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It’s Easy to Imagine You’re in a Foreign Locale in Santa Fe, NM

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It’s Easy to Imagine You’re in a Foreign Locale in Santa Fe, NM

Wanderlusters unite! Have you been yearning for an overseas trip but not had sufficient time or money to go far afield? Are you eager for a sense of exotic newness, yet need to stay within U.S. boundaries? Well, there’s a reason Santa Fe is called the City Different and it’s easy to imagine you’re in a foreign locale when you’re in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Santa Fe is your escape within U.S. boundaries and enchantingly whisks you away into another world. Here are 15 reasons Santa Fe feels like you’ve exported yourself into an unusual, unfamiliar and culturally fresh setting.

You’ll easily get lost on charming winding backstreets.
Santa Fe doesn’t follow a well-organized block system. Like many Spanish-oriented towns, Santa Fe has a central grassy square. From the Plaza, thin roads cascade out like tentacles with no particular organized structure, which means you can meander along charming backroads and easily get lost. On these narrow winding side streets, you’ll find walled off compounds, historic haciendas, artistically decorated private courtyards, and of course lots of Pueblo Revival architectural style. Winding along, you’ll transport yourself into a magical wonderland of low lying, flat-roofed, adobe structures hiding amongst xeriscaped gardens and unpretentious earthen facades. You’ll marvel at the mysteries of the occupants inside and wonder what life would be like residing on a quiet cozy Santa Fe backstreet.

You’ll be enchanted by the uniquely Santa Fe architecture.
No other U.S. city is so dominated by a distinct architectural style they can call their own. Santa Fe’s unique architecture was purposely achieved as New Mexico reached statehood in 1912. In order to boost tourism, a Santa Fe movement of archeologists and artists ushered in a resurgence of Pueblo, Spanish and Territorial styles, thereby creating a historical blending of Santa Fe’s mix of cultural influences. Contoured adobe walls, flat roofs, vigas (wood beams), nichos (arched alter spaces carved into walls), kiva fireplaces, and placitas (courtyards) all became synonymous with Santa Fe and built a trajectory for the City Different trademark.

You’ll feel a sense of timelessness.
Acequias, or ditch irrigation streams, were once vital to agriculture and grazing lands, and their remnants are still felt today as neighborhood boundary lines and communal associations. For more than 300 years, the acequia systems effectively provided water through these arid lands and became the foundation and basis of a thriving city center, that still prospers today. Santa Fe’s Plaza has been the commercial, social and political center of Santa Fe since 1610. Santa Fe is the oldest capital city in North America and its Plaza is ringed by many notable landmarks. Here, you’ll find one of the oldest churches in the United States, the nation’s oldest public building (the Palace of the Governors), and the oldest community celebration (the Santa Fe Fiesta). It’s hard not to feel a sense of timelessness with so many living flourishing remnants of bygone eras.

You’ll be in a city with a village vibe.
That timeless and historic city center has a small-town village vibe. As you walk around the Plaza, you’ll see locals chatting it up on park benches or stopping each other on the street for a quick catch-up. It’s hard to meander far without residents running into someone they know. Their families have lived here for many generations and that ancestral connection creates a strong village mystique.

You’ll often hear foreign tongues.
Whether sitting in the best Vietnamese restaurant in town and hearing Korean ladies at the next table talking to each other, or meeting a group of Norwegians driving Harley Davidsons along Route 66, or locals using Spanish, other languages are everywhere in Santa Fe, making for a truly cosmopolitan feel.

You’ll experience different cultures.
Native American Indians settled these lands long before anyone else. And then, the Spanish started moving Northward from Mexico in the 1500s, establishing Spanish colonial influences and blending those cultural esthetics and norms with the Natives. Until finally the Anglos found their way to the Land of Enchantment in the 1700s, thereby creating a cultural mélange that has existed ever since.

You’ll take in iconic smells that will stick with your memories.
It’s August, which means the start of green chile roasting season! The pungent, almost nostril burning sensation of green chile roasting at a parking lot stand outside a local grocery store is a time-honored tradition and a smell you won’t forget. Roasting green chile will instantly take you back to your days wandering through Santa Fe, as well as the smell of dewy covered sage and piñon in the early morning hours before the sun’s baked the moisture off the plants.

You’ll create new taste memories.
Speaking of smells transporting you back to a travel moment, tastes can too! With Santa Fe, it’ll be those roasted chiles coating all sorts of local cuisine options: things like a green chile burger, a bacon breakfast burrito, or a frito pie will stick in your memory banks. You’ll begin to distinguish New Mexican cuisine from Mexican by the indigenous influences of frybread-style sopapillas, green chile stew, and the tendency to include the three sisters of corn, squash and beans.

