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Best Places to Live in the Southwest

Looking for the best places to live in the Southwest? Check out this list of the eight best Southwestern cities based on job opportunities, crime rates, home prices, recreation, and other local amenities!

Cathedral City, CA

Drone Shot of Tennis Courts in Cathedral City, CA. Photo by Instagram user @kourts.app

Photo via @kourts.app

  • Population: 53,268
  • Home Price: $203,900 median purchase price; $1,132 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 43% of U.S. cities
  • Unemployment Rate: 6.0%

Situated within the scenic Coachella Valley just 15 minutes from Palm Springs is one of the best cities in the Southwest: Cathedral City. The streets of this desert resort town are lined with beautiful yet affordable Adobe Revival, Mission, and Colonial-style homes. People living in Cathedral City can enjoy a bustling downtown area with great shops and restaurants, as well as numerous parks and several annual events and festivals, including the Cathedral City Hot Air Balloon Festival & Food Truck Fiesta. Cathedral City also has a high-quality educational system with institutions like Cathedral City Elementary School and California Gold Ribbon School Cathedral City High School. With an abundance of things to do, pristine natural beauty, and a gorgeous year-round climate, Cathedral City is a good choice for anyone moving to the Southwest!

Things to Do in Cathedral City

Take in stunning views of the Coachella Valley with a hike on the scenic Cathedral Canyon Trailhead. Team up with friends or family for a round of sand volleyball, go for a walk, or have a cookout at the barbecue stands at Panorama Park. Spend a day on the pristine greens of Cimarron Golf Resort, an 18-hole course nestled against the San Jacinto Mountains. Marvel at fossils, paleontological artifacts, and other fascinating exhibits at Museum of Ancient Wonders. Reserve a table at Sammy’s Place and order a plate of Spaghetti Carbonara with authentic Gelato for dessert. Order vegan fare like Fried Avocado Tacos or share a Hot N Spicy Pizza from Barrel District Pizza. Eat authentic Greek cuisine like Spanakopita or Loukoumades at Yiannis Taverna. Or dig into some Pollo a la Brasa or a Pork Sandwich at Pollo Dokys Peruvian Food.

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Cortez, CO

Aerial View of Mesa Verde Park Point in Cortez, CO at Golden Hour. Photo by Instagram user @newdenizen

Photo via @newdenizen

  • Population: 8,683
  • Home Price: $149,600 median purchase price; $697 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 30% of U.S. cities
  • Unemployment Rate: 4.1%

Sunny weather, natural beauty, and archeological wonders await in Cortez, home to the world-renowned Mesa Verde National Park. Residents living in Cortez can spend their days shopping, enjoying the local restaurant scene, and exploring nature. But its many recreational opportunities aren’t the only reason Cortez is one of the best places to live in the Southwest—it also has a lower-than-average cost of living and great schools like Kemper Elementary, Montezuma-Cortez Middle School, and Montezuma-Cortez High School. Additionally, real estate is very affordable in Cortez. Colonial, Craftsman, and ranch-style properties are common, but contemporary apartments are also available. And despite the city’s small size, professionals can find employment in a variety of industries, including education, telecommunication, and hospitality.

Things to Do in Cortez

Visit cliff dwellings of the Ancestral Pueblo people and other fascinating archeological sites at Mesa Verde National Park. Take a hike or go rock-climbing at Hawkins Preserve. Browse the gallery of new and emerging local artists and see prints, sculptures, paintings, and more at Cortez Cultural Center. Play racquetball, drift down the lazy river, or swim laps in the pool at Cortez Recreation Center. Unwind with a House Margarita and plate of Shrimp Chorizo Tacos at La Casita de Cortez. Cozy up with a bowl of French Onion Soup or order a Baseball Sirloin for dinner at The Farm Bistro. Fill up on comfort food like Meatloaf and Chicken Pot Pie with a pint of Lizard Head Red at Loungin’ Lizard. Or slurp down some Pho and Noodle Soup at Thai Cortez.

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El Paso, TX

View of Downtown El Paso, TX. Photo by Instagram user @seiriosobscura

Photo via @seiriosobscura

  • Population: 678,058
  • Home Price: $119,300 median purchase price; $769 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 36% of U.S. cities
  • Unemployment Rate: 4.5%

El Paso isn’t just one of the best places to live in the Southwest. It’s also one of the most affordable Texas cities and one of the best places to retire in the country! The city offers a low cost of living, sunny weather all year long, and affordable real estate with homes in a variety of styles, including Adobe Revival and Mission. And families will love The Sun City’s great schools like Tippin Elementary School, Sun Ridge Middle School, and Mission Early College High School. El Paso also has a lot of natural beauty, with the Rio Grande running along its southern border and desert landscape all around. And with plenty of things to do and see, annual festivals like El Paso Ice Cream Fest, and an impressive restaurant scene, you’ll never be bored in El Paso!

