Santa Fe, New Mexico is a magnet for road trippers, hikers, and creators alike—attracting artists and art lovers from all around the globe. I had a chance to experience some of the vibrance of the city, wine and dine, as well as talk with local artisans in the downtown Plaza. Easily drivable from Denver in 6.5 hours (only a 1.15 hour flight) this visitors’ gem immediately immerses you into its native roots, historical architecture, and eclectic art scene with a ton of things to see and do around the city and on the outskirts. Full of history and culture, it’s no wonder America’s oldest city is right up there with “must-see places” for local, regional, and international travelers.
Nicknamed “The City Different,” this little treasure has always been known for marching to the beat of its own drum. Its story stretches back to the 1600s, giving this Southwestern hub multiple centuries to grow into its imaginative, artistic self. Art and history aficionados could easily spend a lifetime visiting Santa Fe’s many facets, but even a quick 2-night trip will do the trick. *Note: Best times to visit The City Different are between September and November.
What To See & Do
Santa Fe embodies a rich history, melding Hispanic, Anglo, and Native American cultures whose influences are apparent in everything from the architecture, the food, the art, and more. One could also say that Santa Fe has some of the best markets and festivities across all 50 states, including the Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta, Santa Fe Film Festival, Harvest Festival, and various Santa Fe studio tours where you might run into celebrities who own homes in the art district.
Santa Fe is famously home to 250+ art galleries, 100 or so are located on Canyon Road. If you’d like to meet local artists, visit Santa Fe on a Friday night when many galleries hold public openings. Since the Canyon Road art galleries are right next door to each other, this is the ideal place to explore the city’s art scene. Meanwhile, if you’re looking for more contemporary art, visit the Railyard District.
Sante Fe has some fantastic markets if you’re looking for fresh farm foods and inspirational crafts from artisans. Check out Santa Fe Farmers Market and the International Folk Art Market, which boasts creations from 52 countries. Visitors also seem to enjoy Del Sur Market and Railyard Artisan Market. Also, Santa Fe Art Week features 100+ events that are planned across the city’s museums and historic sites.
Where To Stay
Night 1: In the City
La Fonda On the PlazaTM
There’s nothing like experiencing the American Southwest at La Fonda on the Plaza, the only hotel situated on the historic Santa Fe Plaza. Located on the site of Santa Fe’s very first inn (built in the early 1600s), immerse yourself in the allure of old-world charm—where tasteful, modern conveniences blend with the warmth of authentic New Mexican style. La Fonda on the Plaza offers the prestige of vibrant décor and authentic New Mexican architecture, plus exclusive art and history tours four days a week. Each of its 180 beautifully appointed guest rooms and suites also boast original artwork and hand-crafted furniture. Along with three classic New Mexican dining locations on the property, including a one-of-akind, seasonal, outdoor cocktail bar, make sure to check out the breathtaking views of the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi from your room.
Night 2: In the Mountains
Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado Santa Fe
Set on 57 rolling acres in the Sangre de Cristo foothills, and just 15 minutes from downtown Santa Fe, Rancho Enchantado is perfect for a quiet getaway. The hotel is surrounded by nature and really feels like a secluded retreat. Enjoy expertly guided hikes, pool relaxation, enchanting healing Spa treatments, and tequila tasting with an experienced Four Seasons mixologist. Then, head back to your private casita and watch the beautiful sunset from the comfort of your private patio.
When you are hungry, the hotel’s hotspot Terra offers 5-Star cuisine. “Terra is really a destination on its own,” explains executive chef Jose Fernandez. Guests can expect a welcoming atmosphere, seasonally evolving dishes with fresh locally sourced ingredients from the Santa Fe farmers market (and other farms around the region), and chef-driven menus that incorporate New Mexico’s flavors with Spanish influences. “The goal is to bring something new or different and unexpected to the dining experience wherever possible,” he adds, “Local and seasonal, always fresh, unique ingredients, creative dishes and original elements [are] put together to offer tastes of northern New Mexico, but with a twist.” *Favorite dishes: Pinon Crusted Lamb, Chili Relleno, and Green Chili Corn Chowder.
Where To Eat
Sazón is the place to go if you want an incredible upscale dining experience. Located only two blocks from the Santa Fe Plaza, it’s one of the most popular places to eat downtown Santa Fe, but you’ll have to make a reservation. Sazón features authentic Latin American cuisine prepared by Chef Fernando Olea. Originally from Mexico City, Chef Fernando has been enthralling diners in Santa Fe since 1991 with his unique interpretation of contemporary and traditional Mexican dishes where he creates sophisticated flavors using Old Mexico’s indigenous and culinary traditions alongside ingredients from around the world. His menu is deliberately small, featuring fresh and locally sourced produce and meats whenever possible.
Favorite Breakfast Spot: Café Pasqual’s
*Just a quick walk from La Fonda hotel, there is an amazing breakfast place. Tip: Make sure you make a reservation early as lineups are out the door most days.
Best Local Museum: Georgia O’Keeffe Museum
*Find out why American artist Georgia O’Keeffe’s is called a pioneer for her unique way of painting nature. Six blocks from La Fonda.
Yoga Experience: BODY Santa Fe
*If you’re in the mood for a little Zen, join a relaxing Vinyasa Flow Yoga Class or shop at their high-end clothing and home boutique.
Delicious Treats: Kakawa Chocolate House
*This is a favored local chocolate house where you can try traditional Pre-Columbian, Mesoamerican, Mayan, and Aztec drinking elixirs, plus other tasty treats. P.S. Everything is so good!