Getting enthused about and subsequently wrapped up in the well-known or “epic” sights is, for me, easy to do. Cliff Palace, San Francisco, or The Grand Canyon – all of these places have something that attracts large numbers of tourists to them each year. And its with good reason, however they are often sought after so eagerly that they are the only things that travelers see in their respective areas, while smaller “gems” are overlooked.

For me, Las Cruces is just such a little gem. Hiding amid the New Mexico sand there is a colorful little town of artists and craftsmen. Dotted with tiny turquoise and silver shops, quaint cafes and vibrant red pueblo-style homes, Las Cruces is a welcome oasis. Our stop here was pure serendipity or kismet, as we were only seeking to find the most inexpensive lodgings in the area and happened upon an artist’s work space/hostel in the area that was extremely reasonably priced. The space itself was amazing, but more on that in another blog post, however the AirBnb itself was just the cherry on top of the sundae that Las Cruces would reveal itself to be.

We were advised by one of our followers on social media, who is former resident of the New Mexico area, to check out Old Mesilla. This is the older district of Las Cruces and it doesn’t disappoint. We listened to the ancient church bells from the local cathedral chime their song and became bewitched by their melodic spell as we strolled down street after street of clay-red and alabaster white stucco’d southwestern style homes. We were busy taking pictures of pastel-colored cacti against one particularly stunning structure when we approached by a local artisan who was trying to paint the very same scene. As with most of the individuals we encountered here, she was warm, approachable, and full of energy and fascinating stories. She gave us tips on places in the area to visit and shared the story of how she came to Las Cruces, which ironically was also very fateful much like our own arrival there.

After a nice long chat, we bid our new friend farewell and made our way further into Old Mesilla to a quaint cafe. Outside the small breakfast and lunch bistro was an old wooden cart and ranch-style fences with innumerable cacti and desert shrubs. The food was delicious and, like so many things in this area, very, very moderately-priced. I would rank it, easily, as one of the best value for quality eateries that we have enjoyed on our trip. Again, the owners and servers were all extremely welcoming and conversational, which made us feel very much at home.

We didn’t get to spend nearly enough time in Las Cruces for my liking and I would love to go back. In fact, I would venture to say that this is a place that I could see myself retiring someday and living out a relaxing set of golden years, perhaps painting pueblo-homes like my friend and watching the vivid desert sunsets. If you are on your way to sights through New Mexico, consider choosing this location for your lodging and I think you’ll find that there is just something special about this small town.