Why I went here? Santa Fe is someplace I have never been. I heard that it was a beautiful city. Its well preserve Adobe architecture is unrivaled anywhere in New Mexico. I also wanted to come here because I read that it was a city for foodies.
Best time to visit? Santa Fe is best during the summer season. With its elevation over 7,000 feet above sea level, the temperatures here are milder compared to other southwestern cities and the majority of outdoor events occur during this period.
Best way to get there? Santa Fe does have its own airport (SAF) but its small and only serviced by a handful of airlines. Your best and perhaps cheapest option is to fly into Albuquerque (ABQ) and drive or take the New Mexico Rail Runner. The drive is a mere hour northeast and you have the option to stop by a couple of the northern pueblos. The New Mexico Rail Runner is a commuter train servicing the cities of Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Although it stops at other towns in between, the trip from downtown Albuquerque to downtown Santa Fe takes just over an hour. One-way fare is $9.
What to see/do? Santa Fe’s cultural ancestry and natural beauty are two of the major draws for tourists to come and visit. Native American heritage is visibly celebrated here through the showcase of art and architecture and the close proximity of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains provides plenty of outdoor activity options. Due to the city’s higher elevation, some guides will advise on taking it easy for the first couple of days. Take some time and walk around the city prior to engaging in strenuous physical activities. With that said, my suggestion will be to pay the area around the Santa Fe Plaza a visit first. From here, several historical attractions are easily within reach including Loretto Chapel, the San Miguel Mission Chapel, and the Palace of the Governors. Loretto Chapel is well known for its Miraculous Staircase, believed to have been built by St. Joseph himself. The staircase has approximately forty steps without any visible support. The chapel is no longer used for church services, but can still be rented for wedding ceremonies. The San Miguel Mission is considered to be one of the oldest churches in the United States. Most of its original adobe walls remain intact despite several periods of reconstruction. The Palace of the Governors is the country’s oldest public building still continuously used and provides a detailed history of the city as well as the state of New Mexico. Art lovers should head towards Canyon Road, a mile and a half stretch of art galleries and studios selling different types of art, mostly by local artists. Outdoor activities nearby range from hiking the trails of nearby Sangre de Cristo to white water rafting on the mighty Rio Grande river. Sangre de Cristo Mountain Works has detailed information on hiking and biking trails.
Food and drinks: Santa Fe is a culinary destination, and frankly one of the main reasons I decided to visit. Chiles are staples in New Mexican cuisine and trying “Christmas” will leave you wanting more. A couple of local finds I will recommend are Whoo’s Donuts and Sage Bakehouse. Both are fantastic options for breakfast and early afternoon snacks. Get the lemon pistachio donut and the almond croissant respectively. The Agave Lounge at the El Dorado has one of the best happy hours for food and drinks. Daily specials include $2 lobster sliders, and $1 tenderloin tacos for food and $3 drafts and $5 wells for drinks.
Where to sleep? Hotel Santa Fe is a good option for those wanting to stay in an adobe architecture hotel without paying the premium rate. The location is a little further from Santa Fe Plaza but remains within reasonable walking distance. The hotel also offers complimentary transport to and from the main square. The traditional rooms are slightly smaller in size, but are tastefully decorated with Native American fixtures. The beds are comfortable, Wi-Fi is free, and the service makes you feel at home. Prices begin at $99/night.
Daytrips: I would definitely recommend paying a visit to one of the nearby pueblos. If you only have time to visit one, head north to Taos Pueblo. It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited communities in the Americas and the only pueblo given both World Heritage Site recognition by UNESCO and deemed a Natural Historic Landmark.
Why I would go back? It is, downright, just an intriguing and inspiring city. That is how I felt during my short visit eighteen months ago. The city charmed me and it certainly lived up to its reputation as a cultural haven. The abundance of adobe styled homes was a pleasant sight to see and it definitely piqued my interest in Native American art and architecture. The people are friendly and appeared quite relaxed and the food did not disappoint. The city and its surrounding areas have beautiful sceneries so it is not at all surprising to find writers (like myself) and artists continue to seek solace and find inspiration here.