You’ve booked your Ruidoso vacation, you’re excited to escape to cooler temps, and you’re ready to visit our village for the first time, but you have no idea where anything is! Consider this our first-timers’ guide to visiting Ruidoso, with everything you need to know about how to explore the village like a pro and what you won’t want to miss.
The most vibrant cluster of retail shops in Lincoln County is located in Midtown Ruidoso. This picturesque street offers a unique mountain shopping experience and has something for everyone. You’ll also find great dining options and a lively nightlife scene here. Midtown spans from about Cornerstone Bakery to Mechem on Sudderth.
DON’T MISS: Explore the Ruidoso Mural Walk, consisting of 10 amazing art pieces created by various local artists, and grab a delectable treat at Sabor, our favorite dessert stop.
Heading North on Mechem, you’ll find more great shops that are worth the stop, as well as Sierra Cinema, Ruidoso Bowling Center, and Adventure Mountain Family Fun Center. Links at Sierra Blanca, our 18-hole golf course, and the Ruidoso Convention Center are also in the area. Stay in the loop on upcoming events happening at the Convention Center, like the Ruidoso Art Festival or AspenCash Motorcycle Rally by following along with us here at Visit Ruidoso!
DON’T MISS: Kid’s Konnection playground at White Mountain Recreational Complex (near the elementary school) is a super fun spot for kids with a breathtaking view everyone will love.
Grindstone Lake is a manmade lake just south of Midtown. It has many outdoor activities available and a great trail system surrounding the lake where visitors can hike, take horseback rides, try mountain biking, or go trail running. There’s also an amazing disc golf course at Grindstone which is equal parts challenging, thrilling, and beautiful. Grindstone Lake is a very popular spot in the summer… and for good reason! Get out on the water with watercraft rentals or go fishing for the afternoon.
DON’T MISS: The Wibit Water Park is an inflatable water park that sits toward the middle of the lake. It’s a short swim from shore and well worth the day pass for a ton of fun for the whole family! Wibit is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day each summer.
The Downs area is a quieter town next door to the village, except for in the summer when the horse track is up and running (literally). You likely drive through Ruidoso Downs on your way to the village if you’re coming from the east. Ruidoso Downs Race Track and Casino is the big attraction in Ruidoso Downs and hosts the richest quarter horse race in the world. Catch the races each weekend all summer long and visit Billy the Kid Casino while you’re there!
DON’T MISS: Festivals every weekend! With the addition of the new Santa Fe Furniture Event Center, Ruidoso Downs features some outstanding festivals, concerts, and events all year round. Catch the Summer Concert Series in July, Chile the Kid Festival in August, and All American Cowboyfest in early October, with plenty more events in between.
The reservation is home to the Mescalero Apache tribe. The tribe owns and operates both Inn of the Mountain Gods and Ski Apache. There is plenty of action at Inn of the Mountain Gods year round as well as the Mescalero Apache Ceremonial Dances & Rodeo each July. Stay at the resort for a luxurious lodging experience with amazing views, or, if you’re staying in Ruidoso, take the short drive out to visit and enjoy the picturesque scenery, gambling, ziplining, concerts, big game hunting, golf, and more.
DON’T MISS: Visit St. Joseph Apache Mission Parish. This beautiful church is open for visitors to enjoy it’s aesthetics and history daily.
SKI RUN ROAD
Ski Run Road travels through the mountains with beautiful views all the way up to Ski Apache. If you’re headed to Ruidoso Winter Park for some summer tubing or snow play, or you just want to see some amazing scenery, this peaceful drive is a must-do. Stop at one of the vistas along the way for breathtaking views all the way up Ski Run Road.
DON’T MISS: Ride the Apache Wind Rider Ziptour Zipline – it has the highest ziptour release elevation at 11,489 and reaches 60+ mph during the ride down!
BEYOND THE VILLAGE
White Sands National Park is one of the most beautiful natural wonders of the world, which makes for some stunning photo ops! Camping, sledding, hiking, and biking are great ways to explore this spectacular gypsum dunefield.
Visit Flying J Ranch for tasty chuckwagon cooking and gorgeous cowboy harmonies as the hallmark of this attraction, where visitors from all over take home a heartwarming slice of New Mexico each and every summer. And don’t miss the White Christmas performance in the winter!
Enchanted Vine by Noisy Water Winery is also a must-do in the area, since it boasts a steady schedule of live music, special events, and great wine. The barn is also a wine production facility and event venue, so you can event rent the barn out for weddings or special events under the shade of towering pines. Dreamy? We think so.
Fort Stanton Historic Site is one of the most intact 19th century military forts in the country. Guests can take a self-guided tour around the grounds and feel like they’ve stepped back in time. You won’t want to miss the beautiful scenery and spectacular historic buildings on site.
Just a few minutes north of Fort Stanton lies another piece of history in Capitan. Smokey Bear Historic Site honors the memory of one of the nation’s most recognizable animals, Smokey Bear, who was rescued in Lincoln National Forest during a fire in 1950. Little ones can become official forest rangers and learn about Smokey Bear’s story and legacy at the museum and historic site.
Step into the past and follow the footsteps of Billy the Kid as he experienced Lincoln in the late 1800s. This community is frozen in time and the buildings look similar to how they would’ve in 1870-1880. Make sure to visit in August to participate in Old Lincoln Days and the Billy the Kid Pageant to see volunteers dressed up in historic costumes walking around the town.
Don’t forget to stop into Bonito Valley Brewing Company while you’re in town. The brewery opened in 2018 and hosts a variety of live music performances, events, and historic tours.
Love this guide? Find it on pages 11-14 in the 2022-2023 Ruidoso Visitor Guide!