6 Things You Need to Know About Santa Fe, NM Before Moving

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Quick Facts About Santa Fe

Drawn by the call of the high desert and its undeniably unique vibe, thousands make the move to Santa Fe each year. The capital of New Mexico and the oldest state capital in the country, one thing’s for sure: It’s not your typical city. 

Nestled at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Sante Fe marches to the beat of its own drum.  Small enough to feel cozy but big enough that you’re not living in each other’s pockets, Native American, Anglo and Asian cultures are well represented among its 89,008 residents. That said, over half the city has some Hispanic heritage, so you’ll never want for an empanada. Or a margarita.  

The median age here tops out around 47, so while Santa Fe is popular with retirees (almost 24% of the population is 65 years old and over), there are still plenty of young bucks and families with kids in the mix. 

One of the top cities people moved to according to the 2022 United Van Lines National Movers Study, Santa Fe’s growing population is no wonder. Between its slow pace of life and Pueblo-style architecture, there’s lots to love. Add that to the fact that the closest thing to a skyscraper you’ll find is the bell tower of the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. But don’t let the laid-back vibe fool you. Santa Fe has a vibrant cultural scene, a world-class art market, gourmet cuisine and outdoor recreation that draws visitors from all corners of the globe.  

Ready to discover the magic of Santa Fe? The City Different and its breathtaking Southwest surrounds are calling your name. 

Living in Santa Fe

Climate and Weather

If there’s one thing you can count on in Santa Fe, it’s weird weather. The city’s high desert climate means hot summers, cold winters and not much in between. Although you’ll be blessed with sunshine throughout the year, you do still have to plan for every season from April to October. You’ll go from sweating in shorts one day to bundling up in a parka the next. The temperature can drop 30 degrees in just a few hours. 

Snow is always a possibility, even in May or September. Locals barely blink an eye at freak spring snowstorms or surprise autumn flurries. But for newcomers, waking up to a fresh blanket of white stuff when you have tickets to Meow Wolf can be rather alarming. 

The monsoons roll in around July, drenching the city with intense thunderstorms and flash floods. Streets become rivers in minutes, arroyos fill and spill over. Consider it another excuse to cozy up at home with a cup of cocoa from Kakawa Chocolate House. 

If you can’t handle Mother Nature’s mood swings, Santa Fe’s probably not for you. But for the free-spirited, the city’s quirky weather is all part of the adventure. No two days are ever the same in this little slice of paradise. Unpredictable, whimsical, never boring —that’s Santa Fe. 

Santa Fe’s Cost of Living

Like other areas in New Mexico, Santa Fe’s cost of living is lower than some states but the housing cost here is the highest among other cities in New Mexico. With a median income of $61,990, the cost of real estate far outpaces the average paycheck. The national average home price is $244,900, while the average home in Santa Fe is $312,300. For rent, you’ll pay around $1,199 per month. 

Offsetting those costs is what many consider a better quality of life, with access to abundant natural resources, a fiery culinary scene and art galore.  

Those on a budget should look to the southern parts of town. Housing costs drop significantly in neighborhoods like Siler and Rufina Nexus or Midtown, where you may find a more affordable home. But while you’ll enjoy an easy commute downtown, you’ll also forfeit some amenities. If schools are a concern, Southside also offers solid options at lower costs. 

While sticker shock is real, many find Santa Fe’s unbeatable setting and lifestyle worth the premium. If you go in with realistic expectations about costs, learn to live like a local and choose a neighborhood suited to your budget, you’ll settle right into the City Different. After all, those sunsets are free. 

Santa Fe’s Job Market and Economy

Finding a job in Santa Fe may require some patience and an open mind. This city’s economy moves at its own leisurely pace, much like the tourists who flock here to soak in the vibe.  

While government and tourism reign supreme as the largest employers, landing a gig in either industry can be tricky. Tourism generated $1.3 billion in the past six years, yet many of those jobs barely pay enough to afford rent in Santa Fe, let alone avocado toast and craft cocktails.  

The service industry makes this town tick, yet servers, bartenders, hotel staff and retail workers often struggle in a city with a high cost of living and limited affordable housing. Still, if you have experience in hospitality or don’t mind schlepping plates for tips, opportunities abound. 

Healthcare and professional and business services offer some higher-paying jobs for those with the proper credentials. Healthcare practitioners’ annual mean wage in 2022 was $106,330. Management occupations’ wages averaged $104,990. The tech industry is slowly growing, though still relatively small. Remote work is also popular here for those who can swing it — why not get paid well from afar while enjoying Santa Fe’s laid-back lifestyle? 

Of course, one can’t talk about jobs without mentioning education. More people in Santa Fe hold a bachelor’s degree or higher here than in other cities throughout the state. Santa Fe Community College offers associate degrees and certifications in everything from nursing to sustainable building. Not too shabby for a school charging in-state students just $45 a credit. 

