From its adobe-mission architecture to its rich cultural history, Santa Fe exudes a vibe you’ll not find many places. With a respectful nod to history and a smile toward the future, Santa Fe calls itself “The City Different” because of its welcoming nature. A 1928 fiesta program told visitors: “Be yourself, even if it includes synthetic cowboy clothes, motor goggles, and a camera.”
That was 1928, and the same advice for travelers here still stands. Come in jeans and rock a bolo tie even if your roots are in Milwaukee.
The city decided on its unified building style as far back as 1912. Founded in 1610, it’s the second-oldest city in the country (St. Augustine, Florida, is 45 years older and Plymouth, Massachusetts, 10 years younger) and its founders realized that tourism was going to be key to keeping the city vibrant. A second ordinance was filed in 1957 again dictating the Pueblo style of architecture. The result is a melding of structure and nature, the modern buildings of Santa Fe looking like they have been there 400 years and the 400-year-old buildings kept up as if they were new.
The ordinance included structure height, so most of Santa Fe is comprised of low-slung buildings, hugging the landscape. The adobe structures build upon themselves; rooms in restaurants and shops lead down narrow corridors to new spaces, and visitors are apt to get lost in the maze of hallways. Ask for detailed instructions when looking for a bathroom!
Santa Fe Municipal Airport—the city is in the process of renaming it Santa Fe Regional—opened in 1941. It is home to some 200 based aircraft and offers commercial service through United Airlines to Denver and through American Airlines to Dallas/Ft. Worth and Phoenix. There are three runways—Runway 2/20 is 8,366 feet long, Runway 15/33 is 6,316 feet long, and Runway 10/28 is 6,301 feet long. Elevation is 6,349 feet and the airport is located nine miles from the city.
Signature Flight Service, one of two FBOs on the field, is led by Joe Gamez, a commercial pilot and owner of a Beechcraft Musketeer. He’s traveled to and worked at a lot of airports but calls Santa Fe “a piece of paradise.” He loves to fly in the area, and Signature will be providing three hangars for the AOPA Fly-In. “We’re very excited for AOPA to be here,” Gamez said. “People are going to be wowed; Santa Fe is strikingly dissimilar to any other city.”
Troy Padilla runs Santa Fe Jet Center and one of its hangars will be part of the event. Padilla—while having worked at other Midwest FBOs—is a native of Santa Fe and one of the area’s biggest fans. Although the Jet Center is relatively new, Padilla and his partners have been a part of Santa Fe aviation since the 1980s. “I like to say we’re the local FBO,” he said. His cozy, almost living-room-like reception area is a meeting place for pilots and friends.
Also on the field is the Jet Warbird Center, a training facility run by Larry Salganek that features such remarkable aircraft as a MiG–15, Aero L–9 Albatros, and Lockheed T–33 Shooting Star (see “Warbird for a Day,” p. 48).
The AOPA Fly-In will take place at the northeast side of the airport near the Santa Fe Jet Center. Check the website for details (www.aopa.org/saf/learn).
At a recent lunch at the Cowgirl BBQ and Western Grill, a restaurant in Santa Fe’s Railyard section, sitting at a nearby table was a gentleman enjoying his New Mexican food cowboy-style: with a full bottle of tequila and an iced-tea chaser. With its overcrowded décor and myriad decorative homages to Mexican and Native American culture, the Cowgirl is a true barbeque joint. Its wood tables, flamboyant bar area, and festive outdoor seating promise diners an authentic Santa Fe experience. Cowgirl calls its barbeque “righteous” and with good reason: there’s 12-hour mesquite-smoked brisket, pork, and chicken served hot off the smoker. The restaurant’s five-pepper nachos with salsa diablo was ranked thirteenth in the nation by The Wall Street Journal and Cowgirl’s food has been featured on Rachel Ray and Heat Seekers. You can also get a burger made with elk, buffalo, or venison. The AOPA Fly-In will be featuring the food of Cowgirl at the Barnstormers Party on Friday night.
Noisy Waters Wines—The Relleno brothers are local New Mexico vintners who make wines with the chilis of their native state. Try tastings at the shop on San Francisco Street, especially the Besito Caliente, white wine made with green chilis.
