You can buy food and drink at the Visitor Centre, and there are some tables there where you can eat a picnic lunch, but it’s much more fun to do so out among the dunes. There are several marked picnic areas near the far end of the loop drive. There you will find all the facilities you need – grills, tables and seats, and the latter with these slightly surreal-looking space-age shelters to provide protection from the harsh midday sun in summer.
When we were there it was still fairly early in the morning and the place was pretty deserted. I am sure it gets busier later, especially at the height of the season, but we rather enjoyed having it to ourselves as the shelters made great subjects for some rather different White Sands photos. To be honest, at that time of day in October we didn’t really need their protection, but it was a fun place to relax for a short while and refresh ourselves with a drink, and we were also glad of the (primitive) restrooms provided here.
I seek out local beers wherever I go and New Mexico had proved a pretty good hunting ground thus far. High Desert Brewing in Las Cruces had gotten mixed reviews but there were just enough good ones to tweak my interest. Being on a budget, I was trying to be selective as to where we went but I'd nearly bypassed Second Street Brewing in Santa Fe for this reason and it had turned out to be the best of the lot so far. So, with Las Cruces very much on our path from White Sands National Monument to great Wild West, we decided to give it a chance. Hey, their motto is "None of our beers suck."
Favorite Dish: This was very much a local's place and quite busy when we arrived at lunchtime during the week. It was a simple bar with some side tables both inside and out but after three days of fighting the sun and camping, we opted for the air-conditioned indoors and the bar as we hadn't planned on eating, again due to financial constraints. They luckily had small sized beers as we had six hours of driving to do that day. We started off with and the Oktoberfest which was a malty amber concoction with an uncertain finish. The Pale Bock didn't fare much better. By then, we noticed that lots of people were just eating and drinking non-beer beverages. The smell of the food was amazing. Despite having eaten something prior to coming, we decided to split a mushroom Swiss burger. It came out with a mound of obviously homemade potato salad and they had considerately cut it in half to facilitate our sharing it. It was a very generous size and though tasty enough that we could have both eaten one, it did the trick for both of us. It's too bad the next two beers didn't fare any better. The Dark Bock was a darker and still sticky copy of the Pale Bock. We decided that maybe they just couldn't brew lagers and switched to an ale but the ESB was another malty affair that left us wondering if hops were available in the high desert. If passing this way, do stop in for a meal. The food's great and they have free wireless in a cool air-conditioned setting. None of their beers might suck but none of them are very good either.
One of our favorite things in White Sands National Monument were the space age picnic shelters. They looked a little garish but their practicality became readily apparent when the sun got high in the sky and we sat in one for the first time. Built to provide not only shade but protection from sand being blown by the wind, they were a great place to have a meal and drink lots of necessary liquids.
Favorite Dish: Gatorade, chips, & Toblerone.
No restaurants here but aluminum picnic tables with futuristic looking covers are available if you've packed your own food. Sort of a surreal setting for a picnic.
Water is available at the visitor's center only. The building shown is a restroom.
There is no food or water available within the monument, so remember to pack your own in. The alkaline nature of the dunes will dehydrate you very very quickly, so be sure to bring plenty of water with you. You can find water, food, and fuel in Las Cruces or Alamogordo. Do it.
If you forget, you can get rather expensive water at the Visitor Center. You can also see a nice little movie and learn more abot how the dunes formed (and are still being formed) and what wildlife lives here.