Jack Parsons
Snowy Sangre de Cristo Mountains near Santa Fe
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updated 10/30/2006 1:48:12 PM ET 2006-10-30T18:48:12

The “City Different” may be the nickname the tourist board promotes, but for people who live in this worldly city of otherworldly beauty, “Fanta Se” is the correct term. Looked at cynically, the name refers to the “Fantasy Island” aspects of the place: the too-cute boutiques, the soaring prices, the hordes of tourists jamming the winding streets of the Old City come summer. On the flip side, though,  “fantasy” is a compliment highlighting Santa Fe’s commitment to the “aesthetic” aspects of life:  its world-class art galleries, its superb museums, its famed summer performing arts festivals (which run the gamut from chamber music to opera to flamenco dance), its renowned restaurants, and the eye-candy desert scenery that surrounds it all. So few other American cities take the cultural and artistic aspects of life as seriously, and in comparison, Santa Fe seems like a fantasy world. Decide whether you think the Fanta Se approach is the right one, on the following one-day itinerary.

8 a.m. - 9 a.m.: In Santa Fe, lunch may be a burrito, and dinner may well be a burrito. And for breakfast? A breakfast burrito, of course, for which those in the know—legions of civil servants, other locals and a smattering of tourists — hit Tia Sophia . If you think of breakfast as a gentle nudge into the day ahead, go elsewhere. Here the morning is greeted with a massive, fiery burrito (on the menu there’s a warning “Not responsible for too much chile”) that will wake up your taste buds like a firecracker. More delicate palates can choose American-style pancakes or eggs, but you’re missing out if you don’t try the local specialty.

9 a.m. - Noon: Wander the Plaza, ancient corazon of the city. You can do this on your own, or pick up a $10 walking tour at either the Hotel Loretto (211 Old Santa Fe Trail) or at 107 Washington Street. Both start promptly at 9:30 am and offer an in-depth and entertaining introduction to the area. If you decide to foot it by yourself, start with the Palace of the Governors . After browsing among the Native American crafts being sold under the portal, do go inside the 1610 mansion (it was the first capital of New Mexico) for its spiffy museum on New Mexican history and a very fine collection of Pre-Columbian art. From there, you could duck into the Museum of Fine Arts toview Ansel Adams’ and Georgia O’Keeffe’s takes on the Southwest; or go directly to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum , the only museum in the U.S. devoted to a female artist. You’ll obviously want to gallery hop a bit, but don’t miss St. Francis Cathedral or the exquisite Loretto Chapel , patterned after Sainte Chappelle in Paris(step inside to view the circular staircase, a marvel of engineering with an intriguing legend and no visible supports).

Morning Alternative
Head up museum hill where the Camino Lejo is straddled by four world-class institutions. You’ll be hard pressed to choose between them, with just a morning for touring. The Museum of International Folk Art   is the largest museum of its kind in the world and the breadth of its collection is stunning, with treasures from all corners of the globe. A whiz-bang cultural history museum, the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture tells the story of southwestern Native Americans with a mix of interactive exhibits and breathtakingly lovely (and ancient) works of art: silver jewelry, pottery, blankets and more. For more on Native American culture, there’s the older, but still distinguished Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian . Newest of the bunch (it opened in 2002), the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art boasts the largest collection of, you guessed it, Spanish colonial art anywhere (santos, furniture, tinwork, paintings, etc.) 

Noon to 2 p.m.: Head to the Shed to see red. An awful poem, yes, but what a meal you’ll have at this Santa Fe institution, where the signature dishes are smothered in the restaurant’s award-winning red chile sauce. To make this sizzling sauce, the chef oversees the picking of the chiles himself, using the entire, yearly crop from two separate fields in Hatch, N.M. (the so-called Chile Capital of the World). The result is a sauce that’s hot, yes, but also remarkably flavorful. You’ll dine in a handsome adobe house, built in 1692, and filled with cheerful folk art pieces.

2 p.m. - 5 p.m.: Stroll Canyon Road.  The second largest art market in the United States (after New York City), more than 100 galleries are tucked into these gracious adobe homes. You’ll find everything from Native American crafts to traditional Latino folk art pieces to cutting edge contemporary art. Alternate gallery stops with visits to what may be the nation’s oldest house (a poured mud adobe structure possibly erected as early as 1200 by the Pueblo people), the home of archeologist Adolph Bandolier, and El Zaguan, a postcard-perfect Spanish Hacienda house, now home to the Santa Fe Architectural Society.

