Architect's Knowledge ResourceDocuments
Santa Fe is the capitol of New Mexico and a quintessential southwestern town for art, culture, and history. Dominated by adobe buildings and pueblo style architecture, Santa Fe is home to hundreds of galleries, thousands of artists, and more than a dozen museums. The beauty and scale of the landscape surrounding the city has inspired artists and cultures for centuries, turning Santa Fe into one of the most important art cities in the country.
Located in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo range of the Rocky Mountains, Santa Fe is a gateway to near limitless outdoor recreation including hiking, camping, cycling, white water rafting, fishing, climbing and more. In the winter, hiking and biking trails become cross-country ski terrain while alpine skiers and snowboarders can find their thrill high atop Ski Santa Fe.
Santa Fe is centered around its 400-year old Plaza and many of its premier attractions are within short walking distance of this hub. The Loretto Chapel with its miraculous spiral staircase is on everyone’s “don’t miss” list. The Palace of the Governors, the oldest public building in the United States and an authentic architectural treasure, faces the Plaza. Native American vendors sell their handmade items on colorful blankets outside. They must adhere to strict rules about their materials and craftsmanship and there are many excellent bargains to be found.
The Palace of the Governors and the modern annex behind it house the New Mexico History Museum, a perfect place to understand Santa Fe’s Native American, Spanish Colonial, and American West heritage. The New Mexico Museum of Art is right across the street from the history museum and is arguably the city’s finest example or Pueblo Revival architecture. The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum is nearby. There are shops and art galleries of every description all around the Plaza and its surrounding streets. Lovely cafés and restaurants invite strollers to take a break and luxuriate in the European-style ambiance.
It is easy to spend most of a day at Museum Hill, about 10 minutes from downtown Santa Fe. Four fascinating museums are set around a central plaza with native landscaping and spectacular mountain views in every direction. Visitors can linger in one or two of the museums or see a bit of all four. The Museum of International Folk Art has a vast permanent collection and many rotating exhibits. The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture includes hundreds of objects that define the artistry of New Mexico’s Native American people. The Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian, modeled after a Navajo hogan, is a smaller museum with first-rate rotating exhibits. The Museum of Spanish Colonial Art has fine examples of the traditional Spanish Colonial arts that still flourish in Santa Fe and occupies a home designed by acclaimed architect John Gaw Meem. Each museum has a gift shop and there is a café on the plaza.
Santa Fe is filled with pioneer history as the end point of the Santa Fe Trail, a mercantile route that connected Missouri and New Mexico during the 1800s. Prior to the influx of new settlers the trail brought to town, the Santa Fe area was home to ancient cultures and the heart of today's city was the site of a 13th Century Native American pueblo. Today, historic Native American communities surround Santa Fe while long-abandoned cliff dwellings are located within a short drive of town. All of the city's history is alive in Santa Fe's day-to-day life, visible in its architecture, traditions, and people.
On any visit there are enough art galleries, museums, interesting shops, and places to explore in and around Santa Fe to take up days. Compact and walkable, Santa Fe is easy to navigate on foot; from the heart of the city, the Plaza, to the dense gallery district along Canyon Road to the newer Railyard area and all the nooks and crannies in between.
Santa Fe's nightlife offers a wide array of entertainment, ranging from live music in many locations, theater performances, a nationally-renowned summer festival of opera, jazz, and chamber music, year round gallery and artist happenings, an internationally recognized conversation series, touring entertainers from around the world, and special events that keep the calendar full throughout the year.
The city is known as a foodie's destination featuring the region's savory chile-based cuisine, modern creations from Santa Fe’s many award-winning chefs plus international foods from around the globe. New restaurants continue to bring creative cooking of all kinds to Santa Fe in slick new environments and cozy old adobe buildings alike.
Historic, creative, blessed by beauty, and filled with interesting, friendly people, Santa Fe continues to be rated one of the most intriguing travel destinations in North America. For everything Santa Fe, visit www.santafe.org .