Santa Fe Has Parks Galore, 68 in All

Photo courtesy of Steve Collins
Photo courtesy of Steve Collins
Photo courtesy of New Mexico State Parks
Photo courtesy of Steve Collins
Photo courtesy of Steve Collins
Photo courtesy of Hyde Memorial State Park
Photo courtesy of Steve Collins
Photo courtesy of Railyard Park
Photo courtesy of Steve Collins
By Billie Frank, Santa Fe Local Expert

People usually come to visit Santa Fe for its history, culture, art scene or outdoor recreational opportunities. The city (and county’s) parks offer an unexpected mix of all these things. The Santa Fe Plaza, center of life in the oldest capital city in the USA for over 400 years, offers art events, concerts, American Indian vendors who sell their handcrafted wares daily, as well as a place to hang out and rest after a busy day of sightseeing. The other two parks that visitors will easily encounter are Cathedral Park adjacent to the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis de Assisi and the ten acre Railyard Park in the trendy Railyard District. The others are tucked away in neighborhoods such as the historic and elegant Eastside or the South Capital district. In fact, you’ll find small parks all over the city; there are 68 developed parks encompassing over 900 acres. They offer getaways for quiet time, play areas, sports fields, swimming pools and picnic areas (some equipped with BBQ grills.

A few of the parks are perfect wedding venues (or places for other parties or gatherings). If your group in 25 people or less, you don’t need a permit, but your space won’t be reserved. If you have more than 25 people or want to guarantee your space, apply for a permit. The cost for the permit is based on the size of your group and the day of the week you wish to reserve the space.

9. Cathedral Park
Photo courtesy of Steve Collins

Cathedral Park, located just to the north of the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis de Assisi, is a quiet pocket park offering people benches to sit and rest while touring Santa Fe. Dedicated to the first settlers of Santa Fe, there are informational plaques set around the park giving the history of the city. There's a statue of Don Diego de Vargas, the man who led the Spanish upon their 1692 return to Santa Fe after fleeing during the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. The large statue at the park's center commemorates Santa Fe's Spanish Colonial history. Among the figures depicted are a Conquistador, a Franciscan monk and a family of Spanish settlers. They rest atop fruits, vegetables, tools and musical instruments symbolic of what the settlers brought when they arrived as well as the animals that supported life in an austere environment.

8. Monsignor Patrick Smith Park
Photo courtesy of Steve Collins

Patrick Smith Park was named for Monsignor Patrick Smith who was pastor of the adjacent Christo Rey Church for many years starting in 1946. A plaque set into the ground commemorates his life. While the official address is Canyon Road, the park is best accessed from East Alameda Street. The quiet 1.54 acre site, set along the Santa Fe River on the city's historic Eastside ,offers contemporary play equipment, basketball courts and a picnic area complete with BBQ grills. Feel like walking? Head west on Alameda Street where you will find tiny pocket parks with picnic tables along the way. These parks extend all the way past Saint Francis Drive. Occasionally in spring, or when water is released from the Santa Fe Reservoir, you'll see a bit of water in the usually dry river bed.

7. Cerrillos Hills State Park
Photo courtesy of New Mexico State Parks

Visitors love to explore the historic Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway. Cerrillos, a former mining town turned ghost town, is one of the sights to visit. Detour to Cerrillos Hills State Park a 1,116 acre site, open year-round from sunrise to sunset. The park offers scenic views of the Galisteo Basin and beyond. It's a great place for hiking and mountain biking. An added bonus: you can bring your horse and ride on the park's trails wending through these hillocks and past former gold mines. The entrances are fenced off for safety but you can peer in and there are signs that offer information about the area. The park rangers offer guided hikes, interpretive programs and special events year-round. Admission is $5 per car. Their visitors' center is open Thursday to Monday from 2 to 4pm. If they're closed, you can find park information outside under the front portal.

6. Harvey Cornell Rose Park
Photo courtesy of Steve Collins

Harvey Cornell Rose Park, sits at a quiet intersection between Galisteo Street and Galisteo Parkway. As the name implies, you'll find roses here as well as a peaceful place to picnic. Drive by and you will see impromptu Tai Chi classes going on as well as people playing Frisbee or touch football. There are also a few picnic tables and BBQ grills. It's a perfect spot for a small wedding or even wedding photos. Who was Harvey Cornell? He was a landscape architect who lived from 1893 to 1962. The park's formal rose garden, boasting over 150 varieties of these beloved flowers, is maintained as a cooperative effort by the city's Park Department along with the Santa Fe Master Gardener Association and the Santa Fe branch of the American Rose Society.

