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Fall for Santa Fe

A beautiful fusion of Native American and Spanish cultures, Santa Fe comes alive in the fall season.

The first time Bill Walters heard about Santa Fe, New Mexico, was in the Broadway musical, “Rent.” “The characters were singing about how awful their lives in New York were and how they would love to shift to Santa Fe to build a restaurant,” he laughs. “Later, as a student at MIT, I visited Santa Fe for a conference and immediately fell in love with its beauty. Santa Fe, during the fall season, is beautiful.”

Zukkim Zong, who visited Santa Fe as a student of Texas Tech University in Lubbock, agrees. “It is a simple car ride of a few hours and most students would plan weekend trips [to the city],” she says. “The best time to visit Santa Fe is between September and November. The weather then is just perfect,” hovering between 15 and 20 degrees Celsius. 

Santa Fe is, in fact, a perfect weekend getaway. It is the oldest capital city in the United States and the oldest city in New Mexico. The city grew out of Native American pueblo settlements and the adobe houses give it a unique character. Its famed downtown is testimony to its varied history.

The autumn, or fall, season in Santa Fe is a time of celebration and many events ensure that the calendars are full. It is the time for Fiestas de Santa Fe, the city’s biggest and one of North America’s oldest civic celebrations of its kind. It is over 300 years old and features parades and musical performances in different venues.

The Santa Fe Renaissance Fair is another popular community event, whose proceeds go toward helping the educational programs of El Rancho de Las Golondrinas, a Spanish outdoor living history museum. It is a very colorful celebration, with dancing and other performances.
Autumn is also the time for the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. Albuquerque is about 100 kilometers away and most visitors stay at Santa Fe. “Hot air balloons dot the sky and it’s beautiful to watch,” says Zong. The nine-day festival features balloon races and night flights.
Santa Fe is also renowned for Native American jewelry and art. “The artifacts and costume jewelry sold by Native American women micro entrepreneurs in the downtown area are collectibles,” says Priyanka Jayashankar, adjunct assistant professor of management at Iowa State University. In addition, the Santa Fe Indian Market, held in August every year, and farmers markets, held from April through December, are good places to buy fine art and crafts.

Santa Fe has a museum dedicated to artist Georgia O’Keeffe. It features a collection of over 3,000 works and also showcases combined exhibitions of her work with works by her American Modernist contemporaries.

The city is a haven for foodies. “Indian vegetarians who love spicy food, like me, will love the cuisine,” says Jayashankar. Mónica Ortiz Uribe, senior field correspondent with news website Fronteras Desk, agrees. “My favorite is the Clafoutis French Bakery & Restaurant,” she says. A must-try restaurant is Maria’s New Mexico Kitchen, a Santa Fe landmark that has been serving authentic New Mexican dishes since 1952. For wine aficionados, the Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta, held in September at the Santa Fe Opera, is an opportunity to enjoy internationally renowned wines and dishes from 75 of Santa Fe’s most popular restaurants and 90 national wineries. “For coffee lovers, there is the Ohari coffee,” says Jayashankar.

Santa Fe is a delight to visit all year round, but fall seems to be the favorite with most visitors. “In the fall, you can visit the Santa Fe National Forest,” says Ortiz. “It’s a huge protected national forest in northern New Mexico. In the fall, the aspen trees turning color is a delight.” Ana Lourdes, an avid trekker, recommends the trails in and around Santa Fe. “They are magnificent and very safe,” she says. “I did it all by myself the first time round and had such a great time that later, I came back with a friend.”

Visiting Santa Fe doesn’t require elaborate planning. It is easily accessible by car and has an airport. Zong suggests that if you are planning to visit the balloon festival or the Santa Fe fiesta, get to the venue early, “else, finding parking can be a bit of a nightmare.”


Paromita Pain is a journalist based in Austin, Texas.