Santa Fe, New Mexico

No Country for Old Ideas

Winter commute

Winter commute, Santa Fe     Photo: Jen Judge

VOTES: 585 (2.7%)

Adobe buildings and art galleries are as abundant as Texas tourists paying too much for turquoise. And, yes, tourist dollars, along with the film industry (No Country for Old Men, The Avengers), are two of the biggest moneymakers in town. That's a good thing. No major industrial presence means the second-cleanest skies in the nation, and the out-of-state dollars help support New York City—caliber restaurants and the venerable Santa Fe Opera. For locals, there's also a vibrant farmers' market and probably more natural foods per capita than anywhere. And because it's situated in the high desert of northern New Mexico, the City Different is also a sportsman's paradise—Colorado-style mountains without the crowds.

Staying Power: Santa Fe, which celebrated its 400th anniversary last fall, maintains that old Southwest character—donkey-cart-wide streets and red-chile ristras—but it's also taken a progressive approach to the future. In 2006, it was the first city in the nation to accept the 2030 Challenge, a call to make all municipal buildings carbon-neutral by 2030. Last summer the city installed a hydroelectric plant downstream of its water-treatment facility, meaning that municipal water runs through energy-generating turbines on its way to household taps—the only such system in the country.

Playgrounds: The Dale Ball Trails, five minutes away in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, are a classic for after-work romps, and by year's end the city will add 3.4 miles of trails to the La Tierra multi-use system just north of town. Forty-five minutes away, the subalpine valleys and low peaks of the Jemez Mountains, even despite this year's fires, remain a popular destination for hikers, climbers, and, in winter, cross-country skiers. North, the famous steeps of Taos Ski Valley beckon.

The Voters Speak: "Easy access to tons of trails—Dale Ball, La Tierra, Atalaya—within 15 minutes of home." "A world-class opera, marvelous vistas, and clear blue skies." "Has more great restaurants and art galleries per capita than any city in the U.S."

From Outside Magazine, Oct 2011 Get the Latest Issue

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