It’s that time of the year again – expensive travel time! We know most people travel around the holiday season to maximize their time off. Unfortunately, that typically means you’re also maximizing the cost of your vacation… getting way less bang for your buck! But… it doesn’t always have to be that way. This blog focuses on one of our favorite (and slightly cheaper) holiday-time destinations, Ruidoso, New Mexico.
Ruidoso is a small New Mexican town with a population of about 8,000 and elevation of 6,920 ft. It’s the perfect mountain town for a holiday getaway. We’ve celebrated both Thanksgiving and Christmas there for many years. The air is crisp and cool, the stars light up the night sky as you walk off the turkey you just ate, the warm fires keep everyone nice and cozy, and there are a TON of adventurous things to do in the area. If your family has both people who just enjoy relaxing and people who want to go go go, Ruidoso is the holiday destination for you
Getting to Ruidoso:
Ruidoso is driving distance from both Arizona and Texas, making it the perfect meet-in-the-middle spot for our family. It’s about an 8-hour drive from Phoenix and 6-hour drive from West Texas. If you don’t feel like driving, Roswell Airport (ROW) is a little over an hour away (second smallest airport I’ve been to). Flights are relatively inexpensive considering the size of the airport. TIP: There is a small, free Air Force museum located inside the Roswell Airport – I highly recommend checking it out if you fly here. Roswell is also one of the most famous alien-spotting sights in the US.
We often fly into/out of Albuquerque (ABQ) – about 3 hours from Ruidoso to save on our drive time. There is a lot to see, do, and eat in Albuquerque as well!
Regardless of how you get there, you’ll definitely want to have a car in Ruidoso. Plan on driving or renting a car.
Where to stay in Ruidoso:
AirBnb/VRBO: We highly recommend going this route. We usually stay just north of Ruidoso’s town center. We’ve had great experiences at this AirBnb in particular. Most of the surrounding houses are great for packing people in and having enough space to eat Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. You can find places that sleep more than 5 people at $150-$250/night! Click here to get $40 off your first AirBnb stay.
Inn of the Mountain Gods: This is a very nice hotel and casino. We visit it every time to do a little gambling and look at the holiday decorations. Each time we’ve been, we came out as winners! It’s the luckiest casino I’ve ever been to, and we go to Vegas A LOT.
Other hotel options: This hotel is located near the cute town center of Ruidoso filled with unique shops and boutiques. If you’re looking to minimize your driving, this is the place to stay.
Things to do during the cold season! What to do in Ruidoso:
If you read anything in the blog, this should be it!
I’ve been snowboarding a lot throughout the US since starting the sport almost 15 years ago – including Arizona (see our Snowbowl blog here), California, Colorado, Minnesota, and New Mexico. Ski Apache in Ruidoso is hands down my favorite place to go when they get good snowfall. Why? It’s not crowded at all, they have awesome long runs, and the off-trail snowboarding is super fun…not that I’m saying you should go off trail… it’s just how I personally judge a mountain. And of course, the reason we really like it is prices are very reasonable. We typically do half days, which are $52/person (full day is $74).
One thing I dislike about the well-known snowboarding spots is when you end up waiting in line for the chairlift for so long that you sit or stand more than you’re on the mountain. This has never been the case for me at Ski Apache. TIP: If you’re renting gear, rent at the base of the mountain instead of at the mountain itself. Try Ski Ruidoso Ski Shop for starters!
Zip Lining at Ski Apache
This was the highest elevation zip line I’ve ever been on (11,489 ft)! I’m not afraid of heights at all, but this one did get a little scary as you saw just how high above the forest floor you were. It’s a great activity to do when the mountain doesn’t have snow. Prices start at $84/person (totally worth the splurge… shout out to my step-mom who treated me to this for my birthday one year). TIP: bring warmer clothes than you think you need! The elevation change and high speeds of over 65 mph make your zip line adventure pretty cold. The zip line totals 8,890 ft long… so if you’re cold, you’ll be cold for a while.
Go Carts & Mini Golf
My dad loves mini golf almost as much as Mike loves real golf, so Pillow’s Funtrackers is a must for our family every time we visit when there’s no snow. Tip: If you have a large group buy the bigger ticket package and split the cost instead of each person buying a couple tickets at a more expensive price. Mini golf is also way more bang for your buck than go-carts, but how can you say no to a quick race with your friends/family?
Bike Rides & Walks
Part of the beauty of being Ruidoso is the fresh air and nature everywhere you go. There are deer, turkey, and bears (be careful!) right outside. Walking and biking along the streets when there isn’t snow is one of the best ways to enjoy the mountain air and sights.
Make Your Own Sled Trail
A few years ago, we got snowed in at the house in Ruidoso. Flights were canceled, we couldn’t drive, and the snow was up to our waists. Obviously, the best thing to do is build your own sled trail. We did this all the time growing up in Minnesota. We took over the backside of the house into the street. Neighbors came out to join! It was like reliving our childhood all over again… but with faster trails.
Boutique Shopping & Window Shopping
This is probably the only time that you’ll see a Rich Living, Less Spending post talk about shopping as an activity! Ruidoso has the cutest little shops that people flood to for the holidays (located on Sudderth Drive). My personal favorites are:
The candy shop, Sweet Retreat, where we always get fudge and caramel apples.
The local soap shop, All Lathered Up, for good smells and unique soap combinations. It’s like Lush before Lush was cool.
The Cool Stuff store (that’s its actual name). This is my dad’s personal favorite because you really never know what you’ll find in it. From candles to tiaras to figurines… it’s totally random and just has cool stuff. There is even an adult-only section in the back of the store.
What I do see a lot of people do is shop just to shop since they are there. This can be a total waste of money! So, start with window shopping… if you like what you see, go back and buy it.
Where to Eat in Ruidoso:
Sacred Grounds Coffee and Tea House: We highly recommend this coffee shop to warm up over a cup of hot cocoa or coffee while looking out over the forest views.
Farley’s Food, Fun & Pub: This restaurant has great pizza and good pub food for reasonable prices. It’s a fun place to stop at, have a beer, and play pool after visiting Ruidoso’s town square.
Vinny & Val’s: We usually come to this Italian restaurant to celebrate birthdays. It has great lunch deals compared to other Ruidoso restaurants. I recommend calling in advance to see if you can get a reservation because it does get busy around holiday times.
Grocery Stores: Like we say in most of our blogs, the easiest way to cut down on your costs is to eat in more than you eat out. Buying most of your food and alcohol at a grocery store, will save you $100s (or $1000s with a big group)! This Albertson’s is our go-to grocery store in Ruidoso. There is also a Walmart a little farther out that has more of a selection (I once forgot to pack a swimsuit and a couple other essentials and had to go out to the local Walmart).
The holiday season is about spending more quality time with the people you care about – not about spending more money. Keep up with the Joneses without spending like the Joneses by taking your vacation in Ruidoso, New Mexico.