You’ll sit on an outside patio with a margarita and feel a world away.
As you explore the Plaza’s outlying blocks, a quaint hidden patio will beckon as well as the chilled salted rim topped lime explosive margaritas everyone has in hand, and before you know it, you’re refreshingly sipping an amazing margarita and relaxing in the sunny dry heat. The adobe walls surrounding you, the temperate high-altitude air, plus the real squeezed lime margarita mix – will all make for an enthralling otherworldly combination.

You’ll go home, eager to drink a margarita or eat New Mexican food, and it will never taste as good (You’ll always be comparing to Santa Fe).
The following weeks upon your return home, in your beguiled memory state, you’ll want to recreate the tastes and experiences and you’ll begin to search out hints of New Mexico in your home place, only to find they just can’t compare. Off you’ll go to the Mexican restaurant where chile does NOT reign supreme or you’ll order margaritas made with dry powered sweet and sour mixer and you’ll know it’s going to be impossible to get quite that same quality mouth-feel, again.

You’ll buy prized possessions you can’t find anywhere else.
Maybe you found the perfect hand-made piece of silver jewelry that you bought from a weathered charming Puebloan lady on the Plaza and her story sticks with you every time you wear it. Or maybe you were able to get the roasted chiles shipped to you and now you’re coveting what’s left in your freezer, gradually, carefully using the prized green nuggets of goodness. Then again, you may have a local artist’s masterpiece hanging in a prominent place in your home and every time you pass it by, you stop to admire the skill as well as the feeling it engenders in you.

You’ll meet quirky friendly locals with a story to tell.
Sitting at a local bar, you’ll soon be mixing with friendly locals and taking in their stories. It could be the guy who’s traveled the world seeking out unusual new age experiences. He explored shaman led ayahuasca induced trances in Peru, tracked down crop circles in England, and searched for alien sightings in Roswell, and he’s now filling your mind with crazy unearthly stories. Quite possibly, it’s a guy who can trace back his New Mexican familial roots to the 1600s and can regale you with stories that have been passed down for generations. Heck, it could be a world-class musician who has traveled with big name artists and uses Santa Fe as his home base as he tours the world playing for massive crowds.

You’ll unwittingly hob nob with the jet set.
As you hear local stories, you’ll also hear of celebrity encounters and quite possibly have your own. As you shop at the International Folk Art Market, someone will seem familiar to you and as you walk away it will hit you that it was Aly McGraw, one of Santa Fe’s many long-term celebrity residents. And with a vibrant film industry established in New Mexico, you never know what famous actor will be currently in town doing a movie shoot.

You’ll have unforgettable iconic moments.
Monsoonal rains typically hit late afternoon into the evening hours and thunderous clouds will bloom over the Eastern mountain range, as the sun sets to the West, thereby creating full to multi rainbow arches across the sky. New Mexicans regularly witness this heavenly glory, and to us locals, it’s an iconic Santa Fe symbol. It’s also easy to do an evening walkabout through the Plaza or the railyard and stumble across world-class music on a bandstand, for free, or hear music wafting through a restaurant’s walls or patio, thus drawing you into the magical vibes and creating a night you’ll never forget.


You’ll have so many regional day trips you’ll want to explore too.
Of course, what’s an enticing visit to an exceptional city without the pull of enchanting regional outings too? Santa Fe is surrounded by glorious outdoor settings, ancient Puebloan heritage sites, and small hip mountainous towns. Whether you go explore ancient Puebloan cliff dwellings and petroglyphs at Bandelier or scramble through water sculpted white sandstone hoodoos at Tent Rocks or meander along small heritage-filled mountainous towns on the High Road to Taos, with so much to explore in town and outside of town, you’ll never have enough time to truly do this area justice.

So, come to Santa Fe where your cares will feel far away, you’ll collect many unforgettable memories, and you’ll feel transferred to a beguiling foreign locale. Santa Fe truly is the City Different and we welcome you to discover all her exotic charms.


Shaza Stevenson has lived in Hong Kong, Slovakia, South Korea, Bali, and Oman and became a struggling re-adjuster when she decided to return to the states after almost six years abroad. Santa Fe, New Mexico is the closest she can find to an overseas vibe in the United States, so she has gladly made it her chosen home within U.S. boundaries. Luckily, she repatriated to New Mexico because she also happens to be Heritage Inspirations’ Creative Marketing Extraordinaire.

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