Las Cruces is a thriving nexus of Native American, Spanish and Mexican culture. The second largest city in New Mexico (after Albuquerque), it hosts ample festivals — some celebrating salsa (the dance, the music and the dip), others devoted to wine — and its downtown farmers market-meets-craft fair covers a whopping seven city blocks.

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Outdoor music festival in Las Cruces
City of Las Cruces

The city, which is almost exactly halfway between San Diego and Dallas, prides itself on having an average of 320 days of sunshine per year. Locals take advantage of all that good weather by exploring the area’s hundreds of miles of scenic hiking and biking trails year-round.

“The weather is unbeatable,” one respondent wrote in our reader poll. “The beauty of the desert southwest is all around us here.”

A few years ago, archeologists unearthed fossilized footprints in nearby White Sands National Park that suggest humans were kicking around here way earlier than previously thought possible. Nowadays, Las Cruces is attracting newcomers at a rapid clip. To keep up with the growth, the city is developing quickly, including turning 150 acres of city land — much of which was formerly a landfill — into a new neighborhood full of affordable housing.