First, let me say that I think lobo's
post above was remarkable spot-on in many areas / facets of differences between the two towns! Very well written with lots of good info.
My background...almost a lifelong Milwaukeean until in my mid-20s my wife and I moved to Albuquerque in 2003; lived there for 4+ years...until 2 young children came along...moved back a little less than 2 years ago to the Milwaukee area almost solely for family / friends reasons after the young children were born...and regret the blue blazes out of it!!
All you need to do is to scroll through some of my babbling, long-winded blowharded posts on here over the years, and you'll see my love affair with Albuquerque. I (and my wife as well) really loved the town - nearly all facets of it. We found it just a great place, and my heart still resides there. I have been very disappointed to be back in Milwaukee, although not so much because I hate Milwaukee or anything (I actually still really do like it here although hate components like the winters), but it is more just how much I love Albuquerque and miss it dearly.
I will say this...for someone who only has started to consider ABQ, you have hit some of the predominant features on ABQ-living quite spot on:
Originally Posted by theavrock
Some of the reasons we are attracted to ABQ is the weather, the proximity to the mountains, the arts community (my lady does modern dance) and the distinctive New Mexican culture.
I think all of those reasons are pretty darn spot-on for reasons that you might find ABQ a very attractive place to live.
Now...as for a comparison...
First and foremost, the obvious factor - the weather. Unless you enjoy more cloudy days, or colder / chillier weather, or rain, or more humidity, the weather in Albuquerque is insanely much, much better. (And I am not even being sarcastic...some people actually *do* enjoy more cloudy or rainy days)...
To me, Albuquerque's weather is nearly perfect. 310+ days of sunshine annually. And believe me, the sun burns so bright, so large in the high desert skies of ABQ - the skies are more vast, open, bright and blue than anything you'll ever come close to seeing in MKE.
ABQ is a desert, and with that, that includes extremely low humidities year-round and very little rain; it rains approximately 8 inches PER YEAR annually in ABQ! Compare that with the 35+ inches of rain in Milwaukee; in ABQ, almost never can you get a day "rained out"...
Golf is a year-round sport in ABQ (unlike MKE where it is a 6-month endeavor). However, you *will* still see some snow in ABQ's city proper (approximately 7 to 11 inches annually compared to MKE's 45)...one thing that happens in ABQ is the scant snow that does fall, it typically melts extremely quickly.
Temperatures rise / drop much quicker in ABQ than they do in the Midwest due to the low humidities and lack of cloud cover. Thus, winter nights in ABQ often do get quite chilly (not uncommon for nights bottoming out in the teens and 20s), however, the corresponding days will often then get into the 50s and even low 60s. Similarly, in the summer time, on a scorching 99 degree day in ABQ, the night will cool to a pleasant temp in the 70s.
SAD doesn't exist in ABQ. In the heart of the (very short) winter season, the average daytime high is 50 degrees - December through February. Springs and falls boast nearly perfect temperatures (highs in the high 60s through low 80s) with cool, pleasant evenings (40s and 50s)...unlike Milwaukee when spring doesn't start really until May, it starts in late February in ABQ. Summers in ABQ are quite toasty, but nothing compared to the ultra humid, soupy toastiness of an Austin or the Southeast, and the evenings/early AMs in ABQ are gorgeous in the summer (as well as in the "monsoon" season - mid-July through early-September when ABQ picks up the majority of its rainfall).
Summer is the only month that Milwaukee can give ABQ a run for its money on, however, while summer might semi-favor Milwaukee due to Milwaukee's cooler temps, ABQ boasts something that Milwaukee can not: virtually no mosquitoes (which is a HUGE FREAKING DEAL - as in Milwaukee, when it FINALLY gets warm / semi-warm out and you are bursting to get out, then the damn influx of mosquitoes goes and ruins everything!!).
To me, Albuquerque's year-round climate is nearly perfect. It is about as warm / mild as a climate can be, where it still legitimately gets all four seasons (including a winter). It is a strong, warming sunshine nearly every day, very dry air, almost no rain (when it rains, you are actually happy to see it), almost no snow, overall warm-to-hot, but still enough cool to keep a balance.
Now that I have prattled on about the weather, here are some comparison points:
>>>Milwaukee is a "bigger mid-sized city / metro"...a metro area of 1.7 million people. Albuquerque on the other hand is a "mid-sized bigger city" with a metro of about 850,000. Thus, ABQ - population-wise in the metro - is about 1/2 the size of Milwaukee.
I actually prefer the size of ABQ, as it "feels" like a big town, yet doesn't have as much traffic / rush hour as a Milwaukee even does (and even Milwaukee's isn't all too bad), etc.
>>>You'll find many, many more "transplants" or "transient" folks in ABQ than you do in Milwaukee, which is a very non-transitory town. You meet so, so many folks in Milwaukee that have lived there (and their parents as well) their whole lives.
There are pros and cons to this, but overall, I prefer ABQ's populace makeup...many people with many different perspectives. But the amazing thing is that the populace in general is much more laid-back, friendly, and amenable in ABQ than in MKE where folks are a bit more gruff, intense, and trying so hard to be like Chicagoans.
>>>The cost of housing (and cost of living in general due to much, MUCH better taxes) is better in Albuquerque. However, things like auto insurance are better in Milwaukee.
>>>One thing that Milwaukee can offer is more of a "water culture" certainly than Albuquerque can. The Milwaukee River, the KK River, and of course, Lake Michigan, all offer quite pretty vistas and unique recreational opportunities in the Milwaukee area when the weather is finally decent / nice. One thing that isn't predominant in the desert - and certainly around Albuquerque - is many conventional bodies of water. Now, the Rio Grande DOES flow through the middle of Albuquerque, and there are a few scattered large lakes within a few hours of a drive from ABQ, however, it is nothing like this region of the world.
