For over 400 years Santa Fe has been enchanting travelers with its Spanish colonial charm, mountain vistas, and desert beauty. I knew it would be an experience to travel here, but I had no idea how profoundly it would capture my heart. In the middle of the desert, Santa Fe is an oasis of nature, art, architecture, and incredible food.
One can not be an American by going about saying that one is an American. It is necessary to feel America, like America, love America and then work. – Georgia O’Keefe
In Santa Fe, you feel America. You feel the history, you feel the ingenuity, you feel the blank canvas of the American spirit before it was wrought with commercialism. It is a sanctuary of authenticity, a place where one can escape the noise and connect with the beauty of the land, the vastness of the West, and the spirit of creativity. Perhaps this is why it is known as a haven for artists.
The first indication that Santa Fe is dedicated to its authenticity is the airport. Arriving in Santa Fe is quite possibly one of the most charming travel experiences you can imagine. There are no jet bridges, no long line of gates – there is a tarmac where you land and just like the day of times gone by you walk directly off the plane to the ground. There’s no baggage claim but a small conveyor to pick up your luggage as you see it move from plane to terminal. This sets the stage for an American experience unlike any other.
Founded in 1610, the city of Santa Fe has remained committed to the Spanish colonial architecture with adobe buildings lining its downtown. Its downtown is centered around The Plaza. Here you will find the streets bustling with tourists, Puebloan artisans selling their jewelry and pottery, and an assemblage of boutiques, eateries, and hotels. Step into any eatery and you will be asked to answer the all important question,”Red, Green, or Christmas?”
But before I dive into all there is to do, let’s talk about where to stay.
Where To Stay
Santa Fe Luxury Rental Vacation Homes – If you are looking to stay for a week or longer you may want to look into renting a home. Santa Fe Luxury Rental Vacation Homes has properties throughout the area, including Las Campanas known for the most beautiful vistas in the Santa Fe area. This is a private resort residential community with an acclaimed golf course as well as a state of the art equestrian center. You can find house rentals through Santa Fe Luxury Rental Vacation Homes.
Inn At Five Graces – Located on the oldest inhabited block in the United States, The Inn of Five Graces is a Relais Chateaux property. Designers Ira and Sylvia Seret transformed a neglected cluster of traditional adobe buildings into a unique hotel. As internationally-known importers of exotic antiques, rugs, textiles and architectural elements, the Serets conceived the hotel as a showcase for their combined creative talents. From its 1996 opening as “Serets’ 1001 Nights”, the 24-suite hotel has been a magical retreat, brimming with the most exquisite of the Serets’ treasures. In 2002 the Inn was renamed to honor its sensuous atmosphere along with its many Afghan and Tibetan artifacts. The name, “Five Graces”, refers to an Eastern concept — the five graces of sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste. Each needs to be honored in the full experience of life.
La Posada de Santa Fe – For a more affordable option that retains all the magic and charm of Santa Fe, check out La Posada. With rates starting at only $124 and up La Posada is beautifully maintained, authentically decorated, and perfectly located for an ideal Santa Fe experience.
Where To Eat
Tia Sophia’s – Opened in 1975, Tia Sophia’s is an iconic restaurant on San Francisco Street in Santa Fe. It is the first restaurant to coin the phrase ‘Christmas sauce’ – a term you will become very familiar with in Santa Fe. When asked what sauce you would like tooth your New Mexican meal, you will be asked red, green, or Christmas (which means both). Enjoy Huevos Rancheros or a Chorizo Burrito for breakfast or Blue Corn Enchiladas with a cup of Green Chile Stew or Posole for lunch.
La Fonda – This picturesque restaurant in an atrium garden setting is a must while in Santa Fe. The food is among the best New Mexican you will enjoy and the atmosphere is superb. This award winning restaurant serves of fresh, unique versions of traditional New mexican fare blending tomatillos with Eggs Benedict to smoky paprika, demi-glaced local Felix Lamb Chops. If you’re in the mood to splurge on a cocktail order the Santa Fe Margarita.
Rancho de Chimayo – Florence Jaramillo aka ‘Mrs. J’ became legendary for her original gastronomic creations, warm hospitality, and integral role in bringing New Mexican Cuisine into the international spotlight. Rancho de Chimayo is located near the famous healing and pilgrimage site of El Santuario de Chimayo, so this can be combined for a worthwhile, unforgettable day trip outside of Santa Fe. Consistently creative and authentic, it is no wonder that this restaurant wins awards year after year including the recent 2016 James Beard Foundation America’s Classic Award.
