Moving to New Mexico

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New Mexico at a Glance 

From volcanic fields and gypsum dunes to cliff dwellings, caverns and canyons, New Mexico lives up to its name as the Land of Enchantment. New Mexico has long been a draw for artists and others seeking a less conventional life. With Native American, Spanish and other cultural influences, the state’s heritage is as rich and varied as its geographical terrain.  

Retirees and young families move here for the sunny days, and mid-career astrophysicists move here for the job market (but also — secretly — the sunny days). 

But if sunshine alone cannot lure you, the snowy slopes of the Sandia Mountains might. Named for their watermelon-pink hue, the Sandias offer some of the best skiing and hiking in the country. If you’re more of a night owl — or, better yet, a bat —you’ll feel right at home in Carlsbad Caverns — one of the state’s national parks. 

Intrepid indoorsmen (and women), on the other hand, will enjoy New Mexico’s many museums and cultural heritage sites. Crafty types, meanwhile, will relish the state’s full-on embrace of the arts, with dozens of annual markets selling can’t-be-bought-on-Amazon wares.  

One thing everyone in the state can get behind are chiles — New Mexico produces more of these hot peppers than any other state in the union. We hope you like eating them for breakfast, lunch and dinner! 

Albuquerque and Santa Fe are the state’s biggest cities and offer some of the best amenities, too (including exceptional restaurants), but you’ll find something to admire about every town in the state, from Taos to Roswell. 

New Mexico is a place for the new, the old and the off-center. No state has cultivated its own distinctive culture better than this one, and hardly any have managed an embrace of traditional and contemporary culture with such success. So, whether you’re looking for sunny, dry summers or an all-out escape from regular life, this is a state to cultivate a new you.  

Life in New Mexico

If you’re thinking of moving to the Land of Enchantment, it’s a good idea to consider the pros and cons of living in New Mexico.  

New Mexico’s cost of living is several points below the national average. The Land of Enchantment can provide an affordable, comfortable lifestyle in the American Southwest, especially compared to neighboring Colorado and Arizona, whose cost-of-living indexes are over 10 points higher. The median home value in New Mexico is $184,800 — tens of thousands of dollars less than the U.S. average. So, it will cost you considerably less to enjoy those appealing dry summers and the natural beauty of the state’s national parks.  

Despite these benefits, the outlook isn’t all sunny days for the state. New Mexico struggles with poverty rates and education. Only 87% of the population has graduated from high school, and over 18% of the population lives in poverty — one of the highest rates in the nation. The median household income in the state is $54,020, significantly less than the U.S. median of $69,021.  

The job market in New Mexico is looking up, though. At 4.1%, New Mexico’s unemployment rate is slightly higher than the U.S. average. But the state’s economy still looks promising, particularly in sectors like trade, tourism, aerospace and aviation —areas in which the state is already a powerful player. The state is also investing in new sectors, including intelligent manufacturing, streaming, media production and renewable energy — why let all that free sunshine go to waste, right?  Between 2021 and 2022, New Mexico added 45,000 jobs to the market, giving it the fourth-highest job growth rate in the country that year.  

A Sunny … and Dry …  Climate

With up to 3,700 hours of annual sunshine, New Mexico is known for its dry climate. Sorry, Florida — New Mexico is second only to Arizona in the competition for the sunniest state in the union. But as the fifth-largest state in the union, it’s important to note New Mexico has many climatic variations, which somewhat predictably shift from north to south and by elevation.  

In the state’s southeastern corner, the average annual temperature is 64oF, while the far northern mountains are only 40ºF. Temperatures usually decrease by three degrees for every 1,000 feet of elevation, so while you’re donning a parka, your neighbors down the hill may very well be in bikinis. The biggest drama in the state comes with the daily temperature shift, which averages a 25-35ºF difference from day to night.  

In the summer months, much of the state will experience highs in the 90s ºF and even over 100ºF. Those in the mountains, though, it may only heat up to 70ºF   

The highest temperature high ever recorded in New Mexico was 116ºF. The saving grace, of course, is the lack of humidity, which makes those hot days feel a little less oppressive. With the summer’s heat comes afternoon thunderstorms, which often bring dramatic downpours and hail. The state sees anywhere from 10- to-20 inches of rain each year, and it’s not unheard of for several inches of rain to fall in a single afternoon. But a lot of the precipitation rapidly evaporates in the heat — in fact, the amount of evaporation actually exceeds the amount of precipitation. 

