We had heard about Santa Fe’s famous Historic Spanish Plaza, Georgia O’Keefe paintings and the rich history of the Native American artisans that sell their crafts here, but we really had no understanding of the area when we arrived.
We came to Santa Fe for a week, we stayed four months.
If you think you left your heart in San Francisco, you may end up leaving your soul in Santa Fe. What we didn’t anticipate is that Santa Fe is a living artistic organism whose heartbeat is the creative independent thinking individuals that find a home here.
Santa Fe is a mecca for those that appreciate history, architecture, the arts and culture. Tourists throng to this oldest and highest Capitol city in North America. The strict architectural standards that date back almost a 100 years, set a high bar for preserving the integrity of the local pueblo culture where Native Americans, Spaniards, early Settlers, Trappers, Renegades and artist found a rustic home. It is the
only place possibly in the world where you are going to pay a lot more to live on a dirt street then a paved on.
Getting a lay of the land. We had been here a month before we took the local Trolley Tour. What a difference it made in understanding the community and seeing all the different neighborhoods. We recommend the Tours of Santa Fe. They start at the historic Loretto Chapel parking lot, so if you get there a little early, you’ll have time to pay the $3.00 to visit the chapel and see the famed miraculous staircase. We really enjoyed our guide, who was really funny and knowledgeable. Tickets are reasonable at $15 for adults and $12 for children. It was our best investment in getting to know the town.
Santa Fe is a free form creation that has grown and molded its individual neighborhoods around the hilly and mountainous contours. Must explore neighbors include Canyon Road, the Historic Plaza district, The RailYard, Museum Hill and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains on the northeast side of town.
So, hop on board for a ride around this gem of community and then we will share with you the local bounty that makes life in Santa Fe a daily creation.
Weather– Santa Fe gets it all. At 7,200’ elevation, you can quickly ascend through the Pine and Aspen forests to the local Ski Resort at over 10,200’ and only be about 20 minutes out of town. There are definitely four seasons here. It’s a windy place most of the year. They experience something we were not familiar withdry lightning storms which create amazing cloud formations that flash lightning but shed no rain. They can get monsoonal rains with flash floods, hail and snow. The elevation takes getting used to. The local joke is that “It takes 3 breaths for every normal breath here. The only cure is supposed to be drinking, but everyone is still testing that theory”. The locals will tell you it takes about 1 month per 1000’ of elevation to acclimate. Since you are unlikely to plan to come for 7+ months, just accept that you won’t have your same energy level and you’ll need to take it easy.
Fabulous Fridays! This town is dotted with World Class Museums and Galleries. If you enjoy Art you’ll never want to leave. Three of the best known Museums near the historic Plaza are free on Friday afternoons from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m… If you are efficient with your visits you can walk to all three in those limited hours and have enjoyed The Palace of the Governors, New Mexico History Museum and New Mexico Museum of Art. Or drive up to Museum Hill on Fridays and get in free to Museum of International Folk Art and Museum of Indian Arts and Culture. Canyon Road Art Galleries feature Art Walks most Fridays from 5 to 7 p.m. where you can wander the sculpture gardens and yards of these historic adobes. You are likely to enjoy some free music and possibly spontaneous dancing in the plaza on most weekend nights.
Get Outside. If you are water person, Santa Fe may disappoint. Swimming pools are not sanctioned and are rare. Water levels run low in the creeks. But, if you want to Mountain Bike, Hike, Ski, Horseback ride, Walk, Ice Skate, Swim Laps and work out in a gym there are plenty of possibilities. We really enjoyed the Santa Fe Rail Trail and the Spur Trail for walks. The Dale Ball trail system in the mountains is nationally known amongst mountain bikers but equally enjoyed by hikers and dog walkers. There are several stables to rent horses, Bishop Ranch Lodge being one of them. The Genoveva Chavez Community Center is a tremendous public resource with a full on Ice Skating Rink, Racquetball courts, indoor waterpark, massive lap pool, indoor running track and gym. For $6.00 you can use all the facilities all day or buy a monthly or annual pass. Walk the adjoining bike trail for miles and you’ll pass creek beds, community gardens and a free Frisbee golf course. Want to Ski or Snowboard, you can enjoy the uncrowded local slopes, or drop by High Desert Angler Fly Fishing shop near the Railyard District and get local tips on where to cast your line.
We loved hiking the Aspen and Pine forest trails just on the outskirts of town. The quacking Aspen leaves whisper a sort of shared communion as we wandered through them.
The Randall Davey Audubon Center & Sanctuary is tucked away amongst rural ranches just minutes from downtown. The trails are free, but close at Sunset. You can walk the quiet trails or simply sit and watch the migrating birds enjoy the marshy ponds in this protected mountain preserve.
Be a bit player! The Film Industry is big business in Santa Fe, home of Santa Fe Studios and many complimentary businesses. Hundreds of films and T.V. shows like Breaking Bad, 1000 Ways to Die in the West and the current T.V. Series, Manh(A)ttan have been filmed here. We wandered over to the Community College and walked around the old buildings that are currently being used as the set for Manh(A)ttan. If you want to get a part as an extra, this is the town to apply to fill that fantasy. They are regularly looking for bit players.
Get your Yoga on in Santa Fe. There are more Yoga Studios in Santa Fe then Starbucks or McDonalds combined. Every week you could sample a different variation on the practice. If you look hard enough there is probably even Yoga for you and your dog. The Santa Fe Community Yoga Center is a non-profit destination offering over 30 yoga classes a month that you can just drop into. Many of the independent studios will let you try them out for free your first visit.
Luxuriate! The famed Ten Thousand Waves classic Japanese Spa embedded on a mountain side in the beautiful pine forest is worth a visit. You can get a day pass for just $18 and enjoy the communal or women’s’ only soaking tubs and the grounds. Or indulge in one of their Private garden soaking tubs or one of their specialty spa treatments. We spent the evening of my birthday in the Ichiban Private Spa Suite, which had a private sit down shower, two outside soaking tubs in our own Japanese garden, a private Sauna, high tech toilet which was so complicated it was fun just to try all the options and a cooling berth next to the soaking tubs in the garden. It was serene, intimate and gloriously luxurious.
Our visit to Ten Thousand Waves was an introduction to the bodywork community of Santa Fe that we will share with you in depth in a future posting.
Santa Fe really takes time to uncover, but the warmth of the climate, the community and the artistic environment made us feel very much at home, and we will be back. It truly deserves its well -earned name of The City Different.