Old Mesilla is a small village in the Las Cruces Metropolitan area with fewer than 3,000 residents. Yet despite its diminutive size, this town has been attracting tourists and excitement since the 1800’s. In fact, it used to be one of the largest towns in the Southwest, much larger than Las Cruces. The village only lost its stature when the Santa Fe Railway passed through the now much larger city of Las Cruces. This allowed Mesilla to maintain the historic atmosphere of the Wild West that tourists come for today.
People like Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett once enjoyed the entertainment, the festivals, and the ever-popular cantinas of Old Mesilla. Billy the Kid was actually captured here and sentenced to hang, though he escaped his sentence. If you want to learn more about the interesting history and discover the best that this village has to offer, check out these five things to do in Old Mesilla.
1. Basilica of San Albino
One attraction stands out from the rest in Old Mesilla, and this is the Basilica of San Albino, the church, museum, and gift shop. It’s among the oldest missions in the Mesilla Valley and was established by the Mexican government in 1851. The current building was constructed in 1906, and the bells date back to the 1870’s. The Pope officially designated the church as a basilica in 2008.
The beautiful architecture of this historical site is inspiring in and of itself. Yet, there’s much more to the Basilica of San Albino. You can take a short visit to learn about the historical significance of the building and the establishment, you can attend religious services, and you can spend hours browsing the popular gift shop next door. For many, this is the first stop to make on your visit to Old Mesilla, while others save it for the final attraction before leaving town.
2. The Chocolate Lady
Chocolate lovers flock to the Chocolate Lady candy shop in Old Mesilla. Well known for the pecan turtles, the truffles, and the strawberries dipped in chocolate of the highest premium quality, this shop caters to thousands of people every year. The caramel is homemade, the pecans are grown locally, the chocolates are created in the European style, and there are no artificial ingredients. This may be the best chocolate to be found in the Southwest, and you don’t want to let your taste buds miss out on that experience while you’re in Old Mesilla.
3. La Posta de Mesilla
La Posta de Mesilla is one of the most popular (and oldest) restaurants in Old Mesilla. The establishment is best known for their steak and Mexican food, though the history of the place is as flavorful as the food. Back when Mesilla was the largest city in the area, La Posta was called the Corn Exchange Hotel. It was a stop on the Butterfield Stagecoach Line. In 1939, one of New Mexico’s most fascinating women, Katy Griggs Camuñez transformed the building into La Posta de Mesilla Restaurant and Cantina. When Katy began, she was a young woman with a sparkling personality and four tables on a dirt floor. She used those four tables and old family recipes to create an establishment that remains as famous for the food as it is for the history.
4. Fountain Theater
The Fountain Theater is located right next to La Posta de Mesilla. It is home to the Mesilla Valley Film Society. This is another historical building that continues to attract locals and tourists who are seeking out entertainment in the village of Old Mesilla. The Mesilla Valley Film Society uses the building to provide a venue for independent films, documentaries, foreign films, and more interesting films that you don’t get to see elsewhere. It’s also a venue for a range of cultural and artistic events within the community. If you’re looking for a unique film experience, check out the show times at the Fountain Theater.
5. The Witch’s Grave
The Witches Grave is a spine-chilling site with appropriate surroundings. The entire San Albino Cemetery seems to have come from a Wild West movie scene. It’s bare of grass, has few trees, and contains simple wooden crosses from the graves of the nineteenth century. To visit the Witch’s Grave, you must journey to the center of the cemetery. You’ll see a 6×6 block with a tall cross on top of it. You’ll find no name or date, only the numbers, “666,” but legend tells of the witch buried beneath.
Locals and tourists believe the woman buried beneath this odd grave marker was a witch. She attempts to break free from the grave at night. She is only contained by the placement of the large rock which was then surrounded by concrete. Many believe she could free herself through cracks, and the locals make sure that these cracks are regularly repaired. One of the most well-known stories about the grave involved a teenage girl, dared to sit on the stone. She did so and started having seizures. If you’re curious and brave, visit the Witch’s Grave (during the day to avoid breaking the law or being haunted) and tell us what you experience there.
In fact, check out all of these five things to do in Old Mesilla comment with your favorite stops!