Skip to Content

5 Reasons to Avoid Santa Fe, New Mexico

Though it seems to be a popular tourist destination, you may want to avoid Santa Fe. While the area has a rich cultural history, it’s not for everyone.

Before you get too excited about visiting the capital city of New Mexico, you’ll want to know about the downsides of visiting. After all, you don’t want to take a vacation only to find yourself bored or, even worse, in danger.

We’ve got all the information you need to decide if this high-desert city fits the bill for your next destination,

Let’s get into it!

About Santa Fe, New Mexico

Europeans established the town of Santa Fe in 1607 as the first settlement west of the Mississippi. It became a capital city just three years later, making it the oldest state capital in the US. The indigenous groups pushed out by the creation of Santa Fe included Tanoans and Tewa peoples, who had called the area their home since around 900 AD. 

The city became a popular trading spot for Mexican, Spanish, and indigenous peoples via the Santa Fe Trail.

Their goods began traveling further with the railroad’s arrival in 1880, and Santa Fe became even more popular with the creation of Route 66 in 1926.

This city is in the northern part of New Mexico at nearly 7,000 feet above sea level. It sits at the base of the Sangre de Christo Mountains at the top end of the Rio Grande Valley. To the east lies the Santa Fe National Forest. The city’s population has grown from about 50,000 people in 1990 to nearly 90,000 in 2020. 

What Makes Santa Fe Unique?

You may wonder what’s so special about the city for the population to nearly double in the last 30 years. Many people consider Santa Fe to be the cultural hub of the American Southwest because of its diversity and artistic nature. Surveys show that about one in ten jobs worked by locals have a connection to the arts. 

In 2005, this place earned the unique distinction as the first city in the US to be recognized as a UNESCO Creative City. The organization, headed by the United Nations, aims to further world peace through education and the arts. Santa Fe joined the ranks of 300 other exceptional cities in 90 countries worldwide. 

The unique intersection of cultures also makes this city special. Visitors can see Spanish buildings from the 1600s or enjoy mouth-watering New Mexican cuisine. Perhaps most interesting is the enduring presence of the Indigenous nations that once lived in the area. 

Pro Tip: We think you should Avoid Santa Fe and Visit These Nearby Towns Instead.

Santa Fe at sunrise
While there’s lots to see and do in Santa Fe, a visit to New Mexico may not be right for everyone.

The Downsides of Santa Fe, New Mexico

Though this place might seem like a historian or art-lovers dream, we can think of several reasons you may want to avoid Santa Fe. Before heading to New Mexico, you’ll want to heed these warnings.

#1 The Climate Can Be Tough

It may be surrounded by mountains and forests, but don’t forget that Santa Fe is in the desert. This means dry skin, chapped lips, and dust everywhere. If the sand and dust don’t affect your breathing, being 7,000 feet above sea level probably will. 

The elevation makes it easy to get sunburnt, even though temperatures don’t usually rise above 85 degrees. Santa Fe gets cold in the winter, with low temperatures occasionally dipping into the single digits and highs rarely breaking 40. 

#2 Housing Isn’t Cheap

Like most tourist towns, housing prices in Santa Fe are on the rise. People find it a desirable place to live and visit, so if you want to buy a vacation home or rent a place to stay, it’ll cost you an arm and a leg. 

The city ranked twelfth on a list of 25 US cities that people relocated to in 2020, and the housing market can’t keep up. Homes in this region experience high demand and low supply, making them hard to come by. 

Due to city ordinances, most buildings in Santa Fe must be shorter than 45 feet tall. Some exemptions allow certain structures outside the town’s heart to be up to 75 feet. This means you won’t find any cheap high-rise hotels or condos to stay in, especially if you want to be downtown. 

#3 Crime Is On The Rise

Whenever we take a trip, we like to make sure we’ll be safe. It turns out that Santa Fe’s crime rate has increased as its population has grown. Santa Fe has ranked more dangerous than 94 percent of US cities. 

The website NeighborhoodScout lists that the city sees similar property crime rates as big cities like Dallas and fewer offenses per capita than several large municipalities, including Los Angeles and New York City. You have a one in 30 chance of being a victim of property crime and a one in 289 chance of experiencing violence.

Woman in Santa Fe
Santa Fe’s high elevation, dusty conditions, and crime rates make it less than ideal for a visit.

#4 The Nightlife Is Nonexistent

If you love to check out local nightlife when you travel, you’ll want to avoid Santa Fe. With nearly one-quarter of the population over 65, the city doesn’t really have a market for wild evening entertainment. 

Once the sun goes down, things begin to close. Some breweries may stay open until 10 PM, but we still think the city has room for growth in the nightlife arena.

You won’t find much live music or dancing unless you take the hour-long train ride to Albuquerque.

#5 The Public School System Is Broken

A quick Google search of the best and worst states in the US for public education will pull up several rankings. Nearly all of them have New Mexico listed as having the most inadequate schools in America. The city of Santa Fe has been known for having some of the most terrible public education in the state, making it literally the worst of the worst.

If you’ve been thinking about relocating to this capital city, their poor schooling may give you the push to avoid Santa Fe. 

Pro Tip: If you still want to visit Santa Fe, spend the night at one of these 7 Magical Santa Fe RV Parks & Campgrounds.

Santa Fe is Indeed “The City Different”

Santa Fe may have a long and culturally rich history, but you’ll want to think twice before heading to this Southwest destination. The city’s high elevation, dusty conditions, and crime rates could be bad for your health. If you plan to relocate to the area, keep in mind that it has awful public schools and outrageously expensive real estate.

But you might not need to avoid Santa Fe altogether. If you remember your allergy meds and take precautions to stay safe, this city can offer a delightful experience. Consider making a trip to enjoy the unique heritage of America’s oldest capital city.

Discover the Best Free Camping Across the USA

To be honest with you, we hate paying for camping. There are so many free campsites in America (with complete privacy).

You should give it a try!

As a matter of fact, these free campsites are yours. Every time you pay federal taxes, you’re contributing to these lands.

Become a FREE CAMPING INSIDER and join the 100,000 campers who love to score the best site! 

We’ll send you the 50 Best Free Campsites in the USA (one per state). Access the list by submitting your email below: