One of my favorite road trip agendas in the Untied States is driving through the Southwest. I have been fortunate enough to take that long road, Highway 40/ Route 66, numerous times in the last couple decades. Sometimes I would drive it with my family and other times on my own. I have also driven throughout New Mexico and seen many of its sights, but the city of Santa Fe is my favorite- hands down!
Santa Fe is one the most historic cities in America and dates back to 1610, when it became the capitol of Nuevo Mexico. The old adobe buildings and southwestern architecture is what I love about Santa Fe, as well as its tremendous art and culture scene. This little New Mexico city is considered one of the world’s best art cities and is also recognized by UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network, since 2005.
Fun Facts: Santa Fe is the capital of New Mexico and is the oldest state capital in the United States. The elevation of this southwestern city is 7,199 feet which makes it the highest elevation capital in the U.S.
If you plan on visiting Santa Fe for a couple of days, I have compiled a list of my recommendations of things-to-do while visiting my favorite city in New Mexico. Enjoy!
The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi
Also known as Saint Francis Cathedral, this 150 year old church is located in Downtown Santa Fe. It is of neo-Romanesque style, built of sandstone and was constructed between 1869 and 1886. It was originally built on the sight of another church from the 1600s. Saint Francis Cathedral is part of the Santa Fe National Historic Trail and is worth the visit while in exploring the city.
The nave of the cathedral is beautiful and a fine example of Catholic churches in the southwest. I was brought up Catholic and have been to many churches in my youth. Saint Francis Cathedral is one of the loveliest I have seen outside of a California Mission.
Saint Francis Cathedral is open to the public but also an active parish. Please visit their website for mass times and opening hours – The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi
Center for Contemporary Arts
This is my favorite museum in Santa Fe and I have visited it each time I came here. The Center for Contemporary Arts has been a cultural and artistic staple since 1979. The art collection and exhibitions inside are a vibrant look at the lively art scene of Santa Fe and its surrounding areas.
A visit to this Center of Cultural Arts is a fantastic experience, especially for those who enjoy art galleries of local artists.
For location, hours and admission, please visit Santa Fe Center of Cultural Arts.
The Palace of the Governors
The Palace of the Governors is one of America’s most interesting historical sites. It is located within the Santa Fe Historic District and is the oldest most continuously occupied public building in the United States. For centuries, the Palace of the Governors served as the seat of government for the state of New Mexico. Today its rooms house the National History Museum, a U.S. National Landmark, and is on the U.S. Registry of Historic Places.
For approximately one hundred years, Native American tribes have sold their crafts and handmade jewelry in front of the Palace of the Governors. The exhibitions inside the museum are worth your while to investigate if you want to understand more of New Mexico’s culture. From the indigenous tribes, to the Spanish colonization period, the American territorial times and until the 20th century are all represented.
I always enjoy learning about the culture of any state in America. Every one of them has a different past, history, cast of of historical characters and is unique to other states. The Palace of the Governors is a terrific museum to learn about New Mexico’s history, as well as a great historic building to visit.
Shopping in Santa Fe
Shopping in Santa Fe is a feast for the eyes. There is so much color and creativeness to the hand crafted items that it can be overwhelming. I know it was for me and I always get excited with the shopping scene in this small city. The colorful hanging handbags, the bright paper flowers and fun handmade souvenirs displayed along the old adobe buildings; are what we imagine shopping in Santa Fe would be like. It is magnificent, magical and a lot of fun.
There are many shops, stalls and alleyways selling items all throughout Santa Fe. If you have time, I would suggest shopping around and taking photos, so you can remember the items you like. Then go back and purchase them after you compare styles and prices. I still need to go back to purchase a few of those paper flowers, they were stunning and would go great in my home!
One of my favorite things to purchase while traveling is artisan crafted jewelry. I have purchase special pieces from local jewelry artists in cities such as Kyiv in Ukraine, Tallin in Estonia and Madrid, Spain. There is something special about purchasing a crafted item designed by local artists who pull from their culture and artistic mind. Another benefit of buying jewelry for souvenirs is that they do not take a lot of room in your luggage, and you can wear them along your trip!
On my first visit to Santa Fe, I wanted to purchase a simple turquoise bracelet. Turquoise is very popular in the Southwest and is a symbolic stone when purchasing jewelry in this part of the country. I looked all over town, including the Native American artists in front of the Palace of the Governors for an unpretentious bracelet that would fit my style. I finally found one in a jewelry store in the Downtown area. If you give yourself time, you can find the right piece for your fashion sense. It is best not to purchase the first piece you find. There are so many options and you can always go back to purchase that special piece.
The Santa Fe Plaza
The Santa Fe Plaza, located in the downtown area is a National Historic Landmark. It reminds me of the center plazas that I have come across in my travels through Europe, Mexico and Peru. This Plaza is known as “The Heart of Santa Fe”. It is a place for people to congregate, relax and for tourists who are interested in knowing more about the city’s culture.
During my last visit to Santa Fe, there was a band playing on a lovely summer’s eve. There were hanging lights, people dancing to the music and everyone was having an enjoyable time. It was a magical sight and I watched this days-gone-by scene with pure joy, for about a half-an-hour or so.
Hotel St. Francis
One one of my visits, I stayed at the historic Hotel St. Francis which I highly recommend. For those who know me or my blog, you know that history has a big influence on my activities, including hotel stays. Hotel St. Francis is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and was built in 1923. This hotel is highly rated and is noted as having one of the finest concierge service in the country. Some note one of the best in the world.
I enjoyed staying at this hotel for several reasons, one was the location. I left my car in the parking lot and walked everywhere from the Hotel St. Francis. It is located one block from the Historic Santa Fe Plaza, as well as many delicious restaurants. My room was not large but very comfortable, it was decorated in tasteful wood furnishings and crisp white linens.
For reservations, please visit their website – Hotel St. Francis
Santa Fe’s Food Scene
One of my passions while traveling is eating and drinking the local cuisine. I always surprise myself on how much I do eat when I travel, Santa Fe and New Mexico were no exceptions. If you are looking for delicious places to dine or ideas of what to eat while in New Mexico, please check out my blog.
My favorite city to eat in is Santa Fe, which is also my favorite city in New Mexico. The flavors of this state have a Mexican food base but are different due to the cultures and region. There is a mix of Native American and contemporary flavors, along with the traditional red and green chile sauces that are specific to this state. New Mexican cuisine is amazing and I now want to take another road trip just to eat in Santa Fe!
When in doubt, TRAVEL …
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