"Authentic" Indian Goods
It's the most common scam in Santa Fe -- selling fake Native American jewlery or artifacts. Chances are, unless youre at a high priced store on the plaza or on an actual reservation, the "authentic" Native American stuff you just bought was made in China. That goes double for kids stuff, if you want authentic drums or headdresses without paying a fortune, try Taos instead.
Unique Suggestions: At least dont complain when the $4.99 Indian Necklace you bought is discovered to be made in China! It happens, and New Mexico is trying to crack down on it.
Fun Alternatives: The best place to find authentic Native American crafts is actually at a gas station along I-25 between Santa Fe and Albuquerque. Stop by the Santa Domingo Pueblo for some gas and check out all the people selling bread and crafts by the side of the road. That stuff is authentic.
Beware of the "Sale" signs in the Plaza area shops
A lot of those "Final Sale!' or big sale promos never leave the gallery/shop's window, they are there to get your attention with the catchy 50, 70% off sales so you think you get a great deal but the truth is, their prices are so inflated that the price after the sale remains way too high anyway.
Fun Alternatives: Avoid shopping in the Plaza for art, jewelry and clothing, and check out shops and art galleries elsewhere in town. On the historic Canyon Road with galleries back to back, there's a lot of poor art selling at super high prices... There's a lot of good stuff, too, but you may be able to do better if you visit galleries "off the beaten path" first.
- Arts and Culture
This is located on and Indian reservation. After a 20 mile drive from SAnta Fe and down a gravel road of 6-7 miles, you come to a booth. In that are two Indians who want $10 per vehicle and $5 for photo op in order to see the falls. Not me, especially since I intended to be there only 5-10 minutes.
You will probably hear about the staircase that was built using no visible means of support that is in the privately owned Lorretto Chapel right off the Plaza. The chapel is beautiful, but because it is privately owned you have to pay to get in. The staircase has been modified since it was built and now has support structures attached to it. If you are up for the couple dollars for entrace, its interesting to see, but don't expect to be able to use the staircase or see it in its original form.
Unique Suggestions: Don't have expecations.
Fun Alternatives: The Taos Pueblo (near the town of Taos a short drive from Santa Fe) is said to have more miraculous items.
Also visit St. Francis almost next door to the Loretto Chapel. It is free and it houses (arguably) the oldest Catholic chapel in the United States.
- Religious Travel
- Historical Travel
Santa Fe itself
Hmm, how do I say this nicely? Santa Fe is a town founded by the Spaniards but sustained by tourism and non-natives today. Like Albuquerque, it is rare to find someone who was born here, especially if you go to the Plaza or Canyon Road where all the money is. If you're looking for authentic Santa Fe, then I hope your definition includes the Banana Republic, Watercolorists from Iowa, trust fund babies, and a few remaining hippies.
Unique Suggestions: Take it all in for what it's worth. Santa Fe is diverse.
Also, know your art before purchasing! Like other travellers have warned, not everything is authentic. That $10,000 painting on the wall may only worth that much if you pay it. (Trust me, I used to work at a gallery on Canyon Road.) Also, if you're visiting, please treat the employees with respect. Charging that $5,000 sculpture to you gold AmEx card doesn't mean you get to be a jerk.
Like elsewhere- good source of income for pueblos and Native Americans. They are abundant here- especially in Pojoaque. Lived in Santa Fe for three years and have been back and have yet to take a step into one of these casinos. Don't plan to either. There are so many other beautiful places to visit.
Fun Alternatives: If you must take a road trip from Santa Fe, rather than going to a casino, go to Rancho De Chimayo restaurant and visit the beautiful church along the way. Rancho de Chimayo is highly reputable throughout the region- Santa Fe, Espanola Valley, Los Alamos- and for good reason.
- Casino and Gambling
Taos / Taos PuebloTown of...
Taos / Taos Pueblo
Town of Taos is a shopping mall
Visiting the Pueblo is interesting, but ... ... ... Indians charge fees to take photos, tour guides are not very informative- good at making you feel bad for them for tips
Oldest House in Santa Fe -- NOT!
Oldest House in Santa Fe should be renamed Oldest Tourist Trap. The building isn't anywhere NEAR as old as it's cracked up to be, and definitely not worth the price of admission.
Fun Alternatives: For a lot less money, you can go look at genuinely old adobe walls in the Palace of the Governors (check out my "Must See" tip for more museum information).
The Oldest Church is arguably that -- it's been modified extensively, but the foundations and some of the fabric of the building date back to Santa Fe's early days. It's a few steps away from the purportedly Oldest House, and free too.
Cross Old Santa Fe Trail and walk down W. De Vargas Street to see the Barrio de Analca, one of the earliest neighborhoods in Santa Fe, which still preserves much of its original character (the red gate about 100 yards down, on the north side of the street, is the Roque Tudesqui house -- it isn't open to visitors, but the spectacular old wisteria on the front wall is worth seeing in summer).
Another veteran from the same period is "La Conquistadora," an approximately 2-ft statue of the Virgin Mary that has been in Santa Fe since 1625. Her chapel was incorporated into the (19th century, Frenchified) cathedral, but she, and it, are verifiably ancient. (Over the centuries, she's been restored and acquired an extensive wardrobe. If you're in town during Indian Market, check out her nifty Pueblo outfit, complete with teensy deerskin moccasins and squash blossom necklace.)
- Historical Travel
I took a trip out to Los...
I took a trip out to Los Alamos, but I wasn't too impressed with the 'official' museum about the a-bomb tests. Perhaps some would find it palatable, and I confess I was drawn there by a ghoulish curiosity, but I found it to paint a very one-sided picture. All that 'wonder of science' stuff with virtually no mention of the thousands of people killed when the atom bombs were dropped, nor of the contamination caused, left me with a very bad taste in my mouth. You can't make a disneyland out of death and the quest for destruction.
This photo isn't of the museum, but of one of the many strange abandoned-looking and fenced-in buildings in this strange, ghost-like town.
Santa Fe has a small downtown area and is very busy at night. If you plan on going somewhere check to see if you need reservations. Otherwise you'll be disappointed because a lot of places close early - usually 9-10pm and then you're stuck trying to find the best food.
Unique Suggestions: Make Reservations for Dinner