Afternoon alternative
Hitch a ride on the Santa Fe Southern Railway (and do your best to keep that 40’s swing tune “The Atchinson, Topeka and Santa Fe” from echoing in your brain as you do). In a vintage railcar, you’ll traverse some of the most spectacular high desert scenery in the State to Lamy, a “near” ghostown. (The railroad is really all that’s keeping it alive.) Altogether the round-trip takes 2.5 to 4 hours (the schedule varies, so check to see whether there’s the usual afternoon run, or a morning one with a lunch break, instead). 

6 p.m. - 8 p.m.: If you can get reservations (difficult) make your way to Geronimo, New Mexico’s sole Four Diamond restaurant. It takes its cue from the area less in its choice of ingredients or food preparation techniques—this is the type of ultra-gourmet, fusion food you could really find anywhere—than in the artful look of the food. Each plate is as colorful and intricately composed as any of the paintings you’d see for sale in the galleries that surround the eatery. Mesquite grilled elk is the specialty here, sided by a dazzling chestnut strudel.

8 p.m. or 9 p.m. - 11 p.m.: How you spend your evening will depend on the season. If you’re lucky enough to be here in the summer months, the obvious choice is to attend a performance of the Santa Fe Opera ,considered by many to be the second finest opera company in the nation (after the Metropolitan Opera in NYC). Star studded casts, a chorus several hundred singers strong, and a magnificent, partially open-air setting are the lures here, and performances sell out far in advance for the eight-week summer season (so buy early). The Maria Benitez Teatro Flamenco also performs during the summer months, but has a longer season. The dancing is spectacular, and another not-to-miss option. Those who visit in the winter and spring months have the option of attending a performance at The Lensic Arts Center , which hosts top traveling groups—jazz, rock, ballet, you name it—from across the nation.

Pauline Frommer is the creator of the new Pauline Frommer guides in bookstores now.

Tia Sophia, 210 W. San Francisco St., phone 505/983-9880. Open Mon-Sat 7 a.m. -1:55 p.m.

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Palace of the Governors, located on the North Plaza, phone 505/476-5100; www.palaceofthegovernors.org/. Open Tues-Sun 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Admission is $7 adults, free for children 16 and under, free for all on Fridays.

Museum of Fine Arts107 W. Palace at Lincoln Ave., phone 505/476-5072; www.museumofnewmexico.org. Admission is $7 adults, free for seniors Wed, free for children 16 and under, free for all Fri 5-8 p.m. It’s open Tues-Sun 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. (Fri until 8 p.m.)

Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, 217 Johnson St, phone 505/946-1000; www.okeeffemuseum.org. Admission is $8, free for students, free for all Fri 5-8 p.m. Hours vary by season: July-Oct daily 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. (Fri until 8 p.m.); Nov-June Thurs-Tues 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. (Fri until 8 p.m.)  

Loretto Chapel, 207 Old Santa Fe Trail, between Alameda and Water Sts, phone 505/982-0092; www.lorettochapel.com/. Admission is $2.50 adults, $2 children 7-12 and seniors over 65, free for children 6 and under. Open Mon-Sat 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.; Sun 10:30 a.m. - 5 p.m. 

Museum of International Folk Art,  706 Camino Lejo, phone 505/476-1200; www.moifa.org. Open Tues-Sun 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Admission is $7 adults, free for kids 16 and under.

Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, 710 Camino Lejo, phone 505/476-1250; www.miaclab.org/. Open Tues-Sun 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Admission: $7 adults, free for kids 16 and under.

Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian, 704 Camino Lejo, phone 800/607-4636, 505/982-4636; www.wheelwright.org/. Open Mon-Sat 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.; Sun 1-5 p.m. Free admissions. 

Museum of Spanish Colonial Art, 750 Camino Lejo, phone 505/982-2226; www.spanishcolonial.org. Open Tues-Sun 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Admission costs are $6 adults, free for kids 16 and under.

The Shed, 113 1/2 E. Palace Ave, phone 505/982-9030. Open Mon-Sat 11 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. and 5:30-9 p.m.

Santa Fe Southern Railway, 410 S. Guadalupe St, phone 888/989-8600 or 505/989-8600; www.sfsr.com/. Check the website for price ranges and schedules.

Geronimo, 724 Canyon Rd, phone 505/982-1500. Open Tues-Sun 11:30 a.m. - 2 p.m.; daily 6-9:30 p.m. Reservations required.

Santa Fe Opera, is located 7 miles north of the city, off US 84/285, phone 800/280-4654 or 505/986-5900; www.santafeopera.org/. Tickets range from $20 all the way up to $120

Maria Benitez Teatro Flamenco, Institute for Spanish Arts,phone 505/982-1237; www.mariabenitez.com

The Lensic Arts Center, 211 West San Francisco St., phone 505/988-7050; www.lensic.com

Pauline Frommer is the creator of the new Pauline Frommer guides in bookstores now.

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