15 Things Before You Move
You’re probably moving to Santa Fe because you visited and fell in love with the place. We know, it happened to us, too (except those of us who were born here all our life!) It is called the Land of Enchantment, after all. There are even a few of us in the SantaFe.com office who have moved away and come back. Whether it’s the consistently amazing sunsets or all the sunshine, scenery and great food, there are myriad reasons to live here.
There are plenty of things you need to know before you come to the City Different. Our Santa Fe Relocation Guide provides you with all the pertinent information needed to settle in the City Different. First, however, we offer these 15 bits of insight before you make your move so you better know what to expect.
1. Santa Fe Elevation
Santa Fe is at 7,000 feet. If you’re coming from most places that aren’t in the Rockies, the elevation will get to you for awhile. Don’t get frustrated when you get out of breath going up the stairs the first few days you are here.
If you are reasonably in-shape, the norm is about 30 days to get your mountain legs. The trick is to stay hydrated and do some easy exercises to acclimate yourself. Gentle hikes are ok, but maybe don’t plan on doing that 100-mile bike ride for a bit.
Once you get used to the elevation in town, you can start to venture higher up into the mountains to get some serious altitude. Atalaya Mountain in town tops out over 9,000 feet and is great, if strenuous hike. The ski area tops out over 12,000 feet and there are some glorious places to hike and mountain bike up high.
2. Santa Fe Weather
The elevation also means that we have four proper seasons. (Sometimes we have all four seasons in one day.) People ask us all the time if it gets really hot in the desert, as if we are similar to Phoenix. We definitely have some hot days before monsoon hits, but it almost never hits 100 (or 90 for that matter) and the nights are oh so nice, with temps dropping as much as 30 degrees. We have a proper monsoon, or rainy season, most years in July.
And in winter we have proper snow. Snowfall varies by year but can reach hundreds of inches in the mountains. It snows much less in town, but we do get a handful of big dumps every winter. Generally the snow starts to evaporate as soon as the sun comes out, which is most of the time. We’re blessed with close to 300 days of sun on average. And with that sun comes amazing outdoor winter recreation.
It’s common to have warm days in early spring, which can give a false sense that winter is truly over. That being said, it can also be a nice time to get out of the house and start the garden or get in an early season bike ride. Spring in Santa Fe is typically windy, but not terribly so. Expect a rogue snowfall in late spring.
Fall just might be the best season in Santa Fe. The weather has cooled down a little, but the days are still long -- a perfect combination for getting outdoors for hours on end. And in the mountains, the aspens begin to turn their signature bright yellow.
Things even smell great as vendors set up their green chile roasting stations in parking lots all over town. If Santa Fe has a signature smell, this is it.
3. There’s a reason all the buildings are brown
The pueblo inhabitants of Santa Fe and the surrounding areas built their homes from adobe, a sun-dried clay brick, as far back as 1,000 years ago. When the Spanish came up from Mexico in the 1500s they adopted this style, too, because it is somewhat easy to build. The thermal properties of adobe also help keeps homes cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
When artists and architects started coming to Santa Fe in the 1920s and 30s, they wanted to establish a unique identity for the town.The style was mandated for the historical district of Santa Fe in 1957 and is generally used all over town, though modern and industrial influences are starting to surface in the many in-fill projects in town, especially the Santa Fe Railyard.
Though you may hear visitors say “everything looks the same” in Santa Fe, you begin to appreciate the style when you realize how well it blends in with the hills and preserves the appearance of being a part of the surroundings, not lording over them.
4. There are so many great places to eat here
We really are blessed with an amazing variety of places to eat in Santa Fe. Of course we have some great New Mexican restaurants and we love our chile...on everything. But we also have great Asian food, amazing French cuisine, Salvadoran food, Italian, African, Tibetan, vegetarian...you name it. And don’t get us started on the taco trucks. You could eat out every night of the year at a different place. Get an idea of what the Santa Fe restaurant scene is all about with our Santa Fe dining directory.
5. Driving here can be...interesting
We hear lots of complaints about the drivers in Santa Fe, but take them with a grain of salt because we live in a small town and such things are talked about in small towns. The truth is we’re not anywhere near the worst drivers in the United States. Mostly you will need to be prepared for drivers going under the speed limit. Oh, and tourists trying to figure out our whacky streets.
If you move here, you will likely be one of those people trying to figure out our street system. It’s based on the Spanish plaza system, where the plaza mayor is the center of the city and all roads radiate from there. Also, Santa Fe was founded more than 400 years ago, so many of the streets were really built as cart paths for foot and horse traffic. If you’ve been to Europe, you’ll have some understanding of how windy the streets can be.
6. Tourism drives the economy here
Santa Fe gets about 2 million visitors a year. And because we have so many visitors, much of the economy is geared to tourists and part-time residents. The great part about this is we have tons of great restaurants and shops. The bad can be that prices are a little high depending on where you eat, drink and shop.
