Truth or Consequences is a small, quirky city filled with fascinating stories — how it got its name is only one of them! While long-time New Mexico residents casually refer to the destination an hour north of Las Cruces as “T or C,” newcomers may wonder about the history of the distinctive name as they take a soak in one of the area’s natural hot springs, wander through unique shops and galleries, or enjoy a restaurant meal. To get the full explanation plus an in-depth overview of the area’s history, they can head to Geronimo Springs Museum (211 Main St.) where all will be made clear.
Until you get to the museum, we’ll give you the short version: Due to the abundance of hot springs, the town was named Palomas Hot Springs when it was founded in 1856, then shortened to just Hot Springs in 1917. Unsurprisingly, several other communities across the country had that same name. In 1950, Ralph Edwards, the popular radio and TV host of the Truth or Consequences show, promised to host an episode in a community that would name itself after the show for a day. Hot Springs, New Mexico, tossed a figurative hat into the ring. It was selected and the plan succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. Edwards was so taken with the community that he came back year after year for a Ralph Edwards Day Fiesta, bringing Hollywood friends along with him. And the name Truth or Consequences stuck! You can see broadcasts of the show, the handcrafted saddle for his parade horse, and much more about the history of the area — including a vast collection of Native American pottery — at the Geronimo Springs Museum.
HOT SPRINGS in truth or consequences
It’s likely you were drawn to visit T or C by the opportunity to soak in one of the many hot springs, much as Apache leader Geronimo and his people once were. Before colonization, Indigenous tribes inhabited this area, and archeological evidence suggests ancient Mimbres people called this area home. It is believed the land was considered a sacred neutral healing ground, and warring tribes would come to this area, where no weapons were allowed, to tend to their wounds or pains.
So how did the hot springs come to be? More than 50 million years ago a rift appeared along the Rio Grande, causing a fault line that allowed groundwater from deep in the earth to flow to the surface without losing its minerals or heat. The hot spring water in T or C contains high concentrations of about 40 different beneficial minerals. The most important mineral found in this crystal clear and odorless water is chloride, a germ killer that naturally sterilizes the water and your skin. Today, this sacred land is home to a small New Mexico city where visitors flock to experience these wondrous and healing hot springs.
One of the most popular spots to soak is Riverbend Hot Springs (100 Austin St.). Although many people know this place as an oasis perfect for relaxation and rejuvenation, some don’t know that Riverbend started as a bait shop more than 70 years ago. In the late 1980s, Lee and Sylvia Foerstner bought the bait shop and took over the business, eventually turning it into a hot springs destination.
Under the leadership of their son Jake, Riverbend now has five public riverside hot spring baths in addition to their original minnow baths and seven private baths that overlook the Rio Grande. Public or private hourly soaks are available every day by appointment only. Rooms are available if you are looking to spend a few days at this desert paradise and overnight guests can enjoy unlimited public area soaking. Within the last two years, Riverbend added two casitas with their own private hot springs.
Further down the road at 410 Austin St. is Blackstone Hotsprings. Blackstone features three private springs available for hourly soaking. Their largest bath accommodates up to four guests and each private bath includes a shower. Stay the night in one of their 12 luxury suites, each featuring a private hot spring.
Established in 1940 and named after the original owner’s son who was stationed overseas, the Charles Hotsprings Resort (601 N. Broadway) has been a hot springs hotspot since opening. They feature hourly soaks in their giant single-person tiled tubs, which range from 107 to 115 degrees, and four rooms currently available for overnight stays. Their other rooms were undergoing upgrades at press time. Present owner Collette Rogers says that guests can expect “an atmosphere of relaxation, contemplation, and joy. The amenities that we offer include hot mineral springs, rental service, a movement studio, qi gong, lobby wifi service, an onsite barbershop, massage and body therapies, and an ongoing list of events like yoga retreats, breathwork retreats, and weekly classes.”
Perhaps the most luxurious accommodations in T or C are at Ted Turner’s Sierra Grande Lodge & Spa (501 McAdoo St.) with its 17 guest rooms, spa services, and indoor and outdoor private soaking pools. Hotel guests receive a 30-minute soak each day of their stay and the resort also offers conference services and a fitness room. While their restaurant is currently closed, overnight guests are treated to a continental breakfast. Sierra Grande is also the perfect launch point for tours of Turner’s Ladder and Armendaris Ranches.
