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26 Ways to Explore Santa Fe

World-class art galleries, photogenic adobe buildings, and oh, those enchiladas. This New Mexican city checks all the boxes for a weekend getaway with Southwestern flair.


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Canyon Road

Getting There

More airlines are offering service to Santa Fe Municipal Airport, but flying into Albuquerque International Sunport means more (and cheaper) options.

From ABQ, rent a car for the 68-mile drive, or book a ride on the Sandia Shuttle ($55 round trip), which operates every hour from 8:45 a.m. to 11:45 p.m. and stops at most Santa Fe hotels.

Where to Stay

The most classic of accommodations is La Fonda. Built in 1922 and just kitty-corner to the lively Santa Fe Plaza, the historic hotel has 180 rooms, each outfitted with local art. The lobby features a cozy fireplace and La Plazuela, a stunning, high-ceiling restaurant with trees and skylights. If you’re feeling splashy, book one of the suites, which includes its own concierge and pool.

Rustic adobe on the outside, sophistication on the inside—that’s the vibe at Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi, where each of the 48 rooms comes with a fireplace and the restaurant is a five-star dining experience.

For a more private stay, La Posada de Santa Fe Resort & Spa is like a little village, with 157 casitas set on six acres. There’s an in-house art gallery, an outdoor heated saltwater pool, and authentic design touches like exposed wood-slat ceilings.

 

Where to Eat & Drink

Step into the colorful local scene at La Choza, where enchiladas are the main event. Order them with green or red chile—or both, a version locals call “Christmas.” Sister restaurant The Shed is equally popular, but slightly more touristy.

Sweetwater Harvest Kitchen

New Mexican flavors, Asian influences, and health food converge at Sweetwater Harvest Kitchen, an all-female-run eatery set off the beaten path just off Pacheco Street. Their menu includes house-made kombucha and a breakfast burrito with black beans and sweet potatoes.

Cowgirl BBQ is a rootin’, tootin’ good time, with live bluegrass and other genres every night (and weekend afternoons, too). This—a place known for its green chile cheeseburgers—is not the place to count calories. Just drink the $4 happy hour margaritas and thank us later.

Santa Fe Farmers’ Market

For something new, step into Modern General, a home decor store meets casual eatery that specializes in “modcakes,” flapjacks that go sweet or savory with toppings like labne (Greek yogurt) buttercream and cilantro-lime crema. Shopable housewares are divided into charming vignettes, like “Garden” and “Library.”

On Saturdays, don’t miss the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market in the up-and-coming Railyard District. The indoor-outdoor feast of chile-flecked tortillas, freshly ground garlic, homemade jams, green-chile-cheese croissants, and fresh produce will have you going back for seconds—and thirds.

Pick up a culinary history lesson from the Santa Fe School of Cooking. Started by a mother and daughter, the welcoming space offers green chile workshops, tamale classes, and restaurant walking tours, where diners can meet chefs and try mini meals at various eateries.

 

What to Explore

Much of the action takes place on The Plaza, which is ringed with museums, live music, galleries, shops, and restaurants. Though some areas can verge on kitsch, the Georgia O’Keefe Museum and New Mexico Museum of Art are worthy stops. For shopping, browse the Navajo rugs, Pueblo pottery, and Native American jewelry at Shiprock; foodie gifts at The Hive Market; and handmade leather and beadwork from vendors outside the Palace of the Governors history museum.

Shiprock

Some of Santa Fe’s best museums are found at Museum Hill. Most notable is the Museum of International Folk Art, which represents 100 countries through more than 130,000 objects. On display through September is the vibrant Flamenco exhibit, featuring video, costumes, and more. The Museum of Indian Arts & Culture spans 22 Indian tribes of New Mexico, with rare finds like a mortar and pestle circa 1200. Consider buying a New Mexico Culture Pass—$30 gets you one-time access to 15 museums and historic sites for the year.

Walking Canyon Road is a great way to see dozens of galleries in one go. Other highlights include the sculpture garden at Wiford Gallery and at the end of the mile-long road, The Tea House, ideal for a snack and iced-tea refresher. A short detour from Canyon Road will take you to the high-end Nedra Matteuci Galleries with their stunning back garden, plus Kakawa Chocolate House, which turns out unique flavors like a sage and goat cheese truffle.

The wild, wacky, 22,000-square-foot world of Meow Wolf is described as “a combination of jungle gym, haunted house, children’s museum, and immersive art exhibit” housed in a former bowling alley. The dozens of installations created by 150 artists are arranged as rooms that spill into one another, filled with everything from Technicolor trees to trippy bathrooms. They also host screenprinting classes and food trucks.

Ten Thousand Waves

A visit to the Japanese-style spa Ten Thousand Waves, set in the mountains just a 10-minute drive from the plaza, ought to be mandatory. It offers massages, facials, and body scrubs in simple rooms led by well-trained therapists. And for any treatment longer than 50 minutes, spa-goers have access to the hot tubs (communal or women’s-only) for a soak. There’s also an excellent Japanese restaurant, Izanami, on the premises. Guests are encouraged to dine in their spa robes. Arigato indeed.

Just 15 minutes from town are the Dale Ball Trails, a 24-mile network in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. That means impressive views for hikers and mountain bikers. For an efficient workout with a rewarding vista, take the switchback-heavy 2.8-mile out-and-back Picacho Peak trail. Enchilada calories, begone!

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