Santa Fe’s downtown shopping district is situated around the greenscape of the outdoor plaza, a two-acre city square, which was built in 1821. Along one side of the plaza is the Palace of the Governors, the oldest continuously occupied public building in the United States. Along the sidewalks in front of the palace is a marketplace for Native American artisans. These artisans present their wares on blankets spread on the ground. Offerings include jewelry, paintings, clothing, beadwork, and basketry. The artisans set up each morning and offer their goods for sale throughout the day. Each year in the plaza is the Santa Fe Indian Market, which features 1,200 of the top Native American artists from tribes across the country.
Surrounding the plaza are many eclectic shops
and restaurants, street musicians, and artists. The shops feature predominately Western goods such as cowboy boots and hats, bolos, leather jackets, and turquoise, lots of turquoise. You’ll see bracelets, belt buckles, earrings, necklaces, rings—everything that can showcase the stone that is considered sacred to the people of the American Southwest; turquoise is the official state gem of New Mexico.
Also on the plaza is the New Mexico Museum of Art; it features works of the well-known artist Georgia O’Keefe, who made her home in New Mexico.
Your trip to the AOPA Fly-In at Santa Fe will not be complete without a few things: Christmas, sculpture, and La Fonda.
Christmas—It will come as no surprise that the chili is New Mexico’s state vegetable. In fact, in most restaurants, the first question you’ll be asked is “red or green?” Your server is asking about the type of chili you’d like on the side (and this isn’t a chuckwagon chili, it’s more of a salsa). If you can’t make up your mind, ask for Christmas! Get it?
Sculpture—Canyon Road is Santa Fe’s gallery district and intriguing sculpture gardens are everywhere. Stop along the way at Meyer Gallery to see the work of Gary Lee Price, whose works in bronze include Wings, which was commissioned by Cessna; Unlimited Horizons (right) based on Amelia Earhart; and Journeys of the Imagination, one boy’s dream of flying.
La Fonda—La Fonda on the Plaza is one of Santa Fe’s oldest hotels and features period-style rooms of original timber beams and authentic tile; it was recently remodeled and upgraded. Its rooftop bar and restaurant—the Bell Tower—is a wonderful place to see the city and watch a spectacular sunset.
In 1944, only a select few got up close and personal to Los Alamos, site of the Manhattan Project. At the AOPA Fly-In, you’ll have the chance to see it first hand. Your tour begins with drive-in or fly-in service at Los Alamos Airport on the eastern edge of the once-secret community where the atomic bomb was developed during World War II. Pilots will delight in flying into the mesa-top airport with scenic views set against the spectacular Jemez Mountains and nearby Valles Caldera National Preserve, an ancient volcano with an impressive array of elk and other wildlife.
Travelers will meet at the Los Alamos Airport between 9 a.m. and 9:45 a.m. with continental breakfast included in the ticket price of $25 per person. Buses depart at 10 a.m. for the short drive to the historic downtown district, where you will have the opportunity to explore the science behind the Manhattan Project and today’s Los Alamos National Laboratory at the Bradbury Science Museum. The museum features a short film about the Manhattan Project, plus interactive and thought-provoking exhibits related to the project and new, present-day research being conducted by Los Alamos scientists.
Visitors will also tour historic Fuller Lodge, a log cabin structure in the heart of the downtown that once served as a hotel for visiting Manhattan Project scientists. The tour will offer the opportunity to visit the Manhattan Project National Historical Park located near the lodge, as well as options for a walking tour on the historic campus and a visit to the Los Alamos History Museum.
The tour includes a box lunch at Fuller Lodge as part of the ticket price. The buses will return travelers to Los Alamos Airport at approximately 3:30 p.m.
The historic downtown district features shopping and restaurants for those wishing to tour Los Alamos independently. A free app is available to download for iPhone or Android that offers an immersive experience while touring the Manhattan Project National Historical Park. The app allows the user to enter a virtual environment and see how the buildings around the park appeared during the days of the Manhattan Project.
Nearby Pajarito Mountain and the community offers hundreds of trails for hiking or biking in the summertime, and ample downhill and cross-country skiing in the winter months. Los Alamos also is the gateway to three national parks: the Manhattan Project National Historical Park, the Valles Caldera National Preserve (approximately 20 minutes west), and Bandelier National Monument (20 minutes south).