Transversely though, of course, ABQ offers the gorgeous Sandia Mountains - SO CLOSE and SO ACCESSIBLE on the eastern edge of the town. Nothing like this of course anywhere in MKE.
>>>One thing you'd notice in ABQ is that you are able to see for miles and miles...50, 70 miles, etc. In Milwaukee, due to the much flatter nature of the topography, typically you see only a few miles ahead (if that).
>>>Fitness, running, etc., are muc more stressed in ABQ. ABQ is much more an outdoors-oriented town.
>>>ABQ strikes me as being a bit less fashion-conscious, fashion-worried. Milwaukeeans try much more to be trendy and hip in general (by, say, Gap standards or VH1 standards) than many ABQeans do.
>>>ABQ just offers so many unique niches: roasting chiles in the fall, the International Balloon Fiesta in October, the luminarias around Christmas, pinon pine in the chimneys in the colder months, etc. MKE on the other hand has more *conventional* summer festivals.
>>>ABQ has a problem in general with drunk driving, however, it isn't the drinking culture that Milwaukee has. I can't even believe how much we all drink up here in Milwaukee. I think the weather has much to do with that.
>>>ABQ has the unique, distinct, to-die-for New Mexican cuisine as its signature and predominant food. MKE is more acclimated towards brats, frozen custard, etc., as its signature foods.
>>>One area where Milwaukee has Albuquerque beat is in the competence of its drivers. Traffic is better in ABQ, however, ABQ drivers are some of the most incompetent in the nation. They aren't *mean* per se, just lazy / incompetent and thus...make sure you have good insurance on your car!...it takes awhile to adjust to the incredible defensive driving you have to do in ABQ.
>>>The whole "Green v. Brown" thing. Some of the detractors of the desert lament just how "brown" the desert is versus the "lush, green Midwest", and it is true - May through some of October - Milwaukee is lush and green.
However, I found much color in the desert that some others do not notice or pay attention to (namely the incredible sun always glowing against the vast, bright, blue skies). Some people get freaked out about not having a huge, vast green lawn in their front yard (many in ABQ utilize "xeriscaping"...rocks and desert-acclimated plantings); I am not one of them. I enjoyed having cacti, fruit trees, and some cold-hardy palm trees in my front "yard"...and did not have to mow every week either!
The other thing to consider on this front...sure, from some of May through some of October, Milwaukee is lush and green, etc., however, that is what...5.5 months at the most? Think of Milwaukee in February. Or April. Or November. Brown, brown, brown...dead, dead, dead...barren, barren, barren!
Sure, the desert isn't "lush", but at least in ABQ, trees start blooming already by late February, flowers start pushing up in very early March at the latest, the trees gain their leaves early (and lose them late), etc.
This is polarizing though: some people (like me), see immense beauty in the desert. Others really like their Midwestern-summer "lush green"...(I see the beauty there, but it just doesn't measure up - for me - to the desert, and it is too brief a period of the year).
>>>Crime?? Eh...its a wash. Like Milwaukee, there are parts of ABQ you just avoid at certain times. In fact, I would be much more comfortable breaking down in my car in almost any part of ABQ than I would in some parts of MKE. However, ABQ's petty crimes are probably a bit wider spread than parts of metro MKE. I never had a problem there and wouldn't consider it a lick, but ABQ isn't exactly Big Bend, WI...sure, there are precautions that anyone in a reasonable sized cit needs to take.
>>>One thing that is somewhat peculiar about ABQ...you will see virtually no African Americans in comparison to Milwaukee. In ABQ, the populace is nearly split between Hispanics and Anglos (with a few Native Americans scattered in), whereas in Milwaukee, it is mostly white, black, and a growing segment of Hispanics.
Frankly, I could give a damn less about folks' genetic makeup (we are all Americans after all), however, it is just different to me, seeing so many African American folks up here and virtually none in ABQ (of course there are a few black folks, just not tons).
>>>ABQ does have a "college town" feel around the UNM area. MKE has a similar feel around Marquette.
>>>People in general seem to be much more involved, opinionated, etc., in their local community in ABQ than here. I think it might be due to the size, where in MKE, it is slightly just too big. EVERYONE in ABQ has an opinion on the happenings of the town. There just seems to be a bigger sense of pride in ABQ than in MKE (where in MKE, it is more of a bizarre inferiority complex than anything)...
>>>Albuquerque is about an hour away from the world-famous, very pretty (and cooler due to altitude) Santa Fe. Santa Fe is the capital, has world-class dining, etc. SF is also notoriously liberal - good for libs, but bad for conservatives. MKE of course is about a similar distance from Madison, which in many ways compares to SF as its Midwestern counterpart (besides the mountain beauty of SF).
All in all, I could probably go on and on and on....however, I guess this is all I can ramble for now.
Just writing out this list, again, reminds me of just how much I love ABQ, how intensely I love it, and how much I miss that town. It is in my blood, and I love nearly every component of it.
It is weird though - I actually do not deplore Milwaukee as much as it probably seems like I do reading through this (a recent post I threw up on the WI forum listed about 20 things I like about Milwaukee); I really do like Milwaukee. I just far, far prefer Albuquerque to it.
Almost every night up here in MKE, I go to bed kicking myself over moving my family up here and away from ABQ. ABQ - to me - just is the perfect town. To you? Who knows? It is a polarizing place. Some folks love the desert, and some folks just don't. However, given the reasons that you cited, etc., I think you would have a great chance of falling into the "love" category. It is a quirky town, but a great town.
I wish I were back there right now. MKE's a good town, too, but I just don't think it comes close to living up to ABQ, NM. Good luck to you!