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North Central Mountains
Nestled in this southern part of the Rocky Mountains are some of the most popular tourist destinations in the state. First there's Santa Fe, the artsy selfbilled "City Different" that has become a favorite of Hollywood stars because of its many fine restaurants and hotels, excellent museums and historic sites, worldfamous opera, and exciting shopping. About an hour and a half away is Taos, a worldrenowned art colony and ski area that is also home to the centuriesold Taos Pueblo, without a doubt the most photogenic and appealing American Indian dwelling in the Southwest.
This region is also home to a number of smaller but equally interesting towns, such as Red River and Eagle Nest, born in the mining boom of the late 1800s and today staking their existence on skiing, fishing, and other types of outdoor recreation.
New Mexico's north central mountains include the state's highest mountainWheeler Peak, at 13,167 feetand numerous stunningly beautiful mountain lakes and streams. There are scenic drives and an especially scenic tour in a historic steam train. And speaking of history, this region also contains prehistoric sites from the area's earliest residents as well as the city of Los Alamos, the birthplace of the atomic bomb.
At 7,000 feet above sea level in the shadow of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Santa Fethe New Mexico state capitalis the highest state capital in America. Also considered the oldest capital city in the United States, Santa Fe has been called one of the three most interesting cities in the country, along with Charleston, South Carolina, and New Orleans, Louisiana.
New Mexico's tricultural history is nowhere more evident than in Santa Fe, which was the seat of government in this portion of New Spain long before the United States of America existed. Santa Fe is situated among a grouping of eight Indian pueblos that share their past. It is the western terminus of the Santa Fe Trail, an important trade route and major player in the western expansion of the United States.
With a population of about 62,200, Santa Fe is the state's thirdlargest city, behind Albuquerque and Las Cruces. It boasts a thriving art colony and carefully nurtures its unique identity and lookpreferring historic Pueblostyle and Spanish colonial architecture to more modern designs.
Calling itself the "City Different," Santa Fe is a city of narrow winding streets, of hundredyearold shade trees, threefootthick adobe walls, red chile ristras, and a quiet serenity all too rare in our modern world. More than any other city in New Mexico, Santa Fe has an individuality of characterit is the only Santa Fe.
Santa Fe was founded in 1610 by Spanish explorers pushing up from Mexico into Indian country. The names of its streets (Paseo de Peralta, Guadalupe, Otero, De Vargas) attest to the Spanish influence. The Spaniards named it La Ciudad de la Santa Fe de San Francisco de Assis, or "The City of the Holy Faith of Saint Francis of Assisi."
The Spanish forced the peaceful Pueblo Indians to accept the Roman Catholic faith, and were cruel task masters, treating the Indians more like work animals than fellow human beings. In 1680, the Pueblo Indians rebelled, driving the Spanish out in a bloody uprising. It was 12 years before the Spanish reclaimed northern New Mexico.
The Santa Fe Trail was started by merchants and fur traders who became suppliers for Santa Fe. Despite bloody attacks by hostile Indians, American merchants kept open this route to the city, bringing in both goods and people to settle in this wide open space. Economic reasons were probably more important than political reasons, but during the first half of the 19th century, Anglos became the guiding forces in Santa Fe, completing the tricultural nature of Santa Fe's heritageIndian, Hispanic, and Anglo.
Santa Fe is located on Interstate 25, just 59 miles north of Albuquerque and 385 miles south of Denver, Colorado. US Hwys. 84 and 285 also pass through the capital city. Commuter airlines and shuttles connect Albuquerque's busy Sunport (5052447700) to Santa Fe Municipal Airport, at the end of Airport Rd. off Cerrillos Rd., 5059552908. Rental cars are available at both airports.
There are three shuttle services to take you from the airport to your hotel, and reservations are strongly recommended. Call Sandia Shuttle Express, 8887755696; Twin Hearts, 8006549456; or Santa Fe Shuttle, 8888332300.
TNM&O buses connect to Greyhound at the bus station, 858 St. Michael's Dr., 5054710008.
Amtrak's Southwest Chief stops twice a day in Lamy, about 18 miles south of Santa Fe, once in each direction (8008727245; www.amtrak.com). The Lamy Shuttle brings passengers into the city by reservation (5059828829).
