downtown santa fe at dusk

15 Things to Know About Living in Santa Fe

Thinking about moving to Santa Fe? New Mexico’s capital city offers a relaxing lifestyle, all kinds of outdoor recreation, and a welcoming community that loves the arts. Here are 15 things you need to know about living in Santa Fe!

You Can Get a Fresh Start

downtown santa fe new mexico photo by Instagram user @travlinphoto
Photo via @travlinphoto

As one of the best small cities in America, Santa Fe offers a more tranquil pace of life. The city’s natural beauty and gorgeous weather encourage residents to slow down and enjoy their surroundings, which makes Santa Fe one of America’s best places to get a fresh start as well! Thinking about chasing your passions here? The Santa Fe Business Incubator provides innovators with one-on-one counseling and instruction to get startups off the ground and experience long-term success. And if you’ve always wanted to try your hand at filmmaking, there aren’t many better places than Santa Fe to give it a go!

Everyone Wants to Visit Santa Fe

people sitting on rocks looking out over lindo in Santa Fe photo by Instagram user @cityofsantafe
Photo via @cityofsantafe

Run through just about any national list of best places to travel in the U.S., and you’ll notice Santa Fe makes an appearance. It’s a top travel destination for couples, spring breakers, and the LBGTQ community—even dogs love visiting Santa Fe! The pleasant Santa Fe climate, plentiful outdoor activities, and fun cultural events draw in about 2 million visitors per year, and that number is ever-growing. In fact, the influx of visitors is helping to drive the Santa Fe economy as well, with tourism, hospitality, food service, and retail sectors continuing to grow and bring more business to the area.

It’s a Great Place to Retire

old woman with gray hair walking in the street in santa fe photo by Instagram user @cityofsantafe
Photo via @cityofsantafe

Did you know Santa Fe is one of the best places to retire, not only in the U.S., but in the world? The City Different features many desirable amenities for retirees: comfortable weather, relative seclusion, friendly people, and more. These luxuries are attractive to any potential resident, but there are more practical reasons why over 20% of Santa Fe’s residents are 65 or older. It’s home to Christus St. Vincent, one of the finest healthcare facilities in the region, and charming retirement communities like Brookdale Senior Living and The Montecito Santa Fe. Truly, Santa Fe is the whole package for retirees!

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The Santa Fe Weather Might Not Be What You Expect

santa fe tetilla peak at sunset photo by Instagram user @johnsow30
Photo via @johnsow30

At 7,000 feet above sea level, Santa Fe’s weather is different than what you’ll find in most Southwest cities. The air is drier and thinner, resulting in cooler temperatures. It still gets hot in Santa Fe, as temperatures climb into the 90s during the heart of summer. But things cool down at night, sometimes dropping as much as 30 degrees after the sun goes down. In fact, the temperatures in Santa Fe are relatively mild for the most part and can even dip below 20 degrees in December and January, so Santa Feans get to experience all four seasons! The city even receives an average of 26 inches of snow each year, making it a popular ski destination. And with an average of 283 sunny days a year, residents have plenty of opportunities to take part in all the great outdoor things to do in Santa Fe!

There Are Plenty of Reasons to Get Outside

person snowboarding at Ski Santa Fe photo by Instagram user @worldwidejasper
Photo via @worldwidejasper

With more than 1.5 million acres of national forests and 170 miles of trails to explore, there’s no shortage of outdoor attractions in Santa Fe! This New Mexico city is so synonymous with exploring nature that Outside Magazine chose the city for its headquarters! Fish for trout, go whitewater rafting, and try to spot turkeys during a hike through Santa Fe National Forest—or if you prefer to drive, use the Scenic Byway to experience the forest’s beauty. Casually bike down the Santa Fe Rail-Trail, or challenge yourself with a ride on the grueling Rio En Medio Trail. Grab your skis and test your skills with 86 different slopes at Ski Santa Fe. Experience the rich culture of the Pueblo people with a Santa Fe Mountain Adventures Tour through Chaco Canyon. Or see Cerrillo Hills State Park in a whole new light during a horseback tour with Broken Saddle Riding Company.

