Beautiful Landscape - Allan Houser Gallery, Santa Fe, American West

Allan Houser Gallery

Allan Houser was a very important Native artist, and there is a gallery featuring his work in downtown Santa Fe. If you have time, it’s worth making an appointment at the Compound (sculpture gardens, studio house archives and gallery), about a half-hour drive south of town.” Spend a few hours exploring the ten acres of trails that snake across the property, which is still owned by Houser’s family, and view eighty-five of Houser’s large-scale outdoor sculptures. Visitors must take a guided tour and appointments must be made at least two days in advance.

Aerial View - Bandelier National Monument,Santa Fe, American West

Bandelier National Monument

This 33,000-acre park contains more than seventy miles of hiking trails, from short walks along well-groomed paths (including the 1.2-mile Main Loop Trail, which snakes through archeological excavations) to hours-long, challenging excursions into the backcountry. One of the main attractions is Frijoles Canyon, where visitors can see stunning ruins of Anasazi cliff houses (cavates) that were first reported and studied by Swiss-born geologist Adolph Bandelier in 1880, as well as Pueblo dwellings on the canyon floor. Active visitors can climb ladders to a ceremonial cave 140 feet up the cliffs. Because of its easy access and noteworthy sites, Frijoles is quite touristy, but if you hike deeper into Bandelier, chances are you’ll soon be all alone in this beautiful New Mexico landmark. Bandelier is a one-hour drive from Santa Fe; be sure to bring a picnic, water and sunscreen, as there are few options along the way.

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Interior View - Georgia O’Keeffe Ghost Ranch & Abiquiu Studio Tour,Santa Fe, American West

Georgia O'Keeffe Ghost Ranch & Abiquiu Studio Tour

Art aficionados should not miss a visit to Georgia O’Keeffe country, i.e., the red-rock landscapes around Abiquiu that the artist first visited in 1929. O’Keefe lived here permanently from 1949 until failing health forced a move to Santa Fe, where she died in 1989. Ghost Ranch is the 21,000-acre compound (65 miles northwest of Santa Fe) where O’Keeffe spent summers beginning in 1934. Visitors today can sign up for the guided Landscape Tour, which explores the scenery that inspired many of the artist’s best-known works. While Ghost Ranch is a beautiful place to visit, it does draw many large groups, so more passionate art lovers should reserve a spot on a tour of O’Keeffe’s Abiquiu Studio ( More intimate (limited to twelve people) and scholarly (some tours are led by former O’Keeffe collaborators), the studio visit offers a comprehensive picture of O’Keeffe’s life and oeuvre. Be sure to reserve well in advance: when these tours sell out, not even the most plugged-in concierge can get you access.

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Lobby at Georgia O’Keeffe Museum,Santa Fe, American West

Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

This exquisite museum, opened in 1997, is a small but powerful testament to the legacy of one of the United States’ most pioneering artists. A selection of the 3,000 works owned by the museum is shown within a handful of small rooms, hung on simple beige walls with choice quotations from O’Keeffe, which create a narrative alongside the paintings, drawings and sculptures. A luminous abstract like Evening Star, No. VI, which she painted in 1917, only grows in scope and depth next to the artist’s musing that “the meaning of a word – to me – is not as exact as the meaning of color.” There are changing exhibitions, but the permanent collection is the real draw here. Don’t miss the short film about O’Keeffe’s connection to and love for New Mexico.

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Aerial View - Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks,Santa Fe, American West

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks

This national monument, forty miles southwest of Santa Fe, looks like the backdrop for a movie that’s set on a distant planet: giant cone- and mushroom-shaped rock formations soar into the sky (the region owes its unique geology to thick layers of rock and ash deposited by a volcanic eruption millions of years ago). There are two trails to choose from: the easy 1.2-mile-long Cave Loop Trail and the more challenging Canyon Trail, which takes visitors deep into the narrow canyon formed by the rocks, whose height varies from a few feet to more than ninety; it ends with a steep climb to the top of the mesa, where you are rewarded with spectacular views across the Rio Grande Valley.

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Loretto Chapel

This Gothic Revival chapel, completed in 1878 and two blocks south of the Plaza, has become extremely commercial (its website has an entire section devoted to wedding packages, which are, incidentally, not inexpensive), but it’s worth a short stop to see the famous spiral staircase, a beautiful smooth structure with two 360-degree turns and no visible means of support.

Exterior View - Museum of Contemporary Native Arts,Santa Fe, American West

Museum of Contemporary Native Arts

This museum is part of the Institute of American Indian Arts, a college that offers degrees in museum studies, media arts and indigenous studies.
Exterior View - Museum of International Folk Art,Santa Fe, American West

Museum of International Folk Art

This trove of all things handcrafted is entered through a main exhibition hall, presenting some 10,000 objects from more than one hundred countries – the world’s largest collection of international folk art. It’s a wonderful museum to explore with kids, thanks to massive installations that include tiny figurines depicting everyday scenes in villages around the globe, as well as displays of toys, puppets and games. It’s impossible to sum up the variety of pieces on display; suffice it to say that you should plan to spend a few hours exploring (and try to time your visit so you can join one of the daily docent-led tours). If it’s open, don’t miss the basement, called Lloyd’s Treasure Chest, where you can observe cataloguers and preservationists at work behind a large glass window, as well as open drawers full of items (combs, jewelry, straw appliqués, 19th-century tin) that didn’t make it into the upstairs exhibitions. The MoIFA also regularly hosts changing exhibitions.

