Santa FeApril 14, 2008 at 2:43 am | Posted in Travel, Travelogues | Leave a comment
For several years now, one of the last few U.S. cities that remains near the top of my list of places to see in the world has been Santa, Fe New Mexico. Primarily because I’ve seen it listed consitently in the top 5 cities in the U.S. by Conde Nast Traveller (Concierge) Reader Awards (usually trailing only New York, San Fran, and Charleston SC.) So for our 10th Wedding Anniversary, Lisa and I decided to check it out.
You must fly into Albuequerque and then drive approximately one hour to Santa Fe. The airport is newer, the central car rental center is newer, convenient and efficient, and more importantly, the interstate is not crowded, like you might find in the Phoenix area. So the drive to Santa Fe was a piece of cake.
Keep in mind though Santa Fe is at about 6,000 ft elevation, but it didn’t seem to effect us much. We took some Gingko Biloba just in case. Even though you are essentially in a high desert environment, the landscape is pretty interesting with the southern rockies nearby.
The main thing about Santa Fe is that outside the historic central town area, there’s not a whole lot in the city of Santa Fe. It’s just your regular small city as far as I could tell. But within 8 or 10 block radius of the town square, you will encounter one of the most quaint/unique U.S. cities you’ve ever seen. Everything is very Southwestern with adobe buildings everywhere. There are probably more galleries per square block than any other city in the world, and if you stay near the center, you will never need to get back into your car as you can walk to good shopping and a wide variety of excellent restaurants, galleries, and museums. It seemed sort of like Santa Fe is to the Artist World what Hollywood is to the Movie Making world as far as attracting artists and the shear magnitude of the amount of art on display.
All the meals we had were excellent (in various price ranges) and the people were very friendly. We only scratched the surface as far as galleries. There are a few main museums. The Georgia O’Keefe the most famous which I was unimpressed since her style of art is not up my alley. I much preferred the New Mexico Museum of Art.
We took a day trip to the Bandelier National Monument which is a short hike amongst the base of cliffs where ancient Anasazi used to live in caves in the cliffs. Once again, the drive was a breeze, hardly anyone on the road. The Monument itself was interesting and since it was only 40min or so away, it was worthwhile. We also stopped at Tsankawi on the way back which has a nice short 2 mile hike with expansive views. Nothing spectacular but a great way to really see the surrounding area and get some exercise in the fresh air.
Note that nearby Los Alamos was where they invented the nuclear bomb. There were periodic signs LSNL Site 14 (Los Alamos National Laboratory) which sort of made you think “I wonder what they’re doing at these sites?”
All and all a relaxing, unique place to visit and very enjoyable if you like to eat and shop and visit museums without having to get in the car or walk long distances.
My conclusing is that as far as the spring and fall seasons, I would much prefer to visit Santa Fe than any of the cities in Southwest including Arizona (Tucson, Phoenix, and Scottsdale) and the Palm Springs area. It has much more character than these other places, none of the bad traffic (Phoenix area), and offers similar recreation opportunities. The only reason now I could see for going to Arizona or Palm Springs now would be because it is not cold like Santa Fe will be in mid-winter. But in mid-winter you are there to ski/snowshoe, not golf/hike.
It may be highly debatable whether this the city garners a #4 rating for cities to visit in the U.S., but it is definitely a unique place, sort of like New Orleans is such a unique place. If you’re a foody and into art, this definitely deserves the high rating. But there’s something for everyone whether you shop, golf, or ski. In fact in the spring you can golf and ski!
If you’re a ‘big city’ person, and not there to golf or ski, I think you’d start to grow a bit bored toward the end of a 1-week stay. I think 3-5 nights is perfect if you aren’t golfing or sking. We left after a 3-night stay feeling there was still a lot to see as far as galleries, and places to eat. 4 nights I think would have been perfect.
One thing though is that unlike San Francisco or New York, the cuisine is not as diverse. Yes you can find a Sushi joing or Chinese place, or Pizza, but the vast majority of restaurants are Mexican, Southwestern, or Spanish (Taps). So if you’re not into this type of food you may find the dining selections limited, otherwise they seem limitless!
Definitely on my list of places I would return to.
Pictures can be seen here (select full screen mode if you can):