HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SANTA FE!

When it comes to historical vacations, places like Washington, D.C., Boston, and maybe Plymouth Rock get most of the love. But get this: Santa Fe, New Mexico, has Plymouth beat by about 10 years in terms of historical significance. That’s when it became a capital city, America’s oldest, as part of a Spanish colony. In 2010, New Mexico’s capital city, already known for its art scene and fabulous cuisine, turns 400. If you visit, don’t miss these Santa Fe highlights:

PALACE OF THE GOVERNORS
Originally Spain’s seat of government, this adobe structure on the Plaza of Santa Fe is the oldest continuously occupied public building in the United States. Tours are available, and your ticket is also good for admittance to the New Mexico History Museum around the corner.

NEW MEXICO HISTORY MUSEUM
Opened in May 2009, this museum offers interactive features about the state’s indigenous people, Spanish colonization, Mexican rule, and the Santa Fe Trail.

SAN MIGUEL MISSION (1)
Built between 1610 and 1628, this is the oldest Catholic church in the United States. Located on the Old Santa Fe Trail, the mission still celebrates Mass every Sunday.

SANTA FE FIESTA AND THE BURNING OF ZOZOBRA (2)
Begun in 1712, this is one of the oldest continually held community celebrations in the United States. The festival takes place the weekend after Labor Day and includes entertainment, food, crafts, parades, a carnival, and a Mass followed by a candlelight procession. The weekend kicks off with its most popular event, which was added in 1924: the Burning of Zozobra, a 50-foot-tall marionette meant to represent the gloom that people experience during the year.

THE RAILYARD
The first train pulled into the Santa Fe Railyard in 1880, ushering in an era of economic and social change. Recently, after the area had suffered decades of blight and neglect, the city came up with a revitalization plan. The Railyard is now a cultural and entertainment center, including becoming the permanent site of the Santa Fe Farmers Market and home to galleries, shops, and restaurants. In addition, the trains are running again, including the new RailRunner Express, which takes passengers all the way to Albuquerque.

THE CATHEDRAL BASILICA OF ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI (3)
Although the original church on this site was destroyed long ago, a small part of the original structure still exists and now houses the oldest representation of the Virgin Mary in the United States, brought over from Spain in 1625. The cathedral was dedicated in 1887 and elevated to Basilica status in 2005.

ESCAPE FROM L.A. American Airlines offers direct flights into Santa Fe from both Los Angeles and Dallas/Fort Worth. To see fares and to purchase tickets, please go to www.aa.com.