Santa Fe: A Different Trip to the City Different

America's oldest capital, Santa Fe inadvertently offers an unique opportunity to celebrate motherhood this May. There is something subtly maternal about the city, which has, without a flinch, fostered disparate peoples and upheld their customs throughout the centuries. From Native-American influences to Spanish Colonial vestiges, Santa Fe's propensity to nurture vibrant cultures has lured travelers and visitors for over 400 years.

Today, the stream of tourists shows no signs of abating. Dubbed The City Different, New Mexico's capital embodies Travel & Leisure's top Cultural Getaway, blending native traditions with modern arts and eclectic cuisine. Boasting a whopping 300 days of sunshine a year as well as a tight grid of galleries and museums – Santa Fe has the country's third largest state museum system – the city is a world of its own, exhilarating and idyllic at the same time.

A trip to Santa Fe is well worth the time and, for sure, presents a raft of opportunities to entertain any preferences. Yet, even a stroll through the capital warrants some preparation. The city lies 7,000 feet above sea level, an altitude filled with rarified air that may take up to two days to adjust to. A mountain destination by all rights, Santa Fe's climate is dry and prompt to extremes. With temperatures rising but still avoiding the over 90-degree peaks, Spring is often a propitious time to visit. Bring a lot if sunscreen and, perhaps, your winter puffa, though.

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The Luggage to Make a Difference

Simple and stylish in design, the SWISSGEAR 7366 Expandable Hardside Spinner collection boasts enough space to accommodate garments that belong to disparate seasonal wardrobes. It splits in two packing compartments, one secured with tie-down straps, the other with a large zippered packing pocket. If these are not enough, the case expands to add some more room for your necessities. The multi-directional spinner wheels and the telescopic locking push/pull handle provide exceptional mobility, while its modern body lends a sense of travel chicness, whether you are lugging the piece on the carpeted floors of airports or on the busy streets of Santa Fe.

Santa Fe Rocks

A Walk Through History

Founded in the turn of the 17th century, Santa Fe is the country's third oldest town, whose Hispanic and Native roots flourish strong to this day. Settled as La Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francisco de Asis (the Royal City of the Holy Faith of St. Francis), the city's downtown offers a walk back in time. The throbbing heart and colorful soul of Santa Fe is, no question, The Plaza. A favorite spot for locals, the square, listed in the National Register of Historic Places, features a prominent monument to the city's past, checkered by Spanish-Mexican-Native skirmishes for control.

Nearby is the must-visit Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, whose imposing Romanesque Revival style offers a dramatic contrast to the surrounding adobe buildings. A testament to Santa Fe's unwavering faith, the Basilica has taken a life on its own, which often makes a cameo on the canvases of various local artists. So does the Palace of the Governors, which served as the seat of government in the founding eon of Santa Fe and New Mexico but today houses the state's history museum. Designated a Registered National Historic Landmark and an American Treasure, the adobe structure is the US oldest, still extant public building erected by European settlers.

When it comes to museums, though, there are two other institutions that warrant a stop. The Museum of Indian Arts & Culture is one. An thrilling well of Native art and daily artefacts, it chronicles the history of Southwest tribes from pre-historic ages until today. The current exhibitions, which are to stretch into late summer, explore the aesthetics of a prominent jewelry-maker, showcase the evolution of footwear and pottery, document indigenous songs and display a well of projectile points, one of the most iconic architectural finds of the Southwest.

The Museum of International Folk Art is the other. A rapid confluence of artistic sensitivities from around the globe, it flaunts over 130,000 objects from more than 100 countries in its long-term collection – the largest display of folk art in the world.

Exploring the city with a versatile backpack, like the SWISSGEAR 3576 Artz Laptop backpack, will unquestionably come in handy. Its vintage silhouette, evoking the look of a doctor's bag, reveals an interior that can hold a day's worth of essentials in addition to a 13" laptop. The ingenious, unhinged opening at the top secures easy access to what is inside, while two sets of straps allow for two modes of carry – as a backpack or a tote bag. Elegant, modern and comfortable, the 3576 Artz pack is for sure to stand out in a city, famed for its unique architecture and love of arts.

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Santa Fe

Art Escapade

Venture down Canyon Road, Santa Fe's historic arts district. Lined up with over 100 galleries, the half-mile stretch in the heart of the city comprises the world's densest concentration of art galleries, according to Four Seasons. The shops here exhibit an eclectic blend of artistic sensitivities – from Pueblo pottery to digital renditions.

For those seeking a distinct art experience, the Meow Wolf's House of Eternal Return cracks a door into fantastic dimensions. Set on the premise of effacing time and space in a mysterious Victorian house, the attraction depends on modern-day interactivity to help visitors forge their own path through some 20,000 square feet, which often involves climbing or crawling through the innovative exhibit.


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Into the Wild

As enticing as Santa Fe might be, a day outside urbanity reveals a whole new layer to the region. Only minutes away from the city await waterfalls, woodlands and rock formations, beaded with petroglyphs and indigenous ruins. There are several multi-use hiking trails snaking out of the city and into a diverse terrain – from desert sands to pine forests – that provide a bit of a work out for beginners and a thrill for seasoned landscape explorers. Relatively easy to conquer are the pathways at the Randall Davey Audubon Center that swirl around 135 acres near the National Forest and Santa Fe River Watershed. The area is home to over 190 species of birds.

Those not opposed to a car ride into the wilderness – and back in time – will find themselves at the famed Pueblo dwellings in a matter of minutes. North of Santa Fe sprawl the Puye Cliff Dwellings, which are privately owned by one of the local Pueblos. To the north-west is Bandelier National Monument, which comprises a large native complex, beaded with excavated sites, as well as several canyons and mesas.

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A Sample of Santa Fe's Famed Cuisine

The exploration of Santa Fe and its surroundings is not complete without hearty samples of the region's famed cuisine. It is hard to select the best eatery in a city of 400 restaurants. With many offering their own creations of Santa Fe's staples – from the three sisters (corn, beans and squash) to chile peppers, the culinary scene has blossomed into a gastronomic feast at almost every corner. Centuries-old indigenous, Spanish, Mexican and English influences have left a delectable mark on the cookery here. Some of the best food is to be found at The Pantry, which prides itself on its chilly and relaxed, homey ambiance. Sazon boasts a similar Latin-American menu, but in a posh, Mexican-themed space, where signature cocktails spill.

No matter the dinner venue, at least one night in Santa Fe ought to conclude at the Santa Fe Opera, whose line-up of star performances commands national attention. As the New York Times put it, writing about the famed opera, "Nature's power meets star power in Santa Fe."

It is a truly magical city, where refined entertainment meets a rugged landscape, where contemporary art flourishes together with ancient customs, where cultures fuse after centuries of clashing. In any other place, what makes Santa Fe different could be surreal. Not here, though.