SANTA FE, N.M. — Santa Fe is the fifth best city in the U.S. and Canada to visit – and also the fifth snobbiest, according to rankings created through surveys of Travel + Leisure’s readers.
“I was really surprised by that,” Steve Lewis, who handles public relations for the Santa Fe Visitors and Convention Bureau, said Tuesday of the “snobby” label. “I’ve been working with the (travel) press for over 20 years, and almost unanimously they say, ‘Gee, what a friendly town this is.’
“I’ve never had anybody tell me ‘what a snobby city’ this is.”
Among the 35 tourist cities included in the magazine’s survey, a result last year showed Santa Fe as the 12th friendliest city.
But Santa Fe County Commissioner Miguel Chavez, while noting that sometimes surveys are constructed to get the answers their sponsors want, acknowledged of Santa Fe, “Yes, it can be kind of elitist and kind of snobbish.”
And while saying he disagrees with the elitist image, Mayor David Coss wasn’t surprised by it.
“I’ve been dealing with that all my life,” he said. “There’s a perception out there … if you enjoy the arts, there’s a certain amount of anti-intellectualism out there that says that’s snobbish.”
And, indeed, one of the things that consistently puts Santa Fe near the top of lists of places to visit – its wide array of cultural activities – appears to be among the items that earned cities a snob ranking.
On its website, Travel + Leisure wrote of the ranking, “we factored in some traditional staples of snobbery: a reputation for aloof and smarty-pants residents, along with high-end shopping and highbrow cultural offerings like classical music and theater.”
Thus a city like Chicago, once praised by poet Carl Sandburg as “Hog Butcher, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with Railroads and Freight Handler to the Nation,” made the top 10 for its “renowned theater scene.”
And among other snobby cities in the top 10, the website gives props to the burgers in Providence, R.I.; the free things to do in Washington, D.C.; the “tidy” and outdoorsy vibe in Minneapolis/St. Paul; and the gay-friendliness of San Francisco.
As for Santa Fe, the website notes it “certainly ranks as an A-list art town with readers: it won the survey for being a cultural getaway and scored highly for its museums. Beyond the galleries and boutiques of Canyon Road, the New Mexicans also came across as being pretty affable – but it may depend on your topic of conversation: the city ranked near the bottom for its sports bars.”
Then again, Travel + Leisure’s writers and readers may never have attended a Santa Fe High vs. St. Mike’s football game, or followed Santa Fe Indian School and others to the state tourney. And do they know the City Different has a new Buffalo Wild Wings – albeit in a non-touristy south-side shopping center – that was bulging at the seams for the NBA finals?
The snobbiest cities story says: “Ysmay Walsh makes a point to dress up when she gallery-hops along the city’s Canyon Road. ‘I feel like I have to step up my game a bit, because I wanted to be taken seriously at the galleries,’ says the founder of residential guide MetroSeeker.com. ‘Without a certain appearance or air about yourself, gallery owners barely acknowledge you when you walk in.’ ”
A personal problem?
Lewis quipped of Walsh’s perception: “I consider that a personal problem, not a problem from our side.”
And maybe Walsh doesn’t realize that most locals who can’t afford the art but like to look at it are grateful when gallery staff ignores them.
Meg Shepard, operations director for the Canyon Road Merchants Association, said, “On Canyon Road, we have art without the attitude.”
People she deals with, she said, seem “charmed” by their experiences on Canyon Road, and those who came to a recent “Passport to the Arts” event were usually “over the moon.”
But Chavez, a former City Councilor who builds traditional, hand-carved New Mexico furniture, said he thinks local craftsmen have a hard time getting their goods displayed in shops and galleries around downtown.
“Being in the top 10 (of places to visit) can be a good thing, but how does it trickle down and be meaningful to the cottage industries, the artists and craftsmen living here full time?” he asked.
In a high-profile tourist destination, “a large portion of the population is left out, doesn’t always benefit” from tourism, while being hurt by a high cost of living and high taxes, Chavez said.
According to Travel+Leisure, the top 10 snobby cities ranking is: 1. San Francisco; 2. New York City; 3. Boston; 4. Minneapolis/St. Paul; 5. Santa Fe and Seattle (tie); 7. Chicago; 8 Providence, R.I.; 9. Washington, D.C.; and 10. Charleston, S.C.
The top 10 U.S. and Canadian cities to visit in the magazine’s 2013 World’s Best Awards are: 1. Charleston; 2. San Francisco; 3. New York; 4. Chicago; 5. Santa Fe; 6. New Orleans; 7. Savannah; 8. Quebec City; 9. Vancouver; and 10. Washington, D.C.