Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Santa Fe: Speed Round Edition

image via
When I started planning our big road trip, one of the first destinations I added to my list was Santa Fe. I've never been before and have always wanted to visit. Everyone raves about the amazing restaurants and art galleries, and of course the phenomenal scenery – perfect for lazy picnic lunches or sipping wine at sunset… And now I’m actually going! And doing none of that stuff since I’ll be there with my kids.

There is no way I can expect them to spend a day strolling through galleries. And I think it’s safe to assume that by sunset, I’ll want nothing more than to get them settled in for the night so I can relax with my feet up.

So my research for this stop has been a bit challenging. The goal was to find activities that we can all enjoy AND at least give me a taste of what might have been a million years ago when I could travel the world with one small carry on. I’M KIDDING! Like I ever went anywhere with just one small carry on.

Then there's the other limitation of time. I could only allow for 1.5 days of sightseeing. So speed round it is!

Since we should arrive mid-day, I thought that afternoon would be ideal for checking out the downtown area. There are plenty of walking tour suggestions online, and from those, I cobbled together our own abbreviated itinerary. 

Attention spans won't be optimal after hours in the car, so any walking tour I plan will have to involve more “walking” than “touring.” We'll probably only have time for one museum. And sorry kids - but it’s going to be ladies choice, because there is NO WAY I’m going to miss the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum.

Cottonwood Tree in Spring via the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum website
I think I can get everyone to focus for a solid 30 minutes (or at least sit quietly with electronic devices while I enjoy the art). Luckily for them, I don’t feel the need to read every single plaque and exhibit description when I visit museums. We’ll stick with the art (and maybe some photography). Hours are 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. so we won’t have to rush for any reason other than whiny children. Fingers crossed. Tickets are $12, and while this is unclear on the website, I’ve read that kids can enter for free. I’ll have to call ahead to verify that. Also – you can download an app for self-guided tours

When I think they’ve reached their limit, we’ll move on to the walking. Our next stop will be the Santa Fe Plaza. From there, we can see the Palace of the Governors. When it was built in 1610, this was the seat of government in northern New Spain (yes, I'm quoting from reference material - my brain doesn't retain information like "1610" or "northern New Spain"). In 1909 it became New Mexico's first museum and is now part of the New Mexico History Museum campus. Under its "portal" (front porch), there is a daily market hosted by the Native American Artisans Program.

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The artists featured come from all 19 pueblos (Apache and Navajo tribes are also represented) and are required to meet standards of authenticity in their work (i.e. no Made in China tourist trap crap). Prices are set and bargaining is discouraged, which is fantastic for me because I find haggling about as fun as weeding our yard. This would be a good opportunity to see authentic Southwest style arts and crafts and possibly pick up a souvenir or two. 

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If we do decide to drop by the museum, it’s $9 for adults and free for kids (open 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. and free 5:00-8:00 p.m. on Fridays).  Across the plaza, there are lots of shops and restaurants - where you would probably find me all afternoon if I didn’t have this handy dandy plan. Depending on when we last ate something, we may grab a quick meal from one of the food trucks or street vendors offering on-the-go options.

From there, we'll walk down to Canyon Road which boasts the city's highest concentration of art galleries (and on the way, we'll wave hello to another popular tourist site: Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis). Not that I think we'll spend much time IN the galleries on Canyon Road...but we could possibly duck into a couple, AND the neighborhood features some outdoor collections from various artists.  

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When we reach the end of Canyon Road, we may be getting tired. I KNOW. Like there is a chance in hell that I won't have three miserable human beings on my hands by now... Luckily, the Santa Fe Pickup Shuttle has a free service that could take us back to the Cathedral. Not all the way back to the Plaza - but it would offer a little break from walking. 

BONUS DAY 1 RESEARCH MATERIAL: If I'm wrong and we are still full of energy, we could swing by the "oldest church in the US", San Miguel Chapel and the "oldest house" (which rests on part of the foundation of an ancient Indian pueblo dating from around the year 1200). Those quotation marks denote that the label, "oldest" is just "claimed." But I believe it 100% because cynicism isn't nearly as much fun as seeing the OLDEST CHURCH and the OLDEST HOUSE in the United States. 

We could also make a quick stop at Loretto Chapel, home of the miracle staircase. 

image via Wikipedia
The story is that in 1878 when the church was built, they needed stairs to access the choir loft but realized that there wasn't enough room for "regular" diagonal stairs. Carpenters that were consulted said the only solution was a ladder. But the nuns were all, "nope," and made a novena to St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters. On the final day of prayer, a mystery man with a toolbox appeared and started constructing a spiral staircase that makes two complete 360-degree turns and has no center support. Architects everywhere are still scratching their heads over how this is possible. But the mystery doesn't end there. The carpenter who built the staircase disappeared before anyone could thank or pay him. Will my kids be interested in this story after an afternoon of walking? Yeah - there's no way I'm seeing that staircase.

On the following full day in Santa Fe, we're going to be just as busy. Top priority is to visit one of the famous Southwest Pueblos. While my first choice would be Taos, that would involve hours of driving. Also - we would require at least a day to really experience it. AND I want to take the kids to El Rancho de las Golondrinas, a living history museum in Santa Fe.

Back to pueblos...that will be our morning activity. We'll drive 40 minutes north to see the Puye Cliffs in Santa Clara. 

image via Puye Cliff Dwellings
We have to do a guided tour since information on the website seems to primarily reference tour details. I'll look into that, but if we do have to enter with a guide, this will be a splurge for us. Both the Cliff Side and Mesa Top tours are $20 for adults and $18 for kids. For $15 more per person, we could do a tour of both. I'm hoping we can just walk around on our own with a brochure. Hours are 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.

After that, we'll jump back in the car to drive to El Rancho de las Golondrinas.

image via El Rancho de las Golondrinas
I don't want to waste time in restaurants, so lunch will be packed and waiting for us to eat in the car. This final destination definitely offers a self guided option, so we'll just have to pay the entrance fee of $6 for adults (no charge kids under 12). Hours are 9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. Quick history on the "rancho": Its name means The Ranch of the Swallows and original buildings date from the 1700s. The museum was established in 1972 (the year I was born - twinsies!) As a living museum, the ranch's mission is to "inspire learning and preserve the legacy of the land through encounters with the traditions and culture of New Mexico's Hispano past."

As I'm reading this over, I'm definitely thinking that it all sounds rather ambitious... But when it comes to unrealistic expectations for travel with children, "Hubris" is my middle name!

Next up: San Diego as a non-tourist.

Most of my research came from the websites listed under each image.


  1. Sounds great! I wish I could get my act together enough to travel with the kids out West!

  2. Kate... did you know that Betty Martin lives there and either Claire or Sophie also lives in the area. We stayed with her in the year 2000(?). So... who knows. At the time she was head of public relations for the symphony or museum.