5. Amelia E. White Park
Photo courtesy of Steve Collins

Amelia E. White Park, a small urban oasis, is perhaps the most intimate public park in Santa Fe. It's one of the most perfect spots in the city for an in-town picnic or an outdoor wedding. The White Sisters, Amelia and Martha, are legendary in Santa Fe. El Delirio, their Garcia Street estate. hosted the great and near great at over-the-top parties in the 1920s and 30s. Martha passed away in 1937. In 1966, Amelia White deeded the land to the city to the city of Santa Fe with the stipulation that it be used "only for the purpose of a public park ... and that flowers and vegetation will be cultivated and irrigated." Enjoy walking under the arbor as you explore the park. The Korean Conflict Memorial, with its bronze bas-relief faces mounted on a stone slab, sits at the east end of the park.

4. Hyde Memorial State Park
Photo courtesy of Hyde Memorial State Park

Hyde Memorial State Park is located off Hyde Park Road eight miles from Santa Fe on the way to the Santa Fe Ski Basin. Nestled amongst aspen and fir trees in the Sangre de Christo Mountains alongside Little Tesuque Creek it's a perfect venue for both tent and RV camping and picnicking. The first of New Mexico's State Parks, it opened in 1938. The venue offers great hiking trails as well as camping. In winter visitors can sled, snow-tube and snowshoe the 320 acres. In summer, the rangers offer hikes to view the proliferating wildflowers and fall is a time of glorious color when the proliferating aspens turn yellow. The site offers restroom facilities and a historic stone lodge that is available for special events such as weddings.

3. Fort Marcy Complex
Photo courtesy of Steve Collins

The Fort Marcy Complex is the city's most diverse park. Set just north of the downtown area, off Bishops Lodge Road, it's a destination for many area residents as it has a lot to offer. The Complex's recreation center boasts an indoor pool. a tot pool, a fitness center with cardio-equipment, a fully equipped weight room, racquetball courts and a full court gymnasium. They also offer an extensive roster of fitness classes including aerobics and aqua aerobics, Tai Chi, Pilates, yoga and body sculpting. Their community room can be rented for parties and events. There is also a covered outdoor picnic area that can be reserved. You can either become a member or pay for day use of the indoor facilities. The Complex's park offers playing fields, playgrounds, a walking path, a putting green and stationary outdoor fitness equipment. The end of summer brings over 10,000 people for the annual Burning of Zozobra (Old Man Gloom). This tradition started in the 1920s when artist Will Shuster designed a HUGE marionette and people put their cares and woes into this giant effigy. After an afternoon of pageantry and music he's set afire. It's considered to be the unofficial opening to the annual Fiestas de Santa Fe, started in 1712 and the oldest celebration of its kind in the country.

2. Railyard Park
Photo courtesy of Railyard Park

The Railyard Park at the southern end of the Railyard District was developed by the Trust for Public Land who also helped the city acquire the land. Santa Fe's newest park was designed by New York firm Ken Smith & Associates, winners of an international design competition. The 10 acre park has an outdoor performance space, a children's play area with climbing, sliding and water features as well as picnic tables. It's landscaped with over 300 trees and drought-resistant plants. The over 400-year-ld Acequia Madre, the primary irrigation ditch, runs through the area. In years with ample rain, the acequia supplies needed water to the park. The pedestrian-friendly park provides "drop-off zones" for disabled and elderly people. The park is part of an overall vision for a "cohesive urban area" that includes the Railyard Plaza, home to the Santa Fe Farmers Market and shops and restaurants.

1. The Santa Fe Plaza
Photo courtesy of Steve Collins

The Santa Fe Plaza has been the center of life in this historic city for over 400 years. Everyday you'll find food vendors, buskers and great people-watching year round. The Palace of the Governors, built in the early 1600s and the oldest continuously used public building in the country, sits on the north side of the square. Daily, American Indian artists sell their handcrafted ware including jewelry and pottery under the portal (overhang). The state-run program has very stringent rules; buyers can be assured what they buy is authentic. The other three sides are filled with shops, galleries and restaurants. In summer it's hoppin' with weekend fairs and markets, including Spanish and Indian Markets. There are free Santa Fe Bandstand concerts most evenings. During the Christmas season the Plaza becomes a winter wonderland. Join the procession at the annual Las Posadas on a mid-December Sunday. It's a long-standing tradition.