Santa Fe, NM
Santa Fe is an outdoor lovers paradise with ample hiking & biking trails, white water rafting, horseback riding, and an amazing ski area all within an hour of downtown. But for those a little less nature inclined (like myself), the mixture of art galleries and museums, unique shopping, spa and hot spring options, and of course an enormous variety of delicious restaurants and cafes make Santa Fe a great spot for any taste.
Years ago my parents fell in love with this city and after using our timeshare here for numerous visits, they bought a condo to jumpstart their retirement plans. From hiking every trail to trying every new restaurant, they love to explore this area. This Victinerary wouldn't be possible without their amazing insights, so a big thanks to them!
TO DO - DOWNTOWN
Walk around the Plaza - The Plaza is the center of downtown Santa Fe and a great place to start from when looking to either walk around town or find a place to have a great meal.
Enjoy evening live music at the Santa Fe Bandstand - Summer evenings turn the Plaza into a hub of free live music five nights a week in July & August. Don’t forget to bring your dancing shoes!
Stop by the Railyard District - This area of town is home to art galleries, restaurants, the weekly Farmer’s Market, George R. R. Martin’s own movie theater (Jean Cocteau Cinema), and much more. Check out their website for a full listing of current events.
Visit the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum - This famous local resident did amazing work to capture the unique santa fe landscape.
Gallery hop along Canyon Road - Home to galleries and fantastic restaurants, make time to take a stroll.
Visit the Loretto Chapel staircase - The construction of this staircase may be a mystery (or a miracle) so make a short side trip to learn more if you’re downtown (It’s only 3 minutes from the plaza on foot).
TO DO - SURROUNDING AREAS
Spa Day at Ojo Caliente - Spend a few hours or an entire day at this relaxing oasis. You can get a full array of spa treatments and massages, but the main reason to visit is the series of natural mineral pools that you can lounge in all day.
Hiking is a great way to enjoy the Santa Fe landscape, just make sure to hydrate!
Tent Rocks - An intermediate trail through a slot canyon and then up to a mesa with 360 degree views
Dorothy Stewart Trail & other Dale Ball South Trails - The Dorothy Stewart trail is an easy hike, with more challenging options available in the same Dale Ball Trails area.
Black Canyon Trail - An easy trail up Hyde Park Road in the Sangre de Christo Mountains
Circle Trail - A much more challenging trail also up Hyde Park Road
Drive to Taos
West side of the Rio Grande: Pass by (or stop at) Ojo Caliente, go through the Carson National Forest, and cross the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge (285 to 567 to Taos County Rd CB-115, to 64 where you’ll cross over the bridge).
East side of the Rio Grande: Take the high road through Las Trampas, Truchas and Chimayo (285 to 76 to 75 to 518, always follow signs for the “High Road”).
For either route, stop at Michael’s Kitchen for lunch in town before heading back to Santa Fe along 68.
White Water Rafting with Kokopelli - These guys run a fun and safe program with knowledgeable and well-trained guides. We have been a few times with them and highly recommend them over the other rafting companies in the area.
Skiing - Due to many family foot and knee problems, none of us ski. However, friends have been to the Santa Fe Ski Basin (just up Hyde Park Road) or even up to the Taos Valley and both have fantastic slopes.
My parents fell in love with Santa Fe for many reasons, but the food scene was definitely a big one. For in-depth details about all of the best local dining options, look no further than the Santa Fe Reporter Restaurant Guide (also available around town as a magazine). Whenever they are in town my parents grab the newest copy and mark it up with all of their own ratings and reviews. We have a stack in the condo that guests always love to go through.
Clafouti’s - The best petit-dejeuner in town recently relocated to Cordova Street where the much larger indoor and outdoor eating spaces and parking make for a near perfect dining experience. The pastries and baguettes are to die for!
Tecolote Cafe - For a more traditional New Mexican breakfast, try the huevos rancheros here.
Weck’s - If you can't get enough huevos rancheros at Tecolote, pop over to Weck's as well.
