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16 Things to Know About Living in Santa Fe

Moving to Santa Fe? New Mexico’s capital offers ample opportunities for outdoor recreation, delicious Southwestern-style food, and a community that celebrates the arts. Here are 16 things you should know about living in Santa Fe.

Settle Down in the Land of Enchantment

City scape view of downtown Santa Fe. Photo by Instagram user @travlinphoto.

Photo via @travlinphoto

As one of the best small cities in America, Santa Fe is an ideal place to live in the Cactus State. Residents of The City Different benefit from affordable healthcare costs—which are 17.8% lower than the U.S. average—making Santa Fe a great place for retirees. In fact, over 23% of Santa Fe’s residents are age 65 and older. And while housing in Santa Fe is more expensive than in other New Mexico cities—with a median home value of $500,000 and average rent of $1,650—the city makes up for it with comfortable weather, friendly people, and a slower pace of living that still offers plenty to do.

Take Advantage of Santa Fe’s Job Market

New Mexico ranks fourth in the country for job growth, with the Santa Fe job market itself increasing by 3.1% in the past year. Additionally, an average salary of $76,342 and an unemployment rate that falls below the national average help offset the city’s higher cost of living. Residents can find employment in major industries like tourism, healthcare, and state government at companies like CHRISTUS Health and the New Mexico Department of Health—and other major employers like The Santa Fe Opera, Santa Fe Public Schools, or Los Alamos National Laboratory. Interested in starting your own business in Santa Fe? The Santa Fe Business Incubator provides innovators with resources and workshops to help get startups off the ground and experience long-term success.

Earn Your Degree in The City Different

Prospective students have excellent options when looking for colleges in Santa Fe. Register for classes in building science and construction technologies, American Sign Language, biological and physical sciences, fine arts, and much more at Santa Fe Community College. Take advantage of a well-rounded liberal arts curriculum, make pottery, and visit the student-run art gallery when you enroll at St. John’s College – Santa Fe. Get your degree or certificate in Clinical Mental Health, School Counseling, Art Therapy, Children’s Mental Health, and Ecotherapy at Southwestern College. Explore programs like Cinematic Arts & Technology, Indigenous Liberal Studies, Performing Arts, and more at the Institute of American Indian Arts.

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Hop On Santa Fe Public Transport

Rail Runner train on the New Mexico railway tracks. Photo by Instagram user @newmexicoblog.

Photo via @newmexicoblog

Though Santa Fe is a state capital, the city’s small population and geographic size mean traffic isn’t a problem. While most residents use cars to get around, public transportation is also available in Santa Fe. The Santa Fe Trails Bus System provides regular service throughout the city, with routes running from morning to evening on both weekdays and weekends. The New Mexico Rail Runner Express is a rail service connecting Santa Fe to Albuquerque and other nearby areas, making for easy travel throughout the region. And for long-distance trips, the Santa Fe Regional Airport provides access to cities like Phoenix, Dallas, and Denver.

Enjoy Summer & Winter Activities

People overlooking Santa Fe landscape of forests and hills. Photo by Instagram user @cityofsantafe.

Photo via @cityofsantafe

Because the city is over 7,000 feet above sea level, the weather in Santa Fe is different from most other Southwest cities. Santa Fe does get hot, with daily highs climbing into the mid-80s during the peak of summer—but things cool down at night, with temperatures dropping as much as 30 degrees after the sun goes down. And despite being in a desert state, Santa Fe gets a proper winter, with 17-degree lows and an average annual snowfall of 22 inches. That said, the city gets around 283 sunny days per year, making it one of the best cities for great year-round weather. This means residents have plenty of opportunities to experience Santa Fe outdoor activities throughout the year, not just in the summer—which also makes the city a popular vacation destination in spring, fall, and winter!

Have an Outdoor Adventure in Santa Fe

Nambe Lake surrounded by trees and mountains. Photo by Instagram user @leeenterprises.

Photo via @leeenterprises

With 170 miles of trails to explore and more than 1.6 million acres of national forests, Santa Fe is the perfect destination for outdoor activities. Grab your boots, helmet, skis, and poles, and test your skills with over 80 different slopes at Ski Santa Fe. Experience the rich culture of the Pueblo people with a Santa Fe Mountain Adventures Tour through Pecos National Historic Park. See Cerrillo Hills State Park on horseback while taking a tour with Broken Saddle Riding Company. Or find an abundance of outdoor activities in the Land of Enchantment just an hour away at Santa Fe National Forest! Drive through the Scenic Byway, cast a line at one of the many fishing sites, and kayak along the Rio Grande or the Rio Chama. Access tons of hiking and biking trails—like the Atalaya Mountain Trail, Nambe Lake Trail, Picacho Peak Trail, Tesuque and Aspen Vista Loop, and Pajarito Mountain Loop, just to name a few. And see hundreds of volcanic rock formations when you reach the top of Paliza Goblin Colony.

Join Santa Fe’s Sustainability Efforts

Workers upcycle by creating ecobricks. 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 has adopted a 25-year plan to create a sustainable future and achieve carbon neutrality, and the Santa Fe Conservation Trust has created the Night Sky Protection Act to conserve energy and enhance New Mexico’s starry sky. The city promotes recycling through America’s largest and oldest recycled art market, the Recycle Santa Fe Art Festival. Santa Fe is also home to waste management groups like Plan 4 Plastic (previously Upcycle Santa Fe) and a number of upcycling stores, like Native Son and Hyperclash.

Learn Santa Fe’s History

Person walking through doorway at El Rancho de las Golondrinas. Photo by Instagram user @cityofsantafe.