Festivals and Events
Sat.Sun. yearround plus Fri. in summer, 9 a.m.4 p.m. Peoplewatching is just as interesting as the vast sea of wares, ranging from the most predictable castoffs to exquisite handmade furniture to Guatemalan handbags and hats. North of town on US Hwys. 84/285 just past the Santa Fe Opera. Busiest in late spring, summer, and fall, of course.
El Rancho De Las Golondrinas Spring Festival
first weekend in June. People in Spanish colonial garb demonstrate spring tasks on an 18thcentury New Mexico ranch, including such things as spinning, weaving, soap making, and other domestic chores of 1790. Food, music, dance, art, and entertainment. 5054712261.
Rodeo de Santa Fe
third weekend in June. Since the mid1940s, this PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) rodeo has attracted top riders, ropers, steer wrestlers, and bull riders from the United States and Canada. It lasts four nights, with a Sat. matinee, and pleases some 20,000 spectators annually. 5054714300.
last full weekend in July. Spanish Market is a juried exhibit of traditional Hispanic arts and crafts held on the Plaza, including carving, painting, tinwork, embroidery, weaving, furniture, and more. 5059822226; www. spanishcolonial.org.
third weekend in Aug. As it approaches its centenary, Indian Market draws more than 1,000 Indian artists to compete and show an incredible array of arts and crafts. It's held on the Plaza. 5059835220; www.swaia.org.
La Fiesta de Santa Fe
weekend following Labor Day. One of the oldest festivals in the state, La Fiesta de Santa Fe commemorates the reconquest of the city by Don Diego de Vargas in 1692, after the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. The entire city turns out for this threeday celebration of Hispanic culture, with two parades, mariachi music, singing, dancing, and, of course, food. The burning in effigy of Zozobra, "Old Man Gloom," to dispel the sadness of the year and to make way for joy in the coming year, kicks things off on Thurs. night. Closing ceremonies are Sun. evening, with Plaza performances and a mass. 8007772489; 5059556200.
El Rancho de las Golondrinas Harvest Festival
first weekend in Oct. People in Spanish colonial garb go about their autumn tasks: crushing grapes for wine, stringing chile ristras, milling and threshing wheat, making sorghum molasses, and bringing in the harvest. Food, music, dancing, and fun for the entire family. 5054712261.
midDec. to Christmas Eve. The open house at the Palace of the Governors, Christmas at the Palace, includes a Children's Art Show & Sale (5054765100). The Museum of Fine Arts (5054765072) hosts a delightful
Gustave Baumann Marionette Show. The traditional Spanish outdoor play, Las Posadas, takes place on the Plaza (5054765100). The Santa Fe Southern Railroad, Inc. (5059898600) offers several Special Holiday Trains. The Plaza is beautifully lit with lights and, on Christmas Eve, with farolitos.
The Santa Fe National Forest
wraps around the city on the east, and there you'll find plenty of outdoor opportunities, including hiking, biking, camping, wildlife viewing, and horseback riding. Other public lands are administered by the BLM. For maps and information stop at the New Mexico Public Lands Information Center, 1474 Rodeo Rd., Santa Fe, 87505 (5054387542; www.publiclands.org). At the same location are the offices of the Santa Fe Ranger District (5054387877; www.fs.fed.us/r3) and the Bureau of Land Management (5054387400; www.nm.blm.gov).
Randall Davey Audubon Center
Once home to renowned artist Randall Davey, this is now the headquarters for Audubon New Mexico, which operates an education and visitor center. Staffed with naturalists, this is a place where urbanites come to experience nature. Located on 135 acres about 10 miles from downtown. Upper Canyon Rd., Santa Fe; 5059834609.
The top golfing choice in Santa Fe is Marty Sanchez Links de Santa Fe, 200 Lincoln Ave., Santa Fe, 5059554400, a par3, 18hole public course that combines scenic beauty with shotmaking tests. The Santa Fe Country Club, Airport Rd. 87, Santa Fe, 5054712626, opens its 18hole course to the public but not its clubhouse. North of town in Pojoaque Pueblo is Towa Golf Resort, 17746 US Hwys. 84/285, Santa Fe; 5054559000; www.towagolf.com, with good teachers and a fine Hale Irwin/Bill Phillipsdesigned 18hole course.
