Santa Fe is the peerless progenitor of the American West. Here is the region's only significent community that has existed throughout the entire recorded history of the American West. For more than four centuries, Santa Fe has been a regional capital for a succession of nations. The city is located at the edge of the vast northern Rio Grande basin amid gentle piñon-pine-covered foothills of the southernmost Rocky Mountains.
Don Pedro de Peralta established Santa Fe as a capital city in 1610, a decade prior to the pilgrims' arrival at Plymouth Rock. For more than two hundred years, this was the Presidio governing all Spanish lands between Florida and California, except for a brief period (1680-1692) when Pueblo Indians revolted and drove out the Spaniards. Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1821 and governed until 1846, when General Kearny led troops into the Plaza and claimed the region (without resistance) for the United States. Because the transcontinental railroad bypassed Santa Fe, it was spared the explosive growth into a major city that would probably have occurred. Instead, the relative isolation and magnificent location began to attract artists and individualists who have done so much to portray and maintain the town's singular character.
Today, Santa Fe is still the capital of New Mexico, and the preeminent repository of Southwestern lore. It remains perfectly scaled for walking, centered around an ever-popular plaza that has been the heart of town for more than four hundred years. Timeless adobe public buildings, churches and historic businesses are protected by architectural controls. Ancient narrow streets and inviting courtyards lead to an enchanting assortment of exceptional art galleries, craft studios, specialty shops, restaurants, bars, theaters and lodgings. They are collectively a perpetual celebration of the Santa Fe style.
Santa Fe is the hub of one of only two indigenous food styles in America (the other being Louisiana cuisine). Here is the finest collection of restaurants of any of the 100 Great Towns of America. Local red and green chiles, blue and yellow cornmeal, piñon nuts, and other local ingredients and spices form the foundation for a cooking style that is seldom well-replicated elsewhere. Charming traditions include accompanying every meal with freshly puffed sopaipillas served with a plastic squeeze bottle of local honey. While this food style is ubiquitous throughout New Mexico, a wide assortment of the state's best chefs are in Santa Fe. In addition to the native delights, many other food styles are similarly well executed by restauranteurs who are competitive in talent, training, and skill with the best chefs of America's major cities.
As a memorable added attraction, there is a bonus for breakfast lovers in the amazing bounty of exciting morning delights. Freshly baked pastries of all kinds (including many made with local cinnamon, spelt flour, and other unusual ingredients) complement hearty breakfast burritos that can be topped with tasty red or green chile sauce. A number of places also feature pancakes made from local specialties like blue corn and piñon nuts and from cutting-edge combinations like lemon ricotta. As a final bonus, most restaurants are one-of-a-kind, locally operated and intimately sized, and usually decorated in classic Santa Fe style conducive to tranquil enjoyment of distinctive dining.