Things to Do in El Paso

Go wild at the El Paso Zoo, a 35-acre property with more than 220 species of animals and fun exhibits for the entire family. Camp under the stars, go rock climbing, or take a mountain bike on the trails at Franklin Mountains State Park. Explore a permanent collection of more than 7,000 pieces of art from around the world at El Paso Museum of Art. Savor Mole Enchiladas or try a little of everything with the Mexican Combination Plate at L&J Cafe. Order a Top Sirloin or Beef Short Rib from premium local steakhouse West Texas Chophouse. Turn up the heat with Kung Pao Chicken, Beef Noodle Soup in Spicy Broth, and other Chinese dishes at Fun Noodle Bar. Experience New American entrees from Elk Tenderloin to Grilled Salmon at Park Tavern. Or get locally brewed draft beers like a Peanut Butter & Jealous brown ale or All Bets Are Off sour at DeadBeach Brewery.

Gilbert, AZ

View of a Home on the Water in Gilbert, AZ at Sunrise. Photo by Instagram user @haughtshots

Photo via @haughtshots

  • Population: 226,832
  • Home Price: $264,700 median purchase price; $1,315 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 70% of U.S. cities
  • Unemployment Rate: 3.9%

Considering its rapid population growth, hot job market, and chart-topping homeownership rates among people under 35, it’s clear that Gilbert is one of the most popular places to live in the Southwest! As both the fifth best place to buy a home in America and one of the safest cities in the country, Gilbert is an ideal place to settle down with a family, start a career, or enjoy your retirement. Home styles range from Colonial to Adobe Revival, and there are award-winning schools like Legacy Traditional School and Gilbert Classical Academy. The city also has an abundance of golf courses, parks, restaurants, and shops, as does its nearby neighbor Phoenix. Truly, Gilbert is a wonderful choice for anyone thinking of moving to Arizona!

Things to Do in Gilbert

Listen to live music, eat street food from local vendors, and watch rodeo events during the annual November festival, Gilbert Days. Stroll through Gilbert’s Heritage District, where historic buildings house a variety of modern breweries, shops, and restaurants. Set your sights on the stars and gaze through the 16-inch-diameter telescope at Gilbert Rotary Centennial Observatory. Experience tasty Mexican entrees like Sidewalk Surfer Chilaquiles and the Green Chili Chicken Burrito at Joyride Taco House. Sit down with a draft beer and a unique hot dog like the Free Bird turkey dog or the plant-based Beyond Brat at Dog Haus Biergarten. Grab a table at Phoenicia Cafe and sample their Gyros Platter or Hommus De Luxe. Or satisfy your seafood cravings at High Tide Seafood Bar & Grill with fresh Ceviche or Steamed Black Mussels.

Henderson, NV

Drone Photo of Lake Las Vegas in Henderson, NV. Photo by Instagram user @topdronepix

Photo via @topdronepix

  • Population: 277,872
  • Home Price: $237,800 median purchase price; $1,151 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 49% of U.S. cities
  • Unemployment Rate: 5.4%

There are many reasons why Henderson—Nevada’s second-largest city—is a great place to live in the Southwest. Chief among those reasons are its booming restaurant scene, abundant recreation, and affordable housing in styles ranging from Italian Villa to Adobe Revival. The city’s job market is another perk, as its pro-business climate helps top industries like manufacturing, healthcare, and technology thrive—and you’re just 20 minutes from Las Vegas, where additional employment and recreational opportunities await! Henderson is also a good choice for those moving to the Southwest in search of higher education. Students can choose from institutions like College of Southern Nevada, the state’s largest and most diverse college, and Nevada State College, which specializes in arts and science degrees like nursing and education.

Things to Do in Henderson

Step back in time at the 30-acre Clark County Heritage Museum site and see their collection of motorhomes, locomotives, and historic buildings. Walk through Ethel M Botanical Cactus Garden and marvel at more than 300 species of indigenous plants. Visit Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area to gaze upon millennia-old petroglyphs and rock carvings. Make a splash at Cowabunga Bay Water Park, featuring high-energy rides like Beach Blanket Banzai, as well as restful cabanas and a relaxing lazy river. Sip on an Apple Cider Punch cocktail as you enjoy a Biscuit & Jam Flight or Chopped Hog sandwich at Biscuits & Bourbon. Taste noodles done right at Ohjah Noodle House 2, where everything from Miso Ramen to Garlic Edamame is made fresh and delicious. Savor Pan Roasted Risotto, Lobster Ravioli, and other popular dishes at Il Chianti Italian. Or sit down at Chick N Coop for a finger-licking good meal of Rotisserie Chicken with a side of Coop Rice.

Peoria, AZ

Aerial View of a City Building in Peoria, AZ. Photo by Instagram user @peoriaazcam

Photo via @peoriaazcam

  • Population: 158,677
  • Home Price: $208,200 median purchase price; $1,137 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 46% of U.S. cities
  • Unemployment Rate: 4.1%

Outdoor fun, a diverse restaurant scene, and a variety of arts and entertainment await you in the Phoenix suburb of Peoria, one of the best best places to live in the Southwest. Although it’s smaller than the capital city of Phoenix—which is just a 28-minute drive away—there are plenty of things to do in Peoria. Top local schools like Parkridge Elementary and Glendale Preparatory Academy make living in Peoria a great option for families, and the city’s strong job market supported by major industries like healthcare, advanced manufacturing, and computer data make it a fantastic place to start a career. Beyond these modern conveniences, Peoria also has a lot of green space with reserves and regional parks like Lake Pleasant Regional Park. Plus, the city’s warm climate means residents can enjoy these outdoor amenities all year long!