Dale Ball Foothill Trail System
This trail system consists of about 20 miles of multiuse trails along the eastern edge of the city. It's open to both dogs and bicycles in addition to hikers, and it runs through the Santa Fe Canyon Preserve (see next page), connecting to hiking trails there.
Hyde Memorial State Park
This is a great winter playground, popular with crosscountry skiers and snowshoers. In warmer weather it offers several good hikes in addition to providing access to miles of hiking trails in the nearby Santa Fe National Forest. It encompasses 350 beautiful acres in the mountains above Santa Fe, about 8 miles northeast of the Plaza. Elevation starts at about 8,500 feet. There are 50 individual campsites (seven with electric hookups) and several group shelters set among Douglas fir, ponderosa pine, aspen, and juniper, with picnic tables and fire pits, water spigots scattered around, vault toilets, no showers, an RV dump station, a playground, and a volleyball court. Check in at ranger station. 740 Hyde Park Rd., Santa Fe, 87501; 5059837175; www.nmparks.com.
Santa Fe Canyon Preserve
Covering some 190 acres just 2 miles from Santa Fe Plaza, this peaceful preserve has hiking trails and a grove of cottonwoods and willows. Some 140 species of birds call it home, and it's a great place to get away from city bustle. There's a 1.5mile Interpretive Loop Trail meandering along the remains of the TwoMile Dam to an overlook of the pondall that's left of the reservoir that once served Santa Fe. Dogs and bicycles are not permitted in the preserve except on the Dale Ball Foothill Trail System (see page 5), which runs through the preserve. Parking lot gates are closed from sundown to sunrise. Nature Conservancy, 5059883867; www.nature.org.
Rafting and Kayaking
The Rio Grande offers everything from a smooth, calm float trip to exciting white water. The water is highest during spring and early summer. Contact the BLM Taos Field Office (see Whitewater Rafting in the Taos section) for information and a list of licensed operators.
Ski Santa Fe
A good family skiing destination, Ski Santa Fe covers 660 acres with 45 wellgroomed runs rated 20 percent beginner and 40 percent each intermediate and expert. It has a vertical drop of 1,703 feet from its peak elevation of 12,503 feet and snowmaking on half of its runs. Located 16 miles northeast of downtown Santa Fe via NM 475. 5059824429; 5059839155 (snow conditions); www.skisantafe.com.
Seeing and Doing
Before you set out to explore Santa Fe, remember: you'll be walking much more than driving, so wear comfortable shoes. Back in the 17th century, life centered on the Plaza, and things gradually spread out from there. Consequently, the roads in the downtown area are narrow and don't easily accommodate parking. So find one of the paid parking lots, as close to the Plaza as possible, and then head out. Many of the attractions are within easy walking of the Plaza.
Cristo Rey Church
One of the largest modern adobe structures standing today, the church was built by its parishioners, using dirt from the site to form the adobe bricks. It commemorates the 400th anniversary of Coronado's exploration of the Southwest (and you thought Plymouth Rock was old!). It houses a magnificent carved stone altar screen, or reredo, a superb example of the art of New Mexico's Spanish colonial period. 1120 Canyon Rd., Santa Fe; 5059838528.
Cross of the Martyrs
For a stupendous view of the city, follow the long brick walkway to the Cross of the Martyrs. Start at the corner of Paseo de Peralta and Otero St., and read the plaques placed along the way to guide you up to the great white cross, which commemorates the Franciscan monks killed in the 1680 Pueblo Revolt.
