Founded in 1610, Santa Fe is one of the oldest cities in America. The capital of New Mexico is located in the north-central area of the state at the foot of the Sangre De Cristo Mountains, considered the Rocky Mountains' southern-most stretch. This region was once occupied by pueblo-dwelling Native Americans and passed through both Spanish and Mexican hands before becoming a part of the United States.
While all of the Southwest has a lot to offer visitors, the city of Santa Fe stands out as particularly charming. It's precisely places like this, as well as nearby towns such as Taos and Los Alamos, that earn the state of New Mexico the nickname "The Land of Enchantment."
Whether you're visiting this northern New Mexico city from neighboring states like Colorado and Oklahoma or driving the historic Santa Fe Trail from New York, we hope these suggestions make your trip memorable.
What is the Capital of New Mexico?
Although Albuquerque is the largest city in New Mexico, Santa Fe is its capital city. This Southwestern state capital the oldest in the United States if you add in all the years it accumulated before New Mexico officially achieved statehood.
What is New Mexico Known for?
Following fiestas and alien sightings, New Mexico is best known for its rich history.
Hispanic settlers first began exploring what they referred to as "New Spain" in the 16th century. While the Spaniards intended to find any of seven mythical cities of gold, they only succeeded in founding the Spanish province of Santa Fe de Nuevo México. Not surprisingly, Santa Fe translates to "Holy Faith" in Spanish.
It wasn't until 1810 that citizens of New Spain followed the example of other colonists worldwide and revolted against their European rulers. It was in this way that the new Mexican state was born. Following the Mexican-American War, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo placed the New Mexico region in U.S. control and other future states like Arizona and Texas.
10 Reasons to Visit Santa Fe
1. Palace of the Governors
Constructed in the 17th century at the command of the Spanish governor Pedro de Peralta, the Palace of the Governors is just one of many historic buildings in downtown Santa Fe on the national register. Located right along the Santa Fe Plaza at the city's heart, its exterior sidewalk is used as an open market. Its interior is available for daily tours.
2. Loretto Chapel
Like we said before, there's a load of historical sites to visit in Santa Fe and the surrounding area, so don't expect to get it all done in a day. However, if you're working with limited time, you don't want to miss this breathtaking church. It is mainly well known for its "miraculous" circular staircase.
3. New Mexico History Museum
Located just north of the Palace of the Governors, the New Mexico History Museum brings attention to the many people and cultures that have called the region home over hundreds of years. Exhibits include everything from comic book art to letters from World War I soldiers.
4. Meow Wolf
Billed as an "Immersive Art Experience," Meow Wolf is something you have to see to believe. A half art installation, half children's museum for adults, this 3D attraction will keep you busy for hours--if not days and weeks--thanks to interactive story elements revolving around a strange mystery. To top it all off, the site was conceived and funded by George R. R. Martin, the creator of "Game of Thrones."
5. The Georgia O'Keefe Museum
There's no way we can talk about New Mexico, let alone Santa Fe, without eventually bringing up Georgia O'Keefe. If you already know her work, we're sure you'll add this museum to your itinerary. If you don't know her work, make sure to Google it when you're not at the office, as some of it might come off as inappropriate to your associates.
6. Bandelier National Monument
Although a bit out of the way, we would strongly urge you to visit this national monument. At Bandelier, you'll find the preserved ruins of Pueblo Indian settlements that people carved out nearly a thousand years ago. Featured attractions include world-famous pictographs and a vast collection of ancient cave dwellings. It's also not too far from Los Alamos, so keep that in mind when planning.
7. Museum of Indian Arts & Culture
This museum is a bit more on the severe side, so consider that if you're lugging kids around everywhere. Utilized as a world-class archaeological center with a library and archives, the museum's collections include artifacts like baskets, pottery, jewelry, and more. While everyday folks like ourselves are more than welcome to visit, don't be surprised if you find yourself rubbing elbows with researchers and scientists.
8. Ten Thousand Waves Spa
Although most people aren't thinking of enjoying an authentic Japanese onsen when visiting the Southwest, they'd be quick to change their minds after giving it a try. This fantastic spa has both public and private facilities, as well as a world-class izakaya where you can enjoy sushi, sake, and roasted skewers.
9. New Mexico State Capitol Building
Nicknamed "The Roundhouse," New Mexico's state capitol building is the only one in all of the U.S. to feature an utterly circular design. So, if your kids misbehave while touring the grounds, know that you won't be able to send them to a corner for a timeout. In addition to housing the state's legislature, the capitol has a collection of art and a garden that visitors are encouraged to tour.
10. Explore the Region
A lot of excellent destinations are just a short drive from Santa Fe. While other scenic cities like Los Alamos and Taos are always worth driving to, fans of the shows "Breaking Bad" and "Better Call Saul" might consider visiting the Albuquerque area to see if they can glimpse some filming locations. Where the outdoors are concerned, the region has many nearby recreational areas you can head to, like Pecos National Historic Park.
What's your favorite thing to do when you visit Santa Fe? Make sure no one misses out by sharing your story on our Wide Open Roads Facebook!
Enjoy reading about the open road?
Don't miss a story! Sign up for daily stories delivered to your inbox.