Santa Fe (New Mexico)

Santa Fe, founded in 1607, is the capital of the state of New Mexico and its principal tourist destination, renowned for its confluence of scenic beauty, long history (at least by American standards), cultural diversity, and extraordinary concentration of arts, music and fine dining. With an elevation of 7000 feet, it is not only the United States' oldest state capital but its highest, sitting at the foot of the spectacular Sangre de Cristo Mountains. And with a population of about 70,000, it's not the most populous capital, but that's part of its charm. This is not a capital that bustles with politicians but one that bustles with tourists, who flood the narrow streets around the town's plaza in the summer months to take in the beautiful adobe architecture, the unique cultural heritage, and the spectacular art that make Santa Fe one of the world's top travel destinations.

Understand

Loretto Chapel

History

Santa Fe was once the capital of Spain's, and then Mexico's, territories north of the Rio Grande, but its visible history extends far beyond the arrival of the Spanish; it is thought to have been the site of Puebloan villages that had already been long abandoned by the time the Spanish arrived in 1607. It became the state capital when the territory of New Mexico achieved statehood in 1912.

In the early 20th century, the area attracted a number of artists, such as Georgia O'Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz. The region remains important on America's art scene. The arrival of Igor Stravinsky and the founding of the Santa Fe Opera, one of the world's leading opera companies, had a similarly invigorating and enduring influence on the musical community. Many people go to Santa Fe for spiritual gatherings and to practice meditative arts at the many spas and resorts that are in and around Santa Fe.

Santa Fe is rooted in paradoxes. On the one hand, it is one of the United States' oldest cities (by some reckonings the oldest), and many residents can trace their roots and property holdings in town back to the 17th century. On the other hand, it has also been the target of a teeming influx of wealthy immigrants in the last 30 years or so that has spurred a great deal of new construction and created inflated prices for real estate—and drastically elevated taxes on old family properties, many of which are owned by families that can't afford the taxes. The tension between new and old, rich and poor, etc., is a persistent undercurrent in the community. These and other factors (not the least of which is a well-deserved reputation as a haven for flamboyant characters) contribute to Santa Fe's uniqueness.

Climate

 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 
Daily highs (°F) 43 48 54 64 74 84 87 84 81 68 52 45
Nightly lows (°F) 19 22 26 34 44 53 58 56 50 39 24 19
Precipitation (in) 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.4 0.9 0.7 2 2.3 0.6 0.6 0.3 0.3

Much of the city's attractiveness, from both scenic and cultural perspectives, arises from its setting in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. This location produces a mild continental climate with four distinct seasons. Winters are pleasant, with day-time highs usually in the 40s (Fahrenheit), often "feeling" warmer due to the sunny conditions. Snow varies wildly from year to year; some winters see almost no snow, while others will have several individual storms dropping a foot or more each. (The sun and high altitude mean that roads usually aren't clogged too badly, even by the big storms, for more than a day or two, as the snow melts rapidly.) Spring, usually dry and moderate in temperature, is still probably the least pleasant time to visit from a weather perspective, because of strong winds. Early summer (June, early July) is hot and dry, with highs around 90, but gives way around mid-July to a truly delightful climate as summer, monsoonal thunderstorms peel off the mountains and cool the afternoons down. Bring rainwear if visiting in July or August. The monsoons typically die out in early September leading to a fall with dry, sunny days and clear, crisp evenings; first frost is usually in October, with snow starting to stick in the mountains at about that time.

One caution: the elevation is high enough to challenge the lungs of the visitor freshly up from sea level. It's wise to spend your first day on relatively sedentary activities (museums, walking the downtown area) and move to more active things after you've had some time to acclimatize.

Get in

By plane

American Eagle Airlines serves the   Santa Fe Municipal Airport (IATA: SAF) with daily service from Dallas/Fort Worth, while United Express has daily service to Denver.

If entering New Mexico via the larger Albuquerque airport, simply rent a car and drive, as there is currently no commuter air service connecting the two airports. You can also take the Rail Runner commuter train (see below) or one of the shuttle buses such as Sandia Shuttle, which will pick you up at the Albuquerque airport and drop you off at one of a handful of locations in Santa Fe.

