevention and visit his final resting place. The visitor’s center gives guests a look at the fascinating history and science behind wildfires and fire prevention, forest health, and fire ecology.
The park also hosts Junior Ranger and Little Ranger programs for kids to learn about fire safety, get souvenirs, and become official rangers. The park also includes a picnic area and playground to spend time enjoying the beauty in the area.
12 | VISIT MIDTOWN RUIDOSO
Where: Sudderth Drive, Ruidoso, NM
Just minutes from the Inn of the Mountain Gods in southern New Mexico is Midtown Ruidoso, a place full of things to do. Famous for its boutiques, wineries, brewpubs, art, and cafés, the bustling Main Street is where travelers can stroll from boutique to vintage shop and burger joint to brewpub.
Midtown is also where you’ll find plenty of live music spots, the Midtown Gallery Walk, Ruidoso’s public murals, and plenty to do with the kiddos, including getting frozen yogurt and browsing souvenir shops. Explore the full list of things to do near Ruidoso!
13 | VIEW WILDLIFE AT THE VALLEY OF FIRES RECREATION AREA
Where: 6158 US Highway 380, Carrizozo, NM. Travel four miles west of the town of Carrizozo on U.S. Highway 380; Valley of Fires recreation area is on the left.
Contact: (575) 627-0272
Check out this recreation area while in southern New Mexico to see one of the youngest lava flows in the continental US. Thousands of years ago, molten rock filled the Tularosa Basin after the eruption of Little Black Peak. Now, the hardened lava flow covers 125 square miles, is 160 feet thick, varies from 4 to 6 miles wide, and is waiting to be explored by travelers.
The Malpais Nature Trail at Valley of Fires Recreation Area is a fully accessible, paved trail that leads you straight to the lava flow. Along the trail, you may encounter a variety of animals like mule deer, roadrunners, and lizards, and several species of birds ranging from gnat catchers and cactus wrens to turkey vultures and golden eagles. Plant life is abundant and includes a variety of species native to the Chihuahuan desert.
14 | FOLLOW THE BILLY THE KID SCENIC BYWAY
Where: Interpretive Center is located at 791 US Hwy 70, Ruidoso Downs, NM
Contact: (575) 378-5318
Billy the Kid Scenic Byway is more than just a highway—it’s one of the most immersive things to do in southern New Mexico. You’re transported to the middle of Old West history where famous names like Kit Carson, “Black Jack” Pershing, and the man himself, Billy the Kid trekked.
Inn of the Mountain Gods guests can start in Ruidoso Downs, the location of the Billy the Kid National Scenic Byway Interpretive Center and head east towards Hondo, before traveling northwest towards Lincoln. In all, the trip takes roughly 1.5 to 2 hours to complete. We suggest making time to explore some of the landmarks.
15 | SEE LIVE ENTERTAINMENT AT DOWNSHIFT BREWING
Where: 2408 Sudderth Dr., Ruidoso, NM
Contact: (575) 257-5300
If you enjoy live entertainment, add a visit to Downshift Brewing Taproom to your list of things to do while in southern New Mexico. Thursday open mic nights feature local and visiting artists playing music or performing spoken word or comedy sets. The brewery also occasionally hosts up-and-coming and national touring artists on Fridays and Saturdays. Enjoy appetizers and pizza, and try their home-brewed beers while listening to the evening entertainment.
16 | SEE A SHOW OR TOUR SPENCER THEATER
Where: 108 Spencer Road, Alto, NM
Contact: (575) 336-4800
One of the more cultural things to do in southern New Mexico is seeing a show or touring the Spencer Theater. Shows include classics, such as The Jungle Book, Cats, and Rhythm of the Dance, plus local productions and children’s theater shows. Ticket prices vary from $10 to $95 depending on the show and seats, but tickets for most professional shows start at around $59.
