Farmers bring flavor to downtown Las Cruces.

I moved to Las Cruces in the mid-1990s, after an international confab of friends assured me it was “the place where great souls of the planet have decided to meet.” But when I saw a haunted downtown of failed urban-renewal efforts, I had to wonder what those cosmic consultants were thinking.

Fortunately, things didn’t stay that way. Over the past two decades, a hardy cadre of city leaders, architects, artists, citizens, and other dreamers have conspired to revive downtown. These days, the place pops—especially in the summer—with art walks, live music, a farmers’ market, and a plaza that’s a multimedia oasis. Artist Bob Diven created a mural of ancient critters for it, and a splash pad invites kids and families to dodge and dance among pop-up geysers. Tony Pennock, an artist known for his painted murals on local water towers, crafted an Aztec-inspired sundial mosaic, modeled after a rosette found during renovation of downtown’s Rio Grande Theatre.

With other renovations under way at the historic Amador Hotel and former Doña Ana County Courthouse, more dreamers are planning shops, restaurants, and a boutique hotel.

Taking an evening stroll on the nearby NMSU campus or Old Mesilla’s historic plaza has always been a pleasant summer diversion. But wait’ll you check out the action in the new and improved city center.

  • Downtown Ramble: The new happy hour! Enjoy museum and gallery exhibits, live music, and gourmet refreshments like bourbon meatballs, 5–7 p.m., the first Friday of each month.
  • Thursday Museum Nights: Bring the kids throughout the summer for special programs, 5–8 p.m. Thursdays at the Branigan Cultural Center, Las Cruces Railroad Museum, the Museum of Art, and the Museum of Nature & Science.
  • Poetry and performance art: Catch the action or join in at various locales, from the Howling Coyote Open-Mic/Coffeehouse, 7 p.m. on the first Friday of the month at the Center for Spiritual Living, 575 N. Main St. (575-525-9333), to Sin Fronteras/Writers Without Borders, 7:30 p.m., third Tuesday of the month, at Palacio Bar, 2600 Avenida de Mesilla, Mesilla (575-521-7311).
  • Music in the Parks: Free outdoor concerts all summer, 7 p.m. Sundays.
  • Las Cruces Farmers’ and Crafts Markets: Arts and crafts vendors, fresh food, and live entertainment sprawl across seven blocks of downtown’s Main Street, 8:30 a.m.–1 p.m. Saturdays and Wednesdays and 5–9 p.m. Wednesdays, May–October.
  • Fourth of July: Dance to live music all day, then marvel at the region’s largest fireworks display. Field of Dreams, 2501 Tashiro Dr.;