Exterior View - Photo by Monica Meehan.,Santa Fe, American West

New Mexico History Museum

On the historic plaza and adjacent to the Palace of the Governors, this museum gives a high-tech, in-depth overview of the state’s long and complex history. Plan to spend some time here: the main exhibition, “Telling New Mexico–Stories From Then and Now,” is divided into six sections that cover the pre-colonial era to the present. There are lots of fascinating multimedia pieces, as well as displays of period paraphernalia (dresses, wagons, weapons), so the museum is just as entertaining for kids.

Aerial View - Puye Cliffs ,Santa Fe, American West

Puye Cliffs

Puye Cliffs offers a fascinating glimpse into the history of the native Pueblo people, who lived, farmed and hunted in this area as early as the 1100s. Located a thirty-minute drive north of Santa Fe, Puye Cliffs consists of two levels of cliff dwellings, ancestral Pueblo habitations, including niches and caves high in the canyons. Visitors must take a guided tour to access the property; some find the $35 per-person fee a bit steep, considering that you can see similar cliff dwellings for free at Bandelier National Monument. But that money goes toward the upkeep of this archeological treasure, and the guided visits are led by members of the Santa Clara Pueblo, who bring the history of this special place to life and can answer questions about contemporary life in Native American communities. Be aware that the two-hour tour requires some steep hiking, so participants should be in relatively good shape. (Less strenuous tours are also available.)

Railyard District

When visiting the Railyard District, don’t miss these galleries on Paseo de Peralta: SITE (No. 1606; 505-989-1199;, the gallery that launched them all; Tai (No. 1601B; 505-984-1387;, a smaller space dedicated to Japanese bamboo art and traditional Asian textiles; James Kelly contemporary gallery (No. 1611; 505-989-1601;, which has exhibited such blue chip artists as Bruce Nauman; and LewAllen (No. 1613; 505-988-3250;, a soaring, light-filled contemporary gallery.

Exterior View - Santa Fe Opera,Santa Fe, American West

Santa Fe Opera

The Santa Fe Opera was founded by the late conductor John Crosby in 1957, and its annual season is today considered one of the country’s most exciting musical events. Up-and-coming singers hone their skills here before big-city debuts, and the productions tend to be more daring than in some of the United States’ more established opera houses. The original open-air theater, perched on a hillside north of town, was replaced by an ultra-mod version complete with a roof that covers the seats and stage (gone are the days when opera fans attended performances while wearing ski underwear underneath their party gowns to ward off the nighttime desert chill). But the congenial ambience remains the same, especially on opening night, when the Santa Fe Opera is the scene of a high-end tailgate party, including chef-catered meals served with fine china, crystal and candelabras. Opera season runs from the end of June to late August; be sure to reserve hotels and restaurants far in advance if you plan on visiting during this time.

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Exterior \View - Santuario de Chimayó,Santa Fe, American West

Santuario de Chimayó

En route to Taos (or Bandelier National Monument), visitors interested in religious history should make the short, scenic detour to the Santuario de Chimayó. A 30-minute drive north of Santa Fe, this Roman Catholic church, completed in 1816, draws thousands of pilgrims every year (it’s been called the Lourdes of America), thanks to the presence of so-called “blessed earth” (tierra bendita) that is believed to hold healing powers. The small adobe structure houses beautiful artifacts, including a carved and painted altar, and sits in an enviable location, surrounded by the sloping Chimayó landscape. A small food stall, Leona’s, sells delicious homemade tacos and burritos.

Art Antiqes at Shidoni Foundry & Galleries,Santa Fe, American West

Shidoni Foundry & Galleries

This sculpture garden, a scenic, ten-minute drive north of Santa Fe, is worth a visit on Saturday afternoon, when the foundry is open to the public and guests can watch bronze heated to 2,000 degrees being poured into molds. Before or after a visit, stop by the Tesuque Village Market for a snack or a picnic.

Exterior View - Ten Thousand Waves,Santa Fe, American West - Courtesy Deborah Fleig

Ten Thousand Waves

Japanese-style spa in the hills outside town
Aerial View - Turquoise Trail ,Santa Fe, American West

Turquoise Trail

Take a drive down Highway 14 between Santa Fe and Albuquerque, and discover ghost towns that have remained untouched for decades. Cerrillos is home to the quirky and fascinating Turquoise Mining Museum within the Casa Grande Trading Post (17 Waldo St.; 505-438-3008;

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Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian

New Mexico’s oldest private nonprofit museum was founded in 1937 by intrepid, Boston-born Mary Cabot Wheelwright, who had a lifelong interest in religion and Native American culture. In 1921 she was introduced to a Navajo singer and medicine man named Hastiin Klah, and together they set out to create a public space with collections focusing on the Navajo, the Rio Grande Pueblos and other native peoples of New Mexico. Today, the Wheelwright is housed in an octagonal building whose layout was inspired by the hogan (hooghan in Navajo), the traditional Navajo home. The often-changing exhibitions are small but excellent. The Case Trading Post is located in the basement, and sells some of the finest silver jewelry in Santa Fe.

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