Santa Fe (/ˌsæntə ˈfeɪ, ˈsæntə feɪ/ SAN-tə FAY, - fay; Spanish: [santaˈfe], Spanish for ‘Holy Faith’; Tewa: Oghá P’o’oge, Tewa for ‘white shell water place’; Northern Tiwa: Hulp’ó’ona; Navajo: Yootó, Navajo for ‘bead + water place’) is the capital of the U.S. state of New Mexico. The name “Santa Fe” means ‘Holy Faith’ in Spanish, and the city’s full name as founded remains La Villa Real de la Santa Fé de San Francisco de Asís (‘The Royal Town of the Holy Faith of Saint Francis of Assisi’).
With a population of 87,505 at the 2020 census, it is the fourth-largest city in New Mexico. It is also the county seat of Santa Fe County. Its metropolitan area is part of the Albuquerque–Santa Fe–Las Vegas combined statistical area, which had a population of 1,162,523 in 2020. Human settlement dates back thousands of years in the region. The placita was founded in 1610 as the capital of Nuevo México. It replaced the previous capital, San Juan de los Caballeros, near modern Española, at San Gabriel de Yungue-Ouinge, which makes it the oldest state capital in the United States. It is also at the highest altitude of any of the U.S. state capitals, with an elevation of 7,199 feet (2,194 m).
Santa Fe is widely considered one of the country’s great art cities, due to its many art galleries and installations, and it is recognized by UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network. Its cultural highlights include Santa Fe Plaza, the Palace of the Governors, the Fiesta de Santa Fe, numerous restaurants featuring distinctive New Mexican cuisine, and performances of New Mexico music. Among its many art galleries and installations are the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, a gallery by cartoonist Chuck Jones, and newer art collectives such as Meow Wolf. The cityscape is known for its adobe-style Pueblo Revival and Territorial Revival architecture.
Santa Fe’s climate is characterized by cool, dry winters, hot summers, and relatively low precipitation. According to the Köppen climate classification, depending on which variant of the system is used, the city has either a subtropical highland climate (Cfb) or a warm-summer humid continental climate (Dfb), somewhat unusual at 35°N. The 24-hour average temperature in the city ranges from 30.3 °F (−0.9 °C) in December to 70.1 °F (21.2 °C) in July. Due to the relative aridity and elevation, average diurnal temperature variation exceeds 25 °F (14 °C) in every month, and 30 °F (17 °C) much of the year. The city usually receives six to eight snowfalls a year between November and April. The heaviest rainfall occurs in July and August, with the arrival of the North American Monsoon.
In a September 2003 report by Angelou Economics, it was determined that Santa Fe should focus its economic development efforts in the following seven industries: Arts and Culture, Design, Hospitality, Conservation Technologies, Software Development, Publishing and New Media, and Outdoor Gear and Apparel. Three secondary targeted industries for Santa Fe to focus development in are health care, retiree services, and food & beverage. Angelou Economics recognized three economic signs that Santa Fe’s economy was at risk of long-term deterioration. The seven industries recommended by the report “represent a good mix for short-, mid-, and long-term economic cultivation.
Arts and culture
The city is well known as a center for arts that reflect the multicultural character of the city; it has been designated as a UNESCO Creative City in Design, Crafts and Folk Art.
Music, dance, and opera
Performance Santa Fe, formerly the Santa Fe Concert Association, is the oldest presenting organization in Santa Fe. Founded in 1937, Performance Santa Fe brings celebrated and legendary musicians as well as some of the world’s greatest dancers and actors to the city year-round. The Santa Fe Opera stages its productions between late June and late August each year. The city also hosts the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival which is held at about the same time, mostly in the St. Francis Auditorium and in the Lensic Theater. Also in July and August, the Santa Fe Desert Chorale holds its summer festival. Santa Fe has its own professional ballet company, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, which performs in both cities and tours nationally and internationally. Santa Fe is also home to internationally acclaimed Flamenco dancer’s María Benítez Institute for Spanish Arts which offers programs and performance in Flamenco, Spanish Guitar and similar arts year round. Other notable local figures include the National Dance Institute of New Mexico and German New Age musician Deuter.
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum
Santa Fe has many museums located near the downtown Plaza:
New Mexico Museum of Art – collections of modern and contemporary Southwestern art
Museum of Contemporary Native Arts – contemporary Native American arts with political aspects
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum – devoted to the work of O’Keeffe and others whom she influenced
New Mexico History Museum – located behind the Palace of the Governors
Site Santa Fe – a contemporary art space
Several other museums are located in the area known as Museum Hill
Museum of International Folk Art – folk art from around the world
Museum of Indian Arts and Culture – Native American arts
Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian – Native American art and history
Museum of Spanish Colonial Art – Tradition arts from the Spanish-colonial era to contemporary times.
