Historic downtown Silver City, New Mexico. Image credit Underawesternsky via Shutterstock.com

These Small Towns in New Mexico Have the Best Historic Districts

The great state of New Mexico is known best for sun-kissed mesas, beautiful desert sunsets, and fabulous cities. It is also famous for possessing towns with the most awe-inspiring historic districts in the country. From historical tales of Billy the Kid as he fought his way across the Old West to the historic presence of the San Jose Gracia church in the town of Las Trampas, the great state of New Mexico is truly a Land of Enchantment that is overflowing with the ideal blend of wisdom from the past and knowledge for the future.


Artisan shops in the historic town of Mesilla
Artisan shop in the historic town of Mesilla, New Mexico. Image credit Lynda McFaul via Shutterstock

Situated just outside of Las Cruces, New Mexico, the town of Mesilla is alive with historical and geographical attractions that keep visitors coming back for more. Located in Dona Ana County, this quaint town of approximately 2,000 residents welcomes history daily through the Mesilla Plaza, known most aptly for La Posta, the restaurant William H. Bonney, or Billy the Kid, ate in just before he was incarcerated across the street.

Messila is also known for the Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park, which is just west of town, Old Messila Village, and the Billy the Kid Giftshop, which is also the site of the courthouse where Billy the Kid was found guilty.

Silver City

Bullard Street in downtown Silver City, looking south, a southwestern mining town with shops, stores and restaurants.
Downtown Silver City, New Mexico. Image credit Underawesternsky via Shutterstock.com

Silver City is another scenic town in the great state of New Mexico that has an excellent, note-worthy historic district, along with being Billy the Kid’s hometown for a number of years. Located a little over 100 miles west of Las Cruces, in the center of Grant County, Silver City is filled with history and culture.

From the Silver City Museum, established in a house built in 1881, the Western New Mexico University Museum, encasing the history of South-western New Mexico, and the Elizabeth Warren Historic House, built in 1886, to the Gila National Forest and Lake Roberts, Silver City and the area surrounding it encompasses old-world wisdom with new-world endeavors.


The historic Blue Swallow Motel, along the US Route 66, in the town of Tucumcari, New Mexico.
The historic Blue Swallow Motel, along US Route 66, in Tucumcari, New Mexico. Image credit TLF Images via Shutterstock.com

Hidden in Quay County, in the eastern part of the state, the pretty town of Tucumcari is a historian’s dream. Not only are there several museums in Tucumcari, including the Mesalands Community College’s Dinosaur Museum, the Tucumcari Historical Museum, the Tucumcari Railroad Museum, and the New Mexico Route 66 Museum, but there is also a variety of other activities for historical fanatics on which to spend their time.

Along with Tom Coffin’s Route 66 Monument, there is also the Historic Downtown Main Street District, which includes several significant buildings that possess murals of the history of Tucumcari, like the Love Tucumcari mural, the Tucumcari Legend Map mural, and the In Memory of Moynihan mural.

Las Vegas

Historic Plaza Hotel, built 1881 in Italianate style was called The Belle of the Southwest, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Historic Plaza Hotel, Las Vegas, New Mexico. Image credit Underawesternsky via Shutterstock.com

Otherwise known as Vegas, the town of Las Vegas – in the state of New Mexico rather than the state of Nevada – in San Miguel County is a wealth of historical knowledge and wisdom. The Las Vegas Plaza, again, not confusing this with the Las Vegas Plaza in Nevada, is home to several historical buildings and stores, including the Veeder Buildings, which were built from the years 1880 to 1908.

Several natural environmental attributes are well-known in the town of Las Vegas as well, like the Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge and Storrie Lake State Park, which offers visitors hiking, camping, and fishing prospects in the depths of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

Los Cerrillos

Abandoned Wortley Hotel located along the Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway in Los Cerrillos.
Abandoned Wortley Hotel along the Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway in Los Cerrillos. Image credit Nick Fox via Shutterstock

The town of Los Cerrillos, with approximately 2,000 years of history, has perhaps the best historic district in the state of New Mexico, except that it is not directly a district. Located in Santa Fe County, Los Cerrillos has over ten times more years of history than it does residents. Los Cerrillos began as a settlement and tent camp between the production of the silver mines to the north and the production of the gold mines to the south.

Now, with a population of just over a hundred residents, Los Cerrillos is a ghost town with a history that keeps bringing visitors back every year to learn more about the town and what made it exhilarating.

Acoma Pueblo

Historic Sky City, Pueblo of Acoma in New Mexico, USA, traditional Indian homes
Historic Sky City, Pueblo of Acoma in New Mexico.

About 200 miles north of Silver City and 60 miles west of Albuquerque, Acoma Pueblo, along the western border of New Mexico, is the oldest continuous settlement in the United States. Comprising of four communities – Sky City, Acomita, Anzac, and McCarty’s - Acoma Pueblo is an underrated destination that has a plethora of historical wisdom.

