Moving to Santa Fe, NM: Everything You Need to Know

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Santa Fe at a Glance

With its vibrant wildflower blooms, its snowy winter slopes and its exceptional shopping and dining, Santa Fe is both a natural wonderland and the cultural capital of the Southwest.  

Perched at the southernmost tip of the Rockies, this nearly mile-and-a-half-high city sits on the edge of the Sangre De Cristo mountains, whose iconic peaks turn an otherworldly red at dawn and dusk. Santa Fe has long been known for its historic sites, like the Pecos National Monument and Palace of the Governors, but the city’s creative streak has made it a destination for new, contemporary experiences like Meow Wolf. Truly, the City Different is one of the most unique places in New Mexico and in the entire U.S.  

Santa Fe is — surprisingly — the oldest state capital in the country, and it has a rich history unlike any other. You’ll find petroglyphs adorning the mountains. Adobe kivas, built by the area’s indigenous Pueblo hundreds of years ago. And Spanish colonial architecture dating to the early 17th century. Owing to this heritage, more than half of the city residents identify as Hispanic or Latino.  

This singular city’s abundant sunshine, year-round events and laid-back culture have made it a hub for retirees. 24% of Santa Fe’s 89,000 residents are over 65. But the diverse job market in this north central city in New Mexico — and the relatively affordable cost of living — keep the city attractive to younger residents who are still in the workforce.  

Santa Fe is, of course, a well-established arts mecca, drawing young and old from near and far to experience the greatest cultural wonders of our time. Santa Fe was the birthplace of celebrated Apache sculptor Allan Houser (Alan Capron Haozous) and the adopted home of painter Georgia O’Keeffe. Public art, museums and galleries fill this cityscape, while annual festivals like the Traditional Spanish Market and the Santa Fe Indian Market (both over 70 years old) draw thousands of talented artists from around the continent to the area every year.  

If you think the City Different could be your next home, take a look below at what makes Santa Fe such a remarkable place to live. 

What It’s Like Living in Santa Fe

Sunny Weather Almost All Year Around

When it comes to sunshine, Florida takes a backseat to Santa Fe. This sunny city has more than 320 golden days a year, making it one of the sunniest places in the country. And, thanks to the dry air, Santa Fe has none of the Sunshine State’s oppressive humidity, either. It also happens to produce an outsize number of rainbows, living up to its magical reputation in the Land of Enchantment.  

Summertime is monsoon season in Santa Fe, and torrential downpours usually arrive on the (very wet) heels of powerful afternoon thunderstorms, made even more dramatic by their mountain backdrop. Temperatures aren’t usually too bad in Santa Fe even during the hottest part of the year, typically only reaching the high 80s F. 

Santa Fe sits at a high altitude, and thanks to that, winter is a snow globe of activity. The slopes will be packed with locals and tourists, alike, and you can expect 20-30 inches of snow to fall in the city between October and April, and ten times that in the mountains.  

In between these precipitous extremes, spring and fall are enchanting times for Santa Fe residents. Springtime brings an explosion of blossoms, when the mountain parsley and firewheels erupt from the rocky slopes like static fireworks. Autumn is no less showy with its erumpent fall foliage, and leaf-peeping road trips to see the golden crowns of native black birch and hackberry should be on everyone’s weekend calendars.  

Santa Fe’s Cost of Living

While the cost of living in New Mexico is lower than the national average, Santa Fe residents don’t reap all the financial rewards that their state counterparts do. This is due, in large part, to housing. According to Census Bureau, with a median home value of $370,600, real estate in cosmopolitan Santa Fe topples the state average by more than $154,600 and exceeds the national average by more than $88,700.  

Rent is also spendy, by comparison, costing residents an average of $1,314 per month. The cost of housing in Santa Fe is higher than in larger cities in the state, like Las Cruces, Rio Rancho and Albuquerque, all of which have lower housing costs than the U.S. average. 

Household income levels across these metropolitan areas vary from a mere $51,013 in Las Cruces to $78,978 in Rio Rancho. At $67,663, Santa Fe comes in just above Albuquerque but below the U.S. median of $75,149.  

