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Because of the altitude, the climate in Santa Fe is cool, so there’s much to do and see here all year round. Here are some of the best things to do in this Southwestern capital:
1. Hike the Atalaya Mountain Trail. This trail is one of the most popular and easily accessible in Santa Fe. Hikers have the option of taking the longer route (Trail 174), which is approximately seven miles round-trip, or parking further up near the Ponderosa Ridge development and doing a 4.6-mile loop (Trail 170). Both trails eventually join and take you toward the top of Atalaya Mountain, a 9,121-foot peak. The first few miles of the trail are relatively easy, but it becomes increasingly steep and strenuous as you near the summit. You’ll be rewarded with great views of the Rio Grande valley and the city below.
2. Tour the Palace of the Governors. Built in 1610, this is the oldest public building in continuous use in the U.S. and was the seat of government in New Mexico for more than 300 years. It is now a major museum of Southwestern history and part of the Museum of New Mexico; daily self-guided and docent-led tours are free. Outside, Native American vendors sell artwork and traditional crafts in the adobe building's arcade, so leave time for shopping.
3. Go white-water rafting. The Rio Grande and Rio Chama rivers north of Santa Fe are prime for river running and white-water rafting. Santa Fe Rafting Company offers several rafting trips, including half-day, full-day and multi-day camping excursions, some of which include a boxed lunch. The biggest rapids are found on the Taos Box full-day trip, open to anyone over age 12. All trips include roundtrip transportation from Santa Fe.
4. Visit the Museum of International Folk Art. The museum, first opened in 1953, contains more than 130,000 objects, billing itself as the world’s largest folk museum dedicated to the study of traditional cultural art. Much of the massive collection was acquired when the late architect and designer Alexander Girard donated his 106,000-object collection of toys, figurines, figurative ceramics, miniatures and religious/ceremonial art, which he had collected from more than 100 countries around the world. This is a rich museum experience and can easily take several hours to explore. Two museum shops offer a wide variety of folk-oriented books, clothing and jewelry from which to start your own collection at home.
5. Explore the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. The legendary artist painted in Santa Fe throughout her life, so a visit to this museum is a must. You’ll find 1,149 works of art by O’Keeffe, including paintings, drawings, sculptures, sketches and photographs, which are accompanied by 1,840 pieces by other artists. The current exhibition, “Modern Nature: Georgia O’Keeffe and Lake George,” focuses on the work she created on many visits to the New York lake. This exhibit is on display through January 26, 2014.
Santa Fe is a year-round destination with plenty of attractions to fill any season. Here, from historic streets to hot cuisine, are five ways to experience the best of the city:
1. See Santa Fe Plaza. Many of Santa Fe’s best restaurants, shops, museums and historic sites are within easy walking distance of the historic Santa Fe Plaza. Santa Fe — La Villa Real de Santa Fe — was established in 1608, making it the oldest continuous capital in what is now the United States, and the Plaza has been the heart of the city since its earliest days.
2. Explore Canyon Road. East of the Plaza, Canyon Road attracts worldwide art collectors with more than 100 galleries in a square mile — one of the largest concentrations of galleries in the world.
3. Visit the Railyard District. This is Santa Fe’s newest revitalized area, where locals shop and restaurants surround the farmers market that pops up every Tuesday and Saturday mornings. True to its roots, the New Mexico Rail Runner passenger train travels between the Santa Fe Depot here and Albuquerque.
4. Tour Museum Hill. This cluster of renowned museums includes the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, which highlights contemporary Native American art such as that of the late R.C. Gorman; the Museum of International Folk Art; the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian; and the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art. Gardens, outdoor sculpture, a café and sweeping views of the surrounding mountains make this a worthwhile destination for an afternoon.
5. Indulge in spa treatments and fine dining. Indulgence is part of the total Santa Fe experience, and spas abound, including the Four-Star Spa at Rancho Encantado and the unique Ten Thousand Waves Japanese hot springs resort. Savor any number of restaurants that serve everything from Southwest-Asian fusion to perfectly grilled steak, and of course traditional New Mexico chile-based dishes. Give yourself time to enjoy your hotel room, which can range from lush Southwest design to Persian luxury to an eclectic mix that has come to define Santa Fe style.