When silver was discovered in and around the town in the 1870s, the aptly named Silver City was booming. While other Old West towns have quietly faded into the past, Silver City remains a vibrant place that shines for its artistic and cultural offerings, as well as a gateway for outdoor recreation. Set at 6,000 feet in elevation, Silver City experiences four seasons, but all are mild. Any time of year is a good time to visit. Here are a few reasons why.
Silver City has more than 30 popular festivals and events on its packed annual schedule. It all starts with the Tommy Knocker 10K mountain-bike ride and Chocolate Fantasia in February (and yes, it’s as delicious as it sounds!). The mild spring season brings more events for outdoor adventurers, like the Tour of the Gila and the Continental Divide Trail Fest. Summer brings art and music with the CLAY Festival, the Southwest Print Fiesta, and the Blues Festival. Wind down the year with cultural festivals like Dia de los Muertos, recognizing the Native American and Mexican influences on the area, as well as celebrating the holidays with the annual Lighted Christmas Parade.
Silver City sits on the edge of the 3.3-million-acre Gila National Forest, so there are plenty of hiking opportunities near town. Forested peaks, steep river canyons, and the flowing forks of the Gila River provide ample terrain for exploring on both day hikes and longer backcountry adventures. The Continental Divide Trail—one of 11 designated National Scenic Trails in the United States—also passes nearby Silver City on its cross-country route from Canada to Mexico along the continent’s spine. The trail stretches 770 miles through New Mexico alone, so there’s nearly endless walking once hikers head out from town.
Thousands of years ago, hunter-gatherers traversed the land that is now New Mexico, but the Mogollon peoples left the most visible marks in the form of stacked-adobe structures at Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, about 45 miles north of town. The Mogollon built the structures in the 1200s, yet they only resided there for around 20 years before moving on and leaving many mysteries behind. Today, you can climb into the cliffside caves to see reconstructed rooms and pottery shards.
The mining boom in the 1800s drew more settlers and characters to the area. Silver City claims distinction of being the place where William Bonney, aka Billy the Kid, was first arrested. The Kid’s family lived in the area for many years, and his mother is buried in the town’s Memory Lane Cemetery. Apache Chief Geronimo was born near Turkey Creek, a Gila River tributary, and he and his people roamed the area in the mid-1800s in their efforts to avoid capture by the U.S. Army.
Learn more about the town’s history at the Silver City Museum, where the building itself is a Victorian inheritance.
4. The Arts
Downtown Silver City is home to more than 30 galleries and artist studios. It’s a colorful district—literally. Many of the downtown shops and galleries are painted in vibrant hues of blue, pink, and turquoise, while others feature lively murals, including one of Billy the Kid—one of the town’s most famous former residents. There are actually more than 50 murals throughout town, and many were created as part of the Mimbres Region Arts Council Youth Mural Project.
The galleries feature fine art paintings, pottery, prints, glass, and jewelry, while others have more homespun crafts, like tote bags and screen-printed t-shirts. A handful of arts groups, including the Grant County Art Guild, Mimbres Region Arts Council, San Vicente Artists of Silver City, Silver City Art Association, and the Southwest New Mexico Clay Arts Trail gather artists under their umbrellas.
Silver City is once again home to film, thanks to the renovation of the Silco Theatre. Originally built in 1923, the local theatre got a facelift in the 1940s. It was long used as a retail and rental space, but in 2016, it was re-opened with a new up-to-date projection system, sound, and screens to show first-run movies. Though it’s cast in black-and-white art-deco style, it’s a bright spot in downtown Silver City.
5. Live Music Scene
For a town of its size—just less than 10,000 residents—Silver City has a boisterous live music scene. For one, the town lays claim to New Mexico Governor’s Awards for Excellence in the Arts winners Bayou Seco, who preserve and play traditional American music from the Cajun music of Louisiana to Hispanic, cowboy, and Native American music of New Mexico and Arizona. Little Toad Brewery and Distillery in Silver City and the Buckhorn Saloon and Opera House, in neighboring Pinos Altos are two of the town’s most popular live music venues. The annual Silver City Blues Festival on Memorial Day weekend is one of the Southwest’s best—and free!—live music events.
Downtown Silver City has more than a dozen restaurants—all of them with cuisine you’d typically find in a town many times its size. Diane’s Restaurant is a bakery, restaurant, deli, and parlor, and somehow—despite wearing all those hats—manages to remain at the top of locals’ and visitors’ lists. Revel serves farm-to-table fare with a casual vibe.
Little Toad Brewery and Distillery nods to the state’s craft craze with house-made beer and spirits, including red- and green-chile infused vodkas.
As you can see, Silver City is a town that packs a punch and has a lot to offer. For even more activities and things to do in Silver City, check out thistrip planner.
Originally written by RootsRated for New Mexico.