Economic and Job Opportunities

As the historic state capital of this vast, Southwestern terrain, Santa Fe has a diverse industry base with a range of employment opportunities. Not surprisingly the Government is the largest sector in the area, employing more than 14,000 Santa Fe residents. But Leisure & Hospitality, Education & Health Services, and Trade, Transportation, & Utilities are close on its heels.  

As it is across the state of New Mexico, tourism is a big economic driver in Santa Fe, and tourists spent $8.3 billion dollars across the state in 2022. Still, it’s hardly the source of high wages in the city. Those belong primarily to the medical professions, where radiologists earn the top annual mean wage of $324,710 and other healthcare practitioners bring home an average of $106,330 annually. Management operations earn a similar wage — $104,990, on average — and sundry professions from information security analysts to veterinarians and speech-language pathologists all earn within the $100,000 ballpark.  

Santa Fe’s educational rates are a mixed bag. It’s high school graduation rate (90.5%) is slightly below Albuquerque’s (where the University of New Mexico is located) and several points off Rio Rancho’s. But, 44% of Santa Fe residents have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher, noticeably more than their New Mexican metropolitan counterparts.  

Santa Fe is home to a community college, the graduate school Southwestern College & New Earth Institute (which specializes in art therapy programs) and two four-year colleges — the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) and St. John’s College, which has a sister school in Annapolis. 

The Allure of Santa Fe Neighborhoods

With the rich heritage and artistic spirit of the city, it’s hard to find a place you won’t love in Santa Fe. The houses in this special city are not cut from predictable American suburban cloth. You’ll find adobe construction with rough-hewn vigas and artful landscaping that works with the arid climate rather than against it. You’ll find sprawling rural retreats in Glorieta and La Cienega, cool in-town apartments, and quirky residences everywhere in between. Wherever you live, you’ll have the perfect view. All you have to do is look up at those sapphire Santa Fe skies.  

The Historic District is one of the busiest places in town, where annual festivals are held and tourists flock to see the sites, like the San Miguel Chapel — the oldest church in the country — the Palace of the Governors, and the New Mexico State Capitol. In this highly walkable neighborhood, restaurants and shops abound, and what it lacks in privacy, it makes up for in amenities. When you need a break from history, visit the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts. 

Arts and culture rule the Railyard and Guadalupe districts, and you’ll find edgy galleries like Site Santa Fe and quirky movie houses like the Jean Cocteau Cinema, where you might see The Shining one weekend and a drag show the next. The Santa Fe Railyard plays host to all sorts of events, like the Santa Fe Artists Market, which fills the plaza every Saturday from March-December. The popular Railyard Park has pleasant walking/biking paths that connect to the larger trail system in the city, and the playground is really something else. Good luck getting your kids to leave it. 

In the southwestern Midtown and Siler Rufina Nexus districts, Meow Wolf set up its wild and crazy shop amongst an eclectic assortment of big-box retailers, tap rooms and coffee shops. The Santa Fe Climbing Center is just across Cerillos Rd. in Southside (see more below), so if the kiddos are especially wound up after the school day, we highly recommend bringing them there to burn off some steam before heading home. You can all shed some nervous energy on the nearby Santa Fe River Trail, which runs through the area. And, if that isn’t enough, you’ll just have to get everyone to the circus. Wise Fool New Mexico is the area’s beloved community arts theatre with a social justice mission, and their stilt walkers and larger-than-life puppets are the joy of the city.  

Southside, where Santa Fe High School is located, is a largely residential district with well-appointed homes and greenspaces. SWAN Park has a cool new playscape that features colorful, integrated slides and climbing structures beneath a shady canopy, which really come in handy over the summer.  

Note: If you’re planning to move to Santa Fe, it’s important to thoroughly research the neighborhoods and areas in the city you might be interested in living. Before you decide where you are going to reside, make sure you understand the neighborhood’s cost of living, commute time, tax rates, safety statistics and schooling information. 

Explore the City Different

The Artistic Heart of Santa Fe 

Santa Fe has long been a bastion for the arts, invested in preserving traditional forms of making and supporting contemporary artists in bold new ventures. This is a city where you can hear live music spilling out of cafes on a warm night while gallery-hopping in the Art & Museum district. On First Fridays, museums and art galleries open their doors to the public, and you can meet artists, gallerists and curators at venues like the Hecho Gallery and the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts. One of the premier art destinations in Santa Fe is the New Mexico Museum of Art and its newer venue, the Vladem Contemporary, even has an artist-in-residence program.  