El Rancho de las Golondrinas
This 200acre living history museum opened in 1972 after extensive restoration of existing ruins, reconstruction of authentic structures on old foundations, and relocation of additional buildings from other sites. It's a fascinating place to visit anytime, especially during their theme weekends in summer. There's an 18thcentury hacienda, with the rooms surrounding a central placita where most daytoday living and working took place, plus a 19thcentury home complete with outbuildings. Numerous other buildingsmolasses mill, blacksmith shop, wheelwright shop, schoolhouse, several waterpowered gristmills, a morada, descansos, Campo Santo, oratoriocomplete the story of life in Spanish colonial and territorial New Mexico. This ranch was an important overnight stop on the 1,000mile Camino Real, or Royal Road, between Mexico City and Santa Fe. Open JuneSept., Wed.Sun. 10 a.m.4 p.m.; Apr., May, and Oct. by appointment; closed rest of year. Fee charged. Located 15 miles south of Santa Fe Plaza off I25 exit 276. 334 Los Pinos Rd., Santa Fe, 87507; 5054712261.
The chapel was built in 1873 to house the Sisters of Our Lady of Light, who came to establish a school for young ladies in Santa Fe. (The Inn at Loretto was built on the site of the school, see Where to Stay.) Inside you can see what is referred to as the miraculous staircase: it contains two 360degree turns, with no visible central support. Built in 1878 by a carpenter using only a Tsquare, hammer, and saw, he disappeared without even asking for his pay. A legend grew that St. Joseph the carpenter divinely guided the work. The chapel is occasionally closed for weddings or other liturgical ceremonies. Open Mon.Sat. 9 a.m.6 p.m.; Sun. 10:30 a.m.5 p.m. Admission fee charged. 211 Old Santa Fe Trail, Santa Fe; 5059820092.
Palace of the Governors
This just may be the oldest seat of government in the United States: it housed the Spanish governor when it was first built in 16091610, 160odd years before the Declaration of Independence was signed in the English part of North America. In 1909, it became the state's history museum, and the long, low adobe building with its massive walls is still the place to feel the ancient history of New Mexico. A part of the Museum of New Mexico, this facility has historical exhibits that clearly define New Mexico's colorful pastSpanish, Mexican, Indian, and territorial American. Be sure to stroll along the portal out front, where American Indian artisans displayand sellan incredible array of turquoise and silver jewelry and other Indian artwork. Located on the north side of Santa Fe Plaza. 105 Palace Ave., Santa Fe; 5054765100.
St. Francis Cathedral
One block east of the Plaza at San Francisco St., the cathedral seems slightly out of place in this very Hispanic town, because its styling reflects the fact that it was built by French archbishop JeanBaptiste Lamy in 1869. The archbishop and the church itself feature predominantly in Willa Cather's classic Death Comes for the Archbishop. Ask to see the wooden statue of St. Francis of Assisi and the famed La Conquistadora statue. On the Sun. after the feast of Corpus Christi, La Conquistadora is carried through the city to Our Lady of the Rosary Chapel. When visiting St. Francis Cathedral, please remember it is a church and treat it with respect. Open Mon.Sat., 6 a.m.6 p.m. 213 Cathedral Pl., Santa Fe; 5059825619.
San Miguel Mission Church
Built in the 1600s by Tlaxcala Indians who came from Mexico as servants of the Spanish conquistadors, this is one of the oldest continuously used churches in America. The church was severely damaged in the Pueblo Revolt in 1680 and rebuilt in 1710. It displays the San Jose Bell, believed to have been cast in Spain in 1356 and eventually brought to Santa Fe by oxcart via Mexico. In addition to its historical and architectural interest, the church contains excellent examples of Hispanic religious art. 401 Old Santa Fe Trail at E. De Vargas St., Santa Fe; 5059833974. Next door at 215 E. De Vargas St. is the oldest house in America, according to Santa Fe folklore.
Santa Fe Depot
If you love trains as much as we do, check out the excursion trains offered by the Santa Fe Southern Railway. There are daily scenic ridesthe schedules change with the seasonsin restored vintage passenger cars from downtown Santa Fe to Lamy, 17 miles south. Roundtrip takes 3 to 5 hours. There are also cocktail trains, special BBQ trains, and a variety of special events scheduled yearround. Fees charged. 410 S. Guadalupe St., Santa Fe, 87501; 8889898600; 5059898600.
Santuario de Guadalupe
Built around 1796, the 3footthick adobe walls house some of the largest and finest oil paintings of the Southwest. The most famous rendering of Our Lady of Guadalupe was painted in Mexico City by Jose de Alzibar, who signed and dated it in 1783. This large work of art was brought a thousand miles up the Camino Real on muleback! 100 S. Guadalupe St., Santa Fe; 5059882027.
