I have been coming to Santa Fe, New Mexico since childhood, as we visited family in Colorado and often popped down to Santa Fe & Taos just a few hours away (I actually wrote a previous post about my last road trip in NM + CO). Art is big in my family, as is Spanish, Mexican and Native American heritage so it is of little wonder that we are continually pulled to this area - and indeed we have a lot of ancestry in SouthWest going back to the 1640’s. For the first time I actually drove from California, so I entered the state from the west, and into Navajo Nation and Zuni Reservation territory (stayed in Gallup, NM where I frequently saw signage in the Navajo language too), who’s art and traditions have a large impact on the state, along with Pueblo and Apache. The Navajo Nation (Naabeehó Bináhásdzo) covers about 17,544,500 acres , occupying portions of northeastern Arizona, southeastern Utah, and northwestern New Mexico in the United States. This is the largest land area retained by a Native American tribe, with a population of roughly 350,000 as of 2016.
Santa Fe is New Mexico’s capital, and sits in the Sangre de Cristo foothills. Founded as a Spanish colony in 1610, Santa Fe was once the northernmost outpost of the Spanish empire in the Americas, so most of the downtown area is a designated historic district, and among the pueblo-style architecture, Spanish churches, twisting streets, and tiny boutiques, you’ll feel like you’re in a completely different country (or time period). Santa Fe has a local culture that’s all about healthy living, organic food, and a surprisingly urban sensibility that will make you wonder why more cities don’t marry modern life with old-world peace of mind like they do in “the City Different.”
History corner: Santa Fe is the oldest capital city in North America, largely settled between 1609-1610 by the Spanish (though city site was originally occupied by a number of Pueblo villages with founding dates from between 1050 to 1150). Santa Fe is the site of both the oldest public building in America - the Palace of the Governors - and the nation's oldest community celebration, the Santa Fe Fiesta, established in 1712. The "Kingdom of New Mexico" was first claimed for the Spanish Crown by the conquistador Don Francisco Vasques de Coronado in 1540, 67 years before the founding of Santa Fe, and later when Mexico gained its independence from Spain, Santa Fe became the capital of the province of New Mexico (1821-46). In 1848, Mexico signed the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, ceding New Mexico and California to the United States, eventually leading New Mexico to statehood in 1912.
Much of this is from a previous post with some additions. Santa Fe has been a big draw for tourism, artists and retirees for years – it offers many accommodation options, excellent restaurants, and yes more shopping around it’s plaza BUT…it really is a great place to shop beautiful silver & turquoise jewelry the Southwest is famous for, Navajo rugs from paces like Ship Rock, sheepskin from places like chain Overland or luxury cowboy boots from our friends at Back at the Ranch and unbelievable custom hats from O’Farrell Hat Company, to ship it home, often without taxes or shipping costs (also great vintage shopping at Double Take). I also grab a margarita, soapapilla, and yes enchiladas, at The Shed (the green chili alone could bring me back there in a heartbeat).
Do: Wander Canyon Road, a half-mile walk where every door leads into a wonderland of creative delights, is a mecca for art lovers, Shop The Plaza, visit the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, check out the Museum of International Folk art AND the Georgia O’Keefe
Museum, catch a film at the jean cocteau cinema OR live music at the Santa Fe Opera house, experience the far-out collective Meow Wolf
Eat: New Mexican food is very distinct & delicious! After all, the state question is “red or green” meaning what chile you want smothered on your food. I already mentioned my favorite, The Shed. Tomisitas is a local staple too. Geronimo, Dr. Field Goods, Jambo Cafe, Paper Dosa, Sazón, Café Pasqual’s, Bodega Prime. Love the green chili burger at Shake Foundation and the tacos at El Parasol
Some day trips to consider: Georgia O’Keefe’s Home & Studio, Ghost Ranch, Santuario de Chimayo (historical landmark), Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, White Mesa (Technically you could do the scenic drive to Taos as a day trip as well, more on that below). Further away: White Sands National Park
Taos is a small town known as a sort of mecca for artists throughout the years, and its a tradition that continues today (also a place to Ski). It’s still a wonderful place to buy art from locals, and while it can be touristy you need to walk the Taos plaza looking at shops I usually always pick up at least 1 new piece of silver jewelry, as well as see the Rio Grande Gorge and Taos Pueblos. The accommodations aren’t that strong but the dining is for authentic fare – I always need a legit enchilada fix, so I normally head to Orlando’s for a casual dining and the Love Apple is good too. Of course, few places in North America are anchored in a heritage like the Pueblo of Taos. This is the longest inhabited living arrangement in the US, and The Pueblo still has ten families of around 150 native people working to maintain the culture and the adobe architecture for generations to come. A living artifact, the past and present form a delicate harmony to produce a unique travel experience. The environment says a lot about the sustainability of this community. Tucked up against the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, with the Rio flowing through the center of the Pueblo, the inhabitants have maintained their lifestyle through wars, disease, cultural genocide and environmental impact to survive. From the efficiency of their adobe walls to provide comfort against extreme heat and cold, to the guiding wisdom of elders to keep the Pueblo vibrant, the way of life preserved within these walls is a testament to the strength and vision of native people, connected to this land with over a thousand years of tradition.