The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum celebrates one of New Mexico’s most famous artists. Though the groundbreaking painter and sculptor of New Mexican landscapes, flora and fauna was a transplant to the state, her work has forever seared its images into the world’s imagination. O’Keeffe fans can also visit the O’Keeffe Home and Studio, just an hour outside of town, where the artists lived from 1949-84. In 1986, O’Keeffe died in Santa Fe at the age of 98. 

From the Pueblo Feast Days to Art + Sol, Santa Fe’s art markets and festivals bring hundreds of thousands of visitors to the small city throughout the year. The Santa Fe Indian Market alone will attract 100,000 visitors to the 100-year-old event, where more than 1,000 artists and artisans from tribal communities across North America will show their wares and compete for prestigious awards.  

But Santa Fe residents know that you don’t have to wait a whole year to find an amazing traditional Native American weaving or a cheeky painting of a buffalo in a …wait for it… buffalo plaid shirt. You’ll find all these local treasures at the Railyard Artisan market, open each week at the Santa Fe Farmer’s Market, where you’re also find the best local produce.  

If it feels like 2020 still hasn’t truly ended, take your gloom and doom to the annual burning of the Zozobra, now in its 101st year. Not to be confused with Nevada’s Burning Man, at this public gathering of pyrotechnic catharsis in a desert, festivalgoers write down their woes and affix them to a towering marionette named in effigy for the Spanish word for anxiety. Once the 50-foot giant is set ablaze, he dances, and all your worries go up in smoke — at least until the burning stops. Nothing lasts forever, right? 

Except, maybe, for Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return. One visit to this art immersion’s flagship exhibition will have you coming back again and again. Created by 70 Santa Fe artists, this crazy-cool museum is more like a walk-through phantasmagoric time, where glitter is gold, fish swim in the air and refrigerators are portals to another dimension. Don’t take your family here if you aren’t prepared to have your minds blown. 

Hailed by the New Yorker as “the miracle in the desert,” the Santa Fe Opera is an open-air theatre showcasing classic and contemporary works in one of the most inspiring settings in the country. Summer 2024 will bring favorites like “La Traviata” and “Don Giovanni” as well as the world premiere of “The Righteous,” a retelling of the biblical story of David, set in 1970s America. The libretto was written by former Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith.  

Embracing the Outdoors 

Santa Fe is not a place where people move to stay indoors. You might even say they move here to move. This is a get-out-there, go-get-‘em kind of crowd, whether that’s playing a round of golf at Jack Nickalus’ Las Campanas, or trekking into the wilds of the Santa Fe National Forest to get back to nature. Hiking, biking, camping, boating and skiing are just a few of the favorite activities in Santa Fe, and you’ll have plenty of restaurants to reward yourself with treats for your efforts.  

Santa Fe is one of the country’s top ten mountain bike towns according to Singletracks, and the city grid of Santa Fe bikeways yields windy runs through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. You’ll find the paths are usually busy at Winsor, and sometimes clogged with hikers, but that’s because no one can get enough of the lightning-fast trails, here. The trails at Glorieta are a divinely inspired network of single-track whoopees that devoted beginners can attempt but are really designed for seasoned thrill-riders. 

If you’re more at home on the water than in the woods, you will be grateful for the rivers near Santa Fe. An outfitter can lead you on a breezy float trip down the Rio Grande, where the waters are calm enough that you can even go swimming. Kayaking on the Rio Chama is also popular, and serious paddlers may want to pack in for a multi-day adventure on this gorgeous waterway. Along the Santa Fe River, birdwatchers will want to pull off at the Randall Davey Audubon Center & Sanctuary to see if they can spy on any of the areas feathered friends, from the humble house finch to the dramatic, black-billed magpie.  

When winter arrives, Santa Fe’s slopes are the best place to be, and one of the best things about them is that you don’t have to negotiate slippery mountain roads in your own car to get to them. Just hop on Santa Fe’s 255 Mountain Trail Route bus for a free ride to Ski Santa Fe and save the snowy negotiations for your skis. Once you’re on the mountain, beginners can try aptly named trails like Sunnyside and Easy Street while experts can try their skills (and luck) on the more ominously named Free Fall, Parachute and Bozo. Don’t say you weren’t warned.  

