Casino Thrills and Scenic Outdoor Adventure
Stone and metal Apache warriors, garbed in traditional geometric headdresses and fringed skirts, permanently crouch in fighting postures around a dramatically lit fountain. The statues stand guard just outside the entrance to the Inn of the Mountain Gods. Native American artwork throughout the property reflects the culture of the Mescalero Apache tribe, which owns and operates the resort and attached casino. Inside the latter, roulette tables, penny slots, and hold 'em poker tournaments keep adrenaline pumping far into the night.
When eyelids begin drooping, king-bedroom suites await. Private balconies supply views of wooded slopes and lakefront sunsets, and a whirlpool tub steams tension from weary muscles. Room service delivers evening nightcaps, whipping up appletinis or cosmos ($9.50 each) as well as allowing breakfast in bed the following morning (6:30 a.m.–11 a.m.) with menu items such as french toast dressed with wild berries ($7) or a trio of eggs ($6) humming jazz melodies. Alternatively, fine dining at Wendell's Steak and Seafood Restaurant & Lounge satisfies stomachs as well as eyeballs with terrace views of the Sierra Blanca Peak.
While the hotel's balconies and lakefront path provide panoramic vistas of the surrounding landscape, the area’s outdoor activities put visitors right in the middle of it. The resort's 18-hole golf course, which usually stays open through at least November, snakes along the lakeshore, with one island fairway reachable by footbridge. On Sierra Blanca, Ski Apache gets a jumpstart on winter on November 24, when many of the mountain’s winding alpine trails will open to skiers, snowboarders, and snowmen looking for build-your-own dates.
Mescalero: Apache Reservation amid National Forest
South of the resort, the Mescalero Cultural Center curates artifacts and historical exhibits about Apache rituals and leaders, such as the famed war chief Geronimo. To the north, the rapidly growing city of Ruidoso bustles with mountain-gear outfitters, steak houses, and yeti that have decided to settle down. The Billy the Kid National Scenic Byway passes through the city and other nearby communities with ties to western outlaws and icons. The 84-mile loop also runs through a portion of the million-acre Lincoln National Forest, where visitors hike, bike, and ride horses past waterfalls and canyons until the snow starts falling in early November.