A Ruidoso New Mexico Vacation
As part of a vacation to escape the blistering Texas summer heat, we jumped in the motorhome and headed to New Mexico for 16 days of fun and cool temperatures. We started in Cloudcroft then went on to Ruidoso and Santa Fe, then on to Lubbock before heading home to Austin - you can read about the rest of the trip by clicking on this Vacation to New Mexico article. During the 5 days that we were in Ruidoso we had a blast - live music, lots of good food, some New Mexico craft beer, a ride down the mountain at 55 miles an hour on a zip line, a round of golf at 3 very different and unique golf courses, and some time losing money at a casino and at the race track!
Ruidoso is southern New Mexico's #1 mountain resort destination and long before the golf courses, bistros, hot tubs, happy hours, galleries and shops, and summers with horse racing and winters with skiing it was the homeland of the Mescalero Apache, the bloody Lincoln County Wars, Billy the Kid, and the birthplace of Smokey Bear!
After arriving in Ruidoso, our first goal was to find our RV park because the GPS had no clue where it was and it took us on some skinny back road which made it really difficult to find a place to turn around and head back to town. We unhooked the Jeep, put the address in it's GPS and sent it off in search of our RV site. A few minutes later I got a call and some directions to our RV site which backed up to a small creek and was a couple minutes from the heart of Ruidoso.
All of that gave us a good excuse to find a bar with a good happy hour and some New Mexico Craft Beer where I had to try a flight of 4 very different beers and dominos at Rio Grande Grill & Tap Room, followed by a good meal of some New Mexican cuisine at Casa Blanca, and then a couple sets of some folk music (a singer songwriter from Oregon) at Sacred Grounds.
One of the reasons I love visiting New Mexico is because I'm addicted to Hatch Green Chilies and of course our visit was perfect timing because the chilies are only available fresh from August to the end of September. And I have them on everything with just about every meal - green chile burgers, green chile burritos, eggs with green chilies, etc. And I was thrilled to find that Rio Grande Grill had a Pancho Verde Chile Cerveza - a beer with an unmistakable roasted chile aroma and flavor without being too hot, a whole chile is used to infuse the beer with a mild green chile flavor that left me with a hint of heat on the back end. So I bought a six pack!! A fun first day in Ruidoso.
Outside of sampling and now drinking lots of hatch green chilies, the highlight of our stay in Ruidoso was playing golf on three different golf courses - each of which is a little different and unique from the others. Rainmakers is an exclusive private course rated as one of the top 5 golf courses in New Mexico by Golf Digest and it is carved into high mountain walls with meandering arroyos and natural rock outcroppings to frame a panoramic 18-hole journey. Inn of the Mountain Gods is stunning as it plays up and down the mountains, through towering trees, and beside and across a mountain lake. The Links at Sierra Blanca has two nines that are very different - one is a classic links style course with towering berms and wide sweeping fairways and the other nine is a modified links that plays up and down some gently rolling hills and through the trees on very tight fairways.
Over the span of playing all three three golf courses I:
- took home a lot of their sand (in my hair, pockets, behind the ears, and in my golf sandals from being in the bunkers so much
- had to go to Walmart in search of golf balls that might float - no luck
- got sunburned and looked like a crispy lobster
- discovered the Advil wasn't doing much for the sore back and all the beer I drank
On a bright and clear day we set off early for a 15 mile drive from Ruidoso to Ski Apache to give their zip line a try. After a nice drive of seven miles or so we started a very steep ascent up a twisting and turning narrow barely two lane road (with no guard rail protecting us from falling down the side of the mountain) with every turn being blind, sharp, a horseshoe, or a major switchback. The Jeep seemed to be enjoying it, my wife was a tad pale, and my knuckles were white and sweaty from gripping the wheel so hard. It seemed like it took us all morning to get there but the scenery was magnificent - high mountain peaks, and towering stately trees, and lush valleys, and views for hundreds of miles. We finally arrived at Ski Apache 11,489 feet above sea level - we ascended more than 5000 feet!. I huffed and puffed up the steps (it's hard to walk at that elevation!) and got suited up for a very fast adrenaline pumping three station zip tour that is one of the longest (8900') and fastest (up to 60 miles and hour) in the United States. Read about our thrilling experience at Ski Apache Zip Line.
After driving safely down the mountain on a zip line high, it was time for some more craft beer, some appetizers, and dinner and music. First stop was the Hidden Tap Room which is well hidden and took us several circles and loops and u-turns to find. But they have some good craft beers. From there we set off for one of the most popular spots in Ruidoso - Grace O'Malley's - for dinner and music.
Grace O'Malley's Irish Pub was recommended by several people that we talked to and they have it all - a cool outdoor patio with outdoor dining, comfy outdoor chairs, and a large fire pit overlooking the main drag of Ruidoso; a wide variety of food; live music; a fun crowd; good service; a cozy bar; and an upstairs game room with pool and shuffleboard. They have a wide variety of appetizers, salads, and entrees but I had to try the Shepard's Pie which I hadn't had in many many years and it was delicious. We sat in the bar area at table just in front of the band stage where Tawnya Reynolds (a New Mexico native with a great voice who made it through a couple rounds on the Voice) and Don Pedigo entertained us for the next couple hours. Between sets, we ran upstairs for a quick game of pool. Another very fun evening.
We had so much fun at Grace O'Malley's, the next night we came back for some music by a entertaining band of local musicians Tyler Jones, Cody Jones, Chris Miles and Donnie Marling that entertained us with a lively and fun set. We had a few beers, ended up with some kind of fancy coffee drink with a cherry on top, and then plopped down around the fire pit under a full moon and some cool mountain air before heading home to get up early for golf. .
After another round of golf the next day during which I avoided 80% of the bunkers and only lost two balls in the water and arroyos, I was feeling hot and lucky so we headed to Ruidoso Downs Race Track and the adjoining Billy the Kid Casino - that doesn't seem legal to have a race track next to a casino where I could lose half of my money at the track and then walk over and put what's left on one the tables and lose that! Which is exactly what I did. On the final race, I put all my winnings ($1.29) from the previous horse races plus a few bucks on #3 to win and of course he came in dead last. So I figured the odds were in my favor on the blackjack table - nope, down $20 in 4 hands! So I went to the bar!
The next day after golf at Inn of the Mountain Gods and another batch of lost golf balls plus another $20 lost at the craps table, I found my wife sitting on a rock by the lake thinking "how could I have married such a loser!" Or maybe she was thinking "I don't want to leave this pretty setting; or I miss the grandkids" or something similar.
So I bought her a buffet lunch at Inn of the Mountain Gods to try and cheer her up! Turns out she hates buffets - I'm such a loser! If you visit Ruidoso, make sure you drive the couple miles to Inn of the Mountain Gods - a beautiful setting on a mountain lake, kayak rentals, a casino, excellent golf course, and a zip rider that will fly two of you at a time from the top of a mountain across the lake.
All too soon it was time to leave Ruidoso and head to Santa Fe. Return to our main New Mexico Vacation Article or just read about our time in Santa Fe. Next time we'll plan on spending more time in Ruidoso and trying some of the several miles of biking and hiking trails, some fishing in the Rio Ruidoso or the nearby lakes, the sky rider at Inn of the Mountain Gods, the go karts and bumper boats at Funtrackers, and more of the great restaurants.