Santa Fe is the capital of New Mexico but has a population of only 70,000. At 7,000 feet, it is the highest state capital in the US and, having been founded in 1607, it is also the oldest. It is renowned as a center for art, music, and food, and has a long, fascinating history and wonderful scenic beauty.
Santa Fe's history and culture is celebrated in a host of excellent museums. These include the New Mexico History Museum, New Mexico Museum of Art, and the Institute of American Indian Arts Museum.
Santa Fe has many fine buildings that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Tours are available to guide you through the many attractions.
Santa Fe has a year-round program of festivals, from the Fiesta de Santa Fe to the Santa Fe Wine and Chile Fiesta.
Santa Fe is surrounded by mountains and deserts and is a great center for hiking, climbing, cycling, and horse riding.
The Santa Fe Opera House offers a unique experience; it is partially open air with spectacular views of the Jemez Mountains.
Santa Fe is very much an artistic hub, and nowhere can you get a better feel for the city's creative bent than Canyon Road. This strip may stretch for only half a mile or so in eastern Santa Fe, but it packs plenty of artistic pleasures into a short distance. There are more than 100 galleries here, featuring everything from photography and Native American art to jewelry, ceramics, abstract painting, and sculpture. Check out the calendar too, as Canyon Road is a thriving venue for street art and gallery festivals.
Dubbed a "living history museum", El Rancho de las Gondrinas provides a unique window into 18th-century life when New Mexico was ruled by the Spanish Empire. Built in the 18th century, the ranch was the first stop on the Royal Road from Santa Fe to Mexico City, and it's hardly changed since. See authentic irrigation systems that turned the desert into a garden, attend the Wine Festival in July, and see actors in period costumes recreate life on a Spanish hacienda. There's nothing like it.
Honor one of New Mexico's most famous daughters at this stellar gallery on Johnson Street in Downtown Santa Fe. O'Keefe is revered as a 20th century American legend due to her paintings of flowers, animals, and landscapes (often from around Santa Fe). This museum is a fitting tribute. Opened in 1997, it features 140 of O'Keefe's paintings and 700 drawings, and also includes her home and studio on a separate site in northern Santa Fe. There are also regular workshops with researchers who can illuminate her techniques and aims, giving you an insight into where her inspiration came from.
Right at the center of Santa Fe you'll find the plaza, sitting where it's been for over 400 years. One of America's oldest urban meeting points, this square is constantly used as an event space, hosting craft markets, Native American art fairs and musical performances almost every day of the year. It's also lined with attractions, including the Palace of the Governors, the oldest public building in the USA, and the Cathedral of Saint Francis of Assisi.
One of the great things about visiting Santa Fe is the chance to find out what's happening in Native American culture, and the best place to do so is MoCNA, right next to Santa Fe Plaza. Featuring 7,500 artworks including paintings, sculptures, photos, clothing, videos and installations, every facet of modern Native American art is on display. If you don't know your Allan Houser from your Fritz Scholder, now's the time to learn.
Santa Fe has a pleasant year-round climate with mild winters and warm summers. The rainy season is in July and August.
Santa Fe Municipal Airport (SAF) has daily flights to Dallas/Fort Worth, Phoenix, and Denver. A shuttle bus service will take you into town for around $16, while a taxi will cost around $36.
Santa Fe is connected to Albuquerque by the New Mexico Rail Runner Express. A single fare is from $9. The Amtrak Southwest Chief stops at Lamy, 15 miles to the south of Santa Fe.
Santa Fe is connected to the rest of New Mexico by the I-25. Road conditions can be impacted by snow in winter.
Sante Fe has limited bus services to other cities in the southwest. A bus from Lamy costs from $15.
Days Inn has budget rooms two miles from the city center, while Hilton Santa Fe Historic Plaza offers 4-star accommodation right in the center.
The Plaza - this is the city's historic center, famous for its adobe buildings and home to upscale boutiques, galleries, and restaurants.
Historic Guadalupe - just to the west of the Plaza, this area is home to some of the city's most famous buildings. It also has a bustling market and is the center of the city's art scene.
Cerrillos Road - this is the city's busiest boulevard and houses many of Santa Fe's modern hotels and retail outlets.
Santa Fe has good bus services, with the North Central Regional Transit District offering free local buses from Monday to Friday.
Taxis cost $3 to hail and then around $2.50 per mile.
Parking can be an issue during summer but roads are generally free from congestion. Car rental is available from $50.
Downtown has specialty stores offering books, toys, crafts, and art, while Cerrillos Road and Zafarano Road have larger, big-box stores and malls.
A quart of milk in Santa Fe will cost $0.76 and a loaf of white bread is $2.44.
Five and Dime General Store on E San Francisco Street serves southwestern classics such as Frito Pie from $10. Tomasita's on S Guadalupe Street is renowned for its traditional New Mexican food, with entrees at around $11.