Top 10 Things To Do in Santa Fe
Miraculous Staircase in Loretto Chapel
Near Santa Fe Plaza
Santa Fe - Top 10
Where to start? Start here!
Both the ancient and current capital city of New Mexico, Santa Fe is the center of New Mexico history. The City Different, as its called, boasts a deeply rooted heritage that flows through every adobe corner and plazuela (little plaza—Santa Fe has plenty of them).
Santa Fe Plaza
Since the city's founding in 1610, the Santa Fe plaza has been the epicenter of New Mexico’s fascinating history and culture. Landmarks surround the plaza, including Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, the San Miguel Mission and the Palace of the Governors. Summer weekends, the plaza fills with artists selling their wares, fiestas and live music. Shops surrounding the plaza range from high-end fashion boutiques to souvenir shops. Begin any Santa Fe journey right here, at the heart of New Mexico.
Palace of the Governors
Constructed in 1610, the Palace of the Governors was the original capitol of New Mexico. It was the site of the only successful Native American uprising, which took place in 1680, and it has been in public use longer than any other structure in the country. Today, the Palace of the Governors showcases 400 years of the state's history (officially as part of the New Mexico History Museum). On most days, local Native craftsman sell jewelry, pottery and rugs under the portal. www.palaceofthegovernors.org; 505-476-5100
St. Francis Cathedral
Located a block east of the Santa Fe Plaza, this breathtaking Romanesque cathedral stands out among the city's adobe skyline. Constructed in 1869, the cathedral's main purpose was to help bring Catholicism to the Southwest. Sitting next to the cathedral is the small adobe chapel — all that remains of a previous church that was destroyed during the 1680 Pueblo Rebellion — which contains the oldest representation of the Madonna in the United States.
Also just off the plaza, the Loretto Chapel is famous for just one reason: A staircase. The history of how this staircase, with no visible supports and no nails, came to be is one of the more fascinating tales in a city of endless mystical stories. The chapel’s history is a fascinating representation of New Mexico history: arduous journeys, multicultural clashes and finally a peaceful ending.
A winding, narrow side street just a few blocks from the plaza, Canyon Road is home to dozens of galleries and several of Santa Fe’s most renowned culinary retreats. And those galleries and restaurants are housed in charming adobe buildings, some dating back to the early 18th century. Professional artists started visiting Santa Fe in 1880s, and the first artist to reside on Canyon Road was Gerald Cassidy, who purchased the structure at 1000 Canyon Road in 1915. Today, more than 130 galleries, boutiques and restaurants reside in the space of seven short city blocks.
Museum Hill is just a short hop from downtown Santa Fe. Clustered together are The Museum of Spanish Colonial Art, Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, Museum of International Folk Art, and the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian. The Museum of Spanish Colonial Art features the work of mostly local artists, historic and contemporary, working in the very regionally specific style that is Spanish Colonial art. The Museum of Indian Arts & Culture is a must for anyone interested in Native American art, its history, and many influences. Lovers of folk art in all its forms will find the largest collection of folk art in the world at the Museum of International Folk Art. The Wheelwright Museum has rotating exhibitions of Native American art, typically focusing on one artist or specific form, and includes the very popular Case Trading Post. It's possible to spend a day exploring the hill with lunch at the Museum Hill Cafe and some quiet time sitting on Milner Plaza, the center of the area, gazing across the width of the Rio Grande Valley. www.museumhill.org
Bandelier National Monument
Long before the United States even existed, the Southwest was divided into a number of city-states governed by Native Americans. At the Bandelier National Monument, visitors can explore the remnants of one of these settlements. At the base of Frijoles Canyon are a collection of ancient cave dwellings and other stone structures belonging to ancestors of the Pueblo people. You can explore the settlement by following the paved trail through the village and climbing the wooden ladders into the caves themselves. After visiting the monument, take advantage of the surrounding park, complete with more than 20,000 acres of backcountry wilderness, wildlife and about 60 miles of hiking trails. Visit the Bandelier National Monument website http://www.nps.gov/band/index.htm
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum
Georgia O’Keeffe was a groundbreaking artist who put New Mexico on the art history map. Housed in a renovated Pueblo-Revival style church — a work of art in itself, the museum features her work, and also portraits of O’Keeffe by her equally famous husband, photographer Alfred Stieglitz. Take a road trip to Abiquiu, where O’Keeffe made her home, and see some of landscapes she painted in person. Tours of her home are limited in number and must be reserved in advance at the museum.
San Miguel Mission Chapel
This Spanish colonial mission church in Santa Fe, New Mexico is the oldest chruch in the US. Built between approximately 1610 and 1626. Though the church has been repaired and rebuilt numerous times over the years, its original adobe walls are still largely intact despite having been hidden by later additions. A portion of the revenue from Hotel St. Francis is donated to the restoration of the Mission by Cornerstones Community Partnerships.
Chimayo, New Mexico
A short drive north lies the enchanting and magical town of Chimayo, New Mexico. This community has been called the "Lourdes of America" and thousands pilgimage each year to the Santuario de Chimayo that has sacred healing dirt. More than 70 Chimayo artists are represented in Hotel Chimayo de Santa Fe and a percentage of the proceeds goes to the Chimayo Cultural Preservation Association.