Space to explore

Over the past few years, this city in southern New Mexico has already seen an influx of visitors for tours of Spaceport America as well as employees and their families relocating to work there. The first purpose-built commercial spaceport is 45 miles north of Las Cruces near Truth or Consequences, a town of 6,000 residents. Many visitors arrive via Las Cruces International Airport or eventually gravitate to the attractions and services in Las Cruces, which has just over 100,000 residents, making it the second largest city in New Mexico behind Albuquerque.

In October 2019, I stayed at Hotel Encanto, which is a Virgin Galactic official preferred property in Doña Ana County slated to house the astronauts and their families who will be traveling to Spaceport America. The hotel was being renovated to prepare for the VIP guests, who will stay in Executive Suite VIP Wings with upgraded amenities and services. I was able to tour one of the remodeled Virgin Galactic rooms, which had an all-white décor, artisan-built furniture, and high-end finishes, plus a private terrace.

Hotel Encanto is on the east side of the city and makes a great base for exploring Las Cruces’ museums, food and agriculture scene, and outdoor activities.

Las Cruces is surrounded by the Organ Mountains Desert–Peaks National Monument, which includes the Organ Mountains, Desert Peaks, Potrillo Mountains, and Doña Ana Mountains. A variety of recreation options are available to explore the areas; one of the most accessible spots is 10 miles east of Las Cruces: The Dripping Springs Natural Area has four miles of trails highlighting the Organs’ rocky peaks, narrow canyons, and open woodlands.

East of Las Cruces about 25 miles, and passing over the Organ range, is White Sands Missile Range Museum. It’s worth the drive for space and history buffs, though operating hours can be inconsistent and you’ll want to call ahead to ensure access since it’s just inside the gate of an active U.S. Army installation.

We didn’t arrive during museum operating hours, but were able to walk through the adjacent missile park (open daily dawn to dusk) to see and read signage about the rockets, missiles, aircraft, optical equipment, and radars that have been developed and tested on the range since 1945. (Learn more about exploring White Sands National Park, the New Mexico Museum of Space History, and other attractions near Alamogordo, New Mexico).

In downtown Las

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