Santa Fe, New Mexico: An Intriguing Destination
There’s something about Santa Fe that intrigues visitors. I’m often asked, “How did you get to Santa Fe?” There is no simple answer. It spoke to us and 20 years later we figured out how to move here. It’s a magical place where three distinct cultures (Native American, Hispanic and Anglo) create a diverse culture with a rich history and present.
An overview of Santa Fe
One of the things that we love about living here is the area’s rich history. There are still traces of original people who lived in New Mexico thousands of years ago and their descendants are the current day Pueblo People. The Spanish arrived in 1598, making Santa Fe the second oldest city in the USA. We boast the oldest house, the oldest church and the oldest continuously occupied government building in the country. The New Mexico History Museum, located steps from the historic Plaza, tells the story of the state’s rich history from the original Pueblo peoples to the present in its permanent exhibit, Telling New Mexico: Stories from Then and Now.
San Miguel Mission – The oldest Church in Santa Fe
But Santa Fe is about much more than history. It has a rich cultural scene including art, music, theater and dance. It is a city of locally-owned boutiques offering unique items from the southwest and around the world. The city borders on or is a close drive to National Parks, National Monuments and National Forests, offering outdoor enthusiasts a lot of active options.
Shopping for art and more
It’s the third largest art market in the United States behind New York City and LA. Not bad for a city whose population is around 70,000. Over 200 galleries and 6 art museums display an eclectic mix of traditional, Native American, southwestern, western and contemporary works. You’ll find paintings, drawings, collages, assemblages, sculptures, pottery, textiles, jewelry and photographs among the mediums represented.
Beals and Abbate is one of the many galleries along Canyon Road
Year-round, it’s one of the best places in the world to shop for Native American and Spanish Colonial Art. Summer is a great time for collectors. Santa Fe has three major summer art markets. The Santa Fe International Folk Art Market and Spanish Market in July and Indian Market in August draw shoppers from all over the world. There are art shows all summer in and around the Plaza and Railyard areas.
Chilis roasting at one of the Santa Fe farmer’s markets
There’s a lot more to shop for than art. There’s an abundance of boutiques offering a plethora of adornments for the body and the home at all prices. From high end to flea markets, you can literally shop here until you drop or run out of money, whichever comes first.
Spanish market showcases talent of Hispanic artists
The Santa Fe food scene
Santa Fe is a celebration of food. For shoppers, there’s the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market and an interesting assortment of specialty food stores offering a variety of items from locally grown or produced New Mexican items to spices, olive oil, coffee, wine, coffee and more from around the world.
When dining out, you’ll find eateries ranging from traditional Northern New Mexican cuisine to high-end creative cookery options, there’s something for every budget and taste. Many restaurants embrace the abundance of locally grown and produced foods from either from the farmers’ market, the local Farm to Table program or direct from the grower or producer.
Music and more
Culture lovers can enjoy a wide spectrum of music. In summer both the Santa Fe Opera and the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival attract visitors from all over the country and even the world. The New Mexico Jazz Festival and other annual summer music events play to a more local crowd. Lots of local music groups thrive here and promoters bring in artists from all over the world. There is music all year round. Santa Fe also has resident theater and dance companies. The Santa Fe Playhouse is the oldest continuously running theatre west of the Mississippi.
Mose Allison at the 2011 New Mexico Jazz Festival
Getting out of town
When you’re ready to get out of town and tour the beautiful high desert with it’s beautiful and sometimes, stark landscape there’s a lot to choose from. Take a ride to historic Taos on the High Road, explore ancient cliff dwelling and pueblos or drive to wilderness areas.
Motorcycle memorial in Los Llanitos Cemetary on the High Road in Truchas, NM
Adventure travelers can choose from hiking, llama trekking, geocaching, mountain biking, climbing, rafting, horse backing riding, skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, hot air ballooning and more.
Tent Rocks National Monument
Christmas in Santa Fe
There are a lot of special times to come to Santa Fe, but if I had to pick one, it would be Christmas. In this traditionally Catholic city, it’s a time of pageants and special events that is nothing short of magical. It becomes a city of lights. Traditional American colored lights are joined by the purely New Mexican farolitos- traditional candles in bags. The 21st century versions are electrified, except on Christmas Eve when the traditional ones reappear for a night. Festivities begin in mid-December and go through New Years, Highlights are Las Posadas, Christmas Eve on Canyon Road and traditional dances at many of the area’s Pueblos.
Christmas Eve is very special. Canyon Road, one of the oldest streets in town and home to many of the towns art galleries, is closed to traffic. Traditional farolitos line the street and luminarias (small piñon bonfires) are lit. People gather around to warm themselves on this cold night. The street is always jammed and it seems like the entire city has turned out. If it happens to snow, well…
Farolitos on Canyon Road on Christmas Eve
No matter when you visit, you’ll find a lot to see and do in The City Different. And maybe, as we did, you’ll fall in love.
Have you been to Santa Fe? What did you like about it best?
Billie Frank is a freelance travel, food and feature writer based in Santa Fe New Mexico. A former print journalist, she now writes for digital magazines and blogs on the Internet. Her blog, Santa Fe Travelers is a treasure trove of information on the oldest capital city in the US. Billie is also co-owner of The Santa Fe Traveler, a trip-planning and tour business. You can find Billie on Facebook and on Twitter
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