By rail

A Rail Runner train climbing the hill to Santa Fe

A commuter rail line, the New Mexico Rail Runner Express, connects Santa Fe to Albuquerque and surrounding communities (from downtown Albuquerque you can catch a shuttle to the airport, ABQ). There are currently three stations open in Santa Fe: the   Santa Fe Depot at the Railyards on Guadalupe Street near the Sanbusco Center, the South Capitol station off Cordova Road between Cerrillos Road and St. Francis Drive, and the NM 599 station at I-25 and NM 599 southwest of town. The Santa Fe Depot is the most useful for sightseeing, as it puts you in the historic downtown area within relatively easy walking distance of the plaza, with a shuttle circulating around the downtown area if you don't want to walk. The South Capitol and NM 599 stations are meant more for commuters and are of little use to sightseers. The Rail Runner runs daily, although service can be limited outside the weekday rush hour periods. Fares are based on how far you ride; a day pass will usually be in the range of $5–$10. Tickets can be purchased online or from ticket agents on the train.

The major Amtrak route across the Southwest, the Southwest Chief, stops at Lamy about 15 miles south of Santa Fe off US Highway 285. The once-daily trains stop in Lamy mid-afternoon, and a shuttle van service can take you to Santa Fe. The station in Lamy has an old cafe car serving lunch, food vendors on the platform, and picnic tables beneath shady cottonwoods. Travelers with bicycles may find the shuttle van to Santa Fe is unable to transport their bicycles unless special arrangements have been made; an alternative is to send any luggage ahead via the shuttle and ride the bicycle - there's a federally designated rail trail along an unused rail line between Lamy and Santa Fe, but between the Amtrak station and US 285 you must travel via the road, then north on US 285 to the trailhead.

By car

Santa Fe lies along Interstate 25, which skirts the city. Be suspicious of weather conditions if coming to Santa Fe on this road. Santa Fe is nearly 1500' (half a kilometer) above Albuquerque, and on I-25, most of the elevation change is on a single long, steep hill known as "La Bajada." La Bajada hill is hairy to drive during winter snowstorms and is occasionally closed for periods of several hours. East of town, I-25 North goes over a moderate pass along the southern end of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains before heading out into the plains; this too can be closed during blizzards.

If conditions are good and you're not in a hurry, consider using back roads as an alternative to I-25 if coming from Albuquerque. State road 14 passes along the east side of the Sandia Mountains and through the quaint little towns of Madrid and Cerrillos before joining the interstate just south of Santa Fe.

Travelers following the Route 66 itinerary should note that Santa Fe was on the "original" Route 66, although it was bypassed during the 1930s as a result of some curious political shenanigans and the much shorter, "modern" Route 66 didn't go anywhere near here. See the "Original alignment in New Mexico" section of the Route 66 article for tips on how to get here "authentically." Coming from points east, you might also consider entering town via the Santa Fe Trail itinerary, which shares roads with the Route 66 itinerary near Santa Fe.

By bus

There is no long-distance scheduled bus service into Santa Fe. The nearest Greyhound stop is in Albuquerque, at the Alvarado Transportation Center in downtown. From there, the most convenient option to Santa Fe is to take the Rail Runner train, which stops right next to the bus depot.

Both New Mexico Park and Ride and the NCRTD provide commuter bus service on weekdays with routes that connect Santa Fe to surrounding communities. Additionally, the NCRTD operates the Taos Express weekend service to Taos and the daily Mountain Trail route up Hyde Park Road between Santa Fe and Ski Santa Fe.

Get around

Outside of the downtown area (consisting roughly of the blocks surrounding the Plaza as well as the adjacent Railyards district and Canyon Road), a car is definitely your best bet and will be all but necessary for visiting any of the more far-flung attractions (e.g. the Opera, the mountains, any of the nearby pueblos). However, if you're only staying for a couple of days, you can certainly get by without a car with what the small but vibrant downtown has to offer; it is very pedestrian-friendly and walked, often, by many people late into the evening, particularly in summertime when the tourists flood in.

By bus

Limited, but improving, public transportation is available via Santa Fe Trails, the city's bus service. Phone: +1 505 955-2001. Bus fare is $1, a day pass costs $2, and a 31-day pass costs $20; youth under 18 ride free, half-fare for seniors/disabled. Buy fare or passes from the bus driver (cash only, exact change required).