Then there’s St. John’s College with its Great Books curriculum, small classes and tuition pushing $50K. While not exactly affordable, here your kids can learn Greek! 

And let’s not overlook the kiddos. Santa Fe Public Schools serve about 13,000 students in grades K-12. The district gets mixed reviews, but for what it’s worth, SFPS high schools rank decently statewide. Most schools offer Spanish, arts programs and AP/IB classes for the overachievers. 

If public school isn’t your bag, Santa Fe’s also got a fair number of private schools. There are Catholic schools, Montessori schools and schools for gifted kids. Tuition varies but is generally on the spendy side. 

Santa Fe Neighborhood Spotlight

If you’re considering a move to New Mexico’s capital city, it’s important to research neighborhoods so you’re informed about the cost of living, commute time, taxes, safety and options for schooling. Santa Fe has some wildly eclectic neighborhoods, so you’re sure to find one that suits your fancy. 

Maybe you’re an artsy hipster wishing to rub elbows with fellow creatives in the Railyard District, home to trendy art galleries, live music venues and craft cocktail bars. Nearby is its historical cousin, the Guadalupe District. One of the oldest neighborhoods in Santa Fe, it was originally a farming community. Today, you can live in a casita; walk to the Plaza to experience the best of both the new and the historic Santa Fe; and gawk at the adobe architecture all day. 

Meanwhile, Midtown is popular with families who appreciate good schools but still want to be close to the action. Features include spacious homes, verdant parks and a smorgasbord of amenities to keep the kiddos entertained.  

From industrial roots still visible today, the Siler Rufina Nexus has become a hotbed of art, theater, tech and design. As for the Southside, it attracts outdoorsy types who don’t mind a longer commute in exchange for jaw-dropping views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. 

While sticker shock here is real, many find Santa Fe’s unbeatable setting and outdoorsy, Southwestern lifestyle worth the premium. If you go in with realistic expectations about costs, learn to live like a local, and choose a neighborhood suited to your budget, you’ll settle right into the City Different. After all, those sunsets are free. 

Recreation and Entertainment in Santa Fe 

Designated as a UNESCO Creative City, Santa Fe has a long history in fostering arts and artists, ensuring you’ll have plenty of things to see and do. 

Art Galleries Galore 

With over 200 art galleries packed into this tiny town, there’s ample culture to imbibe. Some of the world’s most prestigious galleries reside here, like the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, showcasing works from the grande dame of Southwestern art. Also of note is the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts (MoCNA), dedicated to Native American contemporary art, history and culture. And with new exhibits rotating constantly, you can pop in every weekend and see something new. 

Whatever you do, don’t forget about the annual Santa Fe Indian Market. This highly anticipated event is held the third weekend in August and features a wide range of traditional and contemporary Native American art, including jewelry, pottery, paintings and textiles. 

Music to Your Ears 

Perhaps visual art isn’t your bag. Don’t despair — Santa Fe emanates with live music, too. Catch a show at the legendary Santa Fe Opera or hit up free concerts at the Railyard Plaza all summer long. For a real treat, score tickets to a performance at the historic Lensic Theater, a vaudeville-era venue restored to its rococo prime. You can’t beat the acoustics — or the people-watching. 

The Great Outdoors 

Should the outdoors beckon, the Sangre de Cristo Mountains offer world-class hiking, biking and camping just minutes from downtown. Pack a picnic and head to the Santa Fe National Forest for a day of alpine adventure. If you prefer to get your nature fix without breaking a sweat, the Randall Davey Audubon Center and the Santa Fe Botanical Garden offer lovely strolls through juniper and piñon. 

Water enthusiasts will appreciate Santa Fe’s proximity to the Rio Grande and Rio Chama, a Wild and Scenic River and major tributary of the Rio Grande. Mind you, these rafting adventures aren’t for the faint of heart. 

Want to head further afield? Carlsbad Caverns National Park and White Sands National Park are the state’s crown jewels. Explore our National Parks of the Southwest guide to learn more. 

From its funky festivals to its quirky shops, Santa Fe’s amusements go on — and on. Explore the galleries and boutiques at the Railyard, catch a show at Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return, or simply wander the picturesque adobe streets. However long you plan to stay, this City Different will keep you happily entertained for years to come.  

Get Ready for the Move to Santa Fe

Ready to make the move to Santa Fe? Our long-distance movers can get you where you want to go. A professional long-distance moving company like United Van Lines can make your cross-country move a seamless experience. We offer full-service moving packages that start with getting a moving quote. 

If you’re moving just locally in Santa Fe or within the state of New Mexico, our interstate agents provide local moving services independently under their businesses and brands.  

Whatever type of move you choose, United Van Lines has a wealth of moving resources. That’s true whether you DIY or have us handle everything, from booking to unboxing. 

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