Santa Fe Bite – This is the home of the famous Green Chile Cheeseburger. When you tire of the traditional New Mexican fare you can stop here for a burger and a shake.
The Pink Adobe – Established in 1944 by Rosalea Murphy. Known affectionately by locals as “The Pink,” this charming, colorful restaurant has grown into a local and national landmark since its humble beginnings serving Dobe Burgers, French onion soup, and hot apple pie. The Pink is located in the center of the historic Barrio de Analco across the street from the San Miguel Mission, which is considered the oldest church in the United States.
The Shed – Located on the Santa Fe Plaza this restaurant is owned and operated since 1953. Looking for some lighter options? Try the Calabacitas, Mixed Green Salad with Sliced Avocado, Gazpacho, Mushroom Soup, Green Chile Burrito, or Fish Tacos.
Los Poblanos Historic Inn and Organic Farm – Though in Albuquerque not Santa Fe, this is one of the best restaurants you will ever experience and is well worth the hour drive or detour from Santa Fe. Enjoy their new restaurant Campo, their farm to table dining series, or their Inn breakfast. You may even want to stay here one or more nights during your trip and experience the unparalleled charm and natural beauty of Los Poblanos. Did I mention it is also a lavender farm where peacocks roam the property? You can also read more details here.
What To Do
Santa Fe National Forest
Dale Balls Trails
La Cuchara Trailhead
Bandelier National Monument – Bandelier National Monument protects over 33,000 acres of rugged but beautiful canyon and mesa country as well as evidence of a human presence here going back over 11,000 years. Petroglyphs, dwellings carved into the soft rock cliffs, and standing masonry walls pay tribute to the early days of a culture that still survives in the surrounding communities.
Puye Cliff Dwellings – A National Historic Landmark and home to the ancestors of today’s Santa Clara Pueblo people just 35 minutes’ drive from Santa Fe. The history of Puye Cliff Dwellings will captivate your mind.
Georgia O’Keefe Museum – The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, opened to the public in July 1997, eleven years after the death of our namesake artist. A visit to the O’Keeffe Museum offers insight not only into the artist’s paintings, but also her creative process and the light and landscape that inspired her. In addition to the main Museum campus in Santa Fe, the O’Keeffe Museum maintains O’Keeffe’s two homes and studios in northern New Mexico, a research center and library, and a variety of collections relating to O’Keeffe and modern art. One of the most significant artists of the 20th century, Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986) was devoted to creating imagery that expressed what she called “the wideness and wonder of the world as I live in it.”
Santa Fe Opera – With summer comes one of the most premier arts and culture events in the world, the Santa Fe Opera. I myself thought, “what is the big deal?” Then I experienced the sun going down across the desert with the most vibrant acoustics echoing across the arroyo the Opera House is built on. It is a big, beautiful, soul-enriching deal indeed. I had the privilege of taking my daughter to her first opera and she loved it- the singing, the setting, the costumes were all dazzling before her. It is soulful, artistic experience that you will remember forever and it is this unrivaled artistic beauty that keeps patrons coming back year after year and that many even plan their Santa Fe travel around.
International Folk Art Mart – The reason for many art enthusiasts to travel every year to Santa Fe, the International Folk Art Mart is the top folk art festival in the world. Even for the folk art skeptic, this is a sight to be seen featuring the most beautiful artisan jewelry, woven detailed baskets, rugs, musical instruments, sculptures, and paintings from all over the world.
El Santuario de Chimayo – Each year some 30,000 people from all over the world make pilgrimages to the Santuario de Chimayó during Holy Week, especially on Holy Thursday and Good Friday, some seeking blessings and some in fulfillment of a vow.Walking is traditional; some pilgrims walk from as far away as Albuquerque, about 90 miles. Many visitors to the church take a small amount of the “holy dirt”, often in hopes of a miraculous cure for themselves or someone who could not make the trip.
The Harrell House Bug Museum – With over 2400 mounted bugs and many live animals too, Harrell House Bug Museum is one of the best places in the United States to take your little insect enthusiast.