10 Great Places to Live, 2013
by the Editors of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine
What makes a city a great place to live? By our definition, good jobs, reasonably priced homes, decent schools, great health care and manageable size are all essential parts of the mix. We started with metro areas that have a population of 1 million or less and came up with a list of cities that met those criteria.
Then we whittled the list to ten cities and sent Kiplinger’s reporters to each one to find the extra ingredients that make them special: say, a gorgeous setting, a green sensibility, a brainiac population or a rah-rah sports culture. Want to see a moose on your daily walk? They’re a common sight in our #9 city. Rub elbows with celebrities? A surprising number of them call our #4 city home.
#4 – Santa Fe, New Mexico
Population: 144,170 (metro area)
Unemployment rate: 5.0%
Cost-of-living index: NA
Median household income: $53,698
Median home value: $379,000
What the locals love: The diversity, the climate and the free “Music on the Hill” jazz concert series in the summer.
Wander among the pueblo-style structures of Santa Fe’s downtown on a sunny day and you’ll see craftspeople spread their wares outside the 400-year-old Palace of the Governors, now part of the New Mexico History Museum. Or you can stop in at restaurants such as The Shed, which serves dishes reflecting Spanish and Native American influences. Art galleries line Canyon Road.
Locals enjoy free outdoor concerts at the central plaza bandstand, and six miles from the heart of town, the outdoor amphitheater enthralls opera-goers. Outdoor enthusiasts can hit nearby hiking and biking trails or head to the ski slopes at the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, about a half-hour drive from downtown. Getting around on foot can be a challenge, but efforts are under way to improve sidewalks and clean up sections between popular attractions.
Tourism, government (Santa Fe is the state capital of the Land of Enchantment) and the Los Alamos National Laboratory dominate the local economy; and the health care sector is set to grow. The city also fosters programs to encourage entrepreneurship in areas such as green technology and new media, to diversify the economy and to encourage young people to stick around. Santa Fe’s cost of living is a little higher than in other parts of the state. Many of the public schools are underperformers, so some families choose to live in districts with better schools or send kids to one of 43 private schools in Santa Fe County. But the setting truly is enchanting.