Santa Fe is known as the City Different; within one visit, you will know why. Santa Fe embodies a rich history melding Hispanic, Anglo, and Native American cultures whose influences are apparent in everything from the architecture, the food, and the art.
Santa Fe never goes out of style but with an ever-growing adventure travel scene, a slew of special events, and restaurants and spas that nurture the body and soul it should be on your travel radar.
Authenticity continues to resonate as a hallmark of experiences in Santa Fe from walking trails once trod by the ancestral Pueblo people to the red chile peppers of Chimayo cooked up at James Beard Award-winning Rancho de Chimayó.
Santa Fe has its Native American community to thank for its distinct look. The sun-dried earth and straw homes of the Tanoan peoples proved ingenious, enduring, and hugely influential to the city today. The low-slung architecture—characterized by flat roofs, rounded walls, corner fireplaces, and covered porches—is so integral to Santa Fe’s aesthetic that city law mandates any new construction in historic districts adhere to the style.
Santa Fe is a cultural hub providing visitors the opportunity to learn about and explore Native American culture and New Mexican culture as well as art, entertainment, history, and cuisine. Those factors, combined with an incredible outdoor adventure opportunity have made Santa Fe a repeat destination for many RV travelers who come to visit and fall in love with the area’s rich culture, outdoor activities, and community.
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Visitors to the Santa Fe area can not only enjoy the world-class art for which Santa Fe is widely known (designated as a UNESCO City of Crafts and Folk Art as well as a City of Design) but also an incredible immersion into culture with visits to explore ancient pathways to ruins of northern New Mexico’s ancestral Pueblo people—discovering national monuments, national historical parks, and famous landmarks, museums, and trading posts.
As the heart of the city and the place where Santa Fe was founded, the Plaza is the city’s most historic area. Surrounded by museums, historic buildings, restaurants, hotels, galleries, and endless shopping, the Plaza is the place to start understanding Santa Fe.
Just off the plaza, Back at the Ranch is a go-to for hand-crafted cowboy boots in vibrant colors, funky patterns, and high-quality leather. Peruse hundreds of pairs in the shop including boots decorated with songbirds and Dia de Los Muertos imagery.
Around the corner, satisfy your taste for turquoise at Wind River Trading Company, the largest Native American jewelry store in town. The shop biographically lists out the craftsmen who make the goods so you know who you’re supporting. They carry minerals, chunky bracelets, pendants, bolo ties, and money clips.
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If your idea of shopping is more culinary, the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market hosts more than 150 local farmers who sling wool, goat milk, preserves, produce, organic meat, and herbs. It’s held on Saturdays year-round in the Railyard and on Tuesdays from May through November.
Santa Fe is renowned for its farm-fresh restaurants, tequila-soaked watering holes, and bakeries wafting with aromas of blue corn and chile. Unless you straight-up move there, it’s hard to put a dent in your Santa Fe food bucket list but a few standouts include brisket breakfast burritos from Betterday Coffee, green chile cheeseburgers from Shake Foundation, cheesy enchiladas from old-school Tia Sophia’s, blue corn doughnuts from Whoo’s Donuts, and al pastor tacos from the casual Coyote Cantina rooftop.
Nestled in the heart of La Fonda on the Plaza, La Plazuela offers an innovative approach to Santa Fe dining and New Mexican cuisine cooking up traditional recipes with enticing new twists.
For pastries, Dolina Cafe & Bakery offers New Mexican and Eastern European flavors from crumbly Mexican wedding cookies and apple-walnut strudel to makos Dios, a Hungarian cake made from ground poppy seeds, walnuts, and raspberries.
Home to four world-class museums, as well as the Santa Fe Botanical Gardens, Museum Hill, is a must-experience for any visit to The City Different. Here you can explore The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, The International Folk Art Museum, The Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian, and The Museum of Spanish Colonial Art. You’ll need a day or two to partake of the art, history, and culture of the Native American Southwest, the Spanish colonial past, and folk traditions from around the world that Museum Hill offers.
The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture is a premier repository of Native art and material culture and tells the stories of the people of the Southwest from pre-history through contemporary art. The museum serves a diverse, multicultural audience through changing exhibitions, public lectures, field trips, artist residencies, and other educational programs.
The Museum of International Folk Art offers the largest collection of handmade folk art on earth from glasswork to pandemic-inspired face mask creations. The museum holds the largest collection of international folk art in the world numbering more than 130,000 objects from more than 100 countries.
Founded in 1937, the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian is New Mexico’s oldest non-profit, independent museum. The Wheelwright offers unique exhibitions of contemporary and historic Native American art with a focus on little-known genres and solo shows by living Native American artists. It is the home of the Jim and Lauris Phillips Center for the Study of Southwestern Jewelry, the most comprehensive collection of Navajo and Pueblo jewelry in the world.
The Museum of Spanish Colonial Art exhibits works focused on the Spanish Colonial period of New Mexico’s history. Visitors will find scores of bultos, retablos, paintings, and fiber arts on display—all housed in the Spanish Colonial architecture for which Santa Fe is famous. In the Curtin-Paloheimo Gallery, the display of artwork by Youth Artists in Spanish Market continues include santos, tinwork, straw appliqué, colcha embroidery, precious metals, and pottery by youth artists, ranging in age from seven to eighteen years old.
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The Santa Fe Botanical Garden at Museum Hill is a learning landscape of traditional and native plants, sustainable land- and water-use practices, educational activities for all ages, and an outdoor showcase for presenting music, sculpture, and theatrical performances.
The classic Georgia O’Keeffe Museum contains nine galleries and 700 drawings from the woman nicknamed the Mother of American Modernism. Her abstract nature paintings and sweeping desert landscapes are clear love letters to the region that came to define her career.
Santa Fe has more than 250 galleries and has been rated the second largest art market in the country after New York City. Canyon Road is a historic pathway into the mountains and an old neighborhood that has become the city’s center for art with the highest concentration of galleries.
The largest example of non-adobe style architecture in the city, the Romanesque St. Francis Cathedral dominates the downtown cityscape.
Downtown Santa Fe’s Palace of the Governors on the plaza is one of the most iconic sites in the city. The oldest continuously inhabited building in the United States, it’s perhaps best known for the Native American market beneath its portal. But inside is a historic gem as well—the New Mexico History Museum which covers centuries of life in Santa Fe and hosts exhibitions related to the tri-culture of the Native Americans, Spanish, and Anglo peoples and cultures of New Mexico.
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The visitor is drawn to Loretto Chapel to see the spiral staircase that leads to the choir loft. The staircase—with two 360-degree turns, no visible means of support, and without the benefit of nails—has been called the Miraculous Staircase.
I’m in love with Santa Fe;
Like it better every day;
But I wonder, every minute
How the folks who aren’t in it
Ever stand it, anyway.
Not to be in Santa Fe.
—Mae Peregine, 1915