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Santa Fe City and Culture

Pueblo Architecture
Santa Fe City and Culture
The influence of the region's Native American history and Spanish settlement are everywhere you look in Santa Fe, and the modern city comfortably accommodates people from diverse cultures and traditions.
By Kate Donnelly, AFAR Local Expert
Photo by age fotostock
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    Pueblo Architecture
    Pueblo Architecture
    The unique architecture and aesthetic of Santa Fe comprises buildings made of adobe bricks mixed with earth and straw. The Spanish settlers, influenced by American Indian dwellings, included rooms surrounding a central plaza with earth floors and flat roofs. This melding of architectural influences gave rise to the Pueblo style. Adobe architecture is soft with rounded corners and low doorways, while the territorial style features stucco exteriors with sharp-edged walls. The Palace of the Governors, Museum of Fine Arts, and La Fonda Hotel are notable landmarks which showcase this architecture.
    Photo by age fotostock
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    Leisurely City Strolls
    Leisurely City Strolls
    Santa Fe is comfortably accessible by foot. Downtown includes the historic Plaza, the venerable St. Francis Cathedral, and the Loretto Chapel, remarkable for its spiral staircase with no central support. Stop often to refresh with a glass of wine or an espresso. For those interested in science and history, 109 East Palace marks the secret location where J. Robert Oppenheimer headed up the Manhattan Project. Make your way north towards the winding Canyon Road, once a Native American trail used by the Pueblo. Now home to nearly 90 galleries and well-known eateries, it’s a perfect spot to browse and unwind.
    Photo by age fotostock
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    The Railyard District
    The Railyard District
    The eclectic Railyard District is quickly becoming the city's most dynamic and hip neighborhood, with loft-style buildings housing galleries and restaurants. If you come on Saturday, don’t miss the Santa Fe Farmers' Market, with over 100 local growers selling their wares, it's a perfect introduction to the area’s rich bounty. The avant-garde SITE Santa Fe, a non-profit art space, acts as a neighborhood hub. Local galleries include David Richard Gallery and Zane Bennett for contemporary work, and TAI Gallery for Japanese bamboo. The experimental Warehouse 21 is a teen arts center. Unique dining choices run the gamut from the healthy fare of Counter Culture Café to the traditional New Mexican dishes of La Choza. At night, dancing commences at the Cowgirl Hall of Fame. The outdoor patio is a perfect spot for the Jamaican jerk chicken. Wash it down with a smoky margarita.
    Photo courtesy of Mark Kane/Santa Fe Convention & Visitors Bureau
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    Textiles and Turquoise
    Textiles and Turquoise
    Because Santa Fe is an old trading post, you will find an array of interesting shops in town. Jewelry mainstays like Ortega’s have handcrafted American Indian work, including beautiful (and pricey) silver and turquoise pieces; alternatively, visit the craftspeople selling their wares under the Palace of the Governors portal. Shiprock Gallery has a rich selection of Native American textiles and colorful woven items, from Navajo rugs to intricate beadwork. Museum gift stores are also great places to look for regional memorabilia and the famous black-on-black pottery.
    Photo by Kate Donnelly
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    Chamber Music and the Opera House
    Chamber Music and the Opera House
    The Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival is a five-week series of concerts in the summer that attracts highly regarded musicians and vocalists. Concerts are held in historic venues like the St. Francis Auditorium, the Lensic Performing Arts Center in Santa Fe, and at Simms Auditorium. Performances range from well-known works by the likes of Bach and Beethoven to lesser-known pieces. The festival’s posters and program covers are always a draw; past years have featured artwork by Georgia O’Keeffe. The Santa Fe Opera House, also known as the Crosby Theatre, is a more modern architectural marvel— a 360-degree open-air theater carved into the curves of a hillside. Guests bring picnic baskets and are supplied with white tablecloths and silver cutlery.
    Photo courtesy of Robert Reck/Santa Fe Convention & Visitors Bureau
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    Festivals throughout the Year
    Festivals throughout the Year
    There are a range of colorful festivals that take place in Santa Fe throughout the year, from the Wine and Chile Fiesta to the warm, festive glow of farolitos (paper lanterns) during the Christmas season. Each summer, the Spanish Market showcases traditional Spanish colonial arts and handcrafted furniture. In July, the International Folk Art Market invites over 100 artists from 50 countries to display their textiles, toys, and jewelry. Every August, the widely anticipated Santa Fe Indian Market features art from over 1,200 artists from 100 different tribes. And in early September, the Santa Fe Fiesta celebrates the town’s 1692 settlement with concerts and a carnival.
    Photo courtesy of Dianne Stromberg/Santa Fe Convention & Visitors Bureau
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    Route 66 Nostalgia on Cerrillos Road
    Route 66 Nostalgia on Cerrillos Road
    Though its heyday has long since passed, you can still find romantic echoes of the iconic Route 66 on a stretch of highway in Santa Fe called Cerrillos Road. Cruise down the main thoroughfare to enjoy the decidedly 1950s vibe. Neon signs hang in front of cafés, car washes, and bungalow-style hotels, and locations like the El Rey Inn and the Stagecoach Motor Inn have signs advertising “Color Cable TV" and “Large Family Rooms,” hearkening back to a time before Wi-Fi. The landmark Pantry Restaurant, open since 1948, is a reliable, family-owned favorite.
    Photo by Kate Donnelly
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    Galleries and Boutiques
    Galleries and Boutiques
    While Santa Fe is no stranger to art and culture, sprinkled around town are a few notable newbies. Zohi Gallery hosts a bevy of edgy, up-and-coming Native American artists while the recently-opened East Palace storefront of William Clift Photographs sells various framed New Mexican landscapes and mountains. Meanwhile, woman's fashion and chic interiors dovetail at the Southwest tribal-meets-Japanese asethetic of Visvim, the brainchild of designer Hiroki Nakamura.
    Photo courtesy of Santa Fe Brewing Company
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    The Museum Scene
    The Museum Scene
    Nothing gives a better taste of Santa Fe's historic art culture than a visit to the city's rich museums. The Georgia O'Keeffe Museum is the single largest repository of the artist's work, containing, among her other pieces, drawings, oils, and sketches she created while living in New Mexico. A day spent trawling the formidable institutions on Museum Hill—which include the Museum of International Folk Art, the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian, and the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art—is a crash course in the art and style of the region, stretching back long before Europeans arrived here. The collection at the New Mexico Museum of Art includes artwork by a wide selection of artists who lived and worked in the southwest, all housed in a magnificent example of Santa Fe style architecture.