Oh, how this place lives up to its name. This beautiful, strange city with its mixed heritage and blend of cultures – old and new – is definitely one of the top destinations in the Southwest! From the Native Americans and their many conflicts with the Spanish Colonials, the semi-hippie, semi-vaquero vibes, SF is full of surprises down every street and around every corner. You can walk into a shop selling metaphysical crystals and organic t-shirts, and sit down to have a steak next door. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – it’s just something you might not expect to encounter.
The ancient adobes in the downtown area speak for the city – it is one of the oldest established cities in the contiguous U.S. and is home to the oldest continuously inhabited/used public building in the U.S – the Palace of the Governors/New Mexico History Museum. SF is an interesting location – a respite from the less pleasant areas of NM – as ABQ is southwest of there, behind the Sandia Mountain range. At night you can see the light pollution shrouding the edges of the Sandia range. Espanola is found North of SF. Taos is relatively nearby, only 45 minutes away, and is another great NM vacation place – further in the mountains.
Some of New Mexico’s finest natural areas are within reach of Santa Fe: Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rock National Monument, Bandolier National Monument, the Valles Caldera, the Santa Fe Ski Area (not just for skiing, there is great hiking among aspens and along creeks) and even the Great Sand Dunes in CO are near enough by for a nice day trip. The landscape surrounding SF is magical, with 3 mountain ranges in view – two on the horizon for a great sunset silhouette – and one right behind you to catch some colour on. The terrain changes vastly in this area – as you can go from the high desert with its never-ending blanket of sage brush, to mountains covered in Pine and Aspen with wildflowers blooming everywhere – to bare canyons with beautiful rock formations and colours in excess – to plains of nothingness and short grass, the perfect depiction of an open range.
Let’s not forget the temperature – as it is one of the major perks of being in the area – never too cold, never too hot – with a good portion of the year sitting in the 60’s to 70’s. I will admit that our stay was at the worst part of the year – locals let us know that if we could handle the March-April-May storms and erratic weather then we would fall in love with the rest of the year. Arriving at the tail end of winter, we were welcomed with a blizzard and copious amounts of rain and storm, accompanied by the occasional hail. There are a few areas we didn’t get to hit nearby – like the Acoma Pueblo, home to Sky City, and Chaco Canyon, Jemez Springs, and the Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument – where the Rio Grande and Red River meet.