Things to Do in Peoria

Tee off on the 18-hole green at Peoria Pines Golf Course. Shop for fresh produce, browse artisan goods, and get a feel for local culture every Saturday all year at Arrowhead Farmers Market. Get tickets to comedies, dramas, musicals, and other local performances at Arizona Broadway Theatre. Catch a baseball game at the Peoria Sports Complex, home to the San Diego Padres (MLB) and the Seattle Mariners (MLB) during Spring Training. Go to brunch with friends at The Social on 83rd, where you can build your own mimosa and enjoy a variety of brunch favorites from Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes to Sourdough Benedict. Share a hand-crafted Cured Meat & Cheese Board or have the Chicken Parmigiana Sandwich for dinner at The Sicilian Butcher. Make reservations at Nineteen 86 Steakhouse, offering weekly specials like Sunday Prime Rib Night, and a luxurious Filet & Lobster dinner on Thursdays. Or order an espresso along with something to eat from the daily menu at the chic yet cozy Driftwood Coffee.

Rio Rancho, NM

Photo of the Hills in Rio Rancho, NM at Sunset. Photo by Instagram user @rio_rancho_nm

Photo via @rio_rancho_nm

  • Population: 92,966
  • Home Price: $173,100 median purchase price; $1,114 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 52% of U.S. cities
  • Unemployment Rate: 4.7%

The Albuquerque suburb of Rio Rancho, also known as the City of Vision, is one of the best places to live in the country! So if you’re moving to the Southwest, consider planting roots in Rio Rancho. The city has affordable real estate with beautiful Pueblo Revival and ranch-style homes, a low cost of living, a sunny climate, and a well-rated public school system. Families moving to Rio Rancho can send their children to top schools like Sandia Vista Elementary School, Mountain View Middle School, and Rio Rancho High School. Rio Rancho also has numerous parks and natural wonders nearby that are great for hiking and exploring, including the Sandia Mountains and Petroglyph National Monument.

Things to Do in Rio Rancho

Take your dog for a walk, practice your baseball swing, or play a round of tennis at Rio Rancho Sports Complex. See indigenous art preserved in the rocks at Petroglyph National Monument. Get your game on at 505 Pinball, a classic arcade with an ever-changing lineup of games. Grab your hiking boots and see New Mexico’s natural beauty from the Willow Creek Bosque Trailhead. Quench your thirst with brews like the Little Boot IPA at Turtle Mountain Brewing. Satisfy your Italian food cravings at Joe’s Pasta House, where dishes like Baked Ravioli and Ziti Florentina are served up fresh. Get hearty comfort food like Jambalaya or Etouffee from K’Lynn’s Southern & Cajun Fusion. Or find mouthwatering Indian fare like Saag Paneer or Chicken Korma at Namaste.

St. George, UT

  • Population: 78,573
  • Home Price: $223,200 median purchase price; $924 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 50% of U.S. cities
  • Unemployment Rate: 3.0%

People love living in St. George for its temperate year-round climate, breathtaking red cliffs, and vibrant downtown area. Schools in St. George have high test scores and good state rankings, so families can be confident in the education their children will receive at institutions like Crimson View Elementary, George Washington Academy, and Desert Hills High School—adults can even seek a degree or certificate through one of the nearly 150 programs available at Dixie State University. St. George also has a low crime rate, low unemployment, and a cost of living well below the state average. All in all, whether you’re moving to the Southwest to soak in the region’s natural wonders or to pursue life goals, St. George is a good place to plant roots!

Things to Do in St. George

Marvel at the impressive architecture and gleaming white exterior of the St. George Utah Temple. Learn about military history and aviation and see real mid-20th century aircraft at Western Sky Aviation Warbird Museum. Take to the sky on a hot air balloon tour over gorgeous Southern Utah landscapes with Palledin Balloon Excursions. Walk through the Red Hills Desert Garden to see 5,000 species of water-efficient plants, a replica slot canyon, and 200 million-year-old dinosaur track fossils that were found on site. Explore bold flavors like Tom Yum or Green Curry at Benja Thai & Sushi. Take your tastebuds on a trip to the Hawaiian islands with an authentic Kalua Pork Bowl at Hawaiian Poke Bowl. Enjoy a culinary experience at Painted Pony Restaurant, where the menu includes contemporary dishes like Bacon Wrapped Duck and Stilton Fritters. Or spice things up with a Mole Poblano Platter or Chile Relleno from Irmita’s Casita Mexican Restaurant.


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About Mike Beutler

Mike Beutler is a writer and digital content specialist who transitioned to self storage in 2020 after several years in the airline industry. His travels cultivated a passion for exploring cities across the U.S. and abroad and inspired him to learn more about practical insights for urban living. With 14 moves under his belt, both locally and cross-country, he also has a passion for minimalism and organization, and sharing tips to help others make any space feel like home while staying organized.