When our family took a month long Route 66 road trip vacation earlier this year, we quickly discovered that there simply wasn’t enough time to see everything we wanted. We especially regretted not spending a couple of days in Santa Fe, New Mexico which has a rich history going back to the days of Spanish colonialism. We did spend half a day in Santa Fe and managed to cram a lot of sightseeing in that brief time. Here’s what we did.
Started with the Department of Tourism
At the NM Department Tourism Visitors Center located at 491 Old Santa Fe Trail, we picked up a self-guided walking tour of the plaza area. The older parts of Santa Fe is very compact with most of sites located within a few short blocks of the Visitor’s Center.
The Miraculous Staircase at Loretto Chapel
The 1878 Loretto chapel was our first stop on our walking tour. The chapel is home to the Miraculous Staircase which was constructed without any means of support. The construction is only one part of the mystery; the second being the identity of the builder whom some suspect to be St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters. There is a small fee to enter the chapel which is found at 207 Old Santa Fe Trail.
Oldest house in the United States.
One block over is an 800 year old adobe house is said to be the oldest house in the United States. The address is 215 E. Vargas Street, Lower Old Santa Fe Trail. It’s sits on the back of an alley and currently houses a real estate office.
Oldest Church in the United States
Just a few short blocks from the Loretto Chapel (and over the river) is the San Miguel Mission which purports to be the oldest U.S. church still in use. The mission was constructed in 1610. Admission is free for those attending a mass; though a small fee is charged for those just interested in seeing the building. The address of the San Miguel Mission is 401 Old Santa Fe Trail.
Santa Fe plaza
The mission faces onto the Santa Fe Plaza which not only is an historic landmark, it is still the central gathering place of community. The plaza dates back to the early days of Spanish colonialism and today is surrounded by buildings in Pueblo, Spanish and Territorial styles. It is in and around the plaza that visitors will find the largest concentration of street vendors, open air businesses, galleries and more.
Palace of the Governors
Built in 1610, this adobe building also faces the plaza and is the oldest continually occupied public building in the United States, originally having served as the government seat of the Spanish colony of Nuevo Mexico. While there is a charge to enter the building (which now houses a museum), we were able to step into the lobby for a peak at the construction and governor’s office. The Palace of the Governors is located at 105 W. Palace Ave.
State Capitol Building
As much as we enjoyed wandering around the plaza and through some of the open air markets, we finally had to get away from the crowds and into some place with air conditioning. The New Mexico State Capitol building, known as the “Roundhouse” was our last stop in Santa Fe. The building itself is uniquely constructed and contains a superb collection of New Mexican art and furnishings, all which are well worth seeing. The Capitol Building is found at the corner of Old Santa Fe Trail and Paseo de Peralta near the Visitor’s Center. Admission is free.
Santa Fe is a beautiful town with much to see and do. Had we done our research before taking our Route 66 road trip, we would have planned to spend at least a full two days here instead of just four hours.
More by this contributor:
A Route 66 side trip to the Pecos Pueblos
What to see on State Highway 14 in New Mexico
5 things our family loved about Tucumcari, New Mexico