If you are looking for a fun, outdoorsy vacation destination then look no further than Ruidoso, New Mexico. There are so many things to do in Ruidoso that you are indeed in for a treat!
And better yet, Ruidoso is one of New Mexico’s best-kept secrets. You will find this fabulous mountain town quietly tucked away in the Sierra Blanca Mountains of the south-central portion of New Mexico.
Ask around and you will probably hear Ruidoso associated with skiing thanks to Ski Apache, but this little town has more to offer than just the slopes. Nature lovers can enjoy hiking, biking, horseback riding, and fishing, while history lovers will embrace the museums and history of the American West that surrounds this area.
Of course, Ruidoso also offers some fabulous wineries, breweries, and restaurants to ensure your trip is a complete success.
Let’s dive in to see all that Ruidoso, NM has to offer!
*This post contains affiliate links. By purchasing through these links, we get a small commission at no additional cost to you. That Texas Couple is also a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. As Amazon Associates, we earn from qualifying purchases.
Things to do in Ruidoso
Billy the Kid Byway Visitor’s Center
History buffs can begin their journey at Ruidoso’s Billy the Kid Byway Visitor’s Center. Here, visitors are introduced to the story of the historic outlaw, Billy the Kid through informative and interactive exhibits.
There is a large interactive map that allows you to walk the Billy the Kid Byway. Along the way, you not only learn information about Billy’s time in this area, but you also get to learn about important stops on the byway.
While here, be sure to pick up a map of the Byway route so that you can head out on your own to explore. There is also lots of information outlining things to do in Ruidoso and the surrounding area at this center.
Drive and Explore the Billy The Kid Scenic Byway Loop
After leaving the Billy the Kid Scenic Byway Visitors Center, why not head out and explore the Billy the Kid Scenic Byway Loop.
This 84-mile look winds through Ruidoso and the surrounding area allowing you to explore the historic areas associated with the infamous wild west outlaw, Billy the Kid.
Don’t worry if you don’t know the entire story of Billy the Kid. What you didn’t learn at the Visitor’s Center you will learn along the loop!
The loop takes you through the Lincoln National Forest through grassy plains, rolling hills, and dense pine forest.
One of the most notable (and not to miss) stops on the Byway is Lincoln, New Mexico. Plan to spend some time here before continuing the loop and heading to historic Fort Stanton.
Pro Tip: I would allow at least half a day to complete the route. If you want to include some hiking in Lincoln National Forest, then allow for an entire day.
Explore the Infamous Lincoln Historic Site
What is today a sleepy little town, was once one of the most dangerous cities in America and was home to Billy the Kid and lawman Pat Garrett.
It was here in Lincoln that the Lincoln County War took place in the late 1800s. And upon entering the small town, you feel as if it has been kept in a time capsule!
The Lincoln Historic Site monument (basically the whole town) includes 17 historical buildings and structures. Several of the buildings are open year-round and a few are only open seasonally.
Start your tour at the Old Lincoln County Courthouse that contains a museum exhibit that teaches you all about the Lincoln County War.
After finishing up at the old courthouse, you can walk in the steps of outlaw Billy the Kid as you explore the other structures throughout the town. There are informative signs along the way to teach you more about the history of Lincoln.
Don’t miss a chance to see the Anderson Freeman Visitor’s Center and Museum which is also located in Lincoln. This museum teaches about history as far back as the American Indians. A great addition to your historic Lincoln itinerary.
Not only is Lincoln one of the fun things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico, but it is also the most visited historic site in New Mexico!
Pledge to Prevent Forest Fires at Smokey Bear Historical Park
Raise your hand if you have heard of the pledge to prevent forest fires?! I know I sure have. I can still hear the Smokey Bear slogan in my head, “Only you can prevent forest fires.”
The original Smokey Bear, a small bear cub, was found in the aftermath of a devastating fire in the Capitan Mountains. The bear cub was adopted and named after the New York Assistant Fire Chief, “Smokey” Joe Martin.