If you are looking for a unique experience, Hot Springs Glamp Camp (675 S. Foch St.) is the place to be. What can be better than “glamping” in vintage-style RVs paired with soaking in the hot springs? Having the option to stay in a yurt or a safari tent, that’s what! This fun spot is T or C’s newest hot springs resort. Owner Andrea Allen says, “We opened Glamp Camp in February 2021 as a place where people can easily get away, relax, and reset in our onsite healing hot springs and experience all the joys of camping . . . in complete comfort! Our guests are looking for unique travel experiences, and love staying in our stylish ‘glamorous camping’ accommodations.”
The Glamp Camp also has five BYOG (Bring Your Own Glamp) spaces for those who want to bring their own RV or camper.
As a guest, you can enjoy soaking in the two private outdoor metal baths or the larger public bath. They even have an indoor jetted tub hooked up to the hot spring. The quaint grounds are secluded from surrounding homes and roads and feature a fire pit for those chilly nights under the stars. Conveniently, the Glamp Camp is just a short walk from T or C Brewing Co.
Experience T or C’s oldest mineral baths at La Paloma (311 Marr St.) and connect with the land’s history at Indian Springs Bath Houses (218 Austin St.) where you will have a rustic and relaxing experience. For more hot spring soaking, visit the romantic Fire Water Lodge (311 N. Broadway St.), the colorful and fun Pelican Spa (306 S. Pershing St.), and the historic Hoosier Hot Springs (516 Austin St.).
LODGING in truth or consequences
If you didn’t select a hot spring with its own lodging, here are some other places to consider so you can stay long enough to really explore all T or C has to offer. The locally owned and operated Travelodge (2270 N. Date St.) is a great place to stay if you are planning to spend time at Elephant Butte, as it’s just a short drive to the marina. You’ll wake up to a delicious continental breakfast with waffles, sausage and biscuits, bagels, cereal, juice, and much more. Planning on bringing your pups for a weekend at the lake? The Rocket Inn (605 N. Date St.) has a cozy room for you! The name is a nod to the science fiction of the mid-century when the motel was built as well as to the actual rockets launching from the nearby Spaceport America and White Sands Missile Range. For those wanting to stay at the lake, the Damsite Historic District (55 Damsite Rd.) provides unique hotel rooms, casitas, houses, and RV spots.
SHOPPING & GALLERIES in truth or consequences
For those who love exploring interesting shops and galleries, T or C is just the place! In the Hot Springs District, you can walk down Broadway or Main Street for a large concentration of fascinating shops, galleries, and restaurants. In fact, some businesses serve double duty!
One that does is Ingo’s Art Café (422 N. Broadway), where you can order a coffee or tea and spend time shopping the variety of art on the walls, attire, fun stuff, and gemstones. And speaking of interesting stories, it turns out Ingo Hoeppner, owner of the café, came to T or C from Germany via Holloman Air Force Base near Alamogordo, where he was based with the German Air Force. He and his late wife discovered the healing powers of the hot springs and came to soak again and again. When the German Air Force returned home, Ingo stayed and opened his café on German Unity Day in 2018. So, if you go to T or C on October 3 and see German flags flying, you’ll know you’ve found Ingo and his café!
Another combo business is right next door at Destiny’s Kitchen (426 N. Broadway), a restaurant and curio shop. Destiny Mitchell is a city commissioner and long-time resident of T or C. Her business started by offering keto meal prep services, and later she opened her restaurant that offers vegetarian, vegan, and keto meals as well as “regular” fare. “If I can, I’ll make it,” Destiny promises. She also promises free delivery to the T or C Brewing Co. down the street. The front of her restaurant is a shop called Enchanted Times with Native American jewelry and pottery, plus jams and jellies, honey, and more.
Move over one more shop and you’re at Xochi’s Bookstore & Gallery, (430 N. Broadway) owned by Stan Sokolow, who has been in business 26 years and has more than 30,000 books in the store, plus textiles, baskets, pottery, and paintings. He specializes in rare books. “I get here every morning at 5 a.m.” says the man who fell in love with books as an archeology student at the University of New Mexico.
Across Broadway is Morning Star Outfitters (421 N. Broadway), run by Jasper Mondello and opened in late 2019 as a sister shop to Morning Star Sports in Silver City. This large store sells outdoor clothing, footwear, bikes, kayaks, and sporting goods. They also rent mountain bikes and e-bikes for those who want to explore the area. (Best hiking or biking trails in the area? Jasper suggests Ash Canyon, Healing Waters Trail, and Paseo del Rio.)
