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Santa Fe, established almost 400 years ago, is the capital of New Mexico; a crossroads of American Indian, Spanish, and European cultures; and a tourist attraction. The area’s distinct architecture, lifestyle, and food are unique among American cities. Over 250 art galleries and the recently opened Georgia O’Keeffe Museum attract visitors from around the world.
The historic old town—with its plaza, Palace of the Governors, Navajo craft market, and restaurants—is a major tourist attraction. In summer, it can be quite crowded. Many local buildings, including homes in wealthier residential areas in the hills to the north, are built in a distinct “Santa Fe” style, which resembles historic Spanish and Pueblo Indian adobe structures and blends nicely with the landscape.
Growth and development to the south of the city has been dense and is a mixed bag. Surrounding the city are over 1.5 million acres of national forest, stunning landscapes, downhill ski areas, and historic treasures, particularly to the north. Santa Fe has long been a haven for performing and visual artists. More recently an affluent population, many retired or self-employed, has been relocating to the area. As a whole, the population is educated and wealthy.
At over 7,000 feet elevation, the city is by far the highest state capital and is also the highest metropolitan statistical area in the country. The elevation may cause health problems for some, and healthcare facilities are not extensive. Aside from cost and other minor downsides- a few cold winter days; tourist impact; and some growth issues- Santa Fe is a stimulating and aesthetically pleasing place to live.
The city is located on a high desert plateau at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. The terrain is rolling to hilly high desert, with scrub and sagebrush vegetation and dry creeks and washes. The landscape rises to scrub-pine covered hills in the north, then to the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the northeast and Jemez Mountains to the northwest. To the south of the city, the land slopes gently down toward lower deserts and the Rio Grande Valley. The climate is arid continental with sunny, dry, pleasant days and cool evenings in summer. Winters are dry with relatively mild days and cold nights with below-freezing temperatures. Most winter precipitation falls as dry snow, which is seldom heavy. Much heavier snows fall in the nearby mountains. First freeze is early October, last is mid-May.