Early Native Americans called Santa Fe “Dancing Ground of the Sun.” At the turn of the century frontiersmen referred to the city as The City Different. Today Santa Fe lives up to its taglines around every turn. Like a fine wine, Santa Fe has aged well over its 400+ years. The nation’s oldest capital city, the influences of waves of migration along three trails, and in more recent history, via the railroad and Route 66, has layered the city with culture, arts, and architecture.
The city is a blend of Anglo, Spanish, and Native Cultures. The food and art scene showcase this infusion with a rich cultural heritage. And its location surrounded by the by the majesty of the Sangre de Cristo mountains, the spectacular sunsets over the Jemez range and expansive natural beauty of national forests make Santa Fe the perfect destination to experience the southwest.
Both the visual and performing art scenes thrive in Santa Fe. The visual art options are endless with over 250 galleries and museums, there is something for everyone from the serious collector to the art admirer.
Here are five ways to enjoy the arts:
1. The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum
Located in the city center is The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. One of the most significant artists of the 20th century, Georgia O’Keeffe’s work as an American Modernist artist showcase international influence from her travels to Peru and Japan, the southwest nature-scapes, and radical interpretation of flowers. The museum is located in the city center, the collections at the museum include nearly 150 paintings and hundreds of works on paper along with personal property and significant archive of documents and photographs relating to the artist’s life and times.
Advance ticket purchase is required and tour times frequently sell-out. The museum is open Thursday to Monday from 10-5. For details and tickets visit: https://www.okeeffemuseum.org/
2. The New Mexico Museum of Art
Located one block from the historic Santa Fe Plaza, this museum is one of four state run museums in Santa Fe. Completed in 1917, the building was designed by architect Isaac Rapp and is an example of Pueblo Revival Style architecture, one of Santa Fe’s best-known representations of the synthesis of Native American and Spanish Colonial design styles. The museum’s art collection includes of 20,000 painting, photographs, sculptures, prints, drawings, and mixed-media works. Notable artists in the collection include Ansel Adams, Gustave Baumann, Fritz Scholder, Luis Jimenez, and Maria Martinez.
The museum is open Monday – Sunday, 10-5. For details and tickets visit:
3. The New Mexico History Museum Located just off the plaza in the heart of Santa Fe, the museum occupies three distinct buildings: the Palace of the Governors from 1610, Fray Andelico Chavez Library from 1907 and Pete V. Domenici Building from 2009. The buildings are connected by a large lobby and courtyard. The museum is worth seeing as it has offers a remarkable historical timeline of New Mexico’s peoples, cultures, and communities complete with art, artifacts, and photos. The museum is open Sunday – Saturday, 10-5. For details and tickets visit: https://www.nmhistorymuseum.org
4. Sherwoods Spirit of American If you are a collector of Native American Artifacts and Historic Americana or simply want an authentic gallery experience, Sherwoods Spirit of American is a must visit. This gallery offers some of the finest examples of artifacts from throughout America including the Northwest Coast, the Eastern Woodlands and Great Basin to the Great Plains. The gallery is wonderful to stroll through, the artifacts are impressive and bring life to history by displays of saddles, moccasins, pottery, clothing and so much more. Each item on display is labeled with the period of history and area it is from as well as prices for each item. No photos are allowed. The staff is welcoming and knowledgeable. For more information visit: https://www.sherwoodsspirit.com
5. Santa Fe Opera The performing arts are alive and well in Santa Fe. You can take in a play, watch traditional flamenco dancing, or enjoy dinner at many local restaurants while listening to live guitar. But the highlight of entertainment is at the Santa Fe Opera. The setting almost rivals the flawless performances, which include favorite, classic operas as well as contemporary works. The opera house, designed by architect James Polshek, is a partially covered amphitheater nestled on nearly 150 acres in the Sangre de Cristo foothills and has stunning views of the Jemez Mountains. And don’t miss out on the tailgating! Your evening at the opera can begin hours before the curtain goes up by bringing your own picnics, table and chairs with linens and dine in the parking lot or you can reserve a similar catered experience. This is not your typical opera experience! For details visit: https://www.santafeopera.org
Known as a culinary mecca, the flavors you find in restaurants are a mix of Pueblo Native American, Spanish, and Mexican cuisine. From chilis to blue corn, to unique savory use of New Mexican spices, herbs, and flavors, you will enjoy dishes that have never crossed your palate before. And remember, you will need to answer the question, ‘red, green or Christmas” when it comes to your chilis.
There are so many great restaurants, you could spend a year trying them all. Here are three places to get you started:
The Pink Adobe
Established in 1944 and affectionately known by locals as “The Pink”, the restaurant is located in a 300-year-old adobe building located in the center of the historic Barrio de Analco across the street from San Miguel Mission. With a cozy ambience, roaring fire, romantic outdoor patio area, you will enjoy a varied menu with French influenced entrees and classic New Mexican dishes. Two must try items are Rosalea’s French Onion soup and her legendary French Apple Pie.
