Las Cruces is a small agricultural and transportation center and home to 17,000 New Mexico State University students. It is also the gateway to historic, geologic, and recreational sites, including White Sands National Monument to the northeast. The downtown is small, clean, and quiet, with an old-west style historic district converted to a pedestrian mall. The campus lies south of downtown with commercial/retail areas just east.
Large employers include the university, the White Sands Missile Range, which still employs about 3000, a NASA test center and various government and health care institutions. There are some manufacturers and high tech firms but the employment base is small and current unemployment has risen. Although the area is reasonably close to El Paso and it has reasonably good air service for the size of town, these don’t relieve the feeling of isolation. Those not looking for a small, quiet desert city to settle in might not find enough to do.
Las Cruces is located in the broad, flat Mesilla Valley, a grazing area with desert hills and mountains on both sides. The alkali desert supports only limited and hardy vegetation and grasses, although there are areas of scrub trees in the hills and mountains. The southerly desert climate allows an abundance of sunshine year-round; hot, dry summer days; and cool evenings. Limited precipitation falls in summer as thundershowers. Winters are mild, sunny, and dry, although below-freezing temperatures happen about once every 3 days. First freeze is mid-December, last is mid-February.