The desert southwest often gets highlighted for spots such as Sedona, AZ and Taos, NM - artist communities, eclectic people, vortexes, scenery that is truly breathtaking. I love places like that. Small towns that seem to take you in and make you feel like you belong there, no matter how far flung you are from your home. Sedona and Taos are (what I would consider to be) small towns. They're nestled in their nooks and crannies of the landscape that surrounds them.
So I never really considered Santa Fe to be on that list of Southwestern havens. There's no special reason for the exclusion. In my mind, it was too big and too metro to be included. I know now that I was unequivocally wrong.
And it's the kind of thing I love being wrong about.
Santa Fe is the oldest capital in the United States, and boasts a population just over 140,000. at 7,200 feet in elevation, the air's a little thinner and usually cooler, and the landscape surrounding it is serene. But what I found most charming, intriguing, education, and inspiring about Santa Fe were these five stops.
1. Bataan Memorial Museum -- if you're a history buff like me, you'll appreciate the Bataan Memorial Museum. It offers a glimpse into the history of the New Mexico National Guard and honors the 1,800 New Mexico Guardsmen from the 515th and battle born 200th Coast Artillery who were deployed to the Philippines during World War II. Only half would return alive in what became known as the Bataan Death March.
2. The Georgia O'Keefe Museum -- if you love admiring beautiful works of art, you owe it to yourself to make this stop. This is the only museum in the world that is dedicated to an internationally-known American woman artist. O'Keefe found great beauty in the smallest of details. This museum houses the largest collection of her work.
3. Downtown Santa Fe - for what else? Shopping! You can lose yourself in the narrow streets and rustic nature of Santa Fe's galleries and shops, and if you can't find it here, it's because no one is making it. Make sure you stop into the jewelry shops if you love turquoise, opals and crystals of all varieties. Many of the pieces are handmade locally. And don't forget to peruse the street vendors - there are some amazing artists there!
4. Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi -- regardless of your religious affiliation, the Cathedral is a beautiful sight to behold, and contains some amazing works of stained glass art as well as the oldest statue of the Virgin Mary in the United States.
5. Loretto Chapel - This small, 130+ year old chapel is renowned for one thing - it's magic staircase. When Loretto Chapel was built, they put in a choir loft but did not include a staircase to reach it because the chapel was so small. The Sisters of Loretto made a novena to the patron Saint of carpenters, and on the last day, a man showed up looking for work. All he had with him was a toolbox and a donkey. He built an elegant staircase with two 360 degree turns -- and no metal nails or visible means of support. It's a beautiful work of art, regardless of your affiliation.
These 5 stops can make for 2 great days in Santa Fe! As always, safe travels.