SANTA FE, N.M. — It’s no wonder that Francis of Assisi is the patron saint of Santa Fe. He is the epitome of hippie-dom from centuries past, gentle and zen-like, and this spirit lives in Santa Fe still to this day. It is a city of art, music, dance and a variety of cultural significance from days gone by.‚  The air is clean, you are surrounded by mountains-meet-desert, and the outdoor activities are as numerous as the grains of sand. Santa Fe truly is a wonderland for any type of traveler- be it recreational, the art-seeker, or those searching for a bit of spiritual sanctity.

Variety is the name of the game in Santa Fe. For example, not only does it boast a proficient gallery scene, you don’t find just the typical Native American arts. There is a span from modern-contemporary paintings and sculpture, photography by the greats, the standards of southwestern art such as Georgia O’Keefe and an interesting sub-genre, the contemporary Native American influenced art. This art is a blend of cave paintings’ old-world lines and grace but with a surprising avant-garde twist. This “new” art is startling and familiar in the same breath, and is the love-child of Santa Fe.

Beginning Labor Day, 2009, Santa Fe will embark on a 16-month long 400 year anniversary festival. ‚ It is to be a celebration of many flavors, offering concerts, farmer’s and artist’s markets, an outdoor cinema series, opera and lectures on the arts. Most of these things are regular occurrences in Santa Fe, and if you know where to look, every day seems like a Fiesta.

Canyon Road, presently a “gallery-mile”, with over 100 galleries, restaurants and artist studios, once existed as an‚  ancient route of Native Americans between pueblos, as well as served under the foot traffic of Spanish, Confederate and Mexican soldiers and Native American warrior alike. It is a fitting‚  journey the art-seeker experiences spending an evening on Canyon Road. Fridays are the ideal time to visit, because many of the galleries have receptions, wine tastings and artist appearances.‚  A handful of the buildings still used actually pre-date the inception of New Mexico as a state in the United States of America, in 1912, some possibly by a century or more.

Santa Fe has the charm and blending of the ages that you find in many smaller European enclaves. However, the city has sophistication, enough so that the New York City art scene has made a second home in the city. Many of the galleries in the Plaza and Canyon Road are the love”"children of NYC galleries, or galleries that are now run by transplanted New Yorkers who migrated to Santa Fe in search of its generous serenity. When visiting with these reformed city-dwellers, I found a common emotion was a respect for the art buyer they see in their spaces. They seemed to sense that the viewer in Santa Fe is enabled to view the art in an environment conducive to adoration. It is how Santa Fe affects that sixth sense that is unique.

One of the best ways to experience art while in Santa Fe is to take a short trip to the origins of American art and life. The city is surrounded by the ultimate in American culture. Ruins of once populous Indian pueblo cities are numerous, and petroglyphs and ancient cave dwellings are all a short drive out. Los Alamos, for the history buffs, is also nearby.

With influence from the ancestors of the area, an outdoor life is lived to the fullest by those in Santa Fe. Hiking, camping, skiing and snowboarding are all thrilling ways to live immersed in this philosophy, and the city boasts a central location to any outdoorsman’s desire. The weather is quite temperate, a bit more severe in the winter, which attributes to a healthy combination between summer sports and winter sports. Balance is an inherent quality of this land and in turn offers a destination to satisfy any action-packed palette. After spending the days in the sun, cool off at one of the many cute-but-sexy eateries. Cowgirl’s, just south of the Plaza, offers the fare of the old west and walls covered in historical photos of true Cowgirls. It is cozy, homey and often has a bit of live music, with more of a bar atmosphere post-dinner hours. Another hot spot is El Farol in the Canyon Road district, a South American inspired tapas bar, which often receives rave reviews of its tapas and its live music and dancing.

If you’re feeling a bit lazy, and let’s admit it – after walking the Canyon Road mile, eating the mouth-filling flavorful food, and spending a few days camping, you will be – a day stroll around the Plaza, shopping and seeing the Museums is just the thing you are going to need. The Plaza is a mish-mash of boutique, art galleries, shops, museums and eclectic vendors. The local Native American craftsmen often gather outside of the Palace of the Governors to sell their handmade jewelry and wares as they have for hundreds of years. At the center of the Plaza is a wonderful garden to cool off and reflect on the energies that allow this oasis in the desert to thrive and invigorate.

Santa Fe is a surprising, energizing place. When you visit, you are imbibed with the healing energy of this grotto in the Land of Enchantment. In each step walked on ground that has served our land and its peoples for centuries, you march towards a bigger sense of the world around you, both in aesthetics and organics. ‚ Santa Fe is a retreat that broadens your horizons, and deepens the connection between yourself and the world around you.

About The Author

Carly Erin O'Neil is a Blast staff writer, and photographer hailing from the NYC-DC Corridor, but she's a gypsy at heart.

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