Santa Fe, the country’s oldest state capital, is chock full of accessible adventure. Whether you’re going for the art, a fabulous meal, incredible (window) shopping, or an outdoor spin, this picturesque city delivers in spades. Maximize your experience by knowing the best places to play and stay for accessibility.
Here are our top picks:
Where to play
Do not hesitate to roll right into “the heart of Santa Fe,” the Plaza. This “city-square” oozes with a colorful mix of Spanish, Native American, and Mexican cultural scenery, and has served as a popular gathering place for vendors, politicians, settlers and tourists since 1610. Yep, 1610, qualifying it as a National Historic Landmark.
Give or take a few bumpy cracks in the sidewalks, the Plaza and surrounding area is mostly flat and mobility device friendly. We were certainly not the only wheelchair users soaking up the many sights, touring historic buildings, window shopping, or taking an leisurely spin after an evening meal at one of the local, top-notch restaurants.
Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi
Centered at the end of a short Plaza side street, Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi beckons welcome to all visitors, including the differently-abled. Ramping on the front left leads to the church’s main entry.
Built in the mid-1800s, this Romanesque Revival church rivals most of its European counterparts. Inside, a glorious interior of Corinthian columns and rounded arches detailed in uplifting hues inspires hope.
We had the good fortune of visiting the cathedral at the end of a Sunday service on a pleasant September morning. As if on cue, church bells pealed jubilantly as the wooden front doors swung wide before us, and a processional of priests and congregates, some in fiesta attire, slowly filled the courtyard lingering for conversation and photos. In passing, several priests offered me a momentary blessing, which impressed upon me a genuine care of their community members using a wheelchair for whatever reason. Interior lighting stayed on for a good while after, making for ideal viewing of the cathedral’s artful architecture, pictures and overall beautiful atmosphere.
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum
Uplifting and informative, the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum is an accessible travel must. This collection of works by the “Mother of American modernism” exudes the empowering dynamics of a talented artist who learned the rules, and then unabashedly proceeded to reinvent them on her own terms with great commercial success – yeah, she rocked the 20th century art world.
A poster of one of O’Keeffe’s iconic florals adorned my walls once upon a time, but it still did not, could not, prepare me for the energy and light emanating from the originals. Her natural abstracts glow, almost pulsate. Collected objects such as animal bones, shells and feathers are artfully enlarged and juxtaposed creating visual poetry. And both cityscapes and New Mexico landscapes show that light can inspire us wherever we find ourselves.
Located a few short rollable blocks from the Plaza, mobility device users like myself enjoy wide, greatly barrier-free display spaces within the museum. Even the gift shop is easy to navigate around, a true marker of ADA awareness and hospitality.
A brief, captioned video about O’Keeffe plays in a well lit, easily accessed side room near the entrance. Start there to maximize your appreciation of O’Keeffe’s life and masterful perspectives of the natural world.
Where to stay
Inn of the Governors
Located in the heart of historic downtown Santa Fe, this boutique hotel offers wonderful, ADA accessible accommodations at a good price. The ground floor ADA rooms are small but well appointed with comfy beds, a roll-in shower, and tasteful, southwestern decor. The heated pool has a handy mobility lift. And ADA parking is located just outside the room.
The rate includes a very good hot breakfast with a rotating menu. Afternoon tea is served in the lobby with some incredibly delicious cookies, sherry, and good conversation. Booking directly with the hotel entitled us to a daily $15 food or drink credit at Del Charro Saloon, the hotel’s restaurant.
Much of Santa Fe’s best sightseeing and dining is a few blocks from the hotel. But also because Inn of the Governors is located where you – and everyone else – want to be, a little, lively street life may be heard on busy nights. It was otherwise quiet and relaxing with a family friendly vibe.
Where to spin
Santa Fe River Trail
Some of the best pictures of our Santa Fe vacay were taken while on a spin of the Santa Fe River Trail. Easily accessed directly across the street from Inn of the Governors* (or a few blocks from most downtown hotels,) this 4.7 mile paved trail grows increasingly lovely as it draws you past downtown into rural New Mexico neighborhoods, parks and riverbed landscapes. Pack water and snacks. Suitable for all mobility devices.
*From Inn of the Governors: Exit front drive and carefully cross over to the sidewalk on the other side of the street. Go right. Trail hooks up in about a mile.
Making Accessibility Happen
Accessible travel for people with disabilities is becoming big business. Speak with your dollars, your vote, and your voice to let commerce know what’s working, and what’s not.
The above post was emailed to: City of Santa Fe ADA Coordinator; Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi; Georgia O’Keeffe Museum’s Membership and Services Manager, Public Relations and Audience Engagement Manager, and Director of HR; Inn of the Governors.