The most useful route for tourists are:

By car

Parking can be a problem during the summer, but look for parking lots (fee) near St. Francis Cathedral, the new Convention Center, and between Water and San Francisco Streets west of the Plaza. If in town for the Santa Fe Indian Market, plan on parking away from downtown and taking a shuttle, e.g. from De Vargas Mall.

The main roads through town are St. Francis Drive (US 84/285) from north to south, Cerrillos Road (NM SR 14) from the downtown area southwest to I-25 and beyond, Old Santa Fe Trail and its offshoot Old Pecos Trail from downtown southeast to I-25, and St. Michaels Drive and Rodeo Road and its offshoots, both connecting Old Pecos Trail and Cerrillos east to west. Most outlying attractions are accessible via one of these roads. The downtown area is a remarkable warren of small roads that you really don't want to drive on; park your car and walk. Streets there tend to wander (Paseo de Peralta, one of the main roads in the downtown area, almost completes a loop) and, even when apparently rectilinear, are not necessarily aligned to true north/south/east/west. Take extra care for pedestrians and cyclists, many streets have sharp turns.

If you're bound for the Santa Fe Opera from Albuquerque or points south, consider taking the Santa Fe Relief Route (NM SR 599), which leaves I-25 south of the Cerrillos Road exit, bypasses most of Santa Fe, and meets US 84/285 just south of the Opera. This can be a good way of getting to lodging and restaurants on the north side of town as well; although it's a few miles out of the way, the much less chaotic driving, particularly around rush hour, provides considerable compensation.

Once you get to Santa Fe, consider taking a tour of downtown. Several companies offer open-air tram tours, like Loretto Line Tours (available in the parking lot of the Loretto Chapel). These tours last about 1.5 hours and give you a sense of the architecture, culture and history of the downtown area.

See

Like many towns initiated by the Spanish, Santa Fe has a central square, the   Plaza, that is a gathering place for all types. For hours of entertainment, pull up a bench and people watch; you'll rapidly gain an appreciation for how the "City Different" nickname applies. Especially nice in the summer evenings as the temperatures drop (although rain may drop as well) and the people come out.

Museums

Santa Fe has a variety of interesting museums, most in the downtown area and easily reached on foot. Four of the biggest in Santa Fe (the Palace of the Governors, the New Mexico Museum of Art, the Museum of International Folk Art, and the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture) are sub-units of the Museum of New Mexico, for which you can buy a shared pass for $20 that allows access to all four museums and the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art within a four-day period. If you only have time for one, individual passes are available.

New Mexico Museum of Art

The following is a list of museums in the downtown area:

Miniatures at the Museum of International Folk Art

Museum Hill, south of downtown, is home to a collection of art and culture museums in the foothills overlooking Santa Fe. While not within walking distance of downtown, it is accessible via public transportation (Santa Fe Trails Route M, from the plaza area, or Santa Fe Pickup museum shuttle from the state capitol).

There are also a couple other museums outside the plaza area (but not on Museum Hill) that are very much worth checking out:

Architecture

St. Francis Cathedral
  •   St. Francis Cathedral, 213 Cathedral Pl (downtown area),  +1 505 982-5619. One of the "must-see" places in town, with an impressive interior and beautiful art both inside and out. A tip for the photographer: the main façade faces west, so photographing the exterior (including several striking sculptures out front) tends to be most rewarding, atypically for Santa Fe, in the middle of the day, particularly the afternoon. Free; donation.
  •   Loretto Chapel, 211 Old Santa Fe Trail,  +1 505 982-0092. M-Sa 9AM-4:30PM, Su 10:30AM-4:30PM. Built in 1878 and modeled after the Gothic Sainte Chapelle in Paris. An intriguing legend - The Miraculous Staircase - is attached below and serves as the highlight on the church. The Loretto is also a popular romantic wedding venue. $3.
  •   San Miguel Mission, 401 Old Santa Fe Trail,  +1 505 983-3974. Su 1PM-4:30PM, Summer M-Sa 9AM-4:30PM, Winter M-Sa 10AM-4PM. Thought to be the oldest surviving mission church in the United States, the San Miguel is a rather simple but lovely adobe structure. Behind the mission, along the narrow alleyway, is a small structure whose owners claim it to be the "Oldest House in the U.S." built by Europeans; a claim which though inaccurate reflects the long history of the site. Admission by donation.

