This is for my New York City ‘peeps’ for whom a vacation in Europe is considered, well, the only true vacation. Santa Fe, New Mexico, in our southwestern backyard, has everything that Europe’s most visited cities has to offer, and, dare I say, possibly more. In fact, I make the bold assertion that Santa Fe is America’s Paris, France. Why? Consider the following reasons:
Santa Fe, A City Suffused With History & Culture
What makes great European cities like Paris a rich travel experience is the culture and history they wear with a timeless sense of style. The same can be said for Santa Fe, New Mexico. Santa Fe is the oldest capital city in North America and the oldest European community west of the Mississippi.
Santa Fe was settled by the Spanish conquistador Don Pedro de Peralta in 1609-1610. However, this region was originally occupied by a number of Pueblo Indian villages – mostly the Tewa people, from 1050 to 1607. In the struggles between the Pueblo Indians and Spanish settlers, the Spanish were ascendant. However, the enduring artistic and cultural legacy of the Pueblo people remains one of Santa Fe’s most charming attributes.
This amalgam of Native American and Spanish cultures, born of struggle and conquest, gives Santa Fe a rich cultural vein that feeds its architecture, art and food. No other city in America is so keenly shaped by its history and cultural heritage. Like Europe’s oldest cities, Santa Fe’s history adorns its appearance.
It seems as if every detail in downtown Santa Fe has been set in place by an artist. Walking the charming streets around Santa Fe’s Plaza is every bit as satisfying as strolling through the historic La Cité district in Paris, France. The timelessness of Santa Fe’s Pueblo Revival architecture is ubiquitous and by design. This simple, organic architectural style is rooted in Native American history, and is perfectly mated to the high desert environs it occupies. Simply put, Santa Fe is a feast for the eyes.
Santa Fe, A City of Art
Creativity permeates every pore of Santa Fe. In the two square miles that surround the heart of downtown Santa Fe, there are more than 200 art galleries. The eye is dazzled by art at every turn. In this, Santa Fe is simply unmatched. No other city in the world offers this concentration of art galleries. As a result, Santa Fe’s downtown landscape is shaped not by generic corporate towers and fast food chains, but by the vision of art lovers. There is a classical beauty to this city equal to the best Europe has to offer.
Because Santa Fe is a highly walkable city (like Paris, France) you can browse every detail of its intimate streets up close. Do so. Soak in the details, the textures and the hues.
Santa Fe, A City for the Palate
Like Paris, France, Santa Fe, New Mexico is a diner’s paradise. It is filled with cozy cafes and family owned eateries that offer an excellent range of dining experiences. In fact, Santa Fe remains largely overlooked by the national chain restaurants that populate the downtown’s of most American cities. That is a blessing. You can choose high cuisine or regional cooking that showcases the best of New Mexican dining. Traveling on your stomach in Santa Fe is deeply satisfying.
Hopefully, I’ve given some of my east-coast friends a few good reasons to visit and explore this jewel of the southwest. Add it to your shortlist of great European cities. It will be an unforgettable and unique travel experience!
All photos by Don Peterson.