One of my favorite museums is really a collection of four separate institutions, the Museum of New Mexico, which comprises the Palace of the Governors/New Mexico State History Museum and the New Mexico Museum of Art near the Santa Fe's historic Plaza, and the Museum of International Folk and Museum of Indian Arts & Culture a couple of miles away on Museum Hill. Among these several beloved cultural institutions, you'll find incredible collections of art and historical documents that interpret the region's rich tri-cultural heritage, and its flourish into one of the country's top destinations for arts-minded travelers.
Santa Fe is also rich in culinary prowess, home to everything from sophisticated high-end restaurants serving complex fare with both regional and global influences to lovably dive-y cafes and cantinas where you can sample local staples like stuffed sopaipillas (my favorite), blue-corn enchiladas, and green-chile stew. It's only fitting, then, that the consistently innovative and engaging Museum of International Folk Art has launched an exhibit all about food. "New World Cuisine: The Histories of Chocolate, Mate Y Mas" opened this week and runs for nearly 13 months, through January 5, 2014.
Held in the museum's extensive Hispanic Heritage Wing, the exhibit sheds light on how the mixing and fusing of Old World and New World cultures have influenced the culinary styles of today, and yesterday. More than 300 kitchen implements, table settings, decorative pieces, and other objects related to how and what we eat are on display, and there's a particular focus - as the name of the exhibit suggests - on New Mexico's millennium-long obsession with chocolate. (While in town, do not miss the tiny but exquisite shop Todos Santos Chocolates & Confections, or the artisan-hot-chocolate and truffle-making cafe, Kakawa Chocolate House.)
The Museum of International Folk Art opened in 1953 and claims the world's largest collection of folk art. It's in a beautiful, light-filled building on a hilltop with panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and mesas, and the museum is constantly developing thoughtful and compelling exhibits, such as "Empowering Women: Artisan Cooperatives that Transform Communities," which ran a couple of years ago. I have a hard time deciding which of the four NM State Museums I like the most - they're all very cool. But I get to this one as often as possible. Another terrific museum with a somewhat related mission and collection, by the way, is the Mingei International Museum of design, crafts, and folk art, in San Diego's leafy Balboa Park.
Here are a couple of useful additional resources on visiting Santa Fe: a guide to the best gay-friendly hotels and inns in town, an overview of Santa Fe's nightlife and bar scene, and an annually updated preview of the city's famed Santa Fe Opera, which runs each summer.