Santa Fe, a popular international destination in the American Southwest, is called the "City Different" for a number of good reasons, among them:
It is one of the oldest cities in the U.S., with the Palace of the Governors having the distinction of the oldest, continuously inhabited government building in the U.S. Santa Fe is celebrating its 400th Anniversary (Quatrocentennial) in 2010. The heart of the city is The Plaza, in the tradition of Plazas, or Zocalos, found in Spain and Spanish-settled cities and towns, and a popular gathering point for tourists and locals alike.
Its pueblo-style architecture is uniquely charming and comes with its own vocabulary: bancos, nichos, kivas, vigas, etc. (Click here for a glossary of Santa Fe architectural terms). And beyond architecture, the romance of Santa has infused designs of clothing, jewelry and household objects with a defining term called "Santa Fe Style".
Santa Fe is a crossroads of three distinct cultures: Native American, Hispanic, Anglo. This cultural convergence and history has informed the city with a richly varied and vital arts community, considered the second largest art market in the U.S.A., after New York City.
The accessibility of Native American culture is apparent in the daily sight of Native artisans selling their wares beneath the portal of the Palace of the Governors and in the many Pueblos of Northern New Mexico where visitors are welcome.
In addition to fine arts exhibited some 200 galleries, Santa Fe boasts a number of museums including: the Georgia O'Keefe Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Museum of International Folk Art, the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian, the Institute of American Indian Arts and others, such as the History of New Mexico Museum opening late 2008 or early 2009.
Santa Fe's renowned festivals and cultural offerings are of the scope and calibre you would expect in a major metropolitan city, and yet you find them in an intimate, European-feeling town of only 70,000 population, albeit the State Capital. To mention a few: Santa Fe Opera with its outdoor theatre and and world-class performances, the Lensic Theater featuring music, dance and lectures, Indian Market (the largest of its kind for Native American arts and crafts), Spanish Market, UNESCO Folk Art Festival Fiesta, and the endearing Christmas Eve Canyon Road Walk where 50,000 people bundle up with their children and dogs and walk, sing carols around bonfires and soak in the ambiance of tens of thousands of ferolitos lining adobe walls and rooftops.
Visitors also find a wide selection of accommodations, from the likes of Rancho Encantado (a 5-star Auberge resort located 6 miles north of the Plaza in Tesuque) to a plethora of chain hotels along the commercial strip of Cerrillos Road, to B&Bs and hotels within walking distance of the Plaza and Canyon Road, and more than 200 restaurants to satisfy the most-discerning gourmet or the tamale afficionado.
Often surprising to first-time visitors is the climate. Santa Fe is located an hour north of Albuquerque (the closest commercial airport) in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains (the southern end of the Rocky Mountain chain) at 7,000 feet elevation. Due to this elevation, the landscape is dotted with juniper and pinon pine trees (although a beetle infestation and drought in 2002 killed many pinons), cottonwoods and fruit trees, grasses, and tall pines on the higher slopes. Over the years, much has been domesticated and many luscious gardens are hidden behind adobe walls, although xeriscaping (natural, drought-resistant plants) is now popular.
Temperatures in summer may climb into the 90s (F) but invariable fall into the 60s in the evening. Fall is market by the turning of the aspen trees and golden hillsides. In winter, days can be chilly and snow storms can blow through -- Santa Fe Ski area is just 15 miles from downtown. Spring (arriving around mid-April) burst on the scene with flowers and greenery. It is considered a "mild four-season climate." With 300 days of sunshine and deep blue skies, an average of 11-14 inches of precipitation annually and spectacular sunsets, Santa Fe is a delightful and enriching destination any time of year.
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