Springtime is the windy season, which affects the eastern plains more than other areas of the state, but the sustained winds of 30 mph can blow bothersome clouds of dust and cause damaging soil erosion during droughts.  

Wintertime brings chilly temperatures throughout the state and serious snowfall to the mountains. Temperatures average 50ºF in the south and 30ºF in the north, but temperatures of -50ºF have been recorded. The arid southeast will be lucky to see three inches of snow in a year, but the mountain areas will be treated to 100 inches easily, and the highest peaks may see over 300.  

Fall is one of the best times to visit or move to New Mexico. The summer downpours will have subsided by September, the temperatures will have cooled, and the eight million acres of forest will be alive with color. (Leaf-peeping isn’t just for New England, you know.) 

Best Cities to Live in New Mexico

United by a quintessential Southwestern vibe, each of New Mexico’s cities has unique culture and charm. The 2,113,344 residents of the state have a vast terrain to inhabit: There are only 17.5 people per square mile — a fraction of the population density in any of its neighbors. 


With 562,599 residents, sunny Albuquerque (affectionately known as The Burque) is the home of the University of New Mexico. It’s also the state’s largest city — over a quarter of the state’s population lives here.  

This high desert town with a low-key vibe is easily one of America’s most interesting cosmopolitan areas. Which is one reason why the city has grown by over 15,000 people in the last 10 years. Albuquerque has also become a popular setting for popular streaming series and movies, like “Breaking Bad,” “Stranger Things and “Independence Day: Resurgence.”  

The city’s downtown core is a fairly conventional business hub, with a handful of high-rises (plus cool bars and restaurants). Some of the state’s largest corporations and enterprises are based here, too, like Sandia National Laboratories. But the Old Town neighborhood, founded by Spanish colonists in 1706, is just the opposite — filled with historic buildings and tawny adobe shops, along with museums, galleries, theaters and great restaurants.  

Albuquerque is incredibly bike-friendly, and it really caters to an active and engaged lifestyle, offering easy access to hiking and skiing in the nearby Sandia Mountains and plenty of cultural attractions to explore in town. With everything it has to offer — including 310 sweet days of sunshine — Albuquerque is surprisingly affordable. The median home value in the city is $214,600 and rent averages $932 per month, both below the national average. 

Las Cruces 

In the far southern reaches of the state, on the edge of the Chihuahuan Desert, lies Las Cruces (pop. 112,914). This mid-size city along the Rio Grande has seen a significant population increase over the last decade, welcoming 15,000 new residents.  

Housing in Las Cruces costs far less the U.S. average, with the median home value ringing in at $167,800 and rent averaging only $824 a month.  

The city is home to New Mexico State University, which happens to be a NASA Space-Grant College, so it is a major feeder for the aerospace talent pool in the state.  

Additionally, Las Cruces has an enormous number of museums and cultural centers for a city its size — you’d be completely worn out trying to see them all in even a month. If you have children, you’ll definitely want to spend the day at the 47-acre New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum, which has cattle, horses and sheep, along with fascinating exhibits on the state’s rich, agricultural heritage, dating back 4,000 years.  

There’s also the Las Cruces Museum of Art, the Las Cruces Museum of Nature & Science, as well as the Las Cruces Railroad Museum. But if you’re after a truly unique experience, visit the New Mexico State University Arthropod Museum, where bugs really come to life! Well, not really. But with 50 drawers of specimens to peruse, your imagination will certainly be awakened by the creepy and the crawly. Plus, you’ll learn how indispensable insects are to our daily lives. 

Rio Rancho 

Rio Rancho — the popular northern suburb of Albuquerque and New Mexico’s third-largest city — has a fast-growing population of 105,834.  

Over the last 10 years, Rio Rancho welcomed 18,313 newcomers to the area, where the home values average $200,800 and rent averages $1,157.  

In 2020, Money added it to its list of best cities to live in, citing the many family-friendly attractions of the suburb and Intel’s new research and development center as major assets.  

Santa Fe 

Santa Fe is a mere 65 miles northeast of Albuquerque, but this city of 88,193 has a spirit all its own. Long known as an arts haven, this historic town that was once home of renowned artist Georgia O’Keefe is at once cozy and cosmopolitan.  

