Albuquerque, located at the crossroads of the state’s travel routes, is the largest city in New Mexico. Clear, sunny, dry days; an attractive mountain landscape; and a mostly healthy economy attract new residents from around the country. Not only is the physical climate excellent, but the area also has a favorable tax climate, and the state’s fiscal health is among the best in the country. The area is a center for the high-tech industry and especially research-oriented activities, centered on the giant Sandia Laboratories nuclear research facility south of town. There are over 100 mostly small- and medium-size tech related companies, and the area has experienced some vulnerability to tech industry economic cycles.
The area is also a transportation and warehousing center. Albuquerque boasts a modern downtown and an excellent historic district with shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues. The town sprawls in all directions from the city core; managing growth, sprawl, congestion, and air quality are among the area’s biggest challenges. Crime, and particularly violent crime, is another.
More upscale neighborhoods lie to the northeast, while more middle class areas spread west, and south towards the large Kirtland Air Force Base. The University of New Mexico brings a strong college presence to downtown. There are a number of arts organizations and the area, with its mix of Native American and Hispanic heritage, has a unique cultural flavor. Within a day’s drive are interesting historic and archeological sites and mountain areas to the east.
The Albuquerque metro area is largely situated in the Rio Grande Valley and on the mesas and piedmont slopes rising on either side of the valley floor. The Sandia and Manzano mountains rise abruptly from the eastern edge of the city with Tijeras Canyon separating the two ranges. West of the city the land gradually rises to the Continental Divide, some 90 miles away. Natural vegetation is mainly desert scrub, grasses and small trees, with coniferous forests high in the mountains to the east.
The climate is arid continental with abundant sunshine, low humidity, scant precipitation, and a wide yet tolerable range of seasonal temperatures. More than three-fourths of daylight hours have sunshine, even in winter. Average summer temperatures are high, with warm days up to 90 degrees and cool nights. Winter temperatures usually reach the 50’s, but can fail to rise above freezing on a few days. Precipitation is adequate only for native vegetation. Snow in the city is light and infrequent, but the mountains get enough for skiing. Most annual precipitation comes from afternoon summer thundershowers, which peak during August. Winter and spring windstorms may bring dust. First freeze is mid-October, last is early May.