Add Santa Fe to your destination list If you’re an art enthusiast, have a penchant for Native American or Mexican crafts, or have thousands of dollars to spend turning your home into a gallery.
Santa Fe was another stop I hadn’t planned on, but after a recommendation from a good friend and the promise of art I decided it would be worth passing through. Before leaving Sedona I planned to stop in the Petrified Forest hoping to get out of my car and off the road for a while. The day didn’t turn out as I’d planned and it meant spending about ten hours driving. Three hundred miles, two gas stations, and a thunderstorm through New Mexico and I was ready to leave it behind. I didn’t see how a place that sold fireworks and forty ounces in gas stations could be the art capital of the United States. Lucky the highway stops and run-down motel I booked for the night were nothing like downtown Santa Fe.
My first stop in the city was Canyon Road– a mile long stretch of art galleries. If you’re starting your day there, enjoy breakfast outdoors at the Teahouse. Despite my obsession with flavored teas (I’ve got about thirty varieties waiting for me back home), I didn’t know where to begin with the book length list of teas on the menu, so instead I ordered a coffee. It was strong and delicious and so much better than what the motel I was staying in had to offer.
After breakfast, I set off walking down Canyon Road. I was nervous at first to enter the galleries knowing that the employees would see my dust covered shoes and cheap clothes and know immediately I wouldn’t be taking home a $10,000 painting. I eventually passed a gallery with its door opened wide offering a glimpse of the inside and I couldn’t resist. The employee didn’t even look up at me when I walked in, which was perfect. After I’d broken the seal, I continued on down the street stopping in every gallery.
I wish I could have taken photographs from inside the galleries, but I was sure the employees who had been ignoring me would notice real quick if I pulled out my camera in front of the “no pictures” signs. Canyon Road represents so many different types of art and each gallery has its own style and ambiance. From landscapes, to watercolors, hand-woven Native American baskets to contemporary art, sculptures, Tibetan arts, and metal work there’s so much to see even if, like me, you can only dream of spending $1,000 on an ornamental basket or $10,000 on a painting. Something tells me that even if I were a millionaire I wouldn’t spend so much money on objects. Still, they are nice to look at in galleries.
From Canyon Road I traveled a few blocks down the street to the center of the shopping area. There are plenty of public lots to park in and it’ll only cost $10 for a day– much cheaper than most other major cities. I found a spot in a lot near the Saint Francis Cathedral and was grateful to have a landmark to refer to later in the day. Since it’s so close to the center of town, the church is worth going through. I’ll admit I only went in to look for a restroom, but I was impressed by the stained glass windows and ornate painting along the walls and ceiling.
I spent the remainder of the day wandering around the city, feeling like I was walking in circles and I’m pretty certain that I was since the main area is so small. As if Canyon Road weren’t enough art for a small city, all of downtown Santa Fe is filled with galleries and shops featuring jewelry, clothing, paintings, sculptures, pottery, handwoven baskets, hand-painted ceramics, and just about every other art form you can imagine. Like Canyon Road, many of the prices are for extravagant spenders only, but if you look around enough you’ll find more reasonably priced items. Even though I’m not one for souvenirs and am always weary of anything that claims to be authentic, I was mesmerized by all the shops and artwork. It reminded me of being in Peru and walking through the open air markets with miles of colors, patterns, and crafts.
After walking around all morning, by mid-afternoon I was ready to rest and was happy to find Cafe Pasqual’s, a small restaurant on the corner of Water and Don Gasper Streets that offers organic and vegan options. I ordered the quinoa burger and think I’ve never tasted avocado so fresh. There was a wait at the door, but since I was traveling alone I was offered a seat at the “community” table– a round table in the center of the restaurant that seats nine people that don’t mind sharing a meal with strangers. I loved the idea and wish more places would do it. It was such a welcome change to be able to talk to (and eavesdrop on) other people in a restaurant. I smiled silently every time the woman to my left pronounced “yes” as if it had two syllables. With seating like this, everyone becomes a food connoisseur and is happy to talk about their dish with other patrons.
I’d planned to attend a free outdoor concert at 6:30 (there’s a different musical group each day of the summer) but couldn’t remember where I’d passed the park for the performance and wanted to head back to the motel early to a figure out where I’d land next on this journey. I’m sure the performance would only have added to the charm of this city.
Santa Fe Short and Simple
Whether you like to look at or collect art, Santa Fe is a must see city. With miles of galleries showcasing local talent and a large variety of stores that sell everything from traditional crafts to contemporary creations you can get lost for hours in the small downtown area. If browsing the free art galleries isn’t enough for you, head to one of the paid museums like the Museum of Contemporary Native American Arts or the Georgia O’Keefe Museum. Avoid the bustle of the city and save a few dollars that you can spend in the stores by staying at one of the motels a few miles out of the center of town.