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"Santa Fe, New Mexico" Top 5 Page for this destination Santa Fe by karenincalifornia

Santa Fe Travel Guide: 721 reviews and 1,486 photos

Land of the Anasazi, Pueblo, Zuni, Hopi and Navajo

Santa Fe is one of the most unique cities in the United States with a history unlike that of any other part of the US. Pueblo villages in the area date back to 1050. The conquistador don Francisco Vasques de Coronado proclaimed the region the "Kingdom of New Mexico" for the Spanish Crown in 1540. Spanish colonists began settling in the area in 1598 and during the next century were determined to convert and subjugate the native nations. At one time, there were over 100,000 indigenous people living in the area. The population of these people, however, was decimated when the region came under the influence of the white man. Since its founding, the city has been a seat of government under the flags of Spain, Mexico, the Confederacy, and the United States of America.

Today, Santa Fe remains unique. The Pueblo indigenous people, Spain and Mexico have all heavily influenced the culture, architecture and cuisine.

Preserving Santa Fe's roots

Santa Fe tries to preserve the influence of native Pueblo people, although some of the authentic charm is giving way as trendy and pricey merchants dominate the downtown area. Houses and commercial buildings within the city limits generally conform to the pueblo style. Downtown Santa Fe (the historic district) has preserved the natural native and Spanish influence, thus making it possible for the public to learn more about the history and local folk art in numerous world-class museums.

The natural beauty around Santa Fe is unparalleled due to its location in the high desert at an altitude of 7,000 feet. Hovering over the the city is the Sangre de Cristo mountain range with its peaks reaching 12,000 feet in elevation.

Changing times

I first visited Santa Fe as a child when Santa Fe was a rustic city known for little more than being the capital of New Mexico and turquoise. (I know how old this makes me sound. Hold your horses, Dearie, let me get my cane and shawl....) My second trip was as a newlywed B.C. (before children); my third trip was with my husband and 9-month old son. In May 2005, I returned for my fourth time with my husband and two children, now teenagers.

I've seen Santa Fe transform from a rustic outpost to a small city with numerous shops selling inexpensive (but beautiful) native jewelry to an upscale destination resort town with spas, expensive galleries, 5-star restaurants and dozens of ultra-fine jewellers. To be honest, I miss the old Santa Fe. At the same time, the new Santa Fe is fun and exciting and ended up being a perfect location for a family trip with my teenagers.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Fascinating culture, delicious Southwestern cuisine, beautiful jewelry and pottery made by Native Americans, the second biggest US center for art (Manhattan is first)
  • Cons:Extremely expensive shops and restaurants are causing the city to lose some of its original authenticity
  • In a nutshell:Santa Fe is so unique, it sometimes feels like it hasn't yet been ceded to the US by Mexico
  • Last visit to Santa Fe: May 2005
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (43)

Comments (20)

  • BruceDunning's Profile Photo
    Sep 15, 2010 at 2:00 PM

    The sunset picture is well worth the visit, not even considering all the other culture here. ONe day I plan to still get out that way. Nice job of describing the city

  • jumpingnorman's Profile Photo
    Apr 11, 2009 at 6:55 PM

    Hi Karen! Thanks for this great home rental tip - I might get house #377 if it is still available because we'll drive to NM next week...wonderful tips - will see the St Francis Church! Happy Easter, Norman :)

  • Aug 23, 2008 at 7:47 AM

    We have dealt with pueblo dwellers for years, and I have not seen any indications that they would prefer me to visit the casinos, and I would hesitate less to invite them to my house than I would with some neighbors.

  • Oct 1, 2007 at 8:23 AM

    You have just recomended that people shop in Sant Fe at a series of stores that have been cited repeatedly for ripping people off, and are under investigation by the attorney general for fraud.

  • VeronicaG's Profile Photo
    Dec 28, 2006 at 9:44 AM

    We'll be traveling to Santa Fe in mid-January. I've been reading about the pueblos and the Canyon Road artists, so really appreciate your tips. Regards from Texas...

  • prometheus's Profile Photo
    Oct 10, 2006 at 10:22 AM

    You'll be glad to know that the opera house has been remodeled and is entirely covered! The sides are still open for the beautiful views and breezes.

  • emmicat's Profile Photo
    Sep 3, 2006 at 10:16 PM

    Your restaurant tips were great!!!!! Thanks... I'll absolutely try a couple of your favs.

  • Trekki's Profile Photo
    Jul 4, 2006 at 1:37 PM

    Ahh, beautiful page :-)) I always loved the adobe architecture in Southwest US, and the food of course :-)) Good to see that there is wonderful hiking as well, and horses to ride :-) And... more wildflowers by you :-))

  • Pawtuxet's Profile Photo
    May 1, 2006 at 4:10 AM

    You're so lucky to visit Santa Fe and do so many cool things. We passed through and loved it, but not much time to explore. I'd love to return. The sky!! How can you describe it?

  • deecat's Profile Photo
    Jan 11, 2006 at 3:02 PM

    Outstanding restaurant and hotel tips, Karen. What an enjoyable read and "look-see" concerning Santa Fe. Your insights are always entlightening. Thanks for this comprehensive tour.


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