Las Cruces, New Mexico

Best Places to Retire in New Mexico


Las Cruces (population approximately 75,000) is located in the south central part of the state, not far from either the Texas state line or the Mexican border. The city is nestled in the fertile farmlands of the Mesilla Valley, between the Rio Grande River and the rugged, majestic Organ Mountains. The region features a dry, sunny climate (350 days of sunshine each year) with desert mesas and the farmlands of the Rio Grande Valley. There are four climate seasons, and the area receives a few inches of snow each year, but it doesn’t last very long. Winter nights are quite cold, but it warms up during the day. Because the city is at 3,900 feet above sea level, it cools off on summer nights and is more comfortable at that time of year than Phoenix, for example.

The city was founded more than 150 years ago when a U.S. Army Lieutenant named Delos Bennett Sackett, who was assigned to the area to defend against Apache raids, first plotted out 84 city blocks. Naming of the city follows theories involving “crosses” – either marking gravesites or placed in honor of those killed there. Another suggests the name is derived from the Spanish translation for “crossing” or “crossroads.”

Not everyone in the area was pleased when the U.S. took over these lands from Mexico. In 1850, about 60 families moved just west of the Rio Grande River into what was then still Mexico, and formed the village of Mesilla. Just four years later, Mesilla became a part of the U.S., but the people stayed and continued their lifestyle. “Billy the Kid” (William Bonney), the most famous outlaw in the West, was tried in Mesilla in 1880 and convicted of murder. He was taken to Lincoln, NM, where he escaped. He was finally was shot and killed by its County Sheriff, Pat Garrett in 1881. The building that housed the jail and courtroom, and other historical buildings, are still standing.

Today, Las Cruces is the second largest city in the state. It is home to the main campus of New Mexico State University (NMSU) where over 16,000 students are enrolled. There are numerous performing and visual arts activities, including a symphony, ballet, lyric opera, community theater, choral groups, galleries, art shows, museums, and special events. There are outstanding recreational activities as well, including golf, bicycling, hiking, camping, tennis, swimming, and more. If you are willing to travel a distance, there is also fishing and snow skiing. Good restaurants abound and there are more than 100 specialty shops at the Mesilla Valley Mall, which is a major shopping location. El Paso, Texas, the nearest city, is 45 miles south, and it is a 2Ω-hour ride north to Albuquerque, or west to Tucson.

Forbes Magazine has ranked El Paso as “one of the top three small metro areas in the country to do business.” It was also called “one of the top seven destinations to retire,” according to Money magazine. There are many desirable residential areas and the cost of living is comfortably below the national average.

Arts & Culture

The Pan American Center is one of the principal venues of Las Cruces. It is a 13,000-seat multi-purpose arena and hosts many of the biggest names in entertainment. The center has been called “the sixth busiest university event facility in the country.”

Music Recital Hall, with seating for 500, is located at New Mexico State University. It hosts a Cultural Series presented by Associated Students of NMSU and the NMSU Department of Music. It is home to the symphony orchestra, “The Nutcracker” — presented annually by the Las Cruces Chamber Ballet, the Dana Ana Lyric Opera, and many other programs.

The NMSU arts schedule provides a comprehensive list of the performing and visual arts activities planned. It is an extensive and impressive list, including theater, dance, musical events, art exhibits, and museum shows.

Las Cruces Chamber Ballet –

Las Cruces Symphony Orchestra –

Black Box Theatre is home to the No Strings Theatre Company. The company presents six plays a year.

Dona Ana Lyric Opera presents four shows a year, including a Broadway musical with high school students in the summer. Traditional operas are performed each fall, spring and summer.

The Fountain Theatre is home to the non-profit Mesilla Valley Film Society. It screens independent, foreign, and documentary art films.

Las Cruces Community Theater provides local talent with an opportunity to perform year-round in plays and musicals. (505) 523-1200 Las Cruces Museum of Natural History –


Las Cruces Parks & Recreation Department maintains a great many facilities for residents, including 63 parks, two recreation centers, athletic fields, tennis and handball courts, five swimming pools, an auto race track, a motocross track, a shooting range, and five museums. It also has 20 indoor movie theaters.

Golf in the area includes Dos Lagos, Las Cruces Country Club, New Mexico State’s course, Oasis Golf Resort, Picacho Hill Country (members only), Santa Teresa Country Club, Sonoma Ranch, and nearby White Sands Golf Club, which is restricted to military personnel. Pan American Center is home for New Mexico State’s men’s and women’s basketball and volley games.

Aggie Memorial Stadium seats 40,000 fans for NMSU’s home football games and regional high school games. It also hosts major concert tours.

Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, Silver City, NM, offers a glimpse of the homes and lives of the people of the Mogollon culture who lived in the Gila Wilderness from the 1280s through the early 1300s. The surroundings look today very much like when the cliff dwellings were inhabited.

White Sands National Monument, 45 miles east of Las Cruces, preserves a major portion of a gypsum dune field. The preserve features wave-like dunes on gypsum sand over a 275 square-mile area. The dunes are brilliant white, ever changing from the strong southwest winds. Only a few species of plants grow rapidly enough to survive burial by the moving dunes.


New Mexico State University, founded in 1888, is a comprehensive educational institution dedicated to teaching, research and service. It is ranked as one of the top research institutions and it has the state’s only NASA Space Grant Program. Overall enrollment is about 23,500, with about 16,000 graduate and undergraduate students at the main campus in Las Cruces.

Dona Ana Branch Community College, Las Cruces, NM, is a branch of New Mexico State University, offering two-year programs in business, general studies, health and public services, technical studies, general education and adult basic education.

The Doña Ana Branch Community College sponsors the Elderhostel programs in Las Cruces.

Senior Programs

The city operates four Senior Centers for residents who are 50 years and older; Munson Senior Citizen Center, Benavidez Community Center, Hospitality House, and Mesilla Senior Community Center. Programs and services include health maintenance, education, recreation and social activities, home care, mobility, community service, and related areas.


Memorial Medical Center is a 286-bed acute care hospital offering a full spectrum of medical services.

Mountain View Regional Medical Center is a 172-bed full-service hospital.


Las Cruces International Airport supports personalized air charter service. There is no scheduled commercial service.

El Paso International Airport, just 45 miles south of Las Cruces, has over 70 arrivals and departures daily.


Average maximum temperature for January is 56.9 degrees and the minimum is 20.8 degrees. Temperature averages for July are a high of 95.5 degrees and a low of 62.2 degrees. Average annual snowfall is 2.4 inches.


Las Cruces Sun News –

Property Taxes

State Taxes

Chamber of Commerce

State Aging Agency


El Paso, TX – 45 miles
Tucson, AZ – 275 miles
Albuquerque – 225 miles
Santa Fe – 287 miles

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