Why Santa Fe Belongs On Your Travel Bucket List
Where to eat, sleep, and shop in “The City Different.”
Updated Sep 29, 2021 7:57 AM
With more than 300 days of sunshine each year, stunning scenery, and some of the friendliest people in the country, Santa Fe is unlike anywhere else. Tucked into the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, it is commonly known as “The City Different.” And different it is, thanks to the fantastic art, thriving culinary scene, and one-of-a-kind museums, stores, and markets. Plus, the incredible scent of burning piñon everywhere, which is somewhat both mystifying and alluring.
When asked about their top spots in their beloved city, locals Randolph Duke and Irene Salas, of The DUKE and I, love heading to the casually funky Tune Up Cafe to grab a bite when they’re in the Plaza neighborhood. “Their gluten-free coconut cake is to die for,” raves the duo.
They also frequent the Randall Davey Audubon Center & Sanctuary because “it boasts the natural beauty of the Santa Fe region with its many trails, canyon views, and opportunities for bird watching.” Artists in their own right, Duke and Salas are drawn to the work of Santa Fean designer Kat Schilke for her “fringed and uniquely festooned native textile bags, which are now legendary.”
Another longtime SF resident—and owner of new Mexican hotspot Paloma—Marja Martin likes to start her day with a “healthy and delicious breakfast” at Bodega Prime, which also has a great prepared food selection. Try their house-made condiments (like peach ketchup) in reusable glass jars. After breakfast, she heads over to Cupcake Clothing downtown on Montezuma Avenue for fun jewelry finds.
Where to Stay
242 Los Pinos Rd
Located on the historic El Camino Real, 30 minutes outside downtown Santa Fe, Sunrise Springs is truly a magical retreat. Not only are the 70 acres of sprawling gardens, pathways, and desert landscape perfect for meandering about, but their extensive selection of experiential offerings are really unique. Spend your morning practicing yoga perched above the springs, visiting the puppy studio and “silkie chicken” coop for interactive playtime (yes, this is a thing here), or at the medicine wheel during a guided meditation activity, which will leave you feeling centered and healed.
There’s a lot to love about the Rancho Encantado. Roughly 10 miles from downtown, the once privately-owned property is surrounded by the beauty of the high desert and each of the 65 guest casitas come with an indoor wood-burning fireplace, a large soaker tub, heated bathroom floors, and a private terrace. The service is impeccable; the restaurant, Terra, serves up globally-influenced cuisine (and a damn delicious brunch); and the spa is top notch. For a regionally-inspired treatment, book the Mountain Spirit Purification experience, which begins with a sage-smudging, followed by an adobe clay body mask, a warm scalp and foot massage, and a juniper-sage hot stone massage.
330 E Palace Ave
A short walk to Santa Fe Plaza, the charm of this adobe-style hotel is in its age. Some of the 157 casita-style rooms date back more than 230 years. While each has been restored, original details like adobe walls, Southwestern art, and Saltillo tile floors remain. Their newly added bar and lounge, Julia’s Social Club, is even named after the wife of the first owner, and is rumored to haunt the property.
Where to Zen Out
21 Ten Thousand Waves Way
For a true escape, spend a few hours (or a few nights) at this Japanese-inspired mountain resort. Set on 20 wooded acres in the Sangre de Christo Mountains, you feel like you’re in another world when visiting Ten Thousand Waves. With only 14 guest rooms overnight lodging can be limited, so opt instead to spend a day at the spa with its outdoor hot tubs and indoor spa suites, followed by izakaya eats and sake at Izanami.
Where to Get Your Culture Fix
203 Canyon Rd
If you’re visiting to check out Santa Fe’s vibrant art scene, you’ll undoubtedly spend some time on Canyon Road. Its newest addition is OTA Contemporary, opened by visual artist Kiyomi Baird, features an outdoor sculpture garden with themed exhibitions, hosted artist talks, and collaborative performances.
In addition to countless impressive galleries, Santa Fe is also home to many world class museums—far more than one would expect. Georgia O’Keeffe was one of the state’s most famous residents and her eponymous museum is now one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions. In the Plaza district, the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, boasts a collection of native art, history, and culture. For a completely different experience, venture to Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return. The 10,000 square-foot explorable art installation—located in a former bowling alley— has quickly became the most talked about destination in town.
Where to Eat
401 S Guadalupe St
The cool vibes at this new Mexican kitchen and bar, in the city’s Railyard district, makes it the ideal date night spot. Long-time Santa Fe caterer Marja Martin partnered with Executive Chef Nathan Mayes to open Paloma in August 2017 and the food is inventive and insanely good—think roasted marrow bones, lamb barbacoa tacos, and crispy brussels sprouts with adobo honey and sesame seeds. The awesome cocktails and eclectic decor are also reasons to go.
113 E Palace Ave
The Shed has been a kitschy and colorful staple since the ‘50s. Locals and visitors alike line up to sample their authentic New Mexican cuisine (posole, enchiladas, blue corn burritos) and what’s been called the best red chile in town. Prepare to wait if you’re planning to go for lunch—reservations are only accepted for dinner.
221 Shelby St
Each meal at Chef Fernando Olea’s Sazón starts with a sample of Olea’s signature Mexican moles. If you’re lucky, the soup of the day at the two-year-old Mexican fine dining restaurant will be the sopa de amore: a poblano cream soup over blue lump crab meat with Amaretto foam and a dusting of chocolate. And whatever you do, don’t skip dessert. Olea’s unique dulce sinfonia (a sweet symphony that changes nightly) is the perfect way to wrap up an extravagant meal.
Where to Shop
1607 Paseo De Peralta
More than 150 local farmers and vendors take-up shop year round at the market in the Railyard. A slow stroll through the winding stalls is a great way to spend a Saturday morning (it’s also open on Tuesdays) and the smell of roasted green chile, the city’s ubiquitous crop, fills the air as the temperatures start to dip at the end of summer.
100 Old Santa Fe Trai
No Santa Fe look is complete without a turquoise accent. Artists under the portal at Santa Fe Plaza have been selling authentic, handmade pieces for decades.
320 Paseo de Peralta
This 3,000 square-foot concept store opened this past May by former Halston Creative Director and Designer Randolph Duke, and textile veteran Irene Salas. Housed in a Pueblo-style adobe in the Plaza district, the sprawling showroom offers something for everyone: fabrics, clothing, furniture, housewares, accessories, decor, and gifts.
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