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12 Fun Things to Do in Ruidoso, New Mexico

Since moving to New Mexico, one of my favorite places to visit has been Ruidoso. This is an outdoorsy mountain town that is surrounded by natural beauty and outdoor recreation while having a cute downtown area and some fun local attractions too. If you want to experience a unique side of New Mexico outside the popular cities of Albuquerque and Santa Fe, check out these top things to do in Ruidoso.

Hike in the Lincoln National Forest View from a trail in the Lincoln National Forest
Credit: View from a trail in the Lincoln National Forest by Alyssa L. Ochs

Hike in the Lincoln National Forest

What Is It? The Lincoln National Forest is home to the Sacramento, Guadalupe, and Capitan mountain ranges and covers over 1.1 million acres in southeastern New Mexico. The forest ranges in elevation from 4,000 to 11,500 and is in the Ruidoso area.

Why Do It? The forest is a lovely place for hiking, mountain biking, dirt bike riding, and camping. Within the forest, you can find camping in campgrounds, dispersed camping, group camping, and RV camping.

Good to Know: Some activities within the forest require reservations or permits. But overall, the forest is free to visit and allows dogs on leashes too.

Camp in a Tent or RV Lots of camping options in this part of the state
Credit: Lots of camping options in this part of the state by Alyssa L. Ochs

Camp in a Tent or RV

What Is It? There are many excellent places to camp in the Ruidoso area to embrace the outdoorsy nature of this part of New Mexico. Depending on your comfort level and how much you want to rough it, you can camp in a tent or RV in an established campground or in the backcountry.

Why Do It? There are campgrounds in Ruidoso that are along the river and in beautiful settings that make you feel connected with the environment around you.

Good to Know: Some of the top campgrounds in the Ruidoso area are the Cedar Creek Campground, Midtown Mountain Campground, Pine Ridge RV Park, and Riverside RV Park.

Sample Wines at Noisy Water Winery Noisy Water Winery
Credit: Noisy Water Winery by Noisy Water Winery

Sample Wines at Noisy Water Winery

What Is It? Ruidoso is home to an amazing winery called Noisy Water. It has multiple locations in New Mexico, but the Ruidoso one is in a great downtown location and is a must-visit destination in town.

Why Do It? Noisy River offers many different types of wine to please any palate. The wine list includes dry wines, sweet wines, reds, whites, rosés, chile and specialty wines, port-like wines, and library wines.

Good to Know: Noisy Water Winery hosts special events throughout the year. Check the event calendar to see what is happening during your trip.

Get Out on the Water at Grindstone Lake Trail view of Grindstone Lake down below
Credit: Trail view of Grindstone Lake down below by Alyssa L. Ochs

Get Out on the Water at Grindstone Lake

What Is It? Grindstone Lake is part of a recreation area around Ruidoso that has a multi-use trail system that is ideal for mountain biking, hiking, and horseback riding. There’s also the Wibit Water Park at Grindstone Lake that is open during the summer months. Fishing and boating are popular here, and there is also a 27-hole disc golf course.

Why Do It? This is the hot spot for recreation in Ruidoso and a popular place for both locals and tourists. There are so many fun things to do here year-round.

Good to Know: There is a concession stand that is open during the weekends at Grindstone Lake. A day pass for a boat permit is just $5.

Watch Horses at Ruidoso Downs Racing excitement on a trip to Ruidoso
Credit: Racing excitement on a trip to Ruidoso by Ruidoso Downs Race Track and Casino

Watch Horses at Ruidoso Downs

What Is It? Ruidoso Downs is a local venue where you can watch thoroughbred and quarter-horse racing. The Downs is also home to a casino and multiple dining venues.

Why Do It? Horse racing can be an exciting sport to watch and learn about while you are in Ruidoso. The Triple Crown Tradition takes place here and is a big event for the sport.

Good to Know: Live racing typically takes place between late May and early September. You can buy your race tickets on the venue’s website before your trip.

Take the Kids to Pillow’s Funtrackers Fast-paced excitement kids will love
Credit: Fast-paced excitement kids will love by Pillow's Funtrackers Family Fun Center.

Take the Kids to Pillow’s Funtrackers

What Is It? Pillow’s Funtrackers is a family fun center that offers a race track, mini-golf, bumper cars, virtual reality experience, bumper boats, and other attractions.

Why Do It? This is a great place to bring the kids for all-day entertainment. The center is open year-round because there are both indoor and outdoor attractions.

Good to Know: If it rains, thunderstorms, or snows, some attractions may have to shut down at Pillow’s Funtrackers. Ticket prices are based on individual attractions, or you can buy a discount ticket package that provides 20 tickets for any open attraction.