The Pantry - Casual, low-key and friendly ambiance on Cerrillos across from the Santa Fe Indian School, The Pantry serves tasty New Mexican cuisine for breakfast and lunch. Definitely a Santa Fe institution.
Bumble Bee - If you want fish tacos, you must check out this spot located on the north side on Guadalupe Street near the DeVargas Center. The “slowest take-out” in town is well worth the wait!
Harry's Roadhouse - This is a great place for lunch or dinner on the Old Pecos Highway just south of town. The menu boasts not only superb New Mexican cuisine, but also very inventive vegetarian options and to-die-for desserts baked right on the premises. They locally source and are a Certified Green Restaurant (learn more about that here) so you can feel good about what you are eating while you enjoy the delicious flavors.
Cowgirl BBQ - No visit to Santa Fe would be complete without eating at the Cowgirl BBQ. Their butternut squash casserole can't be beat as a counterpoint to their barbecue options including yak (yes yak), meatloaf, and a famous green chile cheeseburger. There is nothing like sitting on their patio eating consistently tasty food while listening to local musicians make great music. The people-watching rivals the dance crowd at the Santa Fe Bandstand!
Santacafe - Savoring a meal in the outdoor patio is a magical, warm-weather experience. Located right in the heart of town, Santacafe serves scrumptious food in an elegant, authentically Santa Fe courtyard.
il Piatto - Tired of New Mexican/tex-mex food? Take a break and discover tasty country Italian cuisine at il Piatto. The staff are friendly, the menu options are uniquely fashioned Italian favorites, and the ambiance is lovely.
Andiamo! - Another wonderful Italian dining experience with a great location in the Railyard District.
Santa Fe Flea Market at Buffalo Thunder - Packed with local artisans, this is a great spot to find everything from authentic Native American jewelry to locally made soaps, African crafts, Persian and oriental rugs, and award-winning photography. Make this your first stop for memorable souvenirs.
Camino Real - The best spot to pick up everything from Talavera ceramics and Mexican blankets to furniture and glassware. If you’re looking to outfit your local condo or to bring some southwest style home, this is a great spot.
Plaza window shopping - The Plaza and the surrounding streets are home to some of the nicest high-end shops in all of Santa Fe. They have everything from clothing and shoes (not to mention boots!) to artwork and jewelry. Enjoy the beauty of downtown while thinking about taking home a nice present for yourself or a special someone.
As I mentioned previously, since we first used a timeshare and now have our own condo in the area, we don't usually stay at local hotels. However, here are a few recommendations based on local reputations and personal research.
The Inn on the Paseo - One of the two hotels my parents can claim staying at. Each room is a uniquely decorated hideaway and the common space is lovely. Located on Paseo de Peralta just across from the Cross of the Martyrs, the Inn is only a 10 minute walk from the Plaza but without the crowds (and extra cost) of lodging at some of the more famous spots in the center of town.
The Inn at the Loretto - This adobe structure with luminarias is a Santa Fe landmark. Many years ago while staying here on a weekend with friends from Albuquerque, my parents saw a shooting star as they looked up from this Inn’s parking lot. From then on, my Mom said that someday they would live in Santa Fe. Some things are meant to work out! This magical spot is adjacent to the Loretto Chapel and just two blocks from the Plaza.
Other perennial favorites for tourists visiting Santa Fe are the Inn at La Fonda and the Eldorado. Both are favorites for a reason; they are conveniently located near the Plaza, have palatial rooms and common spaces, and offer award-winning restaurants right on the premises.
I hope this look into the beauty and variety of options in Santa Fe inspires you to add this city to your Southwest itinerary. Please use the contact page for any questions, and to let me know about your New Mexico adventures! Enjoy!
(All photos taken in July 2017 with my Nikon D5300, Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm f1.8 Lens, Nikon AF-P DX Nikkor 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6G VR Lens, & Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-140mm f3.5-5.6 lens)