The Miraculous Staircase

Santa Fe's origins as a venture of early Spanish colonists have made it the home of a number of legends, myths and stories mixing indigenous and Catholic themes, one of the most famous being the legend of the Miraculous Staircase. The choir loft at Loretto Chapel is reached by a winding staircase with two complete revolutions, and no obvious means of support; it looks like it floats in the air. Legend says that a mysterious carpenter built this staircase single-handed in the 1870s, then vanished without a trace before he could be paid or even identified. Some say that this carpenter was none other than St. Joseph, patron saint of carpenters, come to earth. When you visit Loretto Chapel, take a good look at the staircase and decide for yourself whether it requires divine intervention to stay intact.

  •   Santuario de Guadalupe, 100 Guadalupe (downtown area),  +1 505 988-2027. M-F 9AM-4PM, Sa/Summer 10AM-4PM. A favorite musical venue, the Santuario is an excellent example of Spanish Colonial architecture and contains a superb collection of religious artworks. Free.
  •   Scottish Rite Temple, 463 Paseo de Peralta (north of downtown but within walking distance of the Plaza),  +1 505 982-4414. A startling, bright pink Moorish-style building modeled after the Alhambra in Granada, Spain.

Do

Festivals

Santa Fe hosts a seemingly unending series of community fairs, festivals and celebrations, of which the most characteristic is the Fiesta de Santa Fe. This grand city-wide festival is held over the weekend after Labor Day in mid-September, after most of the summer tourists have left (and has been described as Santa Fe throwing a party for itself to celebrate the tourists leaving!). The celebration commemorates the reconquest of Santa Fe in 1692 by the Spanish after the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. Fiesta opens with a procession bearing a statue of the Blessed Virgin known as La Conquistadora to the Cathedral of St. Francis. Revelry starts with the Thursday night burning of Zozobra, also known as "Old Man Gloom," a huge, animated figure whose demise at the hands of a torch-bearing dancer symbolizes the banishing of cares for the year. Prepare for BIG crowds - this event is not for the faint of heart and can be downright scary for small children! The crowning of a queen (La Reina) of the Fiesta and her consort, representing the Spanish nobleman, Don Diego de Vargas, who played a key role in the founding of the city, is a matter of great local import. Revelry continues through the weekend and features such events as the hilarious children's Pet Parade on Saturday morning and the Hysterical/Historical Parade on Sunday afternoon. A Fiesta Melodrama at the Community Playhouse effectively and pointedly pokes fun at city figures and events of the year past. The Fiesta closes with a solemn, candle-lit walk to the Cross of the Martyrs.

Zozobra meets his doom at the annual Santa Fe Fiesta

A few of the other festivities during the year, arranged in (usual) chronological order through the year, are:

In addition, many of the Native American pueblo communities nearby schedule dances and other ceremonies to celebrate specific feast days throughout the year that welcome tourists (along with a few that are for tribe members only).

Performing arts

Santa Fe Opera

Santa Fe is an important center for music and musical groups, the most illustrious of which is the   Santa Fe Opera. The opera house is on US 285 on the north side of town and is partially "open air," so that opera goers get attractive views of the Jemez Mountains near Los Alamos as an additional backdrop to what's on stage. The Santa Fe Opera is known around the world for staging American and even world premieres of new works, the operas of Richard Strauss, and promising new artists on their way up (and, to be fair, one or two aging superstars each season who are on their way down, not up). Opera season is the summer, with opening night (tickets are almost impossible to get) usually around July 1 and the last performances in mid-August. (Bring a light jacket/wrap and an umbrella to the later performances; the open-air nature of the house can make August performances nippy and drippy, although seats are protected from the rain.) Many performances sell out well in advance, so book early. (KHFM radio, frequency 95.5 MHz, airs a "ticket exchange" that may be helpful in finding tickets to sold-out performances, if you find yourself in town on the spur of the moment during opera season; they currently stream their broadcast online, so you can check the ticket exchange even before you arrive.) People-watching here can be as much fun as the opera itself; you'll see folks in the most expensive formal wear sitting next to others in jeans, which is typical of Santa Fe. Dressing up at least a little from jeans is a good idea, though. Pre-performance "tailgate dinners" in the parking lot, as though you were attending a football game or such, are part of the tradition and color; you can bring your own, or see under "Eat/Other/Splurge" below.

