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Santa Fe, New Mexico

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Personality Types that Like it Best

Did You Know … ?

  • Santa Fe is the highest-altitude capital city in the U.S. (6,950 feet).
  • The name Santa Fe means holy faith in Spanish.
  • The church at San Miguel Mission is considered America’s oldest church (built between 1610 and 1628).
  • Santa Fe has more cultural enterprises, per capita, than any other U.S. city.
  • The city’s International Folk Art Market is the world’s largest international market of its type.

An artists’ colony on steroids

It’s an unbeatable combination: scenic mountain vistas under more than 300 days of sun a year and a culture of creativity that supports thousands of artists and lures hundreds of thousands of visitors to its fairs.

The place is Santa Fe, a high-altitude desert city in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the foothills of the Rockies and a venue associated with the creative arts and trade fairs since before the Spanish arrived in the 17th century. As a Spanish colony, it was the northernmost point on El Camino Real, a route originating in Mexico City; that route, in the 19th century, connected with the Santa Fe Trail, which extended to Missouri.

Today, the city and its environs are especially appealing to two types of travelers — venturesome outdoors enthusiasts and lovers of creative arts; often these are the same people. Because of its altitude, the city has four seasons, with snow in winter and options in nearby mountains for skiing and other winter sports. The mountains also are there for climbing and hiking, the Rio Grande for kayaking and rafting, and the scenery for viewing from a motorcycle or mountain bike.

But it is the arts that really distinguish this city of around 70,000. Recognizing its “rich and unique aesthetic tradition,” UNESCO tapped it for its Creative Cities Network. The arts, bundled with tourism, are central to the city’s plan for itself. Santa Fe, cooperating with other Creative Cities, convened the International Conference on Creative Tourism in 2008. Putting money on the line for the long term, Santa Fe also devotes 2% of city building projects and one percentage point of the city’s hotel bed tax to the arts.

And, it supports, which showcases creative tourism experiences in the city. Topics for the featured workshops, classes and experiences include agritourism, culinary arts, glassblowing, jewelry making, painting and sculpture, photography, pottery making, theater and dance, traditional arts and weaving.

Santa Fe’s attractions are enriched further by the city’s proximity to several Indian pueblos, which are of particular interest to lovers of history and festivals. Pueblo traditions contribute to the local arts scene, as well.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Head to the Bandelier National Monument for two reasons: to see the ruins of 12th century Pueblo cliff dwellings and to enjoy some hiking in the backcountry.
  • Sign up for an art workshop. Some instructors conduct classes outdoors to bring you close to landscape and architecture you may want to paint. Alternatively, take pottery classes; learn how to operate the pottery wheel.
  • There are numerous hiking trails in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains just outside the city, and the trails offer walks of varying degrees of difficulty. Choose the one that suits you. The Aspen Vista Trail is the most popular.
  • In an area noted for its light and the brilliant colors of the landscape, take a photography workshop. There are several options in town.
  • Eat cuisine unique to the Southwest, then sign on for a cooking class and learn how to make local specialties.
  • Take a multiday wilderness hike that utilizes llamas as the beasts of burden. With naturalist guides, learn about local plants and wildlife and hone wilderness survival skills.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Make a trip to at least one of the area’s Indian pueblos, such as Pojoaque, San Ildefonso, Santa Clara or Tesuque. The 13th century Tesuque, on the National Register of Historic Places, is the closest at 10 miles from Santa Fe. Visitors can come for a traditional festival, to buy pottery and other art, and to gamble at the pueblo’s casino. Rules about photography vary among the pueblos.
  • Time your visit for the Indian Market in August. The event includes the works of 1,200 artists from about 100 tribes and attracts about 100,000 people to the city. Bring your camera and admire the entrants in the annual Indian Market Clothing Contest. Also, the International Folk Art Market is held in July.
  • For foodies, Santa Fe beckons with its Wine and Chile Fiesta in September.
  • Drive to Santa Fe along the Turquoise Trail Scenic Byway (Highway 14), a scenic route that takes you through former turquoise, gold and coal mining towns: Cerrillos, Golden and Madrid, respectively.
  • Take a day trip to Los Alamos, where you can visit the Bradbury Science Museum and learn more about the site’s role in the birth of the nuclear age.
  • Make an appointment (it is the only way) to see famed artist Georgia O’Keeffe’s adobe hacienda in Abiquiu.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Tour the Santa Fe galleries, and buy art for your home. Include Native American art among your new acquisitions.
  • Rejuvenate yourself at one of the spas in or near the city. Or, for a site of particular historical interest, choose the Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort and Spa which is about an hour’s drive out of town. This was the first natural health spa in the U.S.
  • Attend a performance at the renowned Santa Fe Opera. Also, visit one or more of the city’s world-renowned museums, such as the Museum of International Folk Art or the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum.
  • Come to town for the Spanish Market in July. It supports Hispanic artists native to New Mexico and southern Colorado. A similar, but smaller Spanish Market is staged each December, as well.
  • Tour the historic town center, including the Palace of Governors, which dates from 1609. You also may walk along a small stretch of the Old Santa Fe Trail while in the middle of the historic center.
  • Take a yoga class while in town. See a psychic, as well.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult Tourism Santa Fe at