Santa Fe certainly lives up to its nickname as the Land of Enchantment. Located in New Mexico in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the state capital is surrounded by breathtaking landscapes and impressive sunsets over the mountains.
An artistic community thrives in the city, and artisans sell their wares all around town. Combine that with the rich culture and history of Native Americans and Mexican and Spanish settlers, and you’ve got something for everyone.
Here are some must-do activities you can only find in this enchanting city:
See the stars from 7,000 feet above sea level
The sky seems bigger in Santa Fe, possibly because the city is 7,000 feet above sea level. See the stars while soaking in one of the hot tubs at 10,000 Waves (3451 Hyde Park Rd., 505-982-9304). Rates start at $29 for 55 minutes in a private tub. Massages and other spa treatments, as well as overnight lodging, are also available.
Red or Green?
New Mexico is famous for its chile. If you go out to eat, you’re bound to be asked whether you’d prefer red or green (or both, which is called “Christmas”). Green chile is hotter, while red has a smokier flavor. Try the green chile stew ($6.50) and a margarita ($8) at Maria’s (555 West Cordova Rd., 505-983-7929) or the Shedburger, covered in green chile, at The Shed (113 ½ E. Palace Ave., 505-982-9030).
Shop at the Palace
Head to the Plaza, at the center of town, for the best of Santa Fe shopping. Native American craftspeople from all over the state display their wares outside The Palace of the Governors every day, where shoppers can find beaded necklaces, silver jewelry and tons of turquoise. Southwestern clothing, art and other items can be found in shops around the Plaza.
Go to church
Santa Fe has a long history of Catholicism. The Loretto Chapel (207 Old Santa Fe Trail, 505-982-0092. Admission: $3), shown above, is the home of the Miraculous Staircase, said to have been built with no nails. Its construction perplexes architects even today. The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi (131 Cathedral Place) is a working church that pays tribute to the patron saint of Santa Fe and Kateri Tekakwitha of New York’s Mohawk-Alqonquian tribe, the first Native American woman saint.
Take a tour of mountain man Kit Carson’s Taos home (113 Kit Carson Road, 505-758-4945) or see the cave dwellings of the Ancestral Pueblo people at Bandelier National Monument (505-672-3861 x 517). Both are about an hour drive from Santa Fe. For hundreds of years, people have flocked to El Santuario de Chimayó (about a 30-mile drive) for its healing red dirt.
Art of the Southwest
Artist Georgia O’Keeffe lived in New Mexico for almost 50 years and her eponymous museum is just off Santa Fe’s Plaza (217 Johnson St., 505-946-1000. Admission: $10). The Museum of New Mexico (107 West Palace Ave., 505-476-5072. Admission: $9) features more than 20,000 pieces of art from the area. The International Folk Art Museum (706 Camino Lejo, 505-476-1200. Admission: $9) boasts the largest collection of folk art in the world. Santa Fe is also full of galleries, especially in the Plaza and along Canyon Road.
Where To Stay
The El Rey Inn
1862 Cerrillos Road
Spend your vacation in a charming casita (or small house) at the El Rey Inn. Located on the original Route 66, the inn offers green space for relaxing outside and is convenient to the Plaza. Rooms start at $84.
Inn on the Alameda
303 E Alameda St.
This quiet inn is within walking distance of the Plaza’s shops and restaurants as well as the galleries on Canyon Road. Rooms start at $125.
Inn of the Five Graces
150 East De Vargas St.
If you’re looking to splurge, spend the night at the Inn of the Five Graces, historically renovated buildings decorated entirely in imported furniture from Afghanistan, Tibet, and other exotic locales. Rooms start at $425.
Suggested read along: For some historical context, “Death Comes for the Archbishop,” by Willa Cather, is set in Santa Fe and chronicles the life of Archbishop Lamy, a French Priest who lived in the city in the 1800s.