Touring this spectacular building is also an option. See the ins and outs of a performing arts theater that took 15 years to plan and is constructed from more than 1,036 tons of steel and 430 tons of white-flecked stone from Spain. Free tours are offered every Tuesday and Thursday at 10:00 a.m. The 1.25-hour tour includes a look backstage, in the auditorium, and more.
17 | PLAY AT FAMILY AMUSEMENT PARKS
Where: 1056 Mechem Drive, Ruidoso, NM
Contact: (575) 808-8773
When you’re in Ruidoso with kids, the family amusement parks are a top thing to do on the weekends. Adventure Mountain is a longtime favorite in Ruidoso and is open year-round. Play bazooka ball, climb a rock wall, play black light mini golf, hang out at the arcade, or take a turn in the batting cages. The variety of indoor and outdoor games will keep the family entertained in any weather. They also offer burgers, fries, and shakes so you can refuel and get back to playing.
18 | GO TUBING AT WINTER PARK
Where: 121 Ski Run Road, Alto, NM
Contact: (575) 336-7079
Winter Park is a well-known tubing spot in the colder months, and the park now offers activities in the summer too. There are snow hill runs designed for small kids and big kids/adults, and a magic carpet on site so you don’t need to hike back to the top. If you’re in the area during summer, tubing and the brand-new mountain coaster are fun for thrill-seeking kids.
The family zipline is 300 feet long and just 30 feet from the ground, so it is a popular choice for ages 4 and up. New Mexico’s first-ever mountain coaster, Screaming Eagle, is opening soon. At 5,100 feet long, it gives riders the flexibility to control their speed, so everyone can enjoy the waves, dips, and 360-degree helix at their own pace.
19 | VENTURE TO NEW MEXICO MUSEUM OF SPACE HISTORY
Where: 3198 State Route 2001, Alamogordo, NM 88310
Contact: (575) 437-2840
The New Mexico Museum of Space History is a hit with anyone looking for activities about space or science. Though this is about 40 minutes outside of Ruidoso, touring the interactive exhibits is worth the drive. See authentic space suits, moon rocks, missiles, and listen to the roar of different rocket ships. The nearby New Horizons Dome Theater and Planetarium also offer educational shows about a variety of science topics, from dinosaurs to Apollo 11.
It is recommended you call to make sure the theater isn’t sold out before your visit. Kids age 3 and under are free. Admission to the museum is $6 for children ages 4 to 12, $8 for ages 13 to 59, and $7 for seniors. Feature films and Planetarium shows are extra and can be bundled with other activities for savings.
Frequently Asked Questions About Southern New Mexico
Southern New Mexico is an incredible place to visit thanks to its scenic mountains, important landmarks, and an excellent variety of things to do. Each of the area’s cities have a lot to offer, from cultural and historical attractions, to modern breweries and eateries. The diverse landscape affords incredible, picturesque views throughout the peaceful landscape. Spend time fishing and skiing on the same weekend, and explore the area by car, horseback, or mountain bike. The Inn of the Mountain Gods casino affords lots of indoor New Mexico entertainment and ways to relax after long days outdoors.
Mescalero in Southern New Mexico typically averages lows from 34 degrees Fahrenheit to 27 degrees from the months of November to March.
Visit Mescalero, New Mexico to see sacred mountainscapes and gorgeous lake views at Inn of the Mountain Gods. Or head to Ski Apache in Alto, New Mexico, which is located at the base of the continental United States' southernmost alpine peak and offers dazzling, photogenic views of surrounding mountain ranges and forests.
When visiting southern New Mexico, we recommend visiting these notable destinations:
- White Sands National Park
- Carlsbad Caverns
- Inn of the Mountain Gods Casino
- Ski Apache
- Valley of Fires Recreation Area
- Midtown Ruidoso
- Smokey Bear Historical Park
- Flying J Ranch
Reserve your stay at Inn of the Mountain Gods hotel for your next visit to southern New Mexico and be near all the things to do throughout the area. On top of exploring all the nearby recreation, museums, and shops, guests of any age will enjoy our resort activities, and our casino gaming is some of the best in the area.