Saturday, June 22, 2024

The Calming Place

Santa Fe refreshes attendees’ spirits in a historic setting that is on many attendees’ bucket lists

By Todd R. Berger

Santa Fe
Approaching the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi in Santa Fe, New Mexico || Courtesy of Tourism Santa Fe

Santa Fe, New Mexico, is the oldest state capital city in the U.S. and the oldest European community west of the Mississippi River. That said, Native American tribes far predate the Spanish, with groups such as the Mogollon and the Ancestral Puebloan in the region as early as A.D. 1. The conquistador Don Pedro de Peralta established Santa Fe in 1609, 13 years before Plymouth Colony was established in what would become Massachusetts.

Santa Fe is a midsize city with 85,000 residents and is also a world-class host destination that offers many things not always found in larger metropolitan areas. With eight major hotels with event space, many of which are around historic Santa Fe Plaza downtown, this quintessentially Southwestern city charms most who venture here. Intriguing museums—including the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, the Museum of International Folk Art, and the New Mexico Museum of Art—seem to be everywhere and are joined artistically by some 250 galleries showcasing the diverse creations of talented artists. The city has accommodated groups as large as 3,200 attendees, and it has several venues that can host up to 500 gatherers under one roof.

Vibe: “It’s very welcoming,” says David Carr, director of sales for Tourism Santa Fe. “It’s a little slower pace. … There’s definitely a different sensory experience and vibe when you are seeing things that are different. Just the architecture walking through downtown Santa Fe—you don’t see that style architecture [in most other host cities]. At night, you can see the stars [and breathe] the fresh air. It’s a calming place.”

Transportation: Santa Fe Regional Airport is 14 miles from Santa Fe Plaza, with daily flights to Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas; Denver, Colorado; and Phoenix, Arizona. American Airlines and United Airlines serve the airport. There is limited taxi service, and many Santa Fe hotels offer free shuttles. More flight options are available into Albuquerque International Sunport, which is a little over an hour from downtown Santa Fe. Several shuttle companies can take you from the Sunport to Santa Fe.

Hotels: Downtown Santa Fe has 2,000 hotel rooms, with another 1,500 available in limited-service hotels along Cerillos Road. The city features historic, independent hotels with meeting space, including La Fonda on the Plaza and La Posada de Santa Fe. It is also home to several hotel chains, including Hilton, DoubleTree by Hilton, Courtyard by Marriott, and Hyatt Place.

Restaurants: There is a plethora of restaurants showing off Santa Fe cuisine and capable of handling groups, including Rio Chama Prime Steakhouse; Osteria d’Assisi with its Italian fare; and Maria’s New Mexican Kitchen, serving homestyle New Mexican classics. In Santa Fe, diners often choose their chiles—red, green, or Christmas—the latter a red-green combo. Caterers include Adelita’s Taqueria, Alicia’s Tortilleria, and Cowgirl.

Must-Sees and -Dos: Although on a smaller scale than in Denver, Colorado, and Las Vegas, Nevada, Meow Wolf was created in Santa Fe, and its exhibition, “House of Eternal Return,” is an immersive art experience not to be missed. Strolling downtown Santa Fe will bring you past numerous galleries, museums, shops, restaurants, and so much more, all in buildings showcasing the city’s distinctive Puebloan architecture. Nearby Museum Hill is home to the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, Museum of International Folk Art, Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian, and Museum of Spanish Colonial Art, all with panoramic views of the majestic Sangre de Cristo Mountains.