Santa Fe -

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The Internet cafe phenomenon is not yet well entrenched in Santa Fe, but the Zele Cafe, a coffeehouse at 201 Galisteo, 505-982-7835, claims to offer wireless access (bring your own laptop). Open 7:30-7:30 Fridays and weekends, 7:30-6:30 otherwise. Watch this space, as other coffeehouses are likely to join the party.

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  Santa Fe Convention & Visitors Bureau 

 

Santa Fe, founded in 1607, is the capital of the state of New Mexico in the United States. With an elevation of 7000 feet, it is not only the United States' oldest state capital but its highest. With a population of about 62,000, it's not the largest, but that's part of its charm. Santa Fe is consistently rated one of the world's top travel destinations for its confluence of scenic beauty, long history (at least by American standards!), cultural diversity, and an extraordinary concentration of arts, music and fine dining.

Santa Fe was once the capital of Spain's, and then Mexico's, territories north of the Rio Grande, but its visible history extends far back into time beyond the arrival of the Spanish; it is thought to have been the site of Puebloan villages that had already been long abandoned by the time the Spanish arrived in 1607. It became the state capital when the territory of New Mexico achieved statehood in 1912. In the early 20th century, the area attracted a number of artists, such as Georgia O'Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz. The region remains important on America's art scene.

The arrival of Igor Stravinsky and the founding of the Santa Fe Opera, one of the world's leading opera companies, had a similarly invigorating and enduring influence on the musical community. Many people go to Santa Fe for spiritual gatherings and to practice meditative arts at the many spas and resorts that are in and around Santa Fe. Santa Fe is rooted in paradoxes. On the one hand, it is one of the United States' oldest cities (by some reckonings the oldest), and many residents can trace their roots, and property holdings in town, back to the 17th century.

On the other hand, it has also been the target of a massive influx of wealthy immigrants in the last 30 years or so that has spurred a great deal of new construction and created outrageous prices for real estate -- and drastically elevated taxes on old family properties, many of which are owned by families that can't afford the taxes. The tension between new and old, rich and poor, etc., is a persistent undercurrent in the community.

Much of the city's attractiveness, from both scenic and cultural perspectives, arises from its setting in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. This location produces a mild continental climate with four distinct seasons. Winters are pleasant, with day-time highs usually in the 40s (Fahrenheit), often "feeling" warmer owing to the sun. Snow varies wildly from year to year; some winters see almost no snow, while others will have several individual storms dropping a foot or more each. (The sun and high altitude mean that roads usually aren't clogged too badly, even by the big storms, for more than a day or two, as the snow melts rapidly.)

Spring, usually dry and moderate in temperature, is still probably the least pleasant time to visit from a weather perspective, owing to strong winds. Early summer (June, early July) is hot and dry, with highs around 90, but gives way around mid-July to a truly delightful climate as summer, monsoonal thunderstorms peel off the mountains and cool the afternoons down. Bring rainwear if visiting in July or August. The monsoons typically die out in early September leading to a fall with dry, sunny days and clear, crisp evenings; first frost is usually in October, with snow starting to stick in the mountains at about that time.

One caution: the elevation is high enough to challenge the lungs of the visitor freshly up from sea level. It's wise to spend your first day here on relatively sedentary activities (museums, walking the downtown area) and move to more active things after you've had a little while to acclimatize.

Get around

Santa Fe has a small but vibrant downtown that is not only walk able, but walked, often, by many people late into the nights, particularly in summertime when the tourists flood in. Parking can be a significant problem during the summer and is not exactly easy to get at any time of year, but look for parking lots (fee) near St. Francis Cathedral, Sweeney Center, and between Water and San Francisco Streets west of the Plaza.

If in town for the Santa Fe Indian Market, plan on parking a loooong way from downtown and taking a shuttle, e.g. from De Vargas Mall. Limited, but improving, public transportation is available at other times via Santa Fe Trails, the city's bus service; web site. The main roads through town are St. Francis Drive (US 84/285) from north to south, Cerrillos Road (NM SR 14) from the downtown area southwest to I-25 and beyond, Old Santa Fe Trail and its offshoot Old Pecos Trail from downtown southeast to I-25, and St. Michaels Drive and Rodeo Road and its offshoots, both connecting Old Pecos Trail and Cerrillos east to west. Most outlying attractions are accessible via one of these roads.

The downtown area is a remarkable rat's warren of small roads that you really don't want to drive on; park your car and walk. Streets there are highly non-Cartesian (Paseo de Peralta, one of the main roads in the downtown area, almost completes a loop) and, even when apparently rectilinear, are not necessarily aligned to true north/south/east/west.

If you're bound for the Santa Fe Opera from Albuquerque or points south, consider taking the Santa Fe Relief Route (NM SR 599), which leaves I-25 south of the Cerrillos Road exit, bypasses most of Santa Fe, and meets US 84/285 just south of the Opera. This can be a good way of getting to lodging and restaurants on the north side of town as well; although it's a few miles out of the way, the much less chaotic driving, particularly around rush hour, provides considerable compensation.

Adapted from WikiTravel under the Wiki License


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