Santa Fe Travel Guide

USA  #17 in Best Fall Vacations
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Santa Fe Area Map

Neighborhoods

Santa Fe is small, with narrow streets extending outward from the Plaza, which marks the city center. Several neighborhoods are named after historic exploration trails once used by the Spanish Empire.

Santa Fe is grounded by the Plaza, the city's center of tourist and popular culture. Surrounded by boutiques, galleries and restaurants, the Plaza is the primary hub of Santa Fean life. Just a block or two from the Plaza are popular Santa Fe attractions, including Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, the Palace of the Governors, the New Mexico History Museum and the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum. Live music makes this area popular with both visitors and Santa Feans, and the surrounding streets are often packed with locals, vendors and artists.

Sitting just a few blocks west of the Plaza is the Historic Guadalupe district. The Historic Guadalupe neighborhood borrows its name from Guadalupe Street, an ancient route from Mexico, and was once a sacred site where pilgrims sought a safe voyage from St. Francis, the patron saint of Santa Fe. The Guadalupe district is now a bustling marketplace and a favorite shopping and eating district for Santa Feans. The area is characterized by historic architecture, particularly the Santuario de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, which was built in the late 1700s and is the oldest shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe in the United States. This district is also home to the city's art scene and features numerous galleries, as well as El Museo Cultural de Santa Fe, which showcases Hispanic art, culture and history.

Extending eastward from central Santa Fe toward Santa Fe National Forest is Canyon Road. Although it may appear desolate with many of the buildings hiding within walled compounds, Canyon Road is littered with beautiful bed-and-breakfasts, restaurants and art galleries, many of which are housed in historic haciendas (estates).

Branching off to the southwest of the Plaza is Cerrillos Road, Santa Fe's busiest boulevard. Cerrillos Road is home to the largest number of contemporary hotels, as well as numerous retail outlets and Santa Fe Place, the city's largest indoor shopping center. Because accommodations along Cerrillos Road are both convenient and generally less expensive than the more historic hotels in the city center, visitors should prepare for traffic during the peak tourist seasons.

The Old Pecos Trail extends south from the Plaza and was once used by Spanish and Mexican settlers as a main passage into the city. Although this two-lane road does not offer a concentration of hotels and shops comparable to that of Cerrillos Road, experts say that visitors with a sharp eye will be able to spot several stylish accommodations and boutiques. The Santa Fe Children's Museum  which features exhibits on everything from ecosystems to scientific experiments  is also located on this street.

As you head north of the Plaza, you'll encounter some of Santa Fe's more modern tourist attractions. Northern Santa Fe is also the site of the serene Ten Thousand Waves spa. Meanwhile, the southern outskirts of the city are home to the world-famous outdoor Santa Fe Opera .

When it comes to safety, Santa Fe visitors should be more concerned about the elements and altitude than the crime rate, which is relatively low. The area's elevation and dry climate may pose health risks – particularly altitude sickness – to those who are not used to it. Common symptoms include dizziness, nausea, shortness of breath and fatigue. Drink plenty of water, avoid alcohol, heavy meals and strenuous exercise for at least a day and get plenty of rest. (The majority of people who need to adjust should be able to do so in 12 to 24 hours.)

It's also best to be prepared for all types of driving conditions. Snow is generally not a problem during the winter but drive slowly in case of ice. Dust storms are can occur during the summer and fall. If you're driving during a dust storm and there is some visibility, drive slowly with your headlights on. If visibility is extremely limited, turn your headlights off and pull over until conditions are clear. Flash floods can also be a problem in the summer monsoon season: Signs will be posted on streets that will most likely be affected.

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