Interior Palace Courtyard of the Palace of the Governors, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Tucked between the brand-new New Mexico History Museum and its largest artifact, the 400-year-old Palace of the Governors, is an oasis in the heart of downtown Santa Fe. The interior Palace Courtyard has seen wedding receptions, bocce ball games, Tai Chi classes and families taking a quiet break. Tall trees (a massive Chinese elm thought to be more than 100 years old, and a tall cottonwood, planted by King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia of Spain when they visited Santa Fe in 1987), shade the courtyard in the summer. Flowering plants chosen to match those in a 19th-century photograph occupy a small patch at one end, where tables and chairs invite sack-lunchers to relax.
A Santa Fe holiday tradition is Christmas at the Palace, when the doors open to the public, and Santa and Mrs. Claus take up brief residence in the courtyard, patiently hearing the requests from children who form a line that reaches out into the Plaza. Bonfires, hot cider, bizcochitos and Christmas carols complete the al fresco evening.