Smokey Bear then traveled the country being an ambassador to children urging them to help prevent forest fires.
When Smokey passed away in 1976, his remains were buried in what is now Smokey Bear Historical Park in New Mexico, located right outside of Ruidoso, NM.
Visitors can enjoy a movie and exhibits outlining the history of the fire prevention program that Smokey represented for so many years when visiting the site.
Read Next: 26 Fabulous Things to do in Eureka Springs
Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort and Lake Mescalero
The Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort and Casino not only welcomes its overnight guest but this Resort and Casino is also open to visitors that just want to come and spend the day.
Owned by the Mescalero Apache Tribe, the Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort is nestled in the mountains of Mescalero, New Mexico, just outside of Ruidoso.
The Inn is also home to Lake Mescalero, an on-site lake that is stocked with fish and is open for visitors to enjoy on a daily basis. You can enjoy fishing or kayaking on Lake Mescalero during your visit.
The resort offers so many fun activities for kids of all ages to enjoy!
Adults can try their luck at the casino games that are found on the resort property before catching a game at the Big Game Sports Bar.
Kids of all ages will enjoy the swimming pool, skeet shooting, zip line, horseback riding, fishing, and gondola rides that are available at the resort also!
Go On a Mural Hunt Around Ruidoso, New Mexico
Ruidoso, New Mexico is such a fun place to do a mural hunt as you will find murals all over the city.
Grab your camera and head out to capture photos of all of the murals created by local Ruidoso, NM artists.
Some of our favorites include the Smokey the Bear mural, the Ruidoso, New Mexico Sierra Blanca Peak mural, and the whimsy flowers.
You can find these fun murals all over the Ruidoso midtown area.
Saddle Up and Go Horseback Riding in Ruidoso
The beautiful mountains of Ruidoso, NM is the perfect place to saddle up and hit the trails on horseback.
Lucky for you, there are several places in Ruidoso that offer guided trail rides to visitors. These rides vary from 30-minute introductory rides to full-day excursions into Lincoln National Forest.
The Inn of the Mountain Gods in Mescalero offers 1-hour rides throughout the day at varying times.
You can also check out Grindstone Stables. This Ruidoso, NM favorite takes visitors on guided horse rides in the forest above Grindstone Lake and sleigh rides during the holiday months!
For those of you that are traveling to Ruidoso with your own horse, you can follow the many trails in the National Forest, or take a guided horse ride through Fort Stanton. The Fort Stanton rides are available the second Saturday of the month during the summer months, beginning in May (except July).
Try Everything Made With Green Chiles in Ruidoso
Green chiles (a.k.a hatch chiles) are everywhere in New Mexico, and the locals are not afraid to use them!
You are missing out if you don’t partake in some of the fun and unique food and drinks that Ruidoso, NM establishments have created with the green chile.
We found green chile cheeseburgers, green chile soups, green chile enchiladas, and even green chile apple pie during our time in Ruidoso!
One of my personal favorites was the Hatch Chile wine that Noisy Water Winery serves up. This is a must-try during your time in Ruidoso, NM!
If you want to buy some to take home, you can check out the seasonal roadside stands that are found in Ruidoso Downs, or you can head to The Hatch Chile Store year-round.
Read Next: 36 Fun Things to do in Colorado Springs
Take in the View From Monjeau Lookout
For a great view of Ruidoso, New Mexico, head straight for the Monjeau Lookout.
Originally built in 1936, and reconstructed in 1940, this lookout has the prestige of being on the National Register of Historic Sites.
Sitting high on the hillside in the Smokey Bear Ranger District, visitors are rewarded with panoramic views across the valley.
Bet on the Horses at Ruidoso Downs
Ruidoso, NM is home to the only horse racing track in New Mexico, Ruidoso Downs.
Visitors flock to Ruidoso Downs to enjoy a day out at the tracks. Live horse racing takes place on weekends May-September in Ruidoso.