Over the past 10 years, Santa Fe has grown by over 20,000. Housing prices in the city are some of the highest in the state, though: The median home value is over $290,000 and rent averages north of $1,100.  

As the oldest capital city in the country, the adobe architecture of the Palace of the Governors, built in 1610 in Santa Fe, looks nothing like the Georgian mansions of the eastern seaboard. Early prospectors were drawn to Santa Fe’s mineral stores, including gold, silver and — of course — turquoise, the state gem. You’ll still find lots of artists and jewelers working with the stone and selling their wares at Santa Fe’s famous art markets throughout the year.  

Santa Fe has been named a top 10 city for arts, outdoor adventures, history and more. But if you’re moving to the “City Different,” as it’s often called, you’ll quickly find one of the best things about the place is the food. Expect all your favorite home-cooked New Mexican classics (flautas, chile rellenos and tamales) at Atrisco Café & Bar.  

Luminaria will take things up a notch with artfully prepared dishes like the smoked pork belly tostada, served with pickled cauliflower, roasted corn, a black bean purée and a cured egg yolk. However, there is excellent food from all over the globe in Santa Fe, from Italian to Indian to Middle Eastern fare.  

Much like Albuquerque, Santa Fe residents love to get outdoors, and residents have easy access to explore the wild peaks of the Sangre de Cristo mountains or brave the rapids on Rio Grande or the Rio Chama.  


If any city in New Mexico could describe itself as out of this world, it would be Roswell, home to 48,081 people (and maybe one or two space aliens living on the DL?).  

The reputation of this city in the southeast corner of the state may always precede it, but the residents do seem to embrace it. The alien welcome statue, the International UFO Museum and Research Center and the annual Roswell UFO Festival are proof of that.  

But there are other interesting cultural attractions for mere earthlings, too. The Walker Aviation Museum and the Anderson Museum of Contemporary Art are just two of the major cultural centers in Roswell.  

Natural wonders abound here as well. Pay a visit to the Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge and see a proliferation of sandhill cranes, black-necked stilts, avocets and other birds that call it home (or make much-needed pit stops during migration to refuel).  

Another appeal? Housing in Roswell is some of the most affordable in the state. The median home value is $112,500 and rent averages $831 per month.  

Unique Experiences in the Land of Enchantment

New Mexico has an astonishing number of excellent museums throughout its boundaries, from the New Mexico Museum of Space History in Alamogordo to the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe.  

One of the best places to start is the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, which begins in prehistoric times and travels all the way up to today, examining the influence and importance of indigenous cultures, like the Navajo, Pueblo, Apache and others in the Southwest through art and archaeological artifacts.  

The National Hispanic Cultural Center is a multidisciplinary home for the arts, from theater to literature to dance. The 20-acre site has a museum, performance spaces and a library, all dedicated to celebrating the Hispanic, Chicano and Latinx communities.  

If you’re new to the state (or even if you’re just looking for a little refresher), the New Mexico History Museum is a perfect place to explore its diverse heritage and cultures, from Native Americans to Spanish colonists and other European settlers.  

New Mexico is also famous for its markets. The annual SWAIA Santa Fe Indian Market, held each August, draws 100,000-plus people to see the work of Native American artists from over 100 tribal communities across the continent. Visitors can expect to see everything from traditional crafts and jewelry to contemporary works of art to live demonstrations and performances. It is not to be missed. 

In July, Santa Fe hosts the Traditional Spanish Market and the Contemporary Spanish Market, while Albuquerque welcomes its own Winter Spanish Market each November.  

It’s hard to compete with the Santa Fe’s high, artsy standards, but if any place can do it, it’s Meow Wolf, which stands out as a true original. This quirky, immersive and almost indescribable art venue will treat you to a mind-bending, 70-room puzzle in space, where you’ll pass through wardrobes, appliances and other unlikely portals, finding yourself unsure if the room is upside down, or if you are.  

If you’re looking for a truly otherworldly experience, you’ll need to attend the Roswell UFO Festival. This three-day summer spectacular draws extraterrestrial enthusiasts (aaaand a lot of people who just know how to party) from miles around. There are cheeky competitions, like the Glo Golf and 5K Alien Chase, and heavier, juried exhibitions, which ask artists to seriously contemplate the future through sculpture and film. But the intergalactic crowd-pleaser is the Fire and Light Show, which dazzles onlookers with inconceivable pyrotechnics and musical performances. 

