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Grotto’s Travel Guide to Santa Fe

Published:
December 14, 2023
August 21, 2023
Wondering what to do in Santa Fe? Check out these tips when planning your next trip.

Shuttle buses at the Albuquerque airport boom a welcome message: “Welcome to New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment!” The state’s marketing strategy, albeit theatrical, happens to be an accurate description. The #landofenchantment has so much going for it. Specifically, Santa Fe is a historical and cultural hub that offers visitors the opportunity to seek the sacred, appreciate world-class art and enjoy a burgeoning culinary scene.

What locals know

While Santa Fe does have an airport, you will find more affordable options flying into Albuquerque — which is about an hour’s drive from Santa Fe. If you don’t want to rent a car, consider taking the Rail Runner train between the two cities. Once you arrive at The Santa Fe Railyard, explore the area because it is a hotspot for entertainment, dining, and shopping. Every Saturday morning, the Railyard’s expansive farmers’ market features over 150 vendors.

Once you make it to the heart of downtown, the Santa Fe Plaza, the city is very walkable. The New Mexico State Capitol is only about a mile from the Plaza.

Know before you go

When Spanish settlers moved to New Mexico in July 1598, they encountered disparate tribal communities that they termed Pueblos. Since early conquest, Pueblo revolts challenged Spanish, and later Mexican, colonization throughout the region. New Mexican culture really cannot be understood without recognizing the intersection between Native American and Mexican history and traditions.

If you opt to visit individual Pueblos — and you definitely should — recognize that they are each sovereign nations subject to their own specific rules and regulations. Please learn more about the etiquette of visiting tribal communities before arrival. 

Within short driving distance from Santa Fe, the Pojoague Pueblo welcomes the public to their Poeh Cultural Center & Museum. In the Tewa Pueblo language, “poeh” translates to path. The Center prides itself on helping guests along the path of discovering the essence of being Pueblo.

Every August, the Santa Fe Indian Market gathers the most celebrated artists and vendors from across the U.S. and Canada. This annual event sustains the livelihoods of many artisans, while educating the public about indigenous techniques in weaving, textile production, and jewelry craft. Similarly, the IAIA Museum of Native American Art (MOCNA) in downtown Santa Fe collects work from contemporary Native artists, specifically women and student artists. 

To learn more about the lives of the Pueblo peoples before Spanish arrival, trek 40 miles north of Santa Fe to Bandelier National Monument. Migrating wildlife originally brought nomadic hunter-gatherers to Bandelier. By 1150 CE, these ancestors of modern-day Pueblo nations built more permanent settlements by cutting into rock crevices. Visitors are allowed to climb into these cliff dwellings via ladders. Besides the rich archeological history, Bandelier offers hiking trails through its 33,000 acres of diverse ecosystems, including ponderosa pine savannahs.

Need to try

Santa Fe is steeped in creating and boasts a high concentration of museums for a city of its modest size. 

Get your hands literally dirty by attending a workshop at Paseo Pottery. This one-time pottery class will teach you the basics of wheel-throwing or hand-building in a session led by a skilled ceramicist. Their teachers are all volunteers and 100% of the proceeds from their classes are dispersed to local charities.

Georgia O’Keeffe was arguably the most famous New Mexican artist. Her paintings depict the majesty of desert landscapes, sometimes juxtaposed against the isolation of scattered bones. Her imagery has become synonymous with the American Southwest. The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum and the O’Keeffe Welcome Center at her original studio in Abiquiú, celebrate her legacy to American Modernism. 

Visit Museum Hill to see as much art as possible within a short amount of time. The Hill includes the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art, Museum of International Folk Art, Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, and the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian

Must see

Santa Fe (Holy Faith in Spanish) carries a profound sense of the sacred. Retablos, devotional paintings common throughout Mexican folk art, can be found behind altars in many Catholic Churches throughout New Mexico. Contemporary iconographers create a playful intersection between traditional saints and modern context. 

Located 27 miles north of Santa Fe is Chimayó. Long before the Spanish arrival, the soil of Chimayó was known to hold miraculous healing powers. Missionaries later built the local shrine and chapel, El Santuario de Chimayó, where one crosses oneself with its sacred soil to seek Christ’s healing. This pilgrimage site is visited by hundreds of thousands annually, many of whom come for the Good Friday procession. In the last decade, the shrine has expanded to include additional devotional spaces. One of the most poignant is a depiction of the Last Supper, where the disciples represent different Native American nations and the tablescape is imbued with indigenous imagery. Before returning, have lunch at Rancho de Chimayó which has been owned by the Jaramillo family for generations and is responsible for bringing New Mexican cuisine to international recognition.

El Santuario de Guadalupe is the oldest standing shrine in the United States. Today it serves as an art museum where the Archdiocese of Santa Fe houses its collection of Santos, carved images of the saints, as well as Mexican Baroque and Italian Renaissance paintings.

The Labyrinth Resource Group encourages the use of labyrinths as a path of healing, inspiration, and peace throughout Santa Fe. The easiest labyrinth to locate is in the heart of Santa Fe Plaza at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis, which is the mother church for the Archdiocese of Santa Fe. Labyrinths offer an opportunity for prayerful walking meditation.

Make the most of your experience

No Santa Fe trip is complete without green chile or…red chile! Pro tip: if you see the phrase “Christmas” on a menu, it refers to a combination of both green chile and red chile sauces.

Chiles even factor into places you might not expect like at La Lecheria, a craft ice creamery which sources local and organic ingredients. Their green chili ice cream is a delicious vanilla with a flash of heat in the aftertaste! Likewise a local chocolatier, Kakawa, recreates drinking chocolate elixirs from Meso-American and early European recipes.

Sopaipillas are a fried dough — best enjoyed with honey — which likely has its origins in the Spanish city of Cordoba, home to a diverse convergence of Christians, Muslims, and Jews in the later Medieval Age. In the new world, Pueblo communities borrowed the sopaipilla concept but added savory ingredients. These can be found on menus as “fry bread tacos” or “stuffed sopaipillas.” Tomasita’s is widely regarded as the best New Mexican restaurant in Santa Fe and their entrees come with hot sopaipillas.

So you know that you will be well-fed for the many hours spent museum-hopping. Alternatively, Santa Fe’s deep roots in Catholicism will ensure opportunities for sacred places and spaces to prayerfully connect with God.

Sounds pretty enchanting, right?

Creators:
Janelle Peregoy
Published:
December 14, 2023
August 21, 2023
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