One of the highlights here is the All American Futurity, the World’s Richest Quarter Horse race, which is held annually on this track. This is a triple crown race with over 3 million dollars in prize money!
In addition to the horse races, Ruidoso Downs is also home to a casino, gift shop, and several restaurants. They also host several events throughout the year.
A visit to Ruidoso Downs has to be on your Ruidoso, New Mexico itinerary!
Play All Day at Pillow’s Funtrackers
A popular family attraction, Pillow’s Funtrackers really brings out the kid in everyone!
This Family Fun Center lets visitors ride go-karts, play mini-golf, and have a ball playing on the arcade games.
If that isn’t enough, you can also challenge your friends to a round of bumper cars or bumper boats!
This is a great place to go and have some summer fun!
Visit the Hubbard Museum of the American West
Take a step back into New Mexico’s past when you visit the Hubbard Museum of the American West.
Here you can see old stagecoaches, covered wagons, an art collection, and many more artifacts from the American West.
There are antiquities from the Native Americans that settled these lands as well as Hispanic and Pioneer settlers.
The Hubbard Museum is associated with the Smithsonian Institutes, so you know you are in for a treat when you visit this world-class Ruidoso museum!
Spend the Day at Grindstone Lake
A visit to the beautiful turquoise-colored water of Grindstone Lake has to be included in your Ruidoso itinerary.
Grindstone Lake has something for everyone. With over 18 miles of hiking trails, you could stay busy just exploring the area near the lake. In addition to the extensive hiking trail system, you can also find horseback riding and mountain bike trails in this area.
If you want to be out on the water, that is an option too! People love to fish, swim, canoe, and more on this lake.
Fishing at Grindstone Lake is very popular as it is one of the Ruidoso fishing lakes that are kept stocked with rainbow trout, catfish, and smallmouth bass! This is a great summer destination for sure!
Take a day trip to White Sands
Take a day trip out of Ruidoso to White Sands National Monument to feel like you have been transported to another world.
It’s no secret that we love American’s National Parks. I mean, we have been to many of them. I have to admit that two of the most unique National Parks we have visited were Yellowstone and White Sands!
White Sands is an entire park of beautiful white sand dunes made of gypsum sand! The dunes go on for as far as the eye can see in this amazing park.
You can explore the dunes, do a fun photoshoot (like we did), and even sled down the dunes!
Shop Until You Drop in Midtown
Midtown Ruidoso, NM is home to numerous shops and boutiques. I mean, you can find everything from cute home decor to one-of-a-kind carved wooden statues.
We loved browsing all of the great stores and even came home with a Ruidoso, NM Christmas ornament for our travel tree and a cute hoodie!
Visit Ruidoso Trading Post if you’re in the market for turquoise jewelry before heading into The Cork and Kettle Specialty Wine and Food Shop!
While you’re in the area, be sure to check out the winery, breweries, and fun restaurants that call midtown home also!
Ski Apache-Winter Activities in Ruidoso, NM
Ski Apache was constructed in 1938 and was the first ski park in Ruidoso, New Mexico.
Located about 45 minutes from downtown Ruidoso with views of the Sierra Blanca and the Sacramento Mountains, this is a great place to visit in any season.
Visitors love flocking to Ski Apache in the winter months to hit the slopes and try their hands at skiing, snowboarding, and tubing. It is also during the winter months that you will see horse-drawn carriages and snowmobiles in the area!
Ski Apache-Summer Activities in Ruidoso, NM
In the summer, Ski Apache also offers over 8,000-feet of zip line for their guests to enjoy. This tour will have you over 11,000 feet high as well!
The summer months also mean that the mountain bike trails are open on the mountain as is the scenic gondola ride!
A ride on the Apache Ski Gondola takes you 11,500 feet above the ground and gives you beautiful views of the Sierra Blanca Peak!
The gondolas will seat up to eight people and the views will take your breath away! This ride is definitely a must-do while in Ruidoso, New Mexico!