Public schools in Santa Fe are operated by Santa Fe Public Schools, with the exception of the New Mexico School for the Arts, which is a public/private partnership comprising the NMSA-Art Institute, a nonprofit art educational institution, and NMSA-Charter School, an accredited New Mexico state charter high school.
Santa Fe has three public high schools:
Santa Fe High School (1,500 students)
Capital High School (1,300 students)
New Mexico School for the Arts (200 students)
The city’s institutions of higher education include St. John’s College, a liberal arts college; the Institute of American Indian Arts, a tribal college for Native American arts; Southwestern College, a graduate school for counseling and art therapy; and Santa Fe Community College.
The city has six private college preparatory high schools: Santa Fe Waldorf School, St. Michael’s High School, Desert Academy, New Mexico School for the Deaf, Santa Fe Secondary School, Santa Fe Preparatory School, and the Mandela International Magnet School. The Santa Fe Indian School is an off-reservation school for Native Americans. Santa Fe is also the location of the New Mexico School for the Arts, a public-private partnership, arts-focused high school. The city has many private elementary schools as well, including Little Earth School, Santa Fe International Elementary School, Rio Grande School, Desert Montessori School, La Mariposa Montessori, The Tara School, Fayette Street Academy, The Santa Fe Girls’ School, The Academy for the Love of Learning, and Santa Fe School for the Arts and Sciences.
Santa Fe is served by the Santa Fe Municipal Airport. American Airlines provides regional jet service to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. United Airlines has regional jet service to Denver International Airport.
Santa Fe is located on I-25. In addition, U.S. Routes 84 and 285 pass through the city, along St. Francis Drive. NM-599 forms a limited-access road bypass around the northwestern part of the city. In its earliest alignment (1926–1937), U.S. Route 66 ran through Santa Fe.
Santa Fe Depot is served by the New Mexico Rail Runner Express
Santa Fe Trails, run by the city, operates a number of bus routes within the city during business hours and also provides connections to regional transit.
The New Mexico Rail Runner Express is a commuter rail service operating in Valencia, Bernalillo (including Albuquerque), Sandoval, and Santa Fe Counties. In Santa Fe County, the service uses 18 miles (29 km) of new right-of-way connecting the BNSF Railway’s old transcontinental mainline to existing right-of-way in Santa Fe used by the Santa Fe Southern Railway. Santa Fe is currently served by four stations, Santa Fe Depot, South Capitol, Zia Road, and Santa Fe County/NM 599.
New Mexico Park and Ride, a division of the New Mexico Department of Transportation, and the North Central Regional Transit District operate primarily weekday commuter coach/bus service to Santa Fe from Torrance, Rio Arriba, Taos, San Miguel and Los Alamos Counties in addition to shuttle services within Santa Fe connecting major government activity centers. Prior to the Rail Runner’s extension to Santa Fe, Park and Ride operated commuter coach service between Albuquerque and Santa Fe.
Greyhound Lines serves Santa Fe on its route from Denver to El Paso, Texas. Groome Transportation provides shuttles between Santa Fe and the Albuquerque International Sunport.
The New Mexico Rail Runner Express connects Santa Fe to the Albuquerque area
Along with the New Mexico Rail Runner Express, a commuter rail line serving the metropolitan areas of Albuquerque and Santa Fe, the city or its environs are served by two other railroads. The Santa Fe Southern Railway, now mostly a tourist rail experience but also carrying freight, operates excursion services out of Santa Fe as far as Lamy, 15 miles (24 km) to the southeast. The Santa Fe Southern line is one of the United States’ few rails with trails. Lamy is also served by Amtrak’s daily Southwest Chief for train service to Chicago, Los Angeles, and intermediate points. Passengers transiting Lamy may use a special connecting coach/van service to reach Santa Fe.
Multi-use bicycle, pedestrian, and equestrian trails are increasingly popular in Santa Fe, for both recreation and commuting. These include the Dale Ball Trails, a 24.4-mile (39.3 km) network starting within two miles (3.2 km) of the Santa Fe Plaza; the long Santa Fe Rail Trail to Lamy; the Atalaya Trail up Atalaya Mountain; and the Santa Fe River Trail. Santa Fe is the terminus of three National Historic Trails: El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail, the Old Spanish National Historic Trail, and the Santa Fe National Historic Trail.