By Marilyn Price-Mitchell
Established in 1607, Santa Fe, New Mexico is oozing with history, culture, art and natural beauty like no other in the United States. A world-renowned travel destination, it boasts the best in southwest cuisine, shopping, and gallery-hopping. For the outdoor-types, the surrounding areas glisten with beauty, blue skies, and sunshine 300 days per year. Festivals abound and music, from opera to jazz, can be heard most nights of the week.
History buffs find full-time pleasure exploring Santa Fe’s many significant sites. The city claims the oldest church in the country, the beautiful El San Miguel Mission Church. The city jewel is the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, built in the 1800’s in the French Romanesque Revival style. Visitors flock to The Loretto Chapel to see its marvelous staircase with two 360-degree turns.
Long before the Spanish arrived in the 1500’s, the American Indians inhabited New Mexico and forever influenced its culture and traditions. Today you can visit 19 pueblos located around the state, including the famous Taos Pueblo known for its multi-storied adobe architecture. Pueblo artists are known for their clay pottery, jewelry and art. Many ceremonial dances are open to the public. It is not surprising that the National Trust for Historic Preservation named Santa Fe one of the organization’s Dozen Distinctive Destinations in America for 2009.
One of the premier art centers of the world, Santa Fe is the home of over 200 galleries and more than a dozen museums. Spend an afternoon at Museum Hill, beginning with lunch at the Museum Hill Cafe. While there, don’t miss the Wheelwright Museum, an eight-sided building inspired by a Navajo hooghan. The Case Trading Post in the museum’s basement is one of the nicest museum stores anywhere. The prestigious Santa Fe Indian Market is held every August, showcasing over 1,200 artists from 100 tribes.
The natural beauty of the Santa Fe area is breathtaking. For those who love the outdoors, there is every conceivable activity available, including hiking, skiing, and river rafting. Bandelier National Monument contains beautiful trails, cliff dwellings, and artifacts from ancient pueblo times. The Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument is a geologic marvel full of towering cone-shaped tent rock formations. Close to town and a great way to spend just a few hours, Pecos National Historical Park is a beautiful site with ruins dating from the 17th century.
Santa Fe is a year-round tourist destination, with summer and the Christmas holidays being most popular because of its special festivals. Visit anytime. You’ll come back again and again.
*** Marilyn Price-Mitchell is the owner of Casa De Alma, a Santa Fe Vacation Rental in the heart of the Canyon Roads Arts District.