The French Pastry Shop & Creperie Located in La Fonda Hotel just down the street from the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, this charming pastry shop has been serving croissants, pastries and crepes since 1974 when it was started by George and Nancy Zadeyan, French natives that moved to Santa Fe. Now run by their sons, this is the perfect place to start your day in Santa Fe with a Café au Lait and authentic French croissant or take a break from all your walking for a welcomed Croque Monsieur or Madame for lunch.
Geronimo Fine dining in a 1756 adobe home complete with wood beamed ceilings and kiva fireplaces, this restaurant serves up a 5-star dining experience. For over 25 years the restaurant has been impressing locals and visitors alike with award-winning Global Eclectic fare. When you dine at Geronimo you partake in an unforgettable experience, from a warm and inviting atmosphere to the impeccable service, sophisticated seasonal menus and outstanding wine list.
History, Culture and Nature
If you are a history buff or nature enthusiast, Santa Fe is the perfect place to explore. With a rich past that is preserved in historic sites located throughout and near the city, you can explore ancient Native American ruins filled with petroglyphs, visit centuries-old adobe and European-styled churches, or partake in outdoor adventures during every season.
The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi
Located in the heart of the old town, just down the street from the Plaza, the Basilica was originally a small adobe church built in 1610 the same year Santa Fe was founded. Most of the original adobe church was destroyed in the 1680 Pueblo Revolt. The only part of the original church you can experience is the small adobe chapel located to the left of the main altar. The chapel is dedicated to Our Lady la Conquistadora. Brought from Spain in 1625, the statue is the oldest Madonna in the United States. During the 1680 Pueblo Revolt, Mary was saved and brought back to the church in 1693. A fun fact is the 10th great-grandmother of the current pastor, Father Tom saved the Madonna. The current Basilica is a stunning example of Romanesque architecture and is adorned with stained glass windows from France. There are seven archbishops buried in the sanctuary. From the soaring altar screen depicting Saints from North and South America to the fully restored pipe organ, visiting the Basilica is a way to experience Santa Fe’s rich past.
The Plaza The Plaza is in the heart of downtown Santa Fe and is known as the gathering place. A National Historic Landmark, the Plaza is home to annual events including Fiestas de Santa Fe, the Spanish Market, and the Santa Fe Indian Market. The plaza consists of a central park lined with grass, trees and benches, includes a performing arts stage and is adorned with chilis.
The Great Outdoors Whether you enjoy hiking, biking, skiing, trail walks or horseback riding, or fishing there is something for everyone from the adventure junkies to the nature lovers. Courtesy of the location’s high altitude, Santa Fe enjoys nearly 320 days of brilliant blue skies, clear air and is tucked into acres of unspoiled national forests filled with juniper, pine and aspen.
Each season offers you a unique way to enjoy the great outdoors:
Spring is the perfect time to hike the many trails from the Sangre de Cristo Mountains just outside of town offering well groomed trails and picnic spots. Or take a day trip to Pecos National History Park. Operated by the National Park Service, the park encompasses thousands of acres of landscape infused with historical elements from prehistoric archaeological ruins to 19th-century ranches. Its largest single feature is Pecos Pueblo, also known as Cicuye Pueble, a Native American community abandoned in historic times.
As the warm sun glows over the mountains and valleys, summer is the perfect time to go river rafting on the legendary Rio Grande or Rio Chama, mountain biking on some of the best trails in North America, fishing in the clear rivers, streams and lakes in the area or playing a round of golf on courses serving up stunning views of the New Mexico landscape.
As verdant leaves turn into a palette of autumn hews, the area around Santa Fe is transformed into a haven for fall foliage enthusiasts. Whether you are simply seeking a stroll along the Santa Fe River Trail or explore the nearby mountain trails, you will gaze at the vibrant colors and delight in the photographic views around every turn. Or if you want to have an exciting visual adventure plan to attend the annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.
With typically 300 inches of powder snow a year, Santa Fe is a winter wonderland of activities from skiing, snowboarding, miles of trails for snowshoeing all offering beautiful mountain vistas. Combine the outdoor adventures with winter festivals and you will discover there is endless fun under the winter sun.
To find recommendations for guides, tours, and local resources for activities throughout the year, visit https://www.santafe.org/
Santa Fe is where high desert vistas are the setting where ancient native culture, contemporary art, Spanish Colonial architecture and legendary cuisine are woven together like a fine tapestry. This destination has been drawing travelers for over 400 years, and many, like Georgia O’Keeffe, loved the desert magic so much they opted to stay.