Relax at Bonito Lake
The Ruidoso, NM area has some beautiful lakes for sure. Another of the fabulous lakes in this area is Bonito Lake.
Bonito Lake is cool and refreshing year-round thanks to its location high in the Sierra Blanco Mountains.
Surrounded by the Lincoln National Forest, this lake is a great place to take the family. When you visit Bonito Lake, you can camp, do some fishing, check out the hiking trails, or just spend some time relaxing.
Explore Fort Stanton’s History
The historic Fort Stanton Museum was established in 1855 just outside of the historic town of Lincoln, and about 20 miles outside of Ruidoso.
This fort is still incredibly intact and carries an incredible past with it, seeing both the Indian and Civil Wars that were in the area.
During its life, Fort Stanton served as a garrison, a hospital for Tuberculosis patients, a CCC camp during the Great Depression, and a German Camp during World War II.
Today, visitors can take a self-guided tour of the historic grounds and buildings. The museum is open 7 days a week from 9 am until 4 pm.
Visit Fort Stanton’s National Conservation Area
The land around Fort Stanton is awesome to explore also. The longest cave in New Mexico and the United States is on the property, the Fort Stanton Cave, a part of the Snowy River Cave National Conservation Area. This cave includes more than 31-miles of caverns!
You can explore the cave formations on a guided tour and are also welcome to go mountain biking or hiking on the trails.
Take a Ghost Tour in Ruidoso
For an extra treat, consider going ghost hunting on the Fort Stanton property. Fort Stanton was featured on an episode of Ghost Hunters in 2019, so it must be haunted! There is an after-dark tour that allows visitors to go ghost hunting!
Have Fun at Winter Park
Winter Park is located near Ruidoso, New Mexico just outside of the small town of Alto.
Winter Park in Ruidoso allows visitors to enjoy zipping down a snowy hill on an inflatable tube during the winter months. Here, up to six guests can get into a large tube together even!
Don’t worry if you aren’t super adventurous, they have hills that are safe for everyone. Start out on the beginner hills and work your way up from there.
You won’t get tired dragging tubes up the hill either. This park has a lift that does all of the work for you!
Visitors during the winter months also have an opportunity to rent an “igloo” for the day. These igloos come with loads of perks like unlimited tubing, pizza, hot chocolate, and more! Now, that sounds like a great day of family fun in Ruidoso, New Mexico!
Say Cheers at Noisy Water Winery Ruidoso New Mexico
A visit to Ruidoso, NM has to include Noisy Water Winery! (I must admit, this was one of my favorite places in Ruidoso.)
Noisy Water is located right on Ruidoso’s main street in Midtown. If you enter off of the main road, you will enter into the cheese shop first. Make your way to the back of the building for the winery!
Noisy Water Winery offers tastings so that you can find your new favorite. Once you decide, order a bottle and pair it with a nice cheese board for a great evening out.
During your visit, don’t miss the opportunity to taste their green chile white wine, their Chimayo Red Chile wine, and the red chile and chocolate wine. I personally liked all of them, but the red was my favorite!
Mescalero Apache Cultural Center And Museum
The Mescalero Apache Cultural Center is located near Ruidoso in Mescalero, New Mexico.
Visitors to the Mescalero Apache Cultural Center can explore the culture of the Mescalero, Chiricahua, and Lipan Apache people.
The center immerses visitors in the traditions and ways of life of the tribal people. The exhibits include a video outlining the history, popular clothing, tools, pottery, and more.
The museum is free and is open Monday-Friday 8:00 am to 4:00 pm.
Play Golf or Disc Golf
Gold and disc golf are popular activities in Ruidoso, NM.
It’s easy to try your hand at disc golf while visiting as the Ruidoso area has several courses. You will find courses at Grindstone Park, Ski Apache, and Moon Mountain Recreation Area, just to name a few.
Finding a golf course in Ruisodo is easy also as there are also several golf courses in the area. Visitors can play golf at Cree Meadows Golf Course, The Links at Sierra Blanca, or the Innsbrook Village Country Club & Resort.
