Tucked into the Sangre de Cristo mountain range in northern New Mexico, Santa Fe has been a haven for thinkers, artists and lovers of American Indian culture since the mid-1930s. Just South of Los Alamos where they built the atomic bomb and Taos where Georgia O'Keefe and Alfred Stieglitz explored modern painting and photography, Santa Fe is an enclave of art galleries, Adobe housing, and windy streets filled with natural fauna, cacti and interesting characters.
While Santa Fe has a small municipal airport, most travelers come to Santa Fe via the much larger Albuquerque, only an hour drive south of Santa Fe. From Chicago, United has round-trip flights to Albuquerque coming in around $303. Frontier Airlines (tel. 800/432-1359; www.frontierairlines.com/www/index.asp) has weekend Internet-only specials to Albuquerque available to last minute flyers from several western gateways. These flights are available on a weekly basis so check back often for fares and routes. Examples for travel this past weekend included a $150 round-trip for a round-trip fare from Denver to Albuquerque with a Saturday departure.
Santa Fe is the state capital of New Mexico. It has a small government area and a bustling downtown with low-rise buildings and hundreds of shops and arcades. If centrally located, you don't need a car in Santa Fe, but if you want to tour the surrounding areas and hit all the top cultural sites, then renting a car is advisable. For the most part though, stick to the downtown area and historic district. Those are the most charming spots and are filled with Santa Fe local delights such as a beautiful town square and antique and art shops.
To rent a car, Budget (tel. 800/527-0700; www.budget.com) has special Internet-only deals that start around $29 per any weekend day for a compact car and $129 for a weekly rental. Weekend rentals mean a Thursday at noon pick-up time with a return date by midnight the following Monday. A two-day minimum rental with a Saturday night stay is mandatory. To qualify for the weekly rates, you must rent the car for at least five consecutive days. This deal is available through February 15, 2005.
For accommodations, Santa Fe is filled with small inns and bed and breakfasts. The Don Gaspar Inn (tel. 888/986-8664; www.dongaspar.com) located in Old Santa Fe is a quaint B&B close to the art district and walking distance to restaurants and shops. Three historic homes compose the Inn and a courtyard connects the three houses. Winter rates, available through March 1, start at $105 for a spacious room with a queen-sized bed and go up to $245 for the arts and crafts bungalow equipped with a working fireplace and two bedrooms. All furnishings are in fashion with Santa Fe style and the colored earth tones are reminiscent of New Mexico's Native American roots. Average price for the rooms come to around $145. For that price, though, expect a small living room area to accompany your comfortable bedroom. Mention the Internet-only special and get a three-day complimentary pass to one of the local museums or a free bottle of New Mexico's own Gruet sparkling wine. Check out the accommodations section at www.santafe.org or at www.frommers.com/destinations/santafe for other lodging possibilities.
A must hit in Santa Fe is the Nambe (tel. 800/443-0339; www.nambe.com) factory outlet. The manufacturer of high-end metal design pieces for the homes such as bowls, salt shakers and vases, Nambe is named for a small town just outside of Sante Fe where the company was founded. They make exquisite wedding gifts and incredible signature pieces for any home.
If you plan on going anytime in the next few months, bring a sweater. Heck, if you plan on going during the summer plans, bring a sweater. It can get cold in the desert, and it's not uncommon for temperatures to drop below 35°F in the summer months. Currently, daytime highs are in the low 40s with nighttime lows dropping to the high teens. But remember, expect relatively no humidity and very little rain, ever.
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