This small, enclosed area offers a spot of quiet serenity: exquisite gardens are encircled by delightful little shops and the wellknown restaurant La Casa Sena (see the Where to Eat section). This historic spot was given to Alférez Diego Arias de Quiros in 1692 as a reward for helping with the reconquest of Santa Fe after the Pueblo Revolt. Major Sena, a friend of Kit Carson, bought it in 1867. The Sena family lived here until 1927, then deeded it to a group of Santa Feans. It is still private property but always open to the public. On Palace Ave. across from St. Francis Cathedral.
The New Mexico State Capitol building was built in the shape of a zia, the sun symbol from Zia Pueblo. At the center of the building on the ground floor is the rotunda, and if you stand in the center, directly under the dome high above, and speak in a normal tone, you will notice a unique, almost eerie echo. Take a selfguiding tour to see the house and senate and the offices of the governor and lieutenant governor. The capitol is decorated with a collection of art in a variety of media and subject matter. For one's work to hang in the capitol, the artist must be born in New Mexico or be a current resident of the state. Open Mon.Fri. 8 a.m.5 p.m. yearround; also Sat. Memorial DayLabor Day; closed major holidays. Corner of Old Santa Fe Trail and Paseo de Peralta, Santa Fe; 5059864589.
New Mexico's Flag
In the 1920s, the New Mexico chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution held a flag design competition, and in Mar. 1925 the governor signed legislation proclaiming the winning design as the official state flag: a red ziaa sun symbolon a field of yellow. These were the colors of Isabel of Castilla, brought to New Spain by the Spanish conquistadors.
The dimensions of the zia are also fixed by legislation: the four groups of rays are set at right angles, with the inner two being onefifth longer than the outer two, and the circle's diameter is onethird the width of the symbol.
The zia as we know it is an interpretation of an ancient sun design found on a late 19thcentury water jar from Zia Pueblo. Four is the sacred number of zia, so the figure is composed of a circle from which four points radiate. Each of the four is itself made up of four: the four directions of earth (north, south, east, west); the four seasons of the year (spring, summer, autumn, winter); the four times of day (sunrise, noon, evening, night); and the four stages of life (childhood, youth, adulthood, old age). Everything is bound together in a circle of life, without beginning, without end.
The Downs at Santa Fe offers horse racing four days a week from late May through Labor Day. It's located a few miles south of town just off the interstate at 27742 W. Frontage Rd. #27475, Santa Fe, 87501; 5054713311.
There are about a half dozen American Indian pueblos north of Santa Fe in the Española area, and these islands of American Indian culture have done a remarkable job of preserving their language and traditions against great odds. Some welcome outsiders more than others, and not all the pueblos have a lot for visitors to see, although most do have casinos. Following are several of our favorites.
Pojoaque Pueblo is home to the Poeh Cultural Center Museum, which offers archeological and historical exhibits and Pueblo artwork. The pueblo is open to the public daily 9 a.m.5 p.m.; the museum is open Mon.Fri. only. Located 15 miles north of Santa Fe on US Hwys. 84/285. 5054553460.
San Ildefonso Pueblo, one of the larger pueblos of the region, is famed for its blackonblack pottery, developed by famed potter Maria Martinez (18871980), whose family continues the tradition.
Visitors can explore the ancient plaza, shop for pottery and other crafts, and visit a museum with exhibits on pottery making. The pueblo celebrates its feast day on Jan. 23. Usually open daily 8 a.m.5 p.m. Admission and camera fees charged. Located 22 miles north of Santa Fe via US Hwy. 285 and NM 502. 5054553549.
San Juan Pueblo is the headquarters for the eight northern pueblos and home to a handsome visitor center. The pueblo contains many structures dating back some 700 years and is known for the interesting designs incised into the brown and red clays of its pottery.
Special feast days are June 23 and 24. Open daily dawn to dusk; camera fee. Located 25 miles north of Santa Fe via US Hwy. 285 and NM 68, then a mile west on NM 74. 5058524400.
Shopping and Gallery Hopping
Where to Stay
Where to Eat