Santa Fe Cares About the Environment

photo of people building ecobricks in santa fe photo by Instagram user @upcyclesantafe
Photo via @upcyclesantafe

Santa Fe is so committed to preserving the environment that it has been recognized as one of the greenest cities in America! The local government adopted a 25-year plan for carbon neutrality and creating a sustainable future, and the city has embraced the Night Sky Protection Act to conserve energy and preserve the skies. But that’s not all Santa Fe does to help the environment! The city promotes recycling through America’s largest and oldest recycled art market, the Recycle Santa Fe Art Festival. It’s also home to waste management groups like Upcycle Santa Fe and a number of upcycling stores, such as Native Son and Hyperclash. These efforts (and others) have resulted in a city with almost no industrial pollution!

A City with a Fascinating History

woman standing in the doorway at el rancho de las golondrinas photo by Instagram user @cityofsantafe
Photo via @cityofsantafe

Santa Fe’s rich history is kept alive by its many historical sites. Learn all about the early days of the American Southwest, from the native peoples and Spanish colonists to cowboys and outlaws, at the New Mexico History Museum. Shop for authentic Pueblo crafts and jewelry at one of the oldest buildings in the U.S., the Palace of the Governors. Be awed by the gorgeous architecture during a tour of the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi. Travel back to the 1700s and 1800s by walking among the village and witnessing reenactments at El Rancho de las Golondrinas. Walk through caves and cliff dwellings to experience what life was like for the Pueblo people at the Puye Cliff Dwellings. Or attend one of the many available retreats to discover more about native culture at Ghost Ranch.

Experience Santa Fe Through the Arts

woman looking at art at the international folk art market in Santa Fe photo by Instagram user @cityofsantafe
Photo via @cityofsantafe

With more than 250 art galleries, Santa Fe is the third-largest art market in the U.S. But it’s not just the volume that makes the Santa Fe art scene impressive—it’s the way it expresses the city’s personality and history. See how Santa Fe’s landscape inspired one of the great artists of the 20th century by viewing her paintings and drawings at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. Weave your way through the bazaar and be amazed by the original works of art from all over the world at the International Folk Art Market. Take a trip around the globe by visiting the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art, Museum of International Folk Art, Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, and Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian—all on Museum Hill. Or catch up with modern trends by checking out the rotating exhibits at SITE Santa Fe.

Spend a Night at the Santa Fe Opera

the santa fe opera performing photo by Instagram user @heather.happy.folk
Photo via @heather.happy.folk

Witness one performance at the Santa Fe Opera, and you’ll see why this New Mexico city is regarded as one of the best opera destinations in the world! Kick things off with an opera-themed buffet dinner at the open-air cantina, or bring your own meal and tailgate in the parking lot. Then, grab a dessert or drink and head under the majestic awning for a fantastic show. The Santa Fe Opera has hosted both world premieres and classic performances, such as The Barber of Seville and The Magic Flute, since 1957. And all performances are enhanced by the opera’s stunning backdrop of the Santa Fe sky and mountains!

Get Weird at Meow Wolf

treehouse inside of meow wolf photo by Instagram user @meow__wolf
Photo via @meow__wolf

Of all the things to do in Santa Fe, you won’t find anything as unique as Meow Wolf! The city’s curiosity museum has garnered national attention for its futuristic sci-fi vibe and never-seen-before decor. You never know what you’ll experience when you enter the House of Eternal Return. You can walk through a mastodon skeleton, transport to “another dimension” by stepping into a refrigerator, or enter a glowing forest through a fireplace. You’re invited to hunt for clues and solve the house’s mystery through an augmented reality app, take a guided audio tour, or simply explore the 70 rooms of weirdness on your own. Whichever path you choose, each adventure to this kid-friendly playhouse is guaranteed to be uncommon and memorable!

There’s a Santa Fe Event for Every Interest

man dancing in traditional native american dress photo by Instagram user @cityofsantafe
Photo via @cityofsantafe

Whatever your passion, there’s an event in Santa Fe to help you experience it! Take part in parades, dancing, art markets, and the famous torching of Zozobra (Old Man Gloom) at Fiesta de Santa Fe. Race fellow bikers through the gorgeous Santa Fe landscape during the annual Santa Fe Century bike ride. Sample soups from dozens of local chefs and declare the best in the city at the Souper Bowl. Embrace your inner sommelier by sampling products from 20 vintners from across the state at the Santa Fe Wine Festival. Feast your eyes on all genres of art—even edible pieces—and chat with the talented people who created them at the Canyon Road Spring Art Festival. Or catch concerts from Grammy-winning artists to standout local acts during the summer Santa Fe Bandstand music festival.