Other important musical/performing arts venues in town are:

Some of the groups using these spaces are:

There are others; if you hear one you like, add it.

Film

There are several movie theaters and art houses spread around the city that play Hollywood flicks as well some of the more off-beat movies. In addition to the year-round offerings, film enthusiasts should check out the Santa Fe Film Festival, held every year in early December.

Outdoors

As one might expect from its location between mountain and desert, Santa Fe is rich in outdoor activities, particularly hiking, cycling, and horse riding. Most are slightly outside town itself and are covered in the "Get out" section and pages cited there, but there are a few in-town possibilities:

The campus of St. John's College in the hills above Santa Fe

Buy

Folk art

Santa Fe is a designated UNESCO Creative City and is one the best places in the world to shop specifically for Native American Indian arts and crafts. How to proceed depends on what your goals are and how much you want to spend. If your goal is to obtain mementos of no great intrinsic value, check out the Native American vendors on the "Portal" (accent on second syllable) in front of the Palace of the Governors; the jewelry and pottery is inexpensive (of course, you get what you pay for) and its authenticity is guaranteed. Pickings may be a bit thin on Sundays, and the vendors pick up and go home after 5:30. A word of warning: do not patronize the similar vendors on sidewalks out around town unless you know they're OK. If they're not on the Portal, there's a reason, and one common reason is that they're passing off non-Indian junk as authentic. Some authentic artisans may be off the Portal, but caveat emptor.

Vendors on the Portal at the Palace of the Governors

For higher-quality (and -priced) Indian art that you'll feel good about when you get it home, galleries cluster around the Plaza. Some reputable ones (there are more) are:

There are other good ones as well; if you find one that you think offers particularly good value for dollar, please expand this list. You can spend as little as $100 for a small piece, or spend more money than you have for something that's literally one-of-a-kind.

Other art

If you have any interest at all in "Anglo" art, make sure you walk down Canyon Road (an easy stroll from downtown), which is full of unique, quirky and just plain fun art galleries. Other galleries are west and south of the Plaza in the downtown area itself. A small sampling to give you a sense of what's there (note that opening hours at these can be somewhat erratic and are not always posted):

Only in Santa Fe...

Another chapter was added to the weird, wonderful lore of the "City Different" in August 2007, when one of the many jewelry and art shops in the downtown area suffered a midnight break-in by -- no kidding -- a mountain lion. You won't have to compete for goods with this aesthetically inclined beast, however, as it was tranquilized by Fish and Game officers, removed, and released in the wilds of northern New Mexico.

This listing barely scratches the surface of the art scene in Santa Fe; the community phone book lists over six pages of galleries. There are some tourist traps among them, but far more good stuff than tourist junk.

Other goods

Eat

Santa Fe, and the rest of New Mexico, is known for its huge and spicy plates full of Southwestern food. Restaurants in Santa Fe run from expensive haute Southwestern to down-home fast-food style plates, where you will be asked "red or green" (chile). You can try a mix of both red and green chile peppers by asking for your dish "Christmas". However, Santa Fe also has a number of excellent restaurants offering other cuisines—possibly too many of them, in fact, as the highly competitive marketplace forces even some very good ones out of business before their time. It is almost impossible to overstate the dining possibilities here; they far outstrip those in most American cities ten times Santa Fe's size. As with several other New Mexico towns, restaurants in this description are broken into the sub-categories "New Mexican" (which, note, is not the same as "Mexican" by any means) and "Other." Meals (exclusive of drinks and tips) will usually cost $10/person or less at the "Budget" places, $10 to $25 at the "Mid-range" ones, and more—sometimes much more—at the "Splurges." Note that many Santa Fe restaurants are somewhat "casual" as regards business hours; if a place doesn't have hours listed below, inquire locally as to when it's open, as the hours may change erratically.

New Mexican

Blue corn enchiladas at The Shed

There are so many good New Mexican restaurants in town that a description here can barely scratch the surface. A note on red and green chile: half of the writers on New Mexican food claim that green chile is hotter than red, while half claim it's the other way around. In reality, the best authority on the spiciness of the chile at the particular restaurant you eat at is the restaurant itself, so if you're concerned about the chile being too hot, simply ask; you'll get a straight answer far more often than not. One thing that's definitely true, however, is that green tends to be fleshier than red, and adds a bit more substance to the dish, independent of the heat level.