For those who prefer things a little more down-to-earth, there’s the annual International Balloon Fiesta. The largest festival of its kind in the world, the nine-day-long Olympics of hot air brings enormous crowds to Albuquerque each fall for balloon races, the Glowdeo, chainsaw-carving demos and fireworks displays.  

Looking to explore the great outdoors? The dozens of New Mexico state parks make for perfect day trips on the weekend, while the many national parks and monuments are ideal for more extended adventuring.  

If you’re ready for some prehistoric fun, head to Clayton Lake State Park & Dinosaur Trackways, where you can see some of the oldest preserved dino footprints on earth (like, 100 million years old). Less graceful visitors will be relieved to see that even some of the planet’s greatest beasts struggled with a trek through the mud. Unfortunately for the dinosaurs, these ancient stumbles have now been preserved for all time.  

The Aztec Ruins National Monument will give you a glimpse of the Pueblo migration journey through the 900-year-old “Great House,” which has over 400 rooms.  

Similarly, Chaco Canyon National Historic Park preserves one of the most remarkable economic and cultural centers in the U.S., which dates from 850 to 1250 A.D. Another of the site’s biggest attractions is the Sun Dagger petroglyph — an ancient, geometric rock carving that documents the annual equinoxes and solstices.  

As a designated International Dark Sky Park, Chaco Canyon draws scores of stargazers from around the world. It’s not hard to find a great place to go hiking, biking or camping — but what about dune sledding? If that’s on your bucket list, you’re in luck!  

White Sands National Park is a 275-square-mile, white gypsum dune field — the largest anywhere on Earth. You can BYO or rent equipment from the park.  

New Mexico Local Eats

Red or green? If you don’t already know your answer to this official state question, you have a lot of spicy sampling to do in your future home of New Mexico, the chili capital of America. Actually, it’s the chile capital: New Mexicans spell it with an e (unless you’re talking about a bowl of meat and beans or that chain restaurant with the baby back earworm jingle.)  

Northern New Mexico is famous for the orange and red chiles of the Chimayo Valley, while its southern rivals are known for the green “Hatch” variety. Both are made into astoundingly delicious sauces. If you simply cannot choose between them when asked, answering “Christmas” will get you a helping of both. New Mexicans use these peppers in enchiladas, chile rellenos, calabacitas and other signature dishes. 

But where should you eat these picante concoctions? Campo, located at the Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Organic Farm, serves artful farm-to-table dishes like the beef adovada, a red chile-braised beef tamale with mantequilla beans, and braised lamb birria with blue corn hominy.  

In Santa Fe, La Boca prepares modern, Mediterranean-inspired tapas, like mejillones with a coconut salsa verde, Chorizo Iberíco with piparra-egg salad and chicharrones de Andlau — fried pork belly with harissa, cumin and lemon.  

Of course, the chile pepper is equally at home in humble American classics, like the burger. The establishment that supposedly started the green chile cheeseburger craze is The Owl Bar & Café in San Antonio. With its pine paneling and red vinyl booths, this come-as-you-are bar has been making mouths water and whistles wet since 1945.  

Chope’s Town Café and Bar in La Mesa could give The Owl a run for its money, though — on its 100th birthday in 2015, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.  

If you’re living in New Mexico, one of the culinary perks is that you don’t have to rely on commercially made tortillas to make your home cooking shine — you can visit a tortillaria and pick up everything from the pillowy, chewy flour variety to nixtamalized blue corn tortillas.  

Another doughy delight of the state is fry bread, thanks to the many Native American restaurants in the state. Tiwa Kitchen Restaurant & Bakery has been making its famous blue corn frybread in Taos since 1993, and its homestyle menu reflects both Pueblo and Mexican traditions.  

Moving to New Mexico Soon? Let Mayflower Get You There!

When you are ready to move to New Mexico, Mayflower will be there to guide you Every Step of the Way®.  

Planning a long-distance move? Take some of the stress out of moving. Mayflower’s trusted team can help you relocate to New Mexico from anywhere in the country. Our long-distance movers can provide you with full-service moving packages — including a personal moving coordinator — to take care of all your moving needs.  

Are you moving in New Mexico? Mayflower can handle your local moves, too. If you’re moving locally within the state, our New Mexico movers perform local moves under their brands and businesses.  

Planning to move to New Mexico by yourself? Mayflower’s offers helpful moving tips, checklists and resources for the DIY mover.  

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