I think Ruidoso is a golf lovers paradise!
Immerse Yourself in Cowboy Life at Flying J Ranch
Another popular family attraction in Ruidoso, NM is Flying J Ranch, known for their chuckwagon dinner and western show.
Flying J offers ranch-style dinners, pony rides, gunfight reenactments, gold panning, a live music show, and more for your family to enjoy.
Although we didn’t make it to the show during our time in Ruidoso, New Mexico, our friends took their children and said they all had a great time!
Go Fishing at Alto Lake
Alto Lake is a popular fishing lake located near Ruidoso, New Mexico. This popular lake offers beautiful views and great fishing!
Since Alto Lake is one of the fishing lakes in Ruidoso, it is kept well stocked with catfish, trout, and bass, making it a great place to spend the day. Not only that but there aren’t any motorized boats to scare the fish away since only non-motorized boats are allowed on the lake.
Wildlife is known to frequent the area as well, so be on the lookout for deer, elk, birds, and even bald and golden eagles!
Of course, there are also trails where you can go mountain biking and hiking.
Let’s Connect on Social Media!
Looking For More Travel Inspiration? You Might Like These:
About The Author
Michelle Snell is a travel writer, history buff, wine lover, and enthusiast of different cultures. Michelle enjoys bringing places to life through her informative writing style on her blogs, That Texas Couple and Totally Texas Travel. Her practical tips and suggestions help make travel dreams a reality while immersing her readers in the history, culture, and food of a region. She is happiest sipping wine in Italy or chilling on a beach with her husband, Marty.
Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight:
We love using CheapOAir, Kayak, and Kiwi to search for the best prices on flights. We love using these search engines because they search the web for airlines all over the world to ensure you get the best deal! In addition to flights, you can also find great hotel prices on Kayak and Kiwi.
Book Your Vacation Package:
If you want to book an entire vacation package, then we suggest using Expedia. We love how easy Expedia is to use and we always find good deals on entire vacation packages on their site.
Another great site for vacation packages is BookVIP. BookVIP offers super cheap vacation packages to incredible destinations. You are sure to save money using their site!
For full guided vacations including hotels, some meals, transportation, and guides, then we book with Trafalgar. Trafalgar is a trusted tour company that will meet all of your needs while ensuring that you have a great experience.
Trip.com allows you to book flights, hotels, train tickets, rental cars, airport transfers, tours, and more all on one site. Owned by the parent company that also owns Skyscanner, this is a trusted resource for travel booking and a great “one-stop-shop.”
Book Your Accommodations:
We always begin our search by checking out the honest review on hotels at TripAdvisor. This allows us to narrow our search for specific properties once we are ready to book. Of course, you can also book directly on the TripAdvisor site as well!
There are several accommodation sites that we like to use. One of our favorites is Booking.com because it gives you a wide variety of hotels and guesthouses at a good price.
Another “go-to” hotel booking site for us is Hotels.com. We love their loyalty program that allows you to earn free nights, and their “secret prices” for members are fabulous deals!
If you are looking for a luxurious all-inclusive vacation, then consider checking out the Sandals/Beaches properties. Sandals properties are for couples only and Beaches are for families. We have visited Sandals in the past and absolutely love the attention to detail and the service they provide.
Tour Companies We Trust:
We love taking guided tours when visiting new places. Our go-to tour companies are Viator.com and Get Your Guide. Both of these companies have been in business for years and provide excellent customer service. You can trust booking tours from their sites for sure!
CityPass is a great way to save money when visiting large cities. CityPass allows you to get free admission to major attractions once you buy their pass. The savings add up quickly with this pass, often saving 50% with combined admissions.
Another great pass to save money in larger cities is the Sightseeing Pass. This pass allows you to save valuable time and money by combining admissions to major attractions. They also have a handy app that keeps everything you need at your fingertips.
Looking to Save Time and Money?
Check out our resource page for all of our favorite vendors. These companies help us to save time and money on our travels!