Have you ever stepped foot in a new place and known immediately your heart was going to melt a little when your trip was over? That's Santa Fe for me. EVERY.TIME. For a lot of people, Santa Fe may not be on their must see list. The southwest seems to be one of those places that either appeals to people or it doesn't. It sparks images of deserts, cacti, extreme heat, and turquoise jewelry as far as the eye can see. Although Santa Fe captures some of those things, there is a richness and culture to the city that is uniquely its own. My personal favorite time of year to visit Santa Fe is in the winter; it just adds something extra to a place that's already wonderful year round. There is something truly magical about walking the plaza with a mix of luminarias and Christmas lights all around as snow gently falls. One of those standout moments was my first Christmas season. My husband and I sat on the second story deck of what is now the Draft Station and overlooked the plaza with that beautiful mixture of snow and luminaries as we ate delicious pizza from Rooftop Pizzeria and just enjoyed the peaceful view, watching the world go by.
If you're skeptical about this Southwest secret, don't worry! I'm here to change that. And if you are already a lover of Santa Fe, like me, let’s reminisce together. Santa Fe has something for everyone. Are you ready?
For the Foodies: Check out the many (and I mean many) amazing eating establishments surrounding the plaza and beyond. To start your day walk along the Plaza to The Pastry Shop and Restaurant connected to the historic La Fonda Hotel for sweet or savory crepes and a pastry case to drool over. Or stop in at Whoo’s Donuts and try a few of their gourmet treats like the Maple Bacon with Dark Chocolate Glaze and Chili Brown Sugar. We used to bring back a Blue Corn with Strawberry Jalapeño Glaze donut for your founder Linny when we all lived in the same city. For lunch, hit up one of Santa Fe's many breweries. Make the short drive to the outskirts of town to Santa Fe Brewing to toss back some pints and eat street tacos from a vendor out front. Or head to Blue Corn Brewing, which has my favorite IPA to date. For evening drinks, go to Maria's, the house of 100 margaritas. You will literally be handed a menu with 100 different options to choose from. Heaven, I know right? Maria's menu options are just as tasty but for the quintessential Santa Fe experience make your way to The Shed and order anything that involves blue corn tortillas and an Elderberry Margarita. If The Shed is too crowded, go to their sister restaurant, La Choza, where the food is just as good if not better and the crowd is a little more subdued. For another dinner option, meander through the suburbs and stop in at Horseman’s Haven. It’s a dive-y place connected to a convenient store, but they are known for their HOT green chili and it is a must to try.
For the Artsy: Santa Fe has got you covered. The city is known for their art scene and there is no shortage of galleries to choose from. Spend time walking Canyon Road, a mile long block in the heart of Santa Fe with galleries of all sorts lined on either side. Or drive out to Shidoni, a sculpture garden with a gallery, foundry, and glass blowing studio on site. Also downtown is the Georgia O’Keefe museum and the plaza itself has galleries on every block.
For the Outdoor Enthusiasts: Head up to the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and the Pecos Wilderness to run, hike, or bike one of the many trails in the area. For a longer but well worth it excursion, you can drive the hour to Bandelier National Monument. The drive and the monument itself offer stunning views and interesting formations.
For the Market and Festival Junkie: Vendors selling everything from fruit, veggies, handmade crafts, and chili wreaths flood the Railyard every Saturday to set up their booths and showcase their goods. There is even a bakery and wine tasting in the back! Throughout the year Santa Fe hosts numerous festivals. From art to wine, beer and biking, there is a festival for all interests and hobbies. Check out websites like santafe.org for a list of festivals and a calendar of events.
Other Must Dos: Walk around the plaza at night to see it lit up. Wander through the La Fonda hotel and have drinks on their rooftop bar. Explore the St. Francis cathedral and the Loretto Chapel with its famous miraculous staircase (you’ll have to visit to find out why it’s miraculous). And take a pedicab ride around the plaza to see the sights and take a load of your feet. Drive out to the Opera house and catch a show or take a tour; this is one thing still on my list of things to do in Santa Fe! There are so many wonderful eats, explorations, and events in this city; I could go on and on. Need a location for a long weekend with friends, romantic jaunt for two, or new city to be captivated by? Ladies, look no further than Santa Fe, NM.
Jaclyn | Contributor