Paint Ponies, Hubbard Museum

Ruidoso, NM – Fun Family Weekend Getaway

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Ruidoso Quick Trip

The first weekend in August, we made a family trip from Albuquerque to Ruidoso. Five of us (me, Zia, Zia’s daughter, & Zia’s parents) all piled into our Ford Edge for a meandering, four-hour adventure into the mountains of southern New Mexico. We traveled the back roads through a variety of terrain, ranging from flat pasture land to rolling, rocky hills. We drove through little towns like Moriarty, Estancia, Corona, Carrizozo, and Capitan. Along the way, we spotted pronghorn antelope, a herd of elk, and a whole lot of cows.

Pastureland New Mexico
New Mexico road: somewhere between Carrizozo and Estancia.

We took this trip for the change of scenery, as well as to give Zia’s folks the opportunity to visit their old stomping grounds. They were Ruidoso residents for about nine years.

Also, we had booked a trip to the Flying J Ranch, a very popular Ruidoso tourist attraction. (Note: their website auto-plays music, so be prepared. But there’s an easy “turn off music” button on the main page.)

Zia’s dad, a lifelong New Mexico resident and alumni of Hatch High School, had a story for almost every little town we drove through. Find some of his tales here: Stories | Histories

One place we stopped was the small town of Carrizozo, specifically to see if the sad rumors were true: the Outpost Bar & Grill (& Laundromat) was closed. Unfortunately, the rumors were true, and it seems this place has been closed for quite some time.

Outpost Bar & Grill, Carrizozo, NM
Outpost Bar & Grill & Laundromat. Once the best green chile cheeseburger south of North Dakota.

After some sleuthing around, we think we found out why the place is closed down. Could it have something to do with the chile?

Ho-made chili at Outpost Bar & Grill
Hey, we’re not here to judge.

Peeking through the windows, we could see that many of the animal “trophies” (aka, “stuffed animal heads” still strewn about in the booths. Kind of creepy, actually. We said our final farewells to Outpost and went on our way toward Ruidoso.

If you’re a regular reader of our EatingNewMexico blog, you know Zia and I had other motivations for going to Ruidoso…the food! This was my second trip to Ruidoso. The first time I went, Zia took me to Casa Blanca, a restaurant known for their fried green chile strips.

Casa Blanca Ruidoso, Fried Green Chile Strips
Fried Green Chile Strips, served with ranch dressing, naturally! Reason enough to come to Ruidoso.

I couldn’t wait to get back there and get another basket of those hot little strips of awesome, dipped in ranch dressing. I lobbied hard for Casa Blanca to be the first place we stopped as soon as we arrived into town. Fortunately, it’s not all that hard to get a carload of hungry New Mexicans to stop for fried green chile strips.

Click here for the review of Casa Blanca Restaurant

After lunch, we all piled back into the car to head down to Sudderth Drive. Sudderth is Ruidoso’s “downtown.” It’s about a half-mile stretch of road with shops, restaurants and bars. On this particular Saturday, it was very crowded. The sidewalks were full of pedestrians meandering in and out of the stores, and the streets were packed with cars. Almost every license plate I saw said “Texas.” I noticed quite a few Chihuahua, Mexico license plates as well. Seeing a yellow or turquoise New Mexico license plate was a rarity. Even our car was still sporting the old California tags, so even we could not be mistaken for locals! However, I don’t think anyone was mistaking us for Texans, either. We looked a little out of place without our giant belt buckles, cowboy boots, “fixed” hair, and bedazzled jeans.

Zia’s daughter is a horseback rider. So we thought she would love to go out by Ruidoso Downs and see the beautiful horse sculptures there. The statue garden, titled “Free Spirits at Noisy Water” marks the entryway to the Hubbard Museum of the American West, a museum dedicated to the horse and all things Old West. The horses are larger-than-life and extremely realistic, giving the impression of a herd of horses — Arabians, Paints, Appaloosa, Quarter, Morgan, and Standardbred all running together — charging down the mountainside toward the river.

Two horses race down the mountainside
Free Spirit at Noisy Waters, Ruidoso’s Hubbard Museum of the American West.
White Horse on the Run
Arabian Horse, Free Spirits at Noisy Water, Hubbard Museum of the American West, Ruidoso, NM

We walked around the statue garden for a while, studying the bronze statues (many a wonder of engineering, balancing on only one hoof) and reading the informational placards about each breed of horse.

After we walked off our lunch, it was time to go and rest up for the big evening at the Flying J Ranch. We had booked a couple of rooms at the Ruidoso Mountain Inn. I won’t go into a full-blown review of the Inn, other than to say the upside was a clean, comfortable room, but the downside was the inflated, tourist season price ($160/night), and the television reception was terrible, which made “Sharknado 2” even harder to watch. Regardless, after a four-hour road trip, followed by lunch and shopping, it was nice to put our feet up for a couple of hours before we all headed out to the Flying J Ranch.

Click here for the review of the Flying J Ranch

After dinner and the show at Flying J, it was back to the Ruidoso Mountain Inn for a good night’s sleep. The next morning, we passed on the Inn’s complimentary breakfast. The breakfast area was extremely crowded, and from what we could see of the pre-packaged, carbohydrate-laden foods, it wasn’t worth the wait. Instead, we drove out to the Casino Apache Travel Center for a good, but standard-fare breakfast. Pros for this little café were: food is good, price is low, and there was no wait when we got there. Cons for this little café were: it’s at the back of the casino, so you have to walk through a lot of smoke to get there.

Travel Center French Toast
Casino Apache Travel Center Cafe. Zia Jr. with her French Toast Platter. Extra sugar, please!

Afterwards, we took a quick trip back into Ruidoso for some coffee at Sacred Grounds. Good coffee, but very slow service. In their defense, it was very busy! With that, we were back on the road to Albuquerque.

Our Ruidoso weekend was a kind of a whirlwind excursion, and probably not the best time of year; but all told, it was a great little weekend getaway with the family and well worth the trip.


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