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Top 12 Santa Fe Places to See and Things to Do

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Santa Fe is one of the top destinations in the Southwest. Santa Fe is a city that embraces its natural environment unlike any other in the United States. A city whose beautiful, brown adobe architecture blends with the high desert landscape. A city that is, at the same time, one of America's great art and culinary capitals. Santa Fe draws those who love art, natural beauty and those who wish to relax.(Courtesy: Steve Lewis - spokesman for the Santa Fe Convention & Visitors Bureau.)

1. The Plaza - The Heart of Santa Fe

The Plaza de Santa Fe, NM is a very historic spot, but it is hard to capture it in pictures.
23155134@N06/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0
As the heart of the city and the place where Santa Fe was founded, the Plaza is the city's most historic area. Surrounded by museums, historic buildings, restaurants, hotels, galleries, and endless shopping the Plaza is the place to start understanding Santa Fe.

2. Canyon Road

Santa Fe has over 250 galleries and has been rated the second largest art market in the country - after NYC. Canyon Road is a historic pathway into the mountains and an old neighborhood that has become the city's center for art with the highest concentration of galleries.

3. Georgia O'Keeffe Museum

The Georgia O'Keeffee museum is a showcase not only for O'Keeffe's work but that of her many contemporaries. The museum is just now taking possession of over 1,000 works of the master artist from the O'Keeffe Foundation and will have new material to present for years to come. The museum has an excellent restaurand. Ideal for lunch.

4. Museum Hill

In a town with 16 museums, Museum Hill is a collection of 4 of its most interesting: Museum of International Folk Art, Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, Museum of Spanish Colonial Art, and the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian. With a wonderful plaza, expansive views, footpaths connecting each museum, and a convenient cafe, Museum Hill is a day trip right in town.

5. The Railyard - Not Just for Trains

The area around the Railyard along Guadalupe Street is where Santa Fe is working on its future. The 50 acre Railyard, after years of community input and visioning, is slowly taking shape into a multi-use property that will eventually be home to a large park, plaza, trail system, movie complex, live/work lofts, and green space. It is already home to SITE Santa Fe, a contemporary art museum with rotating exhibits, shops, galleries, restaurants, and the Santa Fe Farmers Market.

6. Bandelier National Monument

Located about 45 minutes from Santa Fe, Bandelier is the centuries-old site of a large pre-Pueblo community that was established in the area's extensive volcanic cliffs. One of the state's most important cultural and archaeological sites, Bandelier is a beautiful spot that offers a view across time into the lives of the hundreds of Native Americans who called it home from 1100 to 1500 AD.

7. New Mexico's Pueblos

The nineteen Pueblo tribes that form the majority of New Mexico's Native American population are scattered around the state. A number of the communities are in close proximity to Santa Fe however and offer a view into both the ancient and modern worlds of the Puelbo Indians.

8. Palace of the Governors Native American Vendors

Every day dozens of artists from around Santa Fe, New Mexico, and the Southwest sell their work under the long portal that fronts the Palace of the Governors. This is a very regulated program that insures artwork that is authentic and of high quality as sold by the artists or their family members. The Palace itself is the state's history museum and the oldest public building in the U.S. making it a perfect setting.

9. Institute of American Indian Art

Contrasting to the more traditional art forms sold at the Palace and at many of Santa Fe's shops and galleries is this musuem dedicated to contemporary American Indian art. The museum is an arm of the IAIA college that teaches art to native peoples.

10. St. Francis Cathedral Basilica of Assisi

The largest example of non-adobe style architecture in the city, the Romanesque St. Francis dominates the downtown cityscape. The cathedral is a religious center for Santa Fe and the home to La Conquistadora, a centuries-old statue revered within the city.

11. New Mexico History Musuem

Located on the Historic Plaza in Santa Fe next to the Palace of the Governors. This new museum has permanent and rotating exhibits as well as archives. The exhibits are interesting, vibrant and interactive.

12. Tent Rocks National Monument

There are destinations on this planet that have a certain Oz-like quality about them, where you’re suddenly struck with the sensation of entering another world. Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument is just such a place. Fortunately, you don’t have to venture somewhere over the rainbow to get to this enchanting New Mexican landscape. Tent Rocks is located just 40 miles southwest of Santa Fe.

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