–by Georgine Manson
uidoso is a wonderful town located in the Rocky Mountains of south central New Mexico, on the eastern slopes of the Sacramento Mountains at around 7000 feet above sea level. In the summer time it is cool and smells like pines, in the winter time it is even cooler and smells like snow.
The name is Spanish for “Noisy” and it refers to the noisy Ruidoso River. The Rio Ruidoso has its headwaters up on the 12,003 foot Sierra Blanca (White Mountain) that provides the back drop for the town. The river winds through the beautiful Upper Canyon, the village of Ruidoso and finally down through the Hondo Valley.
I think most people think that all of New Mexico is desert, but that is far from the truth and Ruidoso is living proof that just a short drive away from the summer heat is cool air, rivers and streams, pines and wild flowers and even excellent skiing in the winter. I think this area is just about perfect, and some day I intend to live here permanently in the tall pines and quiet valleys of Ruidoso and Lincoln County.
The Village of Ruidoso has a permanent population of around 8000 people, but that figure swells and ebbs according to the season and what activities are taking place. And there is ALWAYS something going on in Ruidoso, no matter what time of year you visit!
It is located in Lincoln County, an area with a rich history. It has been home to the Mescalero Apache tribe, Billy the Kid, the Lincoln County War, Kit Carson, “Black Jack” Pershing, the Buffalo Soldiers, the world’s richest Quarter Horse race and Smokey Bear, among others.
Probably the biggest event during the summer is the Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred racing at Ruidoso Downs Race Track. It starts in May and continues through Labor Day, so there are always horses and horse people around in the summer, which I find very pleasant because they are usually very nice people. There is a casino at the race track, too, the Billy the Kid Casino. It has slots and off-track sports betting, and draws quite a crowd. There’s a buffet style restaurant (all you can eat), an entertainment lounge, and a gift shop, etc. as well.
A nice event that I got to visit in Ruidoso Downs is the annual All American Arts and Crafts Fair sponsored by the Ruidoso Downs Ladies Auxiliary over Labor Day weekend. Artists and artisans from throughout the area showed their creations, and it was a really fun place that weekend. It had food booths, an apple pie baking contest, all the usual things you would expect from a small town fair. Lots of fun, lots of nice people!
The most famous casino around is the luxurious Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort and Casino and Conference Center, a four diamond rated resort not far from Ruidoso that offers Las Vegas-style gaming, golf and a lot more.
For the 4th of July, Ruidoso has a lot of fun with the Smokey Bear Stampede in nearby Capitan. Smokey Bear, Capitan’s most famous resident is buried on the grounds of the Smokey Bear Historical Park. Smokey Bear, often incorrectly referred to as Smokey the Bear, was the badly singed black bear cub that was rescued from a 17,000 acre fire in the Capitan Mountains in 1950 and became the famous icon with which we are all familiar: Only YOU can prevent forest fires! Each year the residents celebrate his memory with the Smokey Bear Stampede, 4 days of festivities, including a fun run marathon, parade, barbeque, western dance, music festival and rodeo events commencing over the 4th of July weekend. Everyone is welcome to join in.
And on the first four days of July you can take your family to the annual Mescalero Apache Ceremonial Dances, with a pow-wow, rodeo, parade, Native American food, and traditional Apache dances at sundown. This is a wonderful experience, held at the nearby Mescalero Apache Reservation, and if you have the chance to attend you really shouldn’t miss it. Don’t forget your camera!
Ski Apache is the main skiing area, very beautiful and good snow, so if you’re a skier or snowboarder then winter is a good season for you in Ruidoso. Ski Apache (11,400 ft.) has 25 slopes, eight lifts,and a gondola as well as lodging, dining and some shopping. Ski season runs from Thanksgiving until Easter each year.
Speaking of winter, Christmas time is especially wonderful, with the town dressed up in its seasonal best. The Ruidoso Valley Festival of Light celebrates the triumph of light over darkness with tons of events inviting the Ruidoso community at large and visitors from afar “to bask in its glorious seasonal glow.” The Festival runs from late November through December, right through the New Year’s holiday.
You can also go horseback riding, hiking, camping, fishing (trout!), play golf and tennis, birdwatch, motorcycle and mountain bike riding– just about anything you want to do if you like an active lifestyle.
If you like to shop, there are tons of art galleries and boutiques in town with some beautiful things! And there are plenty of other shops, too, and museums. And there is very good live theater at the Spencer Theater, too.
About an hour’s drive west of Ruidoso is The White Sands National Monument, which has got to be one of the most unusual places on earth. It’s a vast landscape of brilliant white sand with huge dunes covering nearly 300 square miles. An awesome thing to see, and it makes you feel very small and insignificant.
There are lots of good places to eat, and lots of good places to stay at Ruidoso. One of the places I’ve enjoyed is the Crown Point Condos, a secluded quiet place surrounded by tall pines at the top of a steep, winding road. It’s managed by VRI and the exchange copmpany is RCI. It isn’t an extremely fancy place with tons of amenities, and there are only 60 condos, but it was very nice, very comfortable, well maintained and there were deer, raccoons, squirrels, rabbits and other wildlife wandering right into the front yard!
On that trip we stayed in one of the big 2-bedroom condos overlooking the Village of Ruidoso. It had a nice full kitchen that I used quite a lot, plus a balcony and there was Wi-Fi in public areas and a flat-screen TV with cable channels, among other things. Limited housekeeping is available, but I didn’t care. The master bedroom had king with a view of the mountains, and the second bedroom had twin beds. perfect for the kids.
It also had an indoor pool, which the kids made good use of!
And best of all there were no bothersome timeshare sales people luring around corners!
So sometime you should take the opportunity to spend some time in Ruidoso. You’ll want to come back again and again!
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