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The Kids Won’t Be Bored

kids looking through binoculars at the randall davey audubon center & sanctuary photo by Instagram user @audubonnewmexico
Photo via @audubonnewmexico

Need ways to keep your young ones entertained? There are all kinds of things to do in Santa Fe with kids! Travel to different galaxies in the Stargazer Planetarium, witness live animal feedings, and design epic LEGO creations at the Santa Fe Children’s Museum. Sign your aspiring author up for a writing workshop or spend an afternoon exploring the wide literary selection at Bee Hive Kids Books. Introduce the kids to the slopes with skiing and snowboarding lessons at the Chipmunk Corner of Santa Fe Ski Basin. Keep the holiday spirit alive at the Year-Round Christmas Wonderland at Doodlet’s. Spot nearly 200 species of birds as you explore the Randall Davey Audubon Center & Sanctuary. Or marvel at the creepy crawlies and animal feedings at the Harrell House Bug Museum.

Gather at the Railyard

person walking in front of the water tower at the Railyard in santa fe photo by Instagram user @d_p_photo_
Photo via @d_p_photo_

Want to experience some of the best Santa Fe restaurants, shopping, and entertainment all in one place? Check out The Railyard! Stock up on fresh produce and ingredients at the Santa Fe Farmers Market, one of the country’s oldest and best farmers markets. Expand your worldview with provocative and compelling art at EVOKE Contemporary. Work as a team to escape from the interactive puzzle rooms at Puzzah! Pair a weekend afternoon with a Six Fruit Under or a Boneshaker Special Bitter from Second Street Brewery. Snack on Avocado Tempura or Frito Pie while you cheer on local musical acts at Boxcar. Spruce up your wardrobe with women’s designer clothing, jewelry, and accessories from daniella. And always keep an eye on the Railyard’s calendar to stay up to date on summer movie showings, trivia nights, Last Friday Art Walks, and more!

The Food Is Absolutely Delicious

cheeseburger and beer from the green chile cheeseburger smackdown photo by Instagram user @tirawan
Photo via @tirawan

The Santa Fe restaurant scene is no joke, and the rest of the nation is starting to take notice! The city is known for sopaipillas, green chile peppers, and slow-cooked beans, but you can find meals to thrill any palate! Sample multiple versions of New Mexico’s signature dish as the top restaurants in Santa Fe battle at the Green Chile Cheeseburger Smackdown. Share Albondigas, Chicharones, and Ceviche with a group while you enjoy live music and a Flamenco dance show at El Farol. Try crazy concoctions like Dorinachos and a Churro Ice Cream Cone at Paleteria Oasis. Brave the long lines to get your hands on Tup’s Burrito and a Stuffed Pancake at The Pantry. Savor authentic Mexican cuisine with Blue Corn Burritos and Pollo Adobo at The Shed. Experience African-Caribbean fusion with Caribbean Goat Stew or Jerk Chicken Wings from Jambo Cafe. Enjoy fine dining dishes like the Cast-Iron Seared Diver Scallops, Green Miso Sea Bass, and Wild Mushroom Lasagna at Geronimo. Or check out multiple eateries and get a private tasting with the chefs during a Restaurant Walking Tour hosted by the Santa Fe School of Cooking.

Enjoy Cold Brews, Margaritas, Cocktails, & More

two margaritas at the blue corn brewery photo by Instagram user @xeg1521
Photo via @xeg1521

Santa Fe might not be your typical bustling nightlife spot, but it has an array of spots where you can throw back some satisfying drinks! Stop in for a Blue Mesa Margarita from Tortilla Flats, a Blood Orange Esporita from Rio Chama, and a Pure Gold Margarita from The Ranch House as you work your way through the city’s finest cocktails on the Santa Fe Margarita Trail. Kick back with a Happy Camper IPA or a Pepe Local from Santa Fe Brewing, or play board games with a Wild Christmas Ale at Rowley Farmhouse Ales. Try a variety of luxury wines, such as Brut NV and Blanc de Noirs NV, from Gruet Winery. Sample selections from a collection of more than 15,000 wines on the idyllic courtyard garden at La Casa Sena. Or take advantage of the beautiful Santa Fe weather with a picturesque view of the town and a Bell Tour Sour at The Bell Tower Bar at La Fonda.

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