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Historical Walking Tour of Santa Fe

Updated: 11.01.2014
Are you a boomer traveler who enjoys learning about history on a walking tour? Lace up your tennis shoes. In today’s guest post, Juliet White of The Lost Backpack takes us on a one-mile, historical walking tour of Santa Fe.

Palace of the Governors

Palace of the Governors

Santa Fe has been around for more than four hundred years, making it America’s oldest state capital. As a result, the city has a long and colorful history. One of the best ways for boomer travelers to explore the downtown area is by taking a walking tour.

Start at the La Fonda Hotel, a half block from the Plaza, at 100 E. San Francisco Street. The hotel is a beautiful adobe-style building that dates back to 1922; however, there has been an inn on this site for four hundred years. The Fastest Gun in the West, otherwise known as Billy the Kid lived in Santa Fe in the early 1870s. Before he became an outlaw, he had a job at the La Fonda Hotel, washing dishes! In 1925, Willa Cather began writing her novel, Death Comes for the Archbishop, while staying at the La Fonda Hotel.

Unsupported staircase of Loretto Chapel

Unsupported staircase of Loretto Chapel

Turn down Old Santa Fe Trail and follow it away from the Plaza. After one block, make a left onto E. Water St. then make a quick right to stay on Old Santa Fe Trail. On your left is the Loretto Chapel, one of Santa Fe’s most famous attractions. Go inside to see the miraculous staircase that spirals, unsupported, up to the choir loft. No nails were used in its construction—just wooden pegs.

In 1878, when work on the Loretto Chapel was finished, an obvious design flaw came to light: the only way to reach the choir loft was by a ladder. The Sisters of the Chapel prayed to St. Joseph for nine days. On the last day, a carpenter arrived, seeking work. He created the Chapel’s staircase then vanished without asking for payment. Some believe that the man was St. Joseph, responding to the sister’s plea for help.

Continue along Old Santa Fe Trail for less than a quarter mile. Turn left on E. De Vargas Street (Upper Crust Pizza is on the corner). The Oldest House Museum is on your left—it may sound like a bold claim, but the attached house is believed to have been built in 1646.

new-mexico-capitol-roundhouse

The Roundhouse

Double back to Old Santa Fe Trail and walk one block further. Make a right after the Guadalupe Café, onto S. Capitol Street. The Roundhouse is on your left. Walk along the edge of the only round state capitol building in the U.S. Although the building only dates back to the 1960s, the design on the Roundhouse incorporates symbols from the Zia tribe. The Zia people have lived in New Mexico for more than six hundred years.

Continue along Capitol, make a left on E. De Vargas Street then a right onto Don Gasper Avenue. Keep going until you hit W. San Francisco Street, then make another right to reach the Plaza. Directly opposite you is the Palace of the Governors. This is the oldest government building in New Mexico. The registered historic landmark is now the state history museum. Be sure to visit the main exhibit, Telling New Mexico: Stories from Then and Now. The display shares the tale of the disparate groups of people who made the American Southwest their home over the last five hundred years.

All photos courtesy of Lane at The Lost Backpack.

Do you have tips for a historical walking tour of Santa Fe? Come join the conversation at the My Itchy Travel Feet page on Facebook. Or send us an email with your thoughts.

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