Santa Fe’s great outdoors are also the best place to study the area’s history, starting with prehistoric times. You can set off on your historical journey of Santa Fe at Pecos National Historic Park, which begins in the Preceramic Period with the Paleoindian hunter-gatherers, who are believed to have hunted mastodon and giant ground sloths, both of which were excellent with green chile sauce. There is an easy hike around the ancestral sites, where you’ll also learn about the Ancestral Pueblo, and a more challenging march around the Glorieta Battlefield, the westernmost site of the Civil War. For a fun day trip outside the city, Petroglyph National Monument is only an hour and a half from the city.  

Diverse Food Scene 

Santa Fe is the definitive culinary mecca of the state (sorry, Albuquerque), and its flavors reign supreme over the whole Southwest. The essence of Southwestern flavor is the chile, of course, which you will find in absolute abundance — in red and green sauces, in stews and roasts, on your burgers (and sometimes your bagels) and possibly even in your breakfast cereal. Longstanding establishments like Maria’s New Mexican Kitchen helped define the city’s signature flavors, and newer restaurants have reinvigorated classic plates with new twists, sometimes from far-flung regions. 

Whether you’re at a street stand, a food truck, a casual sit-down or a fine dining establishment, by sampling a vast array of flavors in Santa Fe, you’ll be able to understand the breadth of influences that have brought us to this exciting moment in culinary time.  

On the finer end of the spectrum, Paloma is an airy, elegant establishment that serves expertly prepared but unpretentious plates (and bowls). The smoked lamp posole and crispy mushroom sopecitos are memorable, and the short rib barbacoa with nixtamal grits is more South by Southwest than SXSW. 

Café Pasqual’s is open from morning till night, and boy, is there a better way to start your day than with a steaming plate of huevos barbacoa or a green chile-flecked griddle polenta with sauteed chorizo? The only appropriate reason to say yes, here, is if your sweet tooth has driven you to order prefer Pasqual’s golden blintzes or their famous corn pancakes, which you can eat with maple syrup, mole or red chile.   

While Pan-American roots dominate the flavors of the Southwestern scene, there are plenty of other international influences in town that make for a diverse (and totally delicious) dining experience in Santa Fe. The pan-Asian establishment Alkemē certainly lives up to the transformational promise of its name. Drawing from the deep traditions of Korean, Taiwanese, Vietnamese and Hawaiian cuisines (with a little European flair, to boot) Alkemē creates unexpectedly innovative dishes. Their tasting menu offers a special chef-guided experience that includes some of our favorites, like the seafood mille-feuille and the crispy turmeric cod. Beware: the miso brown butter sesame brownie with orange whipped cream and Saigon cinnamon may make you weep.   

Relocating to Santa Fe Soon? Let Mayflower Get You There

If you’re ready to move to magical Santa Fe, now is the time to find the right moving company to help you relocate. To get started, follow these great tips on how to hire the best movers.   

Get a quote today on moving to Santa Fe, New Mexico. 

When you’re moving cross-country to Santa Fe, our trusted team of movers will be there for you Every Step of the Way®. Mayflower has been the nation’s most trusted moving company for nearly 100 years, and you can trust that when you work with a long-distance moving company like ours, your move to Santa Fe will be a seamless experience. The Mayflower Move Portal will keep the details of your relocation easy to access so you can stay relaxed and on track.  

Mayflower is licensed for interstate moves, and our nationwide network of cross-country movers can help you move to Santa Fe from anywhere in the country. Our dedicated agents can help you select the best full-service moving solutions including packing or unpacking services, storage, debris removal, car shipping and more.  

Moving to Santa Fe from another city in the Land of Enchantment? Our agents in New Mexico and in Santa Fe can perform local moves independently under their own brands and businesses.   

Making a DIY move to Santa Fe? We can still be of assistance! Check out Mayflower’s helpful moving resources and this smart moving checklist and planner to keep your do-it-yourself move on budget and on schedule.  

Want to learn more about the Land of Enchantment and the Southwest region? Mayflower’s state guides, city guides and our Moving Guide to New Mexico will give you an inside look at your new hometown. 

And even after you’ve unpacked, Mayflower is there for you. Follow these tips for settling into a new home.  

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