Santa Fe, New Mexico
Native American, Spanish, American — Santa Fe has been blending cultures since the town was settled 400 years ago. Today, it is also a magnet for art lovers, artists and retirees attracted by clear light, mountain scenery and creativity.
Santa Fe (population 73,000) is 55 miles northeast of Albuquerque in the foothills of the southern Rockies. Half of the metro area's population is Hispanic, some from families that have lived here 10 generations or more.
Santa Fe is an epicenter for painting and sculpture. There's also a local symphony, community orchestra, several chorales, the Santa Fe Opera, and annual festivals for chamber music, folk and bluegrass, alternative theater, and more. Santa Fe is also a big foodie scene: Trattoria Nostrani has won numerous awards, and others, including El Farol, employ innovative chefs. You'll find them browsing the Tuesday-and-Saturday farmer's market for native chilies, mountain apricots, biscochitos (New Mexico's traditional cookie) and more.
On Sundays, walk the craft stalls in front of the city's old plaza, next to the oldest public building in the U.S., the Palace of the Governors, built in the early 17th century. Or wander into the myriad shops, galleries, cafes and bars, or the 96,000-square-foot New Mexico History Museum — one of a dozen museums in Santa Fe. Gallery row along Canyon Road was named one of America's Great Streets by the American Planning Association.
For great-outdoors sunshine, hit the Sangre De Cristo Mountains, where you can walk or mountain bike for days in the national forests that surround the city. Need a hiking partner? Call the Trails of Santa Fe Stewardship Coalition. For skiing, hit Ski Santa Fe, just 16 miles from town, or drive 2.5 hours to the world-class steeps of Taos Ski Valley.
The local economy is mixed — very low unemployment but a growing population and high housing prices that have driven up the cost of living.
Santa Fe made AARP The Magazine's list of the 10 healthiest places in the United States in 2008 due to residents' high life expectancy. But the metro is near the bottom of the United States in the number of hospital beds per capita, so people often seek major treatments in Albuquerque. Santa Fe does have an ample supply of doctors, so basic medical attention is readily available, as are all manner of alternative healing and holistic medicine practices, including good old sunlight therapy.