Santa Fe may not have the reputation for big city life but that doesn't mean it's not every bit as unique and entertaining. Santa Fe holds a lot of records: the oldest state capital in the United States, the highest state capital (7,000 feet), and it’s consistently ranked as one of the top travel destinations in the country. It's eclectic to say the least; you might want to prepare for a little culture shock as you take in the best that the "City Different" has to offer.
Santa Fe Farmers Market
First established in the 1960's, this market has grown into a vital part of the community. Open year round and seven days a week, 100% of the products sold at market are from Northern New Mexico. Three days a week the Market Cafe is open for breakfast and lunch and the Market Shops offer great local delicacies and artisan handicrafts like homemade chocolate, wines, and teas. Best of all, many local restaurants buy the bulk of their produce from here. Look for the "Farm to Table" sticker in the window.
Santa Fe Opera
Admittedly, opera isn't one of America's leading art forms, but the Santa Fe Opera Houseis doing its part to change that. Opened in the 1950's, this opera has become one of the premiere summer festivals. Don't plan to go at the last minute as tickets are always sold out! The season runs during July and August each year and the venue itself is an adobe structure that is part open area, providing a stunning view of the Los Alamos and Jemez Mountain ranges. True to Santa Fe, you'll find formal attire and casual jeans in the same row. Go early for the pre-opera tailgating in the parking lot. This may be the only opera house with a tailgate, so even if you're new to opera, this is one experience not to be missed.
Fiesta de Santa Fe
In a city with more than a dozen annual festivals, Fiesta de Santa Fe is the pride of the city. A nine day event that marks the end of the tourist season and starts after Labor Day, Fiesta draws the biggest crowds of the year. Each year since 1712, the city gathers to mark the "reconquest" of the city by the Spanish. The most notable events during the week are the Children's Pet Parade, the Hysterical/Historical Parade, the crowning of a Fiesta Queen, the Fiesta Melodrama where local community figures are satirized and roasted, and the Fiesta Ball. A stroll through the city's main square will give you a taste of festival food and handicrafts.
Maybe the only thing that Santa Fe has more of than festivals is museums. Museum Hill offers a central location for some of the best the city has to offer. Highlights include the Museum of International Folk Art, the Santa Fe Children's Museum, and the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian. Some of the best artifacts and art pieces from Navajo, Apache and Pueblo peoples are on display here. Other museums to check out include the Georgia O'Keefe Museum just north of downtown and the Palace of the Governors, located in the plaza.
Santa Fe's climate and natural landscape make it a perfect place for outdoor activities. In addition to hiking, biking, and white water rafting, you can also participate in geocaching. This activity involves using a GPS device to follow coordinates to collect clues. Sometimes the clues are progressive, leading to an ultimate prize at the end, and sometimes each spot is the treasure itself - a "must see" piece of Santa Fe history or culture. Several companies offer geocaching as does the local municipal government. The municipal game is a great family friendly afternoon spent wandering Santa Fe.
The City Different is a small town compared to many state capitals, but it's not light on culture. Restaurants, art houses, theaters, architecture, music venues, and shopping await you. And if that gets tiring, just find a bench in the main square and enjoy an afternoon of people watching; hours of endless entertainment.
About the Author: Shawn Wood is the founder and President of The Student Movers, a California moving company that helps families and businesses relocate across the Golden State. Shawn is an adventurous traveler, supporter of many charities, and an avid snowboarder. Connect with Shawn on Facebook and Twitter.