Santa Fe, New Mexico Travel Guide
Santa Fe Summary
- Declared a "creative city" by UNESCO, because of its strong contemporary art, crafts, music, and design scenes
- Unique combination of Southwestern, Latino, and Native American influences
- Santa Fe Plaza hosts numerous markets and festivals, including the Santa Fe Indian Market and the Traditional Spanish Market
- Palace of the Governors, built in 1610, is the oldest continually operating building in the U.S.
- Stunning Sangre de Cristo Mountains about 15 miles outside of the city's center
- Mild summers with close to no humidity
- Phenomenal shopping; famous for its hand-crafted jewelery (especially silver), clothes, and collectibles
- Chock-full of history (the oldest state capital in the U.S.!)
- Outdoor activities around the outskirts of the city, especially hiking, cycling, and horseback riding
- Adobe architecture, both historic and modern, predominates
- Flourishing fine arts community -- whether you crave a local jam session or impressive opera
- Close to skiing, if you plan on visiting during the winter months
- Fairly safe
- Historic American Indian sites, like the Puye Cliff Dwellings and Taos Pueblo, close enough for a day trip
- High altitude may be an issue for some; be sure to drink plenty of fluids and wear sunscreen, even in the winter!
- Small airport (most people fly in to Albuquerque)
- Tends to be expensive
- Residential burglary, but probably not an issue for travelers
What It's Like
Santa Fe might as well be a synonym for fine arts. With a rich mix of American Indian, Southwestern, and Latino cultures, in this city, the fine arts community flourishes. The Museum of International Folk Art displays more than 120,000 objects, like collections of miniature buildings, streets, and village scenes from the Girard Foundation. On the performing arts scene, the Santa Fe Opera offers world-renowned performances during the summer months. It’s also common to stumble upon free concerts in the Plaza when the weather is warm.
Although Sante Fe’s architecture is characterized by the pueblo adobe buildings, a surprising diversity of architectural styles can be found here, like California Mission Revival, Victorian, and Italianate styles. The Cathedral Basilica of Sant Francis of Assisi, commonly known as the St. Francis Cathedral, is the city’s most popular building, which towers over the other, mostly low-level, adobe structures.
With Santa Fe’s prime location between the mountains and desert, outdoor activities abound, especially hiking, cycling, and horseback riding. Most activities require a bit of travel outside of the city, but a few options still remain in town, like the Santa Fe River Park and Atalaya Mountain, which begins at St. John’s College’s campus.
Where To Stay
Santa Fe is a fairly small city (just about 70,000 residents), and most hotels are bundled in the same areas.
- Stay in the Santa Fe Plaza (Downtown) to be within walking distance of all the important historic and social attractions (like Palace of the Governors, one of the oldest buildings in the United States), as well as restaurants, shops, and bars.
- Museum Hill is more tranquil than Downtown, located about 2 miles southeast of the Plaza, and home to international folk art museums and a few cafes.
- Canyon Road, less than half a mile from the Plaza, is a romantic spot that's also the arts hub of Santa Fe, and home to a multiplicity of art galleries. The homes in this area are beautiful and rustic, and some date back to the mid-1700s.
- The Railyard and Guadalupe district is perfect for nature buffs who want to be within walking distance of open space -- like the district’s 10-acre park.