Santa Fe is a unique little city in northern New Mexico. It also happens to be the New Mexico state capital – and the oldest capital city in the United States, in fact, having been founded in 1610 by the Spanish.
If you've never been to Santa Fe before, chances are the city will surprise you. It's not like other state capitals that you may have visited. For one, it's extremely small, with a population of less than 75,000. And secondly, it's quite a quirky place, filled with Pueblo-style architecture and a very artsy vibe.
Here are some things you don't want to miss in this cool state capital.
The entire city of Santa Fe is worth seeing, with its adobe buildings and nearby Sangre de Cristo foothills providing a photo-worthy backdrop. You can easily see most of the downtown area on foot, too, which is always a plus. Highlights include:
The Plaza – Santa Fe was settled as a Spanish colony, and the tradition of life centering around a plaza has carried on into the present-day. The Plaza is a great place for a stroll or to do some shopping, as you'll often find local arts and crafts for sale here. The Plaza is also close to the St. Francis Cathedral Basilica, which is a very picturesque church.
State Capitol building – Santa Fe has a unique capitol building, which is also known as "The Roundhouse." It's the only round state capitol building in the United States.
Walking around and window-shopping may satisfy many visitors, but you also may want to:
Visit museums – Santa Fe is home to several unique museums, including the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture and the Museum of International Folk Art. You may also want to check out the Palace of the Governors, part of the system that comprises the Museum of New Mexico.
Go gallery hopping – As I mentioned earlier, Santa Fe is a very artsy town. Galleries and jewelry shops can be found on nearly every street, and Native American arts and crafts are also popular. Head to Canyon Road for a colorful collection of studios, galleries, and workshops, and check out the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, which houses more than 1,000 of the artist's paintings and drawings.
Check out the farmer's market – If you visit Santa Fe on the weekend, head down to the Railyard for the weekly Santa Fe Farmer's Market. More than 150 local growers and vendors set up stands here every Saturday.
Santa Fe is also known for its food – almost all of which will include the city's famous green chiles. Places worth checking out include:
Tomasita's – This family-owned restaurant serves classic northern New Mexican cuisine, so if you want to try those famous green chiles (or just get a good margarita), this is a good bet.
The Shed – Located on the Plaza, The Shed can be a bit touristy and crowded, but the dining experience is worth it. The restaurant is a warren of multiple, colorfully decorated dining rooms, and the menu includes lots of New Mexican classics.
Gabriel's – This Santa Fe institution serves "food of the Southwest and Old Mexico," melding New Mexican with traditional Mexican dishes. It's highly rated by Zagat, and yet the menu is still really affordable.
Tesuque Village Market – You have to drive a little ways to get to this place, but it's absolutely worth it. The restaurant feels like a mixture of a dive bar and your mom's kitchen, but the service and food are both top-notch. If you've tired of New Mexican food by the time you get here, Tesuque is also known for its wood-fired pizzas and Key lime pie.
Do you have any other favorite things to see, do, or eat in Santa Fe?
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Graduate student by day and avid traveler and blogger by night (and on weekends and during holidays), Amanda is just a small-town Ohio girl trying to balance a "normal" life with a desire to discover the world beyond her Midwest bubble. Amanda's adventurous nature and inability to say "no" have led her to some pretty amazing adventures all around the world. But she has no desire to stop exploring anytime soon. Read Amanda's blog, A Dangerous Business, or follow her on Facebook, Twitter or Google Plus.
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