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Other

Santa Fe has plenty of standard chain restaurants (Olive Garden, Outback, Red Lobster, etc.), but why bother? There are enough excellent "local" ones that you can save your trips to these more ubiquitous eateries for cities less well-endowed from a culinary point of view. All restaurants below are uniquely Santa Fean in their character and cuisine.

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Drink

Two of the ubiquitous alcoholic beverages in Santa Fe are the familiar margarita and the possibly-less-familiar sangria, a wine-based concoction incorporating fruit, more commonly associated with Spain and Central America. Most of the better New Mexican restaurants in town have their own house sangria; it goes well with New Mexican cuisine, and is claimed by some to be a useful antidote if the spicy food gets the better of you. It's considered much more of a day-to-day beverage here than in many other places. Visitors should note that the high altitude may increase sensitivity to alcohol.

Much of the beer consumed in the community is imported from Mexico, and there are also a few microbreweries. If you're sticking with non-alcoholic beverages, a tip: Many locals advise against having soft drinks with New Mexican food, instead preferring iced tea. This preference is based on the belief that carbonation in drinks (including beer) tends to accentuate the spiciness of the chile peppers and cause the spicy component to hang around in the throat, while iced tea mutes it. Do the experiment, or at least have your designated driver do it.

Santa Fe Railyard

Sleep

Most Santa Fe hotels, motels and B&Bs are in one of two areas: downtown (near the Palace of the Governors and Plaza) or on Cerrillos Road, the commercial main drag. The distance of the Cerrillos Road hotels from the downtown attractions isn't significant from a purely physical point of view; the most distant ones (near Villa Linda Mall) are still within a couple miles of the downtown area, which can be reached quickly by car or shuttle bus. However, the atmospheric distance is enormous. Downtown has the fabled Santa Fe ambience of a sleepy old Western village frozen in time and transported to the 21st century (with, of course, a few modern amenities and nuisances added, like cars), while Cerrillos Road has the "ambience" of a shopping district in a suburb of a major city. In compensation, hotels on Cerrillos Road tend to be less expensive on an amenity-for-amenity basis. When deciding where to stay in Santa Fe, give particular thought to the balance of ambience and economy that fits your needs.

"Budget" lodging (if any) will start at less than $75 a night, "Mid-range" from $75 to $150, and "Splurge" greater than $150, with some of the luxury suites, etc., ranging far upward. A warning on the "Budget" and "Mid-range" classifications: Santa Fe hotels and motels are prone to very substantial seasonal variations in availability and price. A hotel that may look like "Mid-range" during off season (spring, fall exclusive of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta week, usually in early October) may be "Splurge" material during ski season and the summer, particularly around significant events such as the Santa Fe Indian Market, Fiesta, opening weekend of the Santa Fe Opera, etc. Of course, the converse is true as well, meaning you can stay at a "Splurge" hotel in the off-season months of November through February at a really low price. Check carefully on rates when booking; most of the more important hotels/motels have informative web pages, and better hotels should give you the best price themselves, instead of letting discounters underprice them.

Budget

Budget hotels and motels in Santa Fe are few and far between. The economy-rate chains all have franchises in town, but it's not clear that most can really be considered "budget" lodging. Try one and write it up here.

Mid-range

There are a number of bed and breakfast establishments beyond the ones shown here. Rates vary not only seasonally but also with the room, as each establishment will have a range of room sizes and accommodations; larger and more luxurious rooms are likely to reach the "Splurge" category. In addition to B&Bs, one can also rent furnished homes, large or small ("casitas") which allows you to prepare at least some of your own meals, and enjoy a little more space, both indoors and outdoors. Here are a couple of agencies, followed by classic bed & breakfast choices.

Most major hotel chains have franchises in Santa Fe, mainly located outside the main tourist areas. A few are removed from downtown on Cerrillos Road, hence have better value-for-dollar if you don't mind the distance:

There are many others on Cerrillos Road; non-chain options include:

Several of the classic downtown hotels/lodges approach "Splurge" status, particularly during peak periods, both for their locations and their quality, but a splurge is frequently worth the expense for those who want an authentic Santa Fe experience. A couple of the more reasonably priced ones:

Splurge

Inn at Loretto

Camping

There are several commercial campgrounds in town (  Los Campos de Santa Fe RV Resort,   Rancheros de Santa Fe,   Santa Fe KOA,   Santa Fe Skies RV Park), but the camping is much more rewarding along the road to the Santa Fe Ski Basin. There are several campgrounds in Santa Fe National Forest on this road, and there is also good camping at the very pretty   Hyde Memorial State Park between forest and city. If you're planning on using the national-forest or Hyde Park campsites, make sure you have enough clothing and bedding to stay warm; they're in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and get cold at night.

