I had read about Santa Fe, New Mexico in many travel magazines and it sounded so enchanting. I had even read that Santa Fe is so enchanting that it had earned the nickname, “The Land of Entrapment”, because once you spend some time there, you never want to leave. Every article described Santa Fe as a peaceful, eclectic and an artsy little town full of culture. How could it be possible to have one destination full of so much interest? As offers already knew, Santa Fe did not disappoint.
As we drove into town for the very first time the adobe style homes hidden among the low rising pinon pines kept the enormous view of the blues sky and Sangre de Christo mountain range in full view. The history of Santa Fe has been perfectly kept in tact and if you enjoy history, there is not shortage of it there. As evening approached we were delighted by our first of many spectaular sunsets. If you are a fan of lightning and thunder, the summer displays are spectacular too.
Santa Fe, What to Do
Your first stop should be the Plaza in the heart of old Santa Fe. If you can, go on the weekend as there are lots of artists there share their works of art. American Indian jewelry is plentiful and most of it sold by the locals is the real thing. If pottery is your thing, you will find plenty in the many shops on the plaza. Paintings, there is not shortage. Galleries of all sizes and plenty of places to enjoy some fabulous New Mexican food.
Be sure to check the Santa Fe calendar as you make your plans because Santa Fe hosts some great events like the Indian Market in September. If you love Indian art, then definitely put this date on your calendar and book ahead because it is very busy in town this time of year.
Some of our favorite eats on the Plaza are La Casa Sena for lunch in the garden of an historic adobe home. For dinner they have a Cantina where all the waiters are singers, some even from Broadway. There is one waiter who was the Phantom in Phantom of the Opera on Broadway and he can belt out a chilling rendition of Music of the Night.
Another favorite is the La Fonda, my favorite margarita of all time is there. If you go for dinner, they have table side guacamole made exactly how you like it. At lunch they have a fabulous Torta de Carnitas aka pork carnitas sandwich that is delicious.
From the Plaza it’s a short walk to Canyon Road. Canyon is a must see too. A quaint, historical narrow street lined mostly with galleries. Stop in an say hi to our friends at the Sage Creek Gallery. There is a tea house at the top of the road if you need to relax after your walk and if you are thinking about dinner, Geronimo’s is one of our favorites. It’s a little pricey, but the food is absolutely incredible.
Away from the Plaza we love to go to the Cowgirl Cafe for lunch. Great burgers and chili, but what we really go for is the Cabesa do Ajo. Roasted head of garlic, green salsa, cheese and tiny bagette toast. It’s to die for. Huge selection of margaritas too. Dinner tends to attract a little more robust local patronage who are there to belly up to the bar and have a really good time.
We also always make our way just a little out of town to the local hang out, Harry’s Roadhouse. Cute little diner, with dining on the patio in the summer. The food is just yummy, organic, in house baked goodies, gluten free options like their pizzas are a must try if you prefer to avoid gluten. It’s a busy place because it’s good, so arrive a little before the lunch and dinner rush.
A drive up to the top of the mountain is particularly beautiful in the fall when the whole mountain is set on fire with fall color. There is a location about half way up on the right at a corner in the road where you can park and take a really beautiful walk through the glistening aspens.
In the summer, you also have the option of attending the Santa Fe Opera in the spectacular open air theater. The theater itself is a work of art and can be seen sitting on top of a hill from afar.
Day Trips from Santa Fe
There are many options to take, but here are a couple of our favorites.
Taos, New Mexico is about 1.5 hours from Santa Fe. A little mini version of Santa Fe, with one exquisite addition, the Taos Pueblo. The Taos Pueblo is made up of multiple adobe buildings having been continuously inhabited for over 1000 years. Likely constructed between 1000 and 1450 A.D. About 150 people still live full time in the pueblo today. Constructed of mud, water and straw, with the walls often being several feet thick.
The history is rich and there are tours regularly. There are often events open to the public, but check the schedule to make sure The Pueblo is open to visitors before you make the drive. You will pay and entrance fee and you will be allowed to take pictures for a price. It’s worth paying for at least one person to have a camera.
As mentioned, The Taos Pueblo is home to many. Keep this in mind. Take pictures of people only if you have their permission, this would apply to taking pictures inside of homes. Be respectful and consider how you would feel about people taking pictures of you or your home.
The Rio Grand Gorge is about 20 minutes outside of Taos. It’s beautiful and worth the drive. On nice days there are usually some artists out there as well.
You’ll get hungry while you are there and there are lots of options. Our favorite is Doc Martins. The restaurant was actually Doc Martins home. It’s warm and cozy with low ceilings and full of history. Try the Green Chili Chicken Enchilada, my personal favorite and I have it every time we are there.
Bandalier is another must see if you love Indian ruins. It’s a day trip all of its own, but is on the way to Taos, but not something you could do in one day.
Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs is near the very top of my favorite things to do while in Santa Fe. About 1 hour from Santa Fe again in the direction of Taos, but you turn off the US 84 just before Espanola.
Ojo makes a great day trip or an overnight in the resort is a special treat. I prefer to go to Ojo in the Spring, Winter or Fall. There are multiple thermal pool that are all quite warm and during the summer heat, it just doesn’t feel quite as nice.
The Artisian Restaurant is fabulous, and they serve an incredible wine margarita. Trust me when I tell you in is fabulous. The food is fresh, organic when possible and they offer some gluten free options, like their Blue Corn Muffins served only at breakfast.
If you decide to spend the night, it will include your admission to the mineral pools for the night you arrive and the day after. You can stay in the old guest rooms that are reminders of cowboy days, there are a few houses for larger groups and there is an entire brand new section that includes a semi private pool and fireplaces in each unit. Very Zen, relaxing place to spend a night or two.
The Santa Fe area offers so much to see, this is by no means the list of things to do, but they are some of our favorites. You also want to look at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta in October. Another one of our favorites.