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orulz

Asheville, NC or Santa Fe, NM?

Which city do you like more?  

35 members have voted

  1. 1. Which city do you like more?

    • Santa Fe, NM
      5
    • Asheville, NC
      30


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I'm an Asheville native, and I had a chance to visit Santa Fe, New Mexico over the past week. I was struck with how similar the two cities were in many aspects, but yet how different in others.

On paper, these two cities have a lot of similarities:

Both cities:

-have a population of roughly 70,000 people

-are famous and popular tourist destinations

-are located in the mountains and are popular among outdoorsy types

-have four distinct seasons

-have a sizeable "hippie" population

-have lively downtowns with a number of unique shops, arcades, galleries, restaurants and bars

Some obvious differences:

-Santa Fe is a state capital. Asheville is nothing more than a county seat.

-Asheville's climate is temperate and humid; Santa Fe is temperate to hot and dry.

-Santa Fe is well-known for its adobe architecture throughout the entire city; Asheville's downtown is known for its 1920s Art Deco buildings but doesn't have an overall defining style.

-Asheville has a number of buildings in the 10+ story range; Santa Fe has nothing greater than 5 (presumably due to a height restriction ordinance).

So, for those of you who have been to both cities, which one do you find more appealing? If you haven't been to one or either, which one sounds more appealing to you based on what you do know?

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And here's my take on the matter.

Santa Fe's downtown commercial district felt larger, perhaps half again as big as Asheville. The streets seemed busier, too; more street vendors, more pedestrians, more bicycles (fewer cars, though.) However, it didn't feel like a mixed use environment. There were countless shops and restaurants and a number of hotels, but I didn't see much in the way of residential or office development. All the state government offices were in a different part of downtown or further out, in low-rise office complex style buildings with parking lots. All the retail in the downtown area was destination retail; there was nothing there to serve people who might be living in the area. All of this combined with the consistent architectural style had the effect of making Santa Fe seem like a theme park and Asheville more like a real city.

In Santa Fe, it got to the point where I wondered whether locals even bothered going downtown at all, or if everyone out on the streets were tourists. But then I tried wandering around at night. That's when the locals seemed to show up. Santa Fe has some great night life with plenty of live music, lots of bars, clubs, and a general laid-back low tension atmosphere that was just incredibly cool and would be difficult to tire of. No wonder so many people move there and the housing is so expensive.

Asheville has some of this same atmosphere too, but there's just not quite the same variety of venues.

Anyway, it's really hard to say which one I like better. Photos to follow.

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Spent two weeks in Santa Fe in 2001. Nice place, but it's nothing but art galleries. I mean, once you've seen a painting of Native Americans in the Southwestern color pallete, sliver jewelry with turquoise, and sculptures of horses/Indian chiefs...you've seen it all. It's also incredibly expensive. It's impossible to eat dinner in town without taking out a loan.

Santa Fe does have a killer spa, though. 10,000 Waves is a Japanese health spa that's cheap, spotless and offers an incredible view. Nothing like getting a massage in an outdoor pagoda with a view of the snow-capped mountains. If I tried to get that at the Grove Park Inn, I'd have to drop several hundred dollars. 10,000 Waves only set me back $85.

Health spas aside, I'll take Asheville anyday over Santa Fe.

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lol I know nothing about Santa Fe so pictures would really be helpful. I voted for Asheville though b/c I've seen a million Asheville pics and have been there a few times.

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Santa Fe is incredible and it's tough to pick from between the two but I have to agree with the general consensus and will add that Asheville trumps Santa Fe for its relative proximity to big cities (Atlanta, Charlotte, even, DC) and to the ocean (Charleston is about 5 hours down I-26?)

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I've spent a bit of time in both towns, and I don't really see that they're similar.

- Santa Fe is a major tourist center, subject to seasonal hotel rate hikes of at least 50%, tacky tourist shops and 400-year-old churches and buildings.

- Santa Fe's downtown is plaza-oriented, like most old Southwestern cities.

- Santa Fe is in somewhat of a valley, with a few small hills and is surrounded by mountains, while Asheville is amongst hills and looms under mountains.

- Santa Fe is full of over-priced cowboy art, while Asheville has genuine, good art.

- Santa Fe has major traffic issues during the season and no freeways running through the city.

