Santa Fe, New Mexico, perched 7000 feet at the base of the Rocky Mountains,is the second-oldest city in the United States. This "city of the holy faith," nowwith a population of 62,000, was founded 50 years before anyone stood onPlymouth Rock, and its Spanish communities can be traced back to the days ofPhilip II of Spain. Santa Fe has the oldest public building in the United Statesâ€”thePalace of the Governors, which has been in continuous use since 1609â€”and theoldest church, San Miguel Chapel, built in 1610.
AN EXPLORER'S CANVAS
There are 300 galleries to explore in the third-largestart market in the United States after NewYork and Los Angeles, and 300 restaurants tochoose from, twice as many per capita as SanFrancisco. Coffee houses are scattered throughoutthe city. As you sip your coffee, you can listento Vivaldi and watch the colorful processionof people passing the window: business personscarrying briefcases, Mexicans, cowboys, NativeAmericans, artists, photographers, hikers, hippies,and, of course, travel writers.
And that's the fun of Santa Feâ€”getting outamongst its people and finding out what theyenjoy. If you need a guide, there are plenty. CarolMui, who takes visitors on Historic Walks of SantaFe (505-986-8388; historicwalksofsantafe.com),seems born to lead. Another local, Dawn Morris(505-438-8329), who has led tours in Germanyfor the American Embassy and in the UnitedKingdom for the London Tourist Board, is theperfect hostess for the mile of Canyon Road withits 100 art galleries.
Two of Santa Fe's galleries worth noting hereare the Gerald Peters Gallery (505-954-5700;www.gpgallery.com), with 8500 square feet ofexhibition space, the largest in Santa Fe, and thesmaller Morning Star Gallery (505-982-8187;www.morningstargallery.com), the country'spremier dealer in antique Native American art. ACrow war shirt valued at $225,000, for example,hangs casually on a wall.
You should consider a guide, too, if you'regoing north to Taos Pueblo or west to BandolierNational Monument. Tom Ribe of Great SouthwestAdventures (505-455-2700; swadventures.com) makes it all easy. To get to the south sideof town where most of the great museums are(ie, atop Museum Hill), you'll need to take eithera cab or use public transportation. Be prepared,however, to do a lot of walking. You're in anunusual spot in Americaâ€”a walking city. Somake sure you pack comfortable shoes.
THE CITY OF RESTAURANTS
Dinner choices in Santa Fe includeCasa Sena Cantina (505-988-9232), where singing waiters belt outBroadway hits, and Rociada (505-983-3800; www.rociada.net), an elegantFrench country bistro. For agood lunch, try the Compound onCanyon Road (505-982-4353; www.compoundrestaurant.com), Gabriel's(505-455-7000), located outside oftown on the road to Taos, or the littleMuseum CafÃ© on Museum Hill.
There's no shortage of hotels inSanta Fe either. The big, comfortableEldorado, built in 1985 (800-955-4455; www.eldoradohotel.com), providesguests with the chance to experiencethe best dining in town: the OldHouse Restaurant. Visitors looking forquaint quarters can choose betweenthe intimate Inn of the Anasazi (800-688-8100; www.innoftheanasazi.com)or La Posada (888-367-7625; laposada.rockresorts.com), with beautifulgrounds and a mansion-style staff. LaFonda, located on the square, is thehistoric "Inn at the End of the Trail."The famous Hotel St. Francis (505-983-5700; www.hotelstfrancis.com),seems very Europeanâ€”it even offersafternoon tea. For more information,call the Santa Fe Convention and VisitorsBureau at 800-777-2489, or visitthe Web site (www.santafe.org).