A Colorful City Full of Culture

When I look back on our days in Santa Fe, N.M., last fall, I see shades of pinks and purples, indigo and orange, turquoise and burnt sienna.

Swaths of these colors are the backdrop of my memories – of horseback riding in the hills; a glass of wine at a rooftop bar at sunset; the robed man riding a bejeweled, motorized harp in the town square; an array of desert plants growing at the Botanical Garden; the mountainous view behind the stage at the open air Santa Fe Opera; Native Americans selling their turquoise, silver and copper creations.

I’d go back there.

In a heartbeat.

For the food, the museums, the arts, the culture, the shopping (especially the jewelry), the galleries, the weather (the city averages 300 days of sunshine per year), the history (it’s 404 years old), the views, the vibe.

Yep, I could live there.


A must-see on my list was the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum.

Always an admirer of the artist’s work, I was anxious to be in the company of so many of her vibrant paintings. The museum, which opened in 1997, owns more than 3,000 pieces – artworks, photographs, archives – as well as the artist’s homes in Abiquiu and Ghost Ranch.

Of course, we can’t view all 3,000 at once – the museum changes the exhibit throughout the year. The artist’s Abiquiu home is available for touring, but the Ghost Ranch home is not.

A video about O’Keeffe’s life, with clips of her talking about her life, was a fascinating way to begin the tour through the museum. It offered insight into the artist’s life.

Originally from Wisconsin, O’Keeffe moved to New York City to be part of the Stieglitz Circle of avant-garde artists. She was quite taken with the landscape of New Mexico and made the Southwest her home in the mid-20th century. She died in Santa Fe in 1986.

We also visited the Museum of International Folk Art, which houses the largest collection of traditional folk art in the world.

A colorful exhibit of Japanese kites was on display. Children – of any age – were invited to use supplied paper, string and markers to make their own kites.

As there are only so many hours in the day, we didn’t get to many of the other museums in Santa Fe.

Museums of Indian Arts & Culture: More than 1,000 objects and artifacts tell the stories of 12,000 years of Southwestern Native American cultural history here. IndianArtsandCulture.org

New Mexico Museum of Art: The museum showcases the art of the Southwest and beyond, offering a changing variety of works by Native American, Hispanic and European-American artists. www.nmartmuseum.org

New Mexico History Museum/Palace of the Governors: This museum joins the old and the new, with ancient artifacts, historical photographs, modern-day films and cutting-edge computer interactives. www.palaceofthegovernors.org and www.nmhistorymuseum.org

Museum of Spanish Colonial Art: This museum is the only museum in the U.S. devoted to traditional Spanish colonial art. www.SpanishColonial.org

Museum of Contemporary Native Arts: This museum is dedicated solely to advancing the scholarship, discourse and understanding, as well as challenging preconceived notions, of contemporary Native arts. www.iaiamuseum.org

Santa Fe Children’s Museum: Hands-on exhibits, outdoor learning landscape, science and cultural programs – all for children. www.santafechildrensmuseum.org



If you haven’t had enough art by the time you make it through the myriad of museums, you can add the arts districts to your agenda, to visit more than 200 galleries.

Canyon Road: We walked up and down just about half of the winding Canyon Road, ducking in and out of galleries that sold handmade sculpture, paintings, jewelry, pottery and more. The historic road – an Indian trail in ancient times – also houses boutiques and fine restaurants.

The Railyard Arts District: Many contemporary art galleries have made this area their home. An art walk is scheduled for the last Friday of the month.

Downtown Arts-Museum District: If you happen to be in the heart of historic Santa Fe on the first Friday of every month, you can experience an art walk from 5-7 p.m. The rest of the time, you can visit a number of prestigious galleries, seven museums, several hotel resorts and dozens of restaurants.

A highlight of the downtown area is the Native American artisans selling their handmade turquoise and silver jewelry under the portal of the Palace of the Governors. What a sight to behold. Hundreds of pieces are for sale, but the best part is the artisan who made the piece can tell you a bit about it.

Santa Fe

Botanical Garden www.santafebotanicalgarden.org

A lovely way to spend an hour or two – or longer – is to take a leisurely yet informative walk through the Santa Fe Botanical Garden.

What I found striking about the garden was the fact that so many of the plants were foreign to me. The southwestern flora is very different than what we are used to seeing in these parts. Naturally, the focus is on the plants that adapt well to the Santa Fe environment. But there also are beautiful and fragrant roses and honeysuckle.


The Santa Fe Concert Association offers a varied and ambitious performance schedule from August through April. From opera to ballet to orchestral presentations, and more, Santa Fe is full of music thanks to 77 years of the association’s vision. www.santafeconcerts.org

The Santa Fe Symphony just completed its 30th season, offering 10 programs with guest conductors and guest artists at concerts held at The Lensic, Santa Fe’s performing arts center. www.santafesymphony.org

The Santa Fe Pro Musica Orchestra offers 10 programs from September though April. Santa Fe Pro Musica presents a selection of music from the last four centuries, including works for chamber orchestra, chamber ensemble and large-scale oratorios. Educational outreach is also a mission of Pro Musica. www.santafepromusica.com

The Santa Fe Opera’s season is from June 27 through Aug. 23 this year. “Carmen,”?”Don?Pasquale,” “Fidelio,” “The Impresario” and?”Le Rossignol”?(double bill), and “Dr. Sun Yat-Sen” will fill the open air theater with music. santafeopera.org


From fiber arts to native treasures to new media to a variety of music festivals, the calendar is full of festivals throughout the year.

Gourmet Dining

There are more than 250 eateries in the Santa Fe area. From traditional New Mexican haciendas to gourmet French restaurants and everything in between, the restaurants and their chefs are just as artful as the works in the galleries. No less than eight breweries are located in Santa Fe, a town that also boasts some of the world’s best margaritas.