- Santa Fe is almost solely adobe-style buildings.

I haven't been to Asheville since '01, but I always enjoyed myself there. I think Santa Fe sort of sucks. There are just way too many rich people there, and everything is so expensive.

Just my thoughts though.

Santa Fe and Taos Pictures

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- Santa Fe is a major tourist center, subject to seasonal hotel rate hikes of at least 50%, tacky tourist shops and 400-year-old churches and buildings.

- Santa Fe's downtown is plaza-oriented, like most old Southwestern cities.

- Santa Fe is full of over-priced cowboy art, while Asheville has genuine, good art.

Regarding the hotel rates, I avoided that completely by camping in Santa Fe National Forest. It's 15 miles away up NM275 (~30 minutes by car; a really freaking long time by bicycle because of the elevation change), 3500 feet higher up in the mountains, cool, beautiful, and free. NM275 is the road that takes you to the previously mentioned spa as well as the ski resort. If you want a campsite with showers, stay at the state park (forget what it's called) which is about $10 per day and 5 miles closer to town.

Regarding the tacky tourist shops, there certainly are a lot of them on the plaza. However, there are a lot of interesting museums of historical and artistic significance there too - nevertheless I got tired of it after a couple days. It's not until you walk out into the less-traveled areas further from the plaza that you get into the more interesting stuff (shops, galleries, restaurants, etc). It would really take a long time to check everything out.

Then, of course, there's the night life. As I said before, there were lots of bars, plenty of live music, perfect weather once the sun sets, and a great atmosphere. As I said before, that's when the locals start showin up downtown because it's not something that you tire of so easily as the touristy shops on the plaza.

- Santa Fe is in somewhat of a valley, with a few small hills and is surrounded by mountains, while Asheville is amongst hills and looms under mountains.
You're right, I love Asheville's topography, but unfortunately it makes it tiring to get around on foot and by bicycle. Pedaling around Asheville you'll need to use every gear on your bike, and it can wear you out in a hurry.

- Santa Fe has major traffic issues during the season and no freeways running through the city.
Parking downtown is a pain in the ass too. I said screw it and took the bus (which runs every 15 minutes, compared to the crappy hourly service in Asheville)

- Santa Fe is almost solely adobe-style buildings.
At first I thought that was pointless and boring (an adobe Best Buy? give me a break...) but then driving back to the campsite early one evening it struck me. Particularly in residential areas, The low adobe buildings blend into the terrain really well. Even the densest, newest neighborhoods look natural amongst the hills and shrubs. Although this mandated high standard of development is probably what makes housing in Santa Fe so expensive, it nevertheless struck me as beautiful and very appropriate.

Old neighborhoods in Asheville are forested and nice, but newer places generally follow the insensitive hack-and-slash suburban development patterns. Every new suburban subdivision on a mountainside leaves a scar that permanently detracts from the town's beauty.

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There's just nothing quite like shopping at an adobe Whole Foods.  It's sort of the Cary of the Southwest.  It all looks alike.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

:rofl:

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From looking at the Santa Fe pictures I think I would have to choose Asheville. The adobe buildings just don't do it for me! The areas of NC and VA that abut the Appalachians are beautiful and compare well with any place in the USA.

My favorite picture from the Santa Fe gallery is the one of "Hotel La fonda". Napoleon Dynamite anyone??

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Santa Fe is an expensive city and there is expensive art. Although to say that it is filled with over priced cowboy art is a joke. Santa Fe is third only behind New York City and Los Angeles in it's art. Around 80,000 people go to Santa Fe every August to buy Native American artwork. Santa Fe has a unique culture and plenty of history. It was established around 1609-1611. The Palace of the Governors was established around 1611 and still stands, it is now used as a museum. There are some nice museums around Santa Fe. I know it's a tourist town and maybe it's hard to see some of the better aspects of the city. But they are there if you know where to look.

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Great idea to compare these two cities. I think Asheville is probably the only city in the South that would be roughly comparable to Santa Fe. I love both cities, but the beautiful green mountains, the realtively mild weather, the proximity to major cities and the beach make Asheville the choice for me.

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Nice comparisons.

I love Asheville. Easily my favorite place to visit in NC. I recenly did a little contrast and compare between downtown Asheville to downtown Durham (where I live). Then I realized there aren't any people in downtown Durham.

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