Wander down this side of Broadway and you’ll run into a series of small galleries and shops, including John and Durrae Johanek’s Zia Gallery (415 N. Broadway), another recent addition to the city. John has more than 25 years’ experience in magazine design and Durrae is a fiber artist. Here you’ll find, along with the work of a dozen other local artists who are exclusive to their gallery, John’s graphic designs and paintings and Durrae’s fiber arts (be sure to ask about her fiber pieces featuring amazingly soft dog fur or those with cotton from a plant she grew herself).
Keep meandering and you’ll visit Allison Norton’s Forget About It shop (407 N. Broadway) with used furniture, collectibles, and vintage clothing. She’s been offering eclectic items for “people who like oddities” for 12 years. Two of her most popular items are license plates and belt buckles. Next up you’ll find Vic’s (405 N. Broadway), with the tagline “unique gifts for unique people.” Vic offers his own handcrafted pieces, plus collectibles, local photography, and jewelry.
Head to the end of Broadway across from Ralph Edwards Park for the largest art gallery in T or C: RioBravoFineArt (110 N. Broadway). Owner Eduardo Alicea is happy to show you around the two-story gallery and explain the wide range of art, most by about 20 New Mexico artists, but some by artists from Eduardo’s homeland of Puerto Rico. You can find fiber arts, photography, sculptures, paintings, jewelry, and just about any other form of art here.
Of course, there are more shops and galleries to explore, like Desert Archaic, The Annex, Center Gallery, Main Street Gallery, Galactic Digs, and Don’s Den, to name a few (we just couldn’t make it everywhere!). Art lovers will want to keep in mind that the second Saturday of the month is the town’s Art Hop, with many galleries and businesses open from 6 to 9 p.m.
truth or consequences DINING
T or C offers an eclectic mix of restaurants for when your soaking and exploring work up your appetite. From Los Arcos Steakhouse (1400 N. Date St.) with its surf ‘n’ turf and full bar to A & B Drive In (211 N. Broadway) with Mexican food and burgers — plus many other venues — you’re sure to find something you like.
Truth or Consequences Brewing Co. has quickly become a fixture, and since they don’t have their own kitchen many restaurants offer to-go or delivery meals so you can enjoy your food at the brewery. Called “city hall” by many locals, this is the place where everybody knows your name. T or C Brewing Co. is in the middle of the main drag downtown and serves a variety of locally brewed beer. They often host live music on their stage. It’s the place to wind up a day of soaking and shopping or gather with friends who may be at different campsites at Elephant Butte Lake before going back to your site and roasting some marshmallows.
Grapevine Bistro (413 N. Broadway) is across the street from the brewery in a building painted with colorful designs. Vegans will find options such as a delicious “very berry” salad (lunch only) or a plant-based Impossible burger, but there’s plenty for meat eaters, too, like a Hatch green chile cheeseburger, a T or C club sandwich, and a chicken sandwich with maple-chipotle bacon and blue cheese. They offer breakfast, lunch, and dinner and will deliver to the brewery. Check online for hours as they close mid-day.
Passion Pie (406 Main Ave.) is a T or C institution, recently included in Only in Your State’s list of 12 restaurants to try in New Mexico. This bakery and coffee shop has delicious baked goods to enjoy there or take with you, including vegan and gluten-free options, plus soups, sandwiches, and brunch items such as crepes.
Grab a delicious dinner and some sangria or choose from 26 different beers on tap at Point Blanc Winery & Pizzeria (820 Cedar St.). This restaurant features a menu full of enticing options. BBQ pulled pork pizza is a favorite, but if pies aren’t your jam you can opt for BBQ pulled pork sliders, fries, or tots. They will be adding new items such as fish tacos and steak bites to the menu soon! You can take the whole family out for a weekend dinner or take a seat at the bar and watch the game. You can even enjoy your dinner and watch the sunset reflect off Turtleback Mountain out on their new patio.
T or C’s newest pizza joint is Outer Edge Pizzeria (719 Main Ave.) The stars of the menu are 10-inch New York-style thin crust pizzas made with your choice of toppings on a house-made marinara, garlic oil, or Alfredo base. They offer a gluten-free crust, too, plus hot and cold sandwiches, crisp salads, flavorful pastas, unique appetizers, and more. Outer Edge also features an Italian deli where customers can purchase high-quality meats and cheeses. According to co-owner Mark Edwards, “When we first started discussing the idea of a pizzeria, we knew we wanted a casual atmosphere where locals could gather to eat delicious food or to pick up meals to eat at home. We hope that T or C will love what we’ve created.”
