"With its crisp, clear air and bright, sunny weather, Santa Fe couldn't be more welcoming or more unique. On a plateau at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains—at an elevation of 7,000 feet—the city is brimming with reminders of nearly four centuries of Spanish and Mexican rule, and of the Pueblo cultures that have been here for hundreds more. The town's placid central Plaza, which dates from the early 17th century, has been the site of bullfights, public floggings, gunfights, political rallies, promenades, and public markets over the years. A one-of-a-kind destination, Santa Fe is fabled for its rows of chic art galleries, superb restaurants, and diverse shops selling everything from Southwestern furnishings and cowboy gear, to Tibetan textiles and Moroccan jewelry.
La Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francisco de Asísi (the Royal City of the Holy Faith of St. Francis of Assisi) was founded in the early 1600s by Don Pedro de Peralta, who planted his banner in the name of Spain. After years of oppression, the region's Pueblo people rose in revolt in 1680, burning homes and churches and killing hundreds of Spaniards. After an extended siege in Santa Fe, the Spanish colonists were driven out of New Mexico. The tide turned 12 years later, when General Don Diego de Vargas returned with a new army from El Paso and recaptured Santa Fe. To commemorate de Vargas's recapture of the town in 1692, Las Fiestas de Santa Fe have been held annually since 1712. The nation's oldest community celebration takes place on the weekend after Labor Day, with parades, mariachi bands, pageants, and the burning of Zozóbra—a must-see extravaganza held in Fort Marcy Park just blocks north of the Plaza.
Following de Vargas's defeat of the Pueblos, the then-grand Camino Real (Royal Road), stretching from Mexico City to Santa Fe, brought an army of conquistadors, clergymen, and settlers to the northernmost reaches of Spain's New World conquests. In 1820 the Santa Fe Trail—a prime artery of U.S. westward expansion—spilled a flood of covered wagons from Missouri onto the Plaza. A booming trade with the United States was born. After Mexico achieved independence from Spain in 1821, its subsequent rule of New Mexico further increased this commerce.
The Santa Fe Trail's heyday ended with the arrival of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway in 1880. The trains, and later the nation's first highways, brought a new type of settler to Santa Fe—artists who fell in love with its cultural diversity, history, and magical color and light. They were especially drawn to the area because eccentricity was embraced not discouraged, as it often was in the social confines of the East Coast. Their presence attracted tourists, who quickly became a primary source of income for the proud, but largely poor populace.
Santa Fe is renowned for its arts, vibrant tricultural (Native American, Hispanic, and Anglo) heritage, and adobe architecture. The Pueblo people built their homes using a ""puddled-mud"" method (liquid mud poured between upright wooden frames), which melded well with the adobe brick construction introduced to the Spanish by the Moors. The Hispanic culture, still deeply rooted in its ancient ties to Spain and Catholicism, remains a strong influence on the easier pace of this city. Cosmopolitan visitors from around the world are consistently surprised by the city's rich and varied cultural offerings despite its relatively small size. Often referred to as the ""City Different,"" Santa Fe became the first American city to be designated a UNESCO Creative City, acknowledging its place in the global community as a leader in art, crafts, design, and lifestyle."
"To help you plan your visit to Santa Fe, also known as the City Different, here are a few basic facts about our city.
With a population of 70,000 primarily Hispanic, Anglo and Native American people, Santa Fe, which means Holy Faith in Spanish, is New Mexico's fourth largest city behind Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Rio Rancho. Situated at 7,000 feet in the foothills of the southern Rocky Mountains, it was founded between 1607 and 1610, making it the second oldest city as well as the highest and oldest capital in the U.S. In 1912, it officially achieved statehood and today its unique offerings of art, culture and ancient traditions make it a world-class tourist destination, drawing more than 1 million visitors each year. In 2005, Santa Fe became the first U.S. city to be chosen by UNESCO as a Creative City, one of only nine cities in the world to hold this designation.
Santa Fe has long been a center for arts and culture. Due to sales, it now ranks as the country's third largest art market with nearly 300 galleries and dealers. There also are more than a dozen major museums showcasing an array of art, culture, history and traditions, as well the world-class Santa Fe Opera, In recent years, the city has also earned a reputation with food-lovers. Whether you're hankering for basic New Mexican food, creative Southwestern cuisine, or authentic Italian, French, Asian and other world cuisines, the city offers more than 200 choices. Accommodations are equally diverse. You can choose from an array of resorts, motels, bed and breakfasts, inns, vacation rentals and other lodgings, including campgrounds and RV parks.
Four seasons define the weather here. Santa Fe averages 300 sunny days per year, with 14 inches of rain and 17 inches of snow annually. The hottest days arrive in June, when temperatures soar into the high 90s. Because of the altitude, temperatures can change by 30 degrees in a single day, and sometimes all four seasons seem to pass through in a 24-hour time period. Expect sudden rain showers and cool evenings in summer and snow from November through April.
Ski Santa Fe opens from Thanksgiving through Easter, and you can hike and bike year-round. You can also enjoy river rafting, horseback riding, hot air ballooning, fly-fishing, ice-skating and swimming or work out in Pilates and yoga classes and fitness gyms around the city. When you're ready to relax and rejuvenate, choose from an array of spa services, including massage, facials, hot tubs and herbal wraps, offered around the city.Expect sudden rain showers and cool evenings in summer and snow from November through April."