From the San Esteban del Rey Mission Church, built in the early 17th century by Spanish Franciscan friars and now one of the oldest Spanish missions in New Mexico, to the adobe homes of the pueblo itself, Acoma Pueblo offers visitors a taste of what it was like to be one of the original settlers.


Abandoned General Store building, falling apart, in the ghost town of Mogollon, New Mexico
Abandoned General Store building, in the ghost town of Mogollon, New Mexico.

The town of Mogollon, founded in the 19th century, is encompassed by the Mogollon Historic District, located in the Mogollon Mountains in Catron County. Though it is currently considered a ghost town, previously a base for gold and silver mines in the area of Silver Creek Canyon, the love of historical fact and the Little Fannie Mine, the most prolific mine in the area of Mogollon, has kept this town alive.

There are even tours of the Mogollon Museum, which offers visitors a sight of rare Native American pottery and artifacts, along with mining tools, clothes the miners wore, and heavy-duty mining equipment.


Pecos National Historical Park in San Miguel County, New Mexico
Pecos National Historical Park, New Mexico.

Situated just above the Pecos National Historical Park in San Miguel County, Pecos is home to a plethora of history just waiting to be discovered. Between the history of the 1717 Mission Church and the Ancestral Sites Trail Loop, Pecos is an excellent place to learn about what came before.

Built on the ruins of the 1625 Mission Church, destroyed during the revolt, the 1717 Mission Church can still be seen today. The Ancestral Sites Trail Loop, which is a mile and a half long, takes visitors past a variety of ancient sites in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and across the wilderness of New Mexico, as well as several kivas, which are underground ceremonial rooms. Pecos River also flows past the town, traveling nearly 1,000 miles to the Rio Grande.

Truth or Consequences

Van parked on a downtown street of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico: A well-known city for its Hot Springs
Downtown Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. Image credit Cheri Alguire via Shutterstock.com

The town of Truth or Consequences, known before as the town of Hot Springs due to the many hot springs situated along the Rio Grande, officially changed its name in 1950. This was because of a challenge made by Ralph Edwards, the creator and host of the television show, going by the same name.

The town of Truth and Consequences is also home to the Hot Springs Bathhouse and Commercial Historic District, which is an almost 60-acre area, listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, and controls 35 artesian wells and springs along what is known as the Hot Springs Artesian Basin, a direct link to the thermal waters of the hot springs in the area.


Buildings in Taos, which is the last stop before entering Taos Pueblo, New Mexico
Historic buildings in Taos, New Mexico.

Hidden in plain sight in Taos County, at the top of the state of New Mexico, the town of Taos has an excellent historic district, as it is one of the oldest European settlements in the northern part of the Land of Enchantment. From the end of the 18th century to the present, Taos has been an important part of the shaping of New Mexico and even parts of the American Southwest.

This is predominantly seen in the types of houses along the historic district. Mission Revival houses and Pueblo Revival houses, with their love of ornamentation and arched walkways, are constructed next to Spanish Colonial houses, which prefer peaked roofs.


The main street through Lincoln, New Mexico, passes in front of numerous old structures.
The main street through Lincoln, New Mexico. Image credit William Silver via Shutterstock.com

Perhaps known best for its connection to William H. Bonney, aka Billy the Kid, and his arch-nemesis, Pat Garrett, the town of Lincoln, and perhaps even Lincoln County, is a wealth of historical knowledge for the avid learner. The Lincoln Historic Site manages the majority of the historical buildings in town, with over 17 structures and outbuildings available for viewing, seven of which are open year-round.

There are several historical places in Lincoln worth checking out, including the Lincoln County Courthouse, where Billy the Kid actually fired a six-shooter and left bullet holes in the walls, and the La Iglesia De San Juan Bautista Mission Church, built in the late 19th century.

Las Trampas

San Jose De Gracia Church - Las Trampas, New Mexico
San Jose De Gracia Church, Las Trampas, New Mexico.

The town of Las Trampas, or just Trampas to the locals, possesses a great historic district. This includes the San Jose de Gracia Church, which was built in the middle of the 18th century before much of the rest of the town by the townspeople. Historically speaking, the town of Las Trampas and the original twelve families, along with Juan de Arguello, survived by maintaining a seclusive presence as well as holding tightly onto their Spanish heritage.

Along with the historical aspects of the San Jose de Gracia Church and the Las Trampas Historic District, this tiny town also rests in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, which run from Poncho Pass in Colorado to Glorieta Pass in New Mexico.

The great state of New Mexico, otherwise known as the Land of Enchantment, is filled with small towns that are as rich in history as they are in culture. The best of these have historic districts that not only complement the town but add a sense of old-world charm to its demeanor. From Mesilla to Lincoln, and the history of Billy the Kid, from Tucumcari to Mogollon, and their museum experiences, the state of New Mexico is history exponentiated.

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