The Giddy Up Cafe (311 N. Broadway) is a unique experiment opened in 2020 by partners C.J. and Rooster to give downtown Truth or Consequences a place to get a delicious homemade meal and friendly service. The Giddy Up’s chef, Barbara, has constructed a succinct but delicious menu with soup, salad, and a variety of creative macaroni-and-cheese options to which you can add turkey or pork meatballs. The Giddy Up Sunday brunch is a T or C legend, but get there early for the biscuits and gravy, as doors open at 9:30 a.m. and people line up well before opening!
Many visitors to T or C come for a day of camping, boating, or birding at Elephant Butte State Park or nearby Caballo Lake State Park. Elephant Butte Lake has been one of the most popular recreation destinations for tourists and New Mexicans for more than a century. It is named for the eroded core of an ancient volcano resting in the middle of the lake that is in the shape of an elephant lying down. More than 200 miles of shoreline beckon, along with fun and exciting activities for families and friends to enjoy at reasonable prices.
For fun on the water, you can bring your own boat or jet skis. With many launch pads around the lake, you can set sail from all around the park. Don’t have your own water vehicle, but want to enjoy the water? During the lake season, jet skis, boats, and other water toys are available for daily rental at Sports Adventure located right on the water on the north side of Long Point. Canoeing and kayaking are options, too. Fishing is another great local pastime, and all you need to be able to cast your line is a license that can be purchased through the New Mexico Game & Fish website.
Before firing up the boat and hitting the lake, hitting the links is always a great idea, and T or C offers beautiful fairways and greens for locals and guests. If you are looking for a quick round of nine (or didn’t bring your clubs), the Truth or Consequences Municipal Golf Course (685 Marie St.) has reasonable green fees, golf club rental, as well as a disc golf course. Left your discs on the boat? No problem: You can rent discs in the pro shop.
Sierra del Rio (101 Clubhouse Rd., Elephant Butte) is a visually stunning facility and golf course with a challenging course and gorgeous views of its beautiful surroundings. Sierra del Rio is one of the top 10 golf courses in New Mexico according to Golf Digest, and a terrific place to book a large event or for just you and your golfing friends to meet for a new experience. Turtleback Taphouse and Grill features a full menu and bar. The pub is a friendly place, and the large patio has breathtaking views of the high desert and Turtleback Mountain.
MORE PLACES TO EXPLORE
You may want to begin your explorations at the Geronimo Trail National Scenic Byway Visitor Center and Spaceport America Visitors Center (301 S. Foch St.) where you can pick up brochures and information about things to do in Sierra County and beyond.
One of the biggest things to land in Sierra County recently is Spaceport America, owned and operated by the State of New Mexico and home to Virgin Galactic and other space-related companies. Step to the back of the tourism office to explore the Spaceport America Visitors Center, with videos, signage, and hands-on activities. This is also where tours to Spaceport America launch, operated by Final Frontier Tours.
If you want to relax with a film, visit El Cortez Movie Theatre (415 Main Ave.), recently restored to its 1935 glory. Along with mainstream movies, the owners plan to host film festivals, art house films, and during the annual fiesta even run episodes of the Truth of Consequences show for which the city is named.
Pay your respects at the Veterans Memorial Park and Hamilton Military Museum (996 S. Broadway). There you’ll find a half-scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, a “walk of education” with information about each conflict in which the United States has been involved, plus a fascinating military museum that includes uniforms and buttons worn from the American Revolutionary War to today.
Local artists have added even more character to T or C by creating more than 50 murals all around the city. Pick up a copy of the guide to the murals at the tourism office and watch for these outdoor pieces of art as you wander about.
ANNUAL EVENTS in truth or consequences
Remember that Ralph Edwards Day Fiesta? It has evolved into the annual Truth or Consequences Fiesta each May, with a parade, rodeo, poker tournament, live entertainment, and lots of other fun activities. You can also look forward to the Elephant Butte Balloon Regatta in August, the Sierra County Fair in October, the Veterans Day Car Show in November, and the December Elephant Butte Luminaria Beachwalk & Floating Lights Parade.
Be sure to check days and hours of operation before you visit. Some T or C businesses are only open later in the week and for the weekend.
So, whether you stop for the history, a soak, the eclectic arts scene, shopping, a trip to the lake, a meal with a local brew, or even its new connection to space, Truth or Consequences is a fascinating place to visit.
Written by Cheryl Fallstead, Olivia Belcher, and Daniel Gonzales
Photography by Cheryl Fallstead, Olivia Belcher, and courtesy
Originally published in Neighbors magazine