Exploring the Nearby Towns Around White Sands National Park
White Sands National Park, known for its breathtaking gypsum dunes, is a natural wonder that draws in visitors from around the globe. While the park itself is fairly isolated, nestled in the Tularosa Basin of New Mexico's Chihuahuan Desert, several nearby towns offer comfortable accommodations, delightful dining options, and a taste of local culture. In this article, we'll explore the towns around White Sands National Park where you can find lodging and culinary delights, including any local specialties you shouldn't miss.
Alamogordo, New Mexico
The closest major town to White Sands National Park is Alamogordo, located just 16 miles east of the park. As the commercial hub of Otero County, Alamogordo offers a wide range of hotel options ranging from budget-friendly motels to quality chain hotels. Visitors looking for a comfortable stay might consider the Fairfield Inn & Suites or the Holiday Inn Express, both known for their pleasant facilities.
When it comes to dining, Alamogordo provides an array of choices. Pepper's Grill is a local favorite, offering classic American cuisine along with Mexican dishes. For those interested in trying southwestern flavors, don't miss the Green Chile Stew, a New Mexico staple featuring roasted green chiles, tender pork, and potatoes, often served with warm flour tortillas.
Las Cruces, New Mexico
A little further afield is the city of Las Cruces, approximately 52 miles west of White Sands National Park. The city has a more extensive selection of accommodations, including the Hilton Garden Inn Las Cruces and the Drury Inn & Suites Las Cruces, among others.
While in Las Cruces, one must try the region's iconic dish, chiles rellenos. These are green chiles stuffed with cheese, dipped in an egg batter, and fried to golden perfection. One of the best places to experience this southwestern delicacy is at La Posta de Mesilla, situated in the historic town of Mesilla, a short drive from Las Cruces.
Tularosa, New Mexico
For a more quaint experience, Tularosa stands as a charming option. Located 20 miles north of White Sands National Park, this small town features historic adobe buildings and a cozy community atmosphere. Accommodation here is more limited, but local bed and breakfast establishments provide a unique and intimate stay.
Dining in Tularosa might be less varied than larger towns, but the local cuisine is authentic and flavoured with history. Casa de Sueños serves homemade, heartfelt New Mexican food. The red and green chile sauces are homemade and are must-try items on the menu.
Cloudcroft, New Mexico
Perched in the Sacramento Mountains, 40 miles northeast of the White Sands, is the mountain village of Cloudcroft. At an elevation of 8,600 feet, this town offers cooler temperatures and a selection of charming lodges and inns, such as The Lodge Resort and Spa, a historic retreat with elegant accommodations and a reputed haunted history.
When dining in Cloudcroft, a popular destination is Rebecca's at the Lodge. It serves sophisticated American cuisine, but the locally inspired dishes, such as the New Mexico Blue Corn Pancakes, are what set it apart. These unique pancakes are a delicious twist on the classic, infused with the nutty flavor of blue cornmeal.
Regional Cuisine to Savor
The local cuisine in and around the White Sands area is steeply rooted in the New Mexican culinary tradition, with iconic dishes like enchiladas, tamales, and sopapillas. Experimenting with both red and green chile is a must when dining in this region, as they form the basis of so many traditional recipes. The question "Red or green?" referring to which type of chile you'd prefer, is a common one here. If undecided, ask for "Christmas," and you'll get to taste both.
If you have a sweet tooth, the biscochitos are a must-try local cookie, especially during the holiday season. These anise and cinnamon-flavored treats are brittle, buttery, and perfectly paired with a cup of strong coffee after a day of adventure.
Helpful Websites for Planning Your Visit
For more information on accommodations and dining, the following websites can be incredibly useful:
- Alamogordo Chamber of Commerce: https://alamogordo.com/
- Las Cruces Convention and Visitors Bureau: https://www.lascrucescvb.org/
- Cloudcroft Chamber of Commerce: https://coolcloudcroft.com/
- New Mexico Tourism Department: https://www.newmexico.org/
The towns surrounding White Sands National Park not only offer lodging and dining options but also give you a genuine taste of New Mexican culture and cuisine. Whether you choose to stay in the bustling streets of Alamogordo or the quaint hideaways of Cloudcroft, each town has its own charm and palette of flavors waiting to be discovered.