Here’s what I’m thinking. Real travel writers who provide detailed tips on where to go, what to see, and what to eat probably spend time investigating known and unknown spots both prior to and during a trip. I’m guessing, of course, but real writers mostly talk to locals who tip ’em off to the best of the best and then some — you know, those out-of-the-way places just waiting to be discovered. Kind of like Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives eateries and such. Well, we’re not journalists or freelance writers. We’re just lucky travelers who found Santa Fe to be more than we ever expected.
Although we spent only a couple of days in fabulous Santa Fe and moved rapidly from one must-see spot to another, we tried to take in as much as we could on our two-day look-around. So, when we say we’ve found eight great places, we have. But it’s by no means the be-all and end-all of What To See in Santa Fe.
Having said that, here are eight of our favorite spots. We think you’ll love ’em, too!
1. The Georgia O’Keefe Museum. Distinguishing itself as the only museum dedicated to an internationally known American woman artist, this Place to See showcases Georgia O’Keeffe’s art — colorful, large-scale art: natural forms, cityscapes, and northern New Mexico landscapes. Don’t miss the video outlining life events that shaped her work as well as the ever-changing exhibit of over 3,000 works. The museum doesn’t allow photos, so take my word for it: You really get a feel for the artist and her works from an afternoon’s immersion into her world! (217 Johnson Street; 505.946.1000; okeeffemuseum.org)
2. Museum of International Folk Art. Situated on Museum Hill with three other great venues for Southwestern and Indian art, this international folk art collection is chock full of hand-made creations from around the world. Check out funky, primitive carvings or vignettes of hundreds of tiny people and creatures housed in glass cases and catalogued for easy viewing and IDing! Allow extra time. You won’t believe this vast collection of stitchery, pottery, masks, dolls, and quirky creations — sure to make you smile! (706 Camino Lejo; 505.476.1200; internationalfolkart.org) Closed Mondays.
3. New Mexico History Museum and Palace of the Governors. OK, so I squeezed two museums into one here. But these are side by side on the historic Santa Fe Plaza, and you’ll want to see both. Armed with a wealth of information, our docent took us room by room through the collections of over 3,000 costumes, textiles, and artifacts that shaped New Mexico’s history. (New Mexico History Museum, 113 Lincoln Avenue; 505.476.5200; nmhistorymuseum.org)
Palace of the Governors, originally constructed in the early 17th century and an American Treasure since 1999, allows you to examine shrines, fragments, paintings, etc., in period rooms that tell the history of the region and its people. (Palace of the Governors, 105 West Palace Avenue; 505.476.5100. palaceofthegovernors.org)
A People and Their Art
4. Portal Native American Artisans Program. Located under the portal of the Palace of the Governors is a regulated market of area artisans whose work has been juried and approved for authenticity. We met craftspeople willing to talk about their goods — from the origins of the materials to the actual making and selling. My takeaways? A hammered copper bracelet and white stone earrings for me. A tiny Navajo doll for my granddaughter. Treasures. (Portal of the Palace of the Governors. nmhistorymuseum.org/campus.php#portal)
5. Andrea Fisher Fine Pottery. The finest examples of pottery in the area arranged by Pueblos and artists. You can shop online, but nothing compares to being in the showroom examining the pieces and learning (with the help of the highly trained staff) how to identify the art from each region. My own preference: the graphic black and white art of the Santa Domingo Pueblo. Or maybe Santa Clara. Or maybe . . . (100 W. San Francisco Street; 505.986.1234; http://andreafisherpottery.com)
Shopping on The Plaza
6. Shiprock. Far and away my favorite, this upstairs multi-room loft of white walls and old painted floors houses collections of vintage pieces the likes of which I’ve never seen anywhere else. From classic turquoise bracelets to artisan silver buckles to the largest selection of vintage Navajo weavings in the area. Owner Jed Foutz brings the best to the gallery and then allows knowledgeable people like Director Jamie Way to explain the beauty and the history of the pieces to would-be collectors. Loved the c.1920 saddle blankets, room-filling teepee by Hiroki Nakamura, and Zuni dangle earrings. Like antiques? Ya gotta go here.
Also Faves. (Other shops right around the corner that really deserve a look-see.)
Packards on the Plaza – Exquisite jewelry, carvings, rugs, fetishes, and goods for the home in a classy almost department-store-but-not-quite setting. Very friendly service and knowledgeable staff. Many, many pieces beautifully displayed. (61 Old Santa Fe Trail; 505.983.9241. shoppackards.com)
Cutlery of Santa Fe — Where great knives and inlay art comingle for a beautiful, utilitarian must-have for your home. (cutleryofsantafe.com)
Tom Taylor of Santa Fe — The finest custom belts and buckles made by Southwest silversmiths, metalworkers, leather carvers, and artists. (http://tomtaylorbuckles.com)
Lucchese Boot Co. — If “blown away” is a proper term, you definitely will be by the selection of handmade cowboy boots for men and women. Old styles, new styles, all in that great leather Lucchese is known for — but be prepared to have trouble making up your mind. (57 Old Santa Fe Trail; 505.820.1883. lucchese.com)
7. The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. Be sure to see the rose window and Loretto Chapel in this classy Romanesque Revival cathedral, built between 1869 and 1886 on the site of an older adobe church. In 2005, Pope Benedict XVI elevated the cathedral to basilica status. (131 Cathedral Place; 505.982.5619; cbsfa.org)
8. Maria’s. With its traditional tile floor, creamy stucco walls, and kiva fireplace, Maria’s reminds you that hometown, casual dining places are popular for a reason. With over 100 “real” margaritas to choose from (made with real tequila, according to the website), Seattle Times dubbed Maria’s “The Motherlode of American Margaritas”! But we liked sitting in The Cantina and ordering a sizzling platter of chicken fajitas with red AND green salsa (Christmas, it’s called) on the side! Good service. Good price. (555 West Cordova Road; 505.983.7929. marias-santafe.com)
Of course, this is just a taste of Sante Fe, a town steeped in history, art, and culture unlike what we see back home in Tennessee. And with just eight great places to see under our belt, we’re ready to return to make it 16 . . . or 24 . . . or more. We don’t think folks ever get tired of seeing Santa Fe. We sure didn’t!
Santa Fe: A Colorful Journey
(The Official Travel Site of Santa Fe, New Mexico)