Walk Around Downtown Murals, shops, restaurants, and friendly vibes
Credit: Murals, shops, restaurants, and friendly vibes by Alyssa L. Ochs

Walk Around Downtown

What Is It? Ruidoso has a quaint downtown filled with shops and restaurants. Midtown is a vibrant section of the downtown area that also offers wineries, brewpubs, and cafes.

Why Do It? It’s nice to start your exploration of Ruidoso with a walk through downtown to get a sense of the area and local vibe. You can people-watch on a public bench, shop for souvenirs, and view art at the town’s galleries and outdoor murals.

Good to Know: There is a robust live music scene in Ruidoso in the summer with the town’s Free Music in the Streets events. You can find live performances at multiple venues here. In the winter, check out the Festival of Lights Parade and Ruidoso Christmas Jubilee.

Watch a Show at the Spencer Theater for the Performing Arts A cool venue to catch a performance
Credit: A cool venue to catch a performance by spencertheater.com

Watch a Show at the Spencer Theater for the Performing Arts

What Is It? The Spencer Theater is the premier entertainment venue in Ruidoso. The venue opened in 1997 and is a 514-seat hall that hosts music, dance, and theater.

Why Do It? You can find a wide variety of shows at the Spencer Theater to be entertained during your trip. Most shows take place in the evening, with usually a handful of shows scheduled each month.

Good to Know: Even if there is not a show happening during your travel dates, you can take a public tour of the theater on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10 am. Tours are free, but call the box office to make a reservation.

Experience the Wild West at Flying J Ranch Celebrate the American cowboy with a high-energy Western stage show
Credit: Celebrate the American cowboy with a high-energy Western stage show by flyingjranch.com

Experience the Wild West at Flying J Ranch

What Is It? Flying J Ranch offers high-energy, western-style stage shows and authentic chuckwagon suppers in Ruidoso. There are other attractions and activities to keep you entertained here, including panning for gold, blacksmith demonstrations, pony rides, roping skills challenges, and shops.

Why Do It? The Western music show has been entertaining audiences for over 40 years and features banjos, fiddles, guitars, yodeling, and singing.

Good to Know: For lots of family fun, check the nightly schedule at Flying J Ranch and attend as many events as possible. Christmas is a really special time to visit the ranch because of the themed events and decorations.

Drive Along the Billy The Kid Scenic Byway Fox Cave site along the scenic drive
Credit: Fox Cave site along the scenic drive by visitruidoso.com

Drive Along the Billy The Kid Scenic Byway

What Is It? Billy the Kid was a wild west outlaw that spent time in the Ruidoso area of New Mexico. There is a national scenic byway dedicated to this historical figure. The trail is 84 miles long and it takes at least two hours to experience the sites along the way.

Why Do It? Billy the Kid is an important part of history in this region and a fascinating character to learn about. The byway takes you beyond just Ruidoso to other nearby communities for a perfect day trip.

Good to Know: Sites along the byway include the Lincoln Historic Site museums, Fort Stanton Historic Site, Smokey Bear Historical Park, and Billy the Kid Visitor Center in Ruidoso. This visitor center is an ideal place to start your drive.

Get Adventurous at Nearby Ski Apache Thrills and fun during all seasons and not just winter
Credit: Thrills and fun during all seasons and not just winter by skiapache.com

Get Adventurous at Nearby Ski Apache

What Is It? Ski Apache is a local ski resort near Ruidoso with mountains that reach elevations over 12,000 feet. It is a popular place to ski and snowboard in New Mexico, with 11 lifts and annual snowfall over 15 feet.

Why Do It? There is ski resort terrain for beginners through advanced skiers and snowboarders. This is also a year-round resort that offers scenic gondola rides, zipline tours, and trails for mountain biking and hiking.

Good to Know: People in New Mexico come here for warm-weather powder skiing and over 750 skiable acres of terrain. Mountain biking is popular here, with 5.5 miles of trail and a grade between six and eight for steepness.

Attend a Local Festival Events and festivals to look forward to all year long
Credit: Events and festivals to look forward to all year long by Ruidoso, New Mexico

Attend a Local Festival

What Is It? Ruidoso has numerous small-town festivals and events throughout the year that you can attend if the timing lines up with your travel dates.

Why Do It? Attending a local festival will give you a better sense of the town and the people who live here. It’s also a lot of fun to get into the celebratory spirit, listen to live music and embrace the holidays.

Good to Know: Popular festivals are the Ruidoso Art Festival in July, Zio Festival in August, and Aspenfest in October. The Festival of Lights takes place in December with a parade and toy donation event.

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