Founded in 1610, Santa Fe is the second-oldest city in the U.S., and both the oldest and highest capital city in America (elevation 7,000 feet). Situated at the base of the southern Rocky Mountains in north-central New Mexico, Santa Fe features four distinct seasons, making it ideal for residents who enjoy outdoor sports, especially skiing, hiking, fishing, mountain biking, horseback riding, hunting and river rafting.
At the same time, Santa Fe’s Anglo, Hispanic and Native American populations have long embraced the area’s fascinating multicultural history, which explains the robust arts scene, unique historical attractions and abundance of thriving annual festivals (dedicated to film, wine, rodeo, jazz, chamber music and bluegrass/old-time music, among many others). And don’t forget the Bike & Brew Festival, a five-day celebration of craft beer culture and road and mountain biking, presented by Outside magazine and Cycle Santa Fe.
Following are eight more compelling reasons to join the Santa Fe community and experience all that the City Different has to offer.
In the nearly seven years since it (re)opened, the Railyard - a 50-acre commercial, residential and social district - has become one of the most popular downtown destinations for residents and visitors alike. Attractions include an array of restaurants, a wealth of art galleries and antique stores, and the year-round Santa Fe Farmers Market, New Mexico’s largest farmers market.
The Guadalupe District
Bordering the Railyard is the Guadalupe Historic District, one of the oldest neighborhoods in Santa Fe, which includes an eclectic mix of shops and art galleries. Its most notable attraction is the Santuario de Guadalupe, a historic church turned art and history museum, one that features Jose de Alzibar’s famous oil painting Our Lady of Guadalupe (1783).
The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum
Lovers of modern art go back again and again to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum (est. 1997), the world’s largest single repository of Georgia O’Keeffe’s instantly recognizable imagery. In addition to an ever-changing selection of O’Keeffe paintings, drawings and sculptures, the museum also displays works by her American modernist contemporaries, as well as those of distinguished living artists.
The Santa Fe Opera
Similarly, lovers of opera gravitate to the Santa Fe Opera, which has become one of America’s premier summer opera festivals. Performances are given in the Crosby Theatre, a state-of-the-art, open-air theater, while Prelude Talks (offered to audience members prior to most performances) take place in Stieren Orchestra Hall, also on the magnificent 155-acre grounds.
Santa Fe University of Art and Design
Meanwhile, the next generation of artists are training to become successful creative professionals at the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, where the programs combine theory with practical experience. Located 4 miles from downtown, the university offers upwards of a dozen degree programs in disciplines that include contemporary music, creative writing, graphic design, film, photography and arts management. And each summer, SFUAD hosts ArtFest, a three-week program for high school and college students that celebrates creativity and innovation.
Those looking to see something both beautiful and unusual venture to the Loretto Chapel, which features a stunning and “miraculous” spiral staircase, which, according to the Chapel’s website, “has two 360-degree turns and no visible means of support.” The Chapel - now a private museum “maintained, in part, for the preservation of the Miraculous Staircase and the Chapel itself” - is also a popular venue for weddings, with receptions commonly held at the nearby Inn and Spa at Loretto.
Another elegant place to visit in Santa Fe is the restaurant Geronimo, found within the adobe walls of the Borrego House, which was built by Geronimo Lopez in 1756. Though the menu changes seasonally, favorite dishes include the telicherry rubbed elk tenderloin and the mesquite-grilled Maine lobster tails.
Santa Fe National Forest
Last but not least, there’s the Santa Fe National Forest Scenic Byway, which originates downtown (at the oldest public building in America, the Palace of the Governors), and winds 15 miles through the ponderosa-, spruce-, fir- and aspen-filled National Forest, until it comes to an end at the Santa Fe Ski Basin. The parks, picnic areas and campgrounds in between are popular with hikers, mountain bikers, equestrians and cross-country skiers, while downhill skiers and snowboarders consistently praise the slopes leading down from Ski Santa Fe’s Tesuque Peak (elevation 12,000 feet).
So for those who enjoy nature and appreciate history and the arts, Santa Fe remains one of the most compelling places to live in the southwest, offering a pleasing alternative for those looking to escape the cookie-cutter offerings of many American communities.