Santa Fe, in northern New Mexico, is a place where culture, history, art, and language have met for more than a thousand years. Native Americans, people from many sides of Hispanic culture, cowboys, ranchers, artists, musicians, merchants, chefs, teachers, scholars, and many more have called it home. They still do. If you have just one day to explore the city different, as Santa Fe is known, here are three areas you will want to explore as you begin to appreciate how Santa Fe’s vibrant past finds expression in its equally vibrant present.
At last count there were more than three hundred art galleries in Santa Fe. You will find more than a hundred of them along a one mile stretch of Canyon Road. A number of the galleries are in what’s known as territorial style buildings dating from a hundred years or more ago, giving you an idea of what a neighborhood of the city might have been like then.
You’ll also experience one of the most active and vibrant arts scenes in the country. Galleries in Santa Fe represent artists from all over the world, and carry art which ranges from painting to sculpture to textiles to jewelry to photography to furniture. The style are equally varied, from representational to abstract, from southwestern to international, from Native American to western to European. The prices tend toward the upscale end of things but if something intrigues you, it’s always worth asking. Whatever your budget and whether you decide to purchase anything or not, you will come away inspired by the level of creativity, both of the artists who create the work and the gallery workers you come up with engaging ways to showcase the art.
Walking along Canyon Road could make an interesting way to begin your day in Santa Fe. The Tea House Cafe is a good place for a light meal to fuel your exploration. Alternatively, many art galleries host show openings on weekend evenings, with perhaps a chance to meet the artists.
When you are ready to move on, much of Canyon Road is in walking distance to our next stop, bit if you’d prefer to ride, look out for the free shuttle bus provided by the city. It is called the Santa Fe Pickup.
The Plaza has been a center, gathering place, and crossroads in Santa Fe for more than four hundred years. As you take time to explore, you will uncover many layers of history, art and creativity of Santa Fe and northern New Mexico. Sure, you may encounter tourist focused things too, but that’s all part of the story.
Tony Duncan, in the photo below, carries on his family tradition of hoop dancing, as well as being an excellent musician. You may not see Duncan — he’s an internationally touring artist and was performing at the Indian Market event, which is held in August each year — but you will have the chance to see authentic First Peoples’ art and crafts.
One place to do that, and to speak with the creators of the art as well, is at the portal area of the Palace of the Governors. The Palace of the Governors is now home to the New Mexico History Museum .Each of the artists on the portal is required by the museum to meet high standards as to tribal heritage and authenticity and quality of work. The museum itself is also a highlight of the Plaza and well worth your time.
What else might you do there? There are shops of all sorts, historic architecture reflecting many aspects of Santa Fe’s past, and in warmer months, often music at the center of the Plaza. There are places to eat, too. One to check out is The Plaza Cafe,. which serves up New Mexico favorites and classic American diner food along with dishes from the current owners’ Greek heritage, so on the menu you may find burritos filled with calabacitas alongside chicken fried steak alongside gyros. It has been drawing in travelers and residents alike since 1905.
The Railyard is another neighborhood to have on your list for your one day exploration of Santa Fe. Art, history, and community converge in this up and coming business district. You’ll want to catch the Santa Fe Pickup shuttle from the Plaza to the Railyard.
In 1880, the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway pulled the first train into the Santa fe, beginning the Railyard’s more than one hundred years as a transport hub, but by the 1980s the area had fallen into disrepair. The city of Santa Fe determined to change that, though, and a redevelopment began. Today the area is home to more than one hundred businesses, from non profits to artisan shops to boutiques, brew pubs, a classic cinema, and several restaurants. It is also the location of a thriving farmer’s market.
Should you be looking for a meal, Second Street Brewery makes a good place for familiar pub fare as well as New Mexican classics prepared for both meat eaters an vegetarians; in the evenings, the Violet Crown Cinema offers films sided by creative cuisine.
The railroad history has not been lost, either. New Mexico Railrunner Express commuter service trains now arrive and depart from the historic Santa Fe Depot, and garden planting outline a former railroad track, too.
Santa Fe is internationally recognized by UNESCO as a City of Crafts, Folk Arts, and Design.
You may get a taste of those things — and taste some fine food too — by exploring these three neighborhoods in your one day in Santa Fe. There’s much more, including museums of many sorts, a world class opera, a top class cooking school, historic missions, nearby ranches and pueblos, and the Sangre de Cristo mountains. Chances are, after experiencing one day in Santa Fe, you will be making plans to return.
Photograph of Tony Duncan by Thosh Collins and courtesy of the Santa fe Convention and Visitors Bureau; photograph of the farmers’ market courtesy of the Santa fe Convention and Visitors Bureau. Thank you for respecting copyright.
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