Ruidoso, New Mexico is an airy mountain oasis nestled in the Sonoran Desert. With a peak reaching 7,000 feet, Ruidoso features some of the best hiking, camping, and skiing opportunities that the American Southwest has to offer. Many vacation rentals in Ruidoso put you right near the Apache Reservation, two national parks, and plenty of shops and other unique attractions. Here are some of the highlights of Ruidoso, a gorgeous gem of a mountain town.

1. Hit the Slopes

New Mexico sits at the bottom end of the great North American Rockies range, making it a great location for skiing. At Ski Apache, guests enjoy many different types of slopes, including a kids’ slope park and a professional-grade vertical slope. While here, you and your family can enjoy the stunning mountain vistas from the safety of a large, elevated gondola lift.

2. Take in a Show

If you’re looking for a world-class small theater to visit in the rustic New Mexico wilderness, Spencer Theater for the Performing Arts fits the bill. Seating over 500 guests at a time, this venue offers live instrumental and voice performances in a great hall designed for pitch-perfect acoustics.

3. Pick a Horse at the Downs

Ruidoso Downs is a local attraction that draws daily crowds of locals and visitors. Despite its popularity, parking and seating is abundant, and you can usually enjoy the horse races without worrying about large crowds. Concessions are available inside, and you can place your bets at the window.

4. Head to Pillow’s Funtrackers

Enjoy miniature golf, bumper cars, and a great big fairway for stock car racing at Pillow’s Funtrackers. Turn the kids loose once you get in through the gate, stroll over to the concessions area for a snack, and enjoy watching your kids wear themselves out on the rides. This venue also offers an abundance of video games for the game enthusiasts in your family to enjoy.

5. Take a Memorable Family Portrait

At the Old West Studio in downtown Ruidoso, you and your family can take memorable family photos while dressed in period attire. Your family members can dress up like cowboys, outlaws, saloon girls, or sheriffs. This studio uses period-appropriate photo equipment as well, so try to make sure your little ones hold still, as it might take a few seconds to get a clear picture.

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6. Shop for Wine and Gifts

Noisy Water Winery is one of the main attractions of the local wine scene, and its shop is open to the public for unscheduled drop-ins. Shop for dry reds and sweet whites in the main store, then leave with an armload of T-shirts and other souvenirs from the adjacent gift gallery. The whole family is welcome, though ID is required for purchases.

7. Sample High-End Wine

If the adults in your family enjoy high-end wine, head over to The Cellar Uncorked. This is the second of Ruidoso’s great wineries, and it’s within walking distance of its competitor, Noisy Water Winery, up the street. Here, you can sample a selection of wines and pick up some delicious garlic-infused olive oil to cook with back at your Ruidoso vacation rental that night.

8. Soak Up Local Culture

Every really special place has a culture of its own, and you can most often find it on display in the local art scene. Ruidoso gives visitors just such a glimpse at the Kenneth Wyatt Galleries. Here, you and the kids can slowly look over room after room of colorful Southwestern art, and if you like what you see, you can pick up a print to take home as a memento. For the right price, you can even buy an original to hang on any wall in your home or office.

9. Try Your Luck at a Casino

Just past the Downs, you’ll find Billy The Kid Casino, a large casino floor that offers multiple table games, complimentary drinks, and some fairly loose slots. If you have kids in your group, steer clear of the gaming floor, and enjoy one of the many shows this casino offers instead. Show material might be a bit mature for very young kids, but tweens, teens, and young adults will thoroughly enjoy the performances.

10. Learn the Carriage Trade

Ruidoso was a town made by the mounted traffic along the Old Western trails below, and today, the town honors its past at the Museum of the Horse. Swing by this attraction to learn the history of mankind’s relationship with this beautiful animal. Learn about the earliest domestication of the horse during the Stone Age and the ways the horse transformed Native American lifestyles. You’ll also see images of the fancy horse carriages and coaches European nobility used to get around.

11. Sneak Off to the Links

If your vacation rental is in Ruidoso, you’re not far from The Links at Sierra Blanca, where you can enjoy a round of golf in scenic mountain splendor. Less closely trimmed than many other golf courses, The Links aims at blending a manicured golfing experience with the rustic feel of a genuine mountain retreat. Enjoy the challenge of driving off the fairway when the high altitude extends your range by 20 yards.

12. Eat the Art

Mountain Annie’s Center for the Arts aims to strike every note a genuine artist could have. This charming venue combines great food with glorious art on display from local artists. Classes are available for aspiring artists, and the live music will keep your entire family moving, singing, and dancing until it’s time to leave.

13. Explore the Cave

Ruidoso was once the haunting ground for Billy the Kid and the Regulators, and at the same time, it was a hideaway for Apache raiders harrying the cowboys and sodbusters on the range. Both groups sheltered in the cavern now occupied by the Ruidoso River Museum, which honors them both. On top of that, the cave is rich with geological history, which the museum proudly showcases with an elaborate collection of geodes and natural gemstones.

14. Shop for New Sports Gear

Operating out of a real Old West storefront, Wild West Ski Shop has the skis, poles, jackets, fuzzy socks, and other gear that you need to ski like a pro. Stop by before hitting the slopes to ensure everyone in your family has everything they want and need. This store also offers some novelties and toys for the kids that make great souvenirs.

15. Scoot Around

Nature has been kind to Ruidoso, and the little town is blessed with plenty of forest, hiking trails, and wildlife all around its short borders. One of the best ways to take it all in is from the back of a scooter, and you can rent one from Scoot Over Ruidoso. Daily rates are reasonable for these peppy little bikes, though it’s a good idea to call ahead and ask about availability. Once you’re set up, you and your family can effortlessly cruise up the twisty mountain trails while enjoying the peaceful, nature-filled ride.

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