Santa Fe was founded by Spanish colonists in 1610, making it not just the state’s capitol, but the oldest state capitol in the U.S. It’s also the oldest city in the state. In Santa Fe, you can find history just about everywhere, along with awe-inspiring basilicas, world-class restaurants, and beautiful arts districts. Here are 10 things you shouldn’t miss in Santa Fe.
Step into the extraordinary world created by the 200 artists, representing an incredible range of disciplines, who make up this art collective. What happens here? An immersive, interactive experience that takes visitors on a journey to imaginative worlds of storytelling that are part jungle gym, part haunted house, and part children’s museum. The main attraction is House of Eternal Return, a 20,000-square-foot permanent exhibition. A truly unique activity for children and adults.
This half-mile trail, located in the city’s historic district, elevates shopping to new heights. Contemporary, traditional and Native American art stores are interspersed with sculpture galleries, jewelry shops, gift boutiques, antique shops, plus rug, folk art, and craft stores. Along the way, stop for a spell under one of the centuries old Chestnut trees, take a moment to admire the distinctive adobe architecture or enjoy a meal in a hidden courtyard by a musical fountain.
In August, the city is transformed into a Native American marketplace that envelops the central Plaza and adjacent streets. This event brings Native American artists and collectors to the largest juried Native arts show in the world. Wander the streets and you’ll see pottery, jewelry, textiles, and hand hewn wood crafts for sale. It’s a mix of languages and cultures that you won’t find anywhere else.
Folk art, created quite often by indigenous people with little professional training, is showcased at this 60-year-old museum whose curators search the world for art that represents the cultural identity and traditions of native communities. The art is marked by bright, bold colors, decorative designs and a utilitarian use. There are more than 130,000 objects from hundreds of countries represented in the collection, the largest in the world.
This is more than just a shopping experience, it’s an all-day event that brings friends, farmers, and food together. Vendors come from throughout northern New Mexico with vegetables, fruits, nursery plants, meat, dairy, eggs, honey, breads and pastries, as well as handcrafted, handmade items. Meet the folks who grow, bake and make the products you’re buying. Stock up for the day or the week. Open Saturdays year-round at the Santa Fe Railyard.
A blend of French Romanesque Revival style architecture and New Mexican design features makes this iconic church a landmark in town. As a Basilica, it embodies the history of Catholicism in the city and the state. Built in the late 1800s, it was created with stone from local quarries. Part of the Basilica, in the Chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary, has portions of the historic La Parroquia, which was replaced with the construction of this place of worship. Stroll through the Stations of the Cross Prayer Garden, a place for quiet reflection. The Basilica is open 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.
Think of painters who captured the beauty of the Southwest and more often than not Georgia O’Keeffe’s name is at the top of the list. As one of the most important artists of the 20th century, she is known for her distinctive flowers, dramatic landscapes and abstract images from nature. The collection and archives of her work is enormous and the various exhibits change regularly. Her favorite quote, “Take time to look,” is advice worth following. Spend a few hours in the world of this iconic talent.
You might get a little bug-eyed at this museum, but a visit here is an intriguing diversion from the typical city sites. The Crawlywood Collection features 2,400 mounted insects of all shapes and sizes. Also on hand is Wade’s Wildlife, a display of more than 150 different live animals that include giant lizards, bizarre fish, turtles, and snakes. It’s a great place to get up-close-and-personal with critters that you might generally avoid. If you’re lucky you might even get to hold a bug or reptile.
The oldest church in the continental U.S. is located in the Barrio de Analco Historic District, itself one of the oldest residential non-Native American neighborhoods in the U.S. Originally built in 1620, the Chapel has gone through many restorations to restore the adobe walls and part of the original dirt floor and sanctuary steps. The altar screen is the oldest screen of its kind in the state. This history of this region of New Mexico is palpable in this Chapel and the community it anchors.
Some of the most beautiful sites you’ll see in town are along this trail that meanders along the banks of the Santa Fe River and through the heart of downtown. The tree-shaded walk provides places to stop and rest, have a picnic and just enjoy the natural beauty of Santa Fe. When the river is running and the cottonwoods are blooming, you’re worlds away from the hubbub of Santa Fe. A quiet, peaceful refuge to read a book, hang out with a friend or have a picnic with your family.