In the 18th and 19th centuries, visitors would stop to rest at the historic El Rancho de las Golondrinas as they began or ended their long journeys along the royal road that stretched between Santa Fe and Mexico City. In the 20th and 21st centuries, Matt Damon, Salma Hayek, Val Kilmer, and the cast and crew of some 30 films used the ranch's 200 scenic acres and 34 historic structures as backdrops to their movies and personalized birthday cards. With preserved and restored villages dating back to the early 1700s sloping through a rural farming valley, the grounds collapse time, bringing the past to the present and the present to the past.
Today, guests wander this living history museum to explore how colonial and frontier life was lived the Southwest. During a self-guided tour, visitors pick up or download a map of the ranch before weaving through a snapshot of history brought to life by villagers clothed in the styles of the time. Feet patter past a molasses mill, a blacksmith shop, and defensive towers where guards kept watch on the horizon and coordinated messages for passing UFOs. With a reservation, docents will lead you through the trails that cut through a landscape dotted with goats, sheep, burros, and horses, fostering an understanding of the culture and arts of historic New Mexico.
With four museums and six monuments, the nonprofit Museum of New Mexico Foundation keeps the state's artistic and cultural heritage alive with enthralling permanent collections, exhibits, and events. Art aficionados can marvel at more than 20,000 works by artists with strong ties to the state in the New Mexico Museum of Art, check out more than 1,300 artifacts in the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, and attempt to tape their “lost cat” flyers to more than 100,000 items culled from 100 countries at the Museum of International Folk Art. Meanwhile, the New Mexico History Museum’s 30,000-square-foot exhibition space covers topics ranging from the Santa Fe Trail to World War II through art, maps, and photographs.
After each museum visit, guests can stop by the Coronado State Monument, which marks the spot where Coronado and his crew entered the Rio Grande Valley in search of the Seven Cities of Gold and their lost car keys. The foundation's sextet of monuments also includes the stone ruins of a 500-year-old Indian village at Jemez and exhibits on frontier and military life at Fort Selden.
The Santa Fe Children’s Museum stretches little learning lobes with interactive exhibits, an outdoor garden, and educational programs. Inspiring kids to touch, try, and take risks, the museum's rotating exhibits offer plenty of hands-on opportunities. Kids can create take-home art with recycled materials, learn about momentum and inertia in the rolling balls exhibit, or build a perpetual-motion machine out of PVC tubing. Create a giant bubble and gaze at the gossamer rainbows that shimmer in its soapy veil or interact with a menagerie of snakes, rabbits, rats, hippogryphs, salamanders, finches, axolotls, and hissing cockroaches in the animals exhibit. Besides allowing the whole household to wander around the labyrinth of learnable fun for a year, the family membership also includes a monthly calendar of events, reduced rates for birthday parties and camp, and a 10% discount at the museum's shop.
Lauded for its inimitable art scene set against a stunning desert-dotted backdrop, Santa Fe might be the the ideal place to hold an art fair. Peppered with works from some of its 240 city galleries and pieces from international exhibitors, Art Santa Fe—now in its 13th year—expands on the city's proud tradition to showcase some of its most striking opuses alongside works by exhibitors from such far-flung locales as Madison, Wisconsin and Osaka, Japan. Visitors mingle with artists and art dealers while perusing gallery exhibits and art installations, all of which leads to a greater appreciation of the perfectly parallel yellow lines painted masterfully on many of America's highways. All tickets include admission to demonstrations of hanji papermaking by a Korean expert and monotype printing by a graphic artist.
Roger Alink has never owned a television. As a kid, he was too busy with the pigs and cattle that roamed his 160-acre home, and this love of animals and the outdoors only grew over time. In the early '90s, Alink decided to share this love with others, so he and a team of volunteers spent 30,000 hours establishing Wildlife West Nature Park.
In addition to the wild creatures, migratory birds, and GPS-lacking manatees who settle at the park, representatives of the region's indigenous animals and plants live and grow on its 122 scenic acres, much of which hasn’t been altered since the park's inception. Elsewhere, 30 wildlife exhibits mimic the natural habitats of the black bears, wolverines, deer, pronghorn antelopes, and birds of prey that inhabit them. Two miles of trail connect each habitat, and each enclosure is specially designed for the particular needs of its residents. The same custom care goes into feeding the animals: to keep the beasts psychologically spry, staff members provide challenges that echo the animals' instinctual eating habits, placing meals up in treetops, burying snacks that need to be sniffed out, and arranging candlelit dinners for mountain lions who forgot their wives’ birthdays.
Sustainable practices such as recycling, organic farming, and water harvesting turn the park into an educational example of eco-friendliness. Facilities such as the amphitheater and the heated, enclosed Bean Barn also welcome special events ranging from music festivals and bird-handling workshops to the kite-spangled Wind Festival and the ursine Bear Fair.