Photo via @cityofsantafe

Santa Fe’s fascinating history is preserved through its many museums and historic sites. View historical artworks like the Segesser Hide Paintings, photographs in the Ben Wittick Collection, beautiful wooden sculptures in The Frank Collection, and a number of rotating exhibitions at the New Mexico History Museum. Purchase authentic Pueblo jewelry and crafts at one of the oldest buildings in America, the Palace of the Governors. Tour the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi to see its intricate details and gorgeous architecture. Get a glimpse into over 200 years of history or attend festivals and events at the living history museum, 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. Attend a retreat or sign up for a quilt making or pottery workshop to learn more about Native culture at Ghost Ranch.

Step into Santa Fe’s Art Scene

Person in booth at the International Folk Art Market. Photo by Instagram user @cityofsantafe.

Photo via @cityofsantafe

With more than 200 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 International Folk Art Market to find original works representing art traditions from all over the world—like metalwork from Haiti, embroidery from Japan, sculptures from Mexico, textiles from Kyrgyzstan, or jewelry from South Sudan. Head over to Museum Hill to visit the Museum of Spanish Colonial ArtMuseum of International Folk Art, Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, and the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian. Or catch up with modern trends by checking out the rotating exhibits at SITE Santa Fe.

Spend a Night at the Santa Fe Opera

As a historical landmark in the capital of New Mexico, The Santa Fe Opera House sits on what was once farmland for mink, pigs, pinto beans, and more. Now, it’s regarded as one of the best opera destinations in the world. All performances are enhanced by the opera’s stunning backdrop of the Santa Fe sky and mountains! The Santa Fe Opera has hosted both world premieres and classic performances, like The Barber of Seville and The Magic Flute, since its first season in 1957. 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.

Attend Events for Every Interest

Person dancing during a festival in the Santa Fe Plaza. 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 the products of vintners from across the state—like Gruet Winery and Black Mesa Winery & Cidery—at the Santa Fe Wine Festival. Feast your eyes on all genres of art—even edible pieces—and chat with the talented creators at the Canyon Road Spring Art Festival. Tap into your inner cowboy and buy tickets for the whole family to attend Rodeo de Santa Fe. Find Native-crafted pottery, carving, beadwork, and more from over 100 tribal communities in North America at the Santa Fe Indian Market. Or catch concerts from Grammy-winning artists and standout local acts during the Santa Fe Bandstand summer music festival.

Find Family Fun in NM’s Capital City

Looking for fun family activities? 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 your little ones 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. See gorgeous flowers and landscaping in the Xeric Garden, Rose & Lavender Walk, Geode Orchard Garden, and more at the Santa Fe Botanical Garden. Take the whole family for a bike ride on the Santa Fe River Trail or the Dale Ball Trails. Or learn about creepy crawlies and all sorts of scaly critters at The Santa Fe Reptile and Bug Museum.

Gather at the Railyard in Santa Fe

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 popular local shops, food, music, and more at The Railyard! Stock up on fresh produce and ingredients at the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market—one of the country’s best farmers markets. Expand your worldview with provocative and compelling art at EVOKE Contemporary. Pair a weekend afternoon with a Mylodon Sloth Double Hazy IPA, Tipsy Parrot, or an Agua Fria Pilsner from Second Street Brewery. Snack on a Boxcar Quesadilla or Bang Bang Shrimp while you cheer on local musical acts at Boxcar. And 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!

Get Weird at 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!

Taste Real Southwestern Cuisine

A burger from the Green Chile Cheeseburger Smackdown. Photo by Instagram user @tirawan.

Photo via @tirawan

The Santa Fe restaurant scene is no joke! The city is known for sopaipillas, green chile peppers, and slow-cooked beans, but you can find meals to satisfy any palate. Sample multiple versions of New Mexico’s signature dish as top restaurants in Santa Fe battle at the Green Chile Cheeseburger Smackdown. Dig into Gambas al Ajillo, Empanadas, and Chicharrones while enjoying live music and a Flamenco Dinner Show at El Farol. Brave long lines for Brisket Tacos, Stuffed Sopaipilla, and Steak & Enchiladas at The Pantry. Savor authentic Mexican cuisine like Blue Corn Burritos, Huevos Rancheros, and Pollo Adobo at The Shed. Explore African-Caribbean fusion dishes like Banana Leaf Wrapped Island Spiced Mahi Mahi or Pomegranate BBQ Chicken Wrap from Jambo Cafe. Enjoy fine dining dishes like Wagyu Beef Carpaccio, 72-Hour Sous Vide Short Ribs, or Fiery Sweet Chile & Honey-Grilled Mexican White Prawns at Geronimo. Try creative concoctions like Dorinachos, Papas Preparadas, and Churro Ice Cream Cones at Oasis Ice Cream Shop. Or check out multiple eateries via a private tasting with the chefs during a restaurant walking tour hosted by the Santa Fe School of Cooking.

Have Fun with a Night On the Town

Friends celebrating with drinks at Secreto Lounge. Photo by Instagram user @hotelstfrancis.

Photo via @hotelstfrancis

Santa Fe might not be your typical bustling nightlife spot, but it has plenty of places 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. Find unique drinks like a Cactus Coke, Myrna Loy, or Bliss Behind Your Eyes at Santa Fe speakeasy Tonic. Enjoy tasty drinks like an Amigo Frances, Sandia Rosalia, or Smoked Sage Margarita at the Secreto Lounge in Hotel St. Francis. Kick back with a Happy Camper IPA or a Pepe Loco Mexican Style Lager from Santa Fe Brewing. Or take advantage of the beautiful Santa Fe weather with a picturesque view of the town and a Bell Tower House Margarita at The Bell Tower Rooftop Bar at La Fonda.


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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.