Those drawbacks, however, are mitigated by the fact that you will meet tons of interesting people with tons of interesting stories. It also means that Santa Fe has a laid-back personality that inevitably turns many visitors in those who are moving to Santa Fe.
7. Figuring out where to live in Santa Fe
The housing market in Santa Fe is a little crunched at the moment. Rental occupancy rates are north of 97% according to official statistics, which has put a squeeze on available rentals and driven up rates. But if you have the right strategy and have some flexibility, you’re more likely to find something that fits your needs. Summer season has higher demand, so look in fall or spring. Ask everyone you know in town if they know of anything: chances are word of mouth can help you as much as the online listings.
If you are buying a home, the situation is a little different. Inventory is still tight, but open-minded buyers can still find relative deals (especially if you are coming from the East Coast or West Coast) that might need a little bit of updating to bring them out of the 1970s. If you have means, there are many larger homes that have loads of Santa Fe charm. Check our Santa Fe Real Estate Services guide to find someone who can guide you through the home-buying process.
Also keep in mind that Santa Fe's neighborhoods are very diverse and where you live doesn't define you.
8. Going out in Santa Fe
Santa Fe may not be much of a late-night town, but there is always something going on. Our fine dining is unparallelled for such a small town. And because we have such a strong artistic community there is always an amazing play, reading or art opening somewhere. Santa Fe also has a large intellectual community, so we have regular lectures from global thought leaders.
If you’re more into live music, we have that, too. In the past few years, the town has gone from loads of restaurant acoustic acts to legitimate performance venues. Much of this is down to Meow Wolf, but The Bridge at Santa Fe Brewing has brought in some big names and 2nd Street Rufina and Tumbleroot are trying to upgrade their acts, as well.
And if you’re looking for late night (at least for Santa Fe), there are a couple of options in town. Box Car is a great one for late-night eats and DJ shows, while Matador, Evangelo’s, Tonic and Crow Bar all stay open until 2.
9. Like the outdoors?
Where do we even start? The mountain biking in Santa Fe is amazing. The hiking is even better. Skiing at our little hill is sublime when the snow is good. Fishing our nearby streams and lakes is challenging but rewarding. Kayaking and rafting...Ok, hopefully you’re getting the idea.
If you are an outdoorsy person, Santa Fe is a great place to live. The city has invested heavily on paved bike paths, marked bike lanes and more. The county has built singletrack hiking and biking trails on the outskirts of town. Much of town is bordered by national forest and BLM land. And within a short drive are lakes, rivers, hot springs and more.
10. Learn some Spanish
Knowing how to pronounce Spanish words goes a long way in Santa Fe. For example, a double L (LL) is pronounced with a Y sound -- Cerrillos road, for example is prounounce Sa-Ree-Yos. Bonus points if you can roll your double Rs. You don’t need to speak Spanish fluently (or at all) to get by in town, but being able to speak some can definitely help communicate in certain situations. After all, Spanish was spoken here long before English ever was.
11. Yes, we really do put green chile on everything
As we mentioned above, town smells like roasting chiles in the fall. It’s on our license plates. And we love it on and in everything from enchiladas to pizza. Yes, you read that right: we love it on pizza. And on cheeseburgers...and tons of other stuff.
And when you get fully acclimated to green chile, you’ll start to explore with red. They are actually from the same plant. The red chiles just mature on the plant and have a very different flavor that is more earthy and almost smokey. It’s amazing on pork, eggs and a host of other rich foods.
You’ll end up loving it. The flavor is amazing, but it turns out you actually have a physical reaction to the chile that can become a mild addiction.
12. Famous people like to hide out in Santa Fe
There are a host of Hollywood types in Santa Fe. Stars like Gene Hackman, Val Kilmer, Wes Studi, Julia Roberts, Shirley MacLaine and Ally MacGraw have called or do call Santa Fe home. It’s not uncommon to see famous people around town doing things ordinary people do. Most of the locals don’t really care and treat them like every other person, which is why celebrities like it here.
13. Learn to appreciate art
Santa Fe is the third largest art market in the country. But the story really started about 100 years ago when artists began flocking to the area. Painters and photographers from the East Coast especially began coming for the dramatic light, epic landscapes and new subject matter. With their big-money patrons in the big cities, they were able to make a living here in New Mexico while popularizing the area.
More artists came. Many settled into the adobe homes that line Canyon Road. Others, like Georgia O’Keefe, ventured further afield to places like Abiquiui and Taos.
For awhile Santa Fe was known for its western art, but these days it produces a wide variety of styles and media that appeal to anyone who appreciates art.
14. You need a guy
Santa Feans love to feel like they have the inside scoop on the best auto mechanic, tree guy, electrician or whatever. The reason is because it can be hard to find the right person to take care of your home, auto, etc and even harder to find someone to show up on time. When you find the right person it’s awesome. But the process for getting there can be hectic. If you need some help, check out the Santa Fe business directory to find reputable local businesses that can take care of all your needs.
15. Let us know your thoughts
Think we're missing something? Let us know on SantaFe.com's Facebook.