Stay safe

Santa Fe is a fairly safe city as regards violent crime, despite the widely publicized occurrence of occasional hate crimes. In reality, the crime rate, with the exception of residential burglary (a definite problem in town but one unlikely to affect the traveler), is not high compared to other American communities of comparable size, and the visitor is very unlikely to have any crime-related problems. Some of the bars can get a little rough, with ethnic tensions frequently a factor despite the city's multicultural nature; simply don't stir up trouble and you should be OK. Otherwise, public areas are generally quite safe, and are well yet unobtrusively patrolled by the city police.

Much more of a problem is automobile safety, for several reasons. Many of the roads were built during a slower-paced, less-populous time, and lack the carrying capacity for the current crowds. Northern New Mexico has serious problems with drunk driving, and Santa Fe is not exempt from these, particularly late at night. Another factor is an inexplicably high density of bad drivers and/or decrepit vehicles with poorly secured cargo; natives often speak of having a "New Mexico moment" when something falls off the back of a pickup or trailer and into the roadway in front of an unsuspecting driver. This is a good place to practice your defensive driving, particularly along St. Francis Drive and Cerrillos Road (the intersection of these two has been voted the most dangerous intersection in all of New Mexico). Running red lights is one of the state pastimes, and reaches its zenith in Santa Fe; be extremely vigilant when pulling away from an intersection when the light changes. On the positive side, most motorists are fairly tolerant (if not always aware) of pedestrians and bicyclists.

Finally, be alert for signs of health problems associated with high altitude, particularly if you venture out of town toward the mountains. The most common problems are headache and/or feeling tired may occur, drinking more water or going to lower altitude may help (a trip down La Bajada to the reservoir will usually do it). Also pay attention during hikes and bike rides, remember you are at 7,000 feet—sunscreen is important, even in the winter. The dryness of the air combined with physical exertion will often leave you not sweating through your clothes even if it's 85 degrees out, and many people won't realize they are working hard without that. Dehydration is a common issue for visitors—bring more water than you might otherwise. Some visitors report increased sensitivity to alcohol due to the altitude.

Connect

The Internet cafe phenomenon is a relatively recent arrival in Santa Fe, and new outlets are popping up fast enough that it's hard to keep track. Check back on this list occasionally, as it's expanding.

Cope

Go next

Native Americana

San Ildefonso Pueblo pottery

One of the major contributors to Santa Fe's fame is the large number of American Indian Pueblos (towns) nearby. Several are important centers for folk art; most permit visitors at dances and other tribal ceremonial events; and from a more contemporary perspective, several host casinos with gambling, night life, etc. There are also, however, some pueblos that jealously guard the privacy of their residents and admit visitors only grudgingly, if at all. Nearly all pueblos charge a fee for photography, video, sketching, etc., as an attempt to mitigate the impact of tourism on the private life of the inhabitants. For more detailed info on each pueblo, see the New Mexico Pueblos page.

Among the nearby pueblos, Cochiti Pueblo and Santo Domingo Pueblo are southwest of town off I-25, both centers of folk art, with Santo Domingo excellent for pottery and jewelry. North of town, there are a couple of pueblos along US 84/285; Tesuque is the closest to Santa Fe and has a casino, but the pueblo itself is closed to the public. Continuing north takes you to Pojoaque, which has an interesting museum and gaudy casino. Further beyond off the main road is Nambe Pueblo, which has a pleasant campground and waterfall, while San Ildefonso Pueblo is located off the main road to Los Alamos and is a major pottery center. More pueblos are located in the vicinity of Española and Taos even further north.

Other

Scenery at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument
Routes through Santa Fe

Pueblo Pecos  N  S  Algodones Albuquerque
Española Pojoaque  N  S  Merges with Pecos Santa Rosa
Española Pojoaque ← Merges with  N  S  Merges with → Jct W E Roswell
END  N  S  Madrid Cedar Crest


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