Modern Santa Fe embodies the many phases of its storied history and merits a one week visit. It’s been a Spanish Colonial settlement, seat of government, arts colony, and counterculture bastion. A timeless week in New Mexico’s capital city blends each of these qualities.
Stop first at the New Mexico History Museum, which delves into 400-years of history. Its greatest asset is connected to it: the Palace of the Governors, the oldest continuously used public building in the U.S. Shop for authentic Native American jewelry under the palace’s portal. The Palace of the Governor forms one side of the city’s plaza, home to shops and galleries and many of the city’s famed festivals, including Santa Fe Indian Market and Historic Spanish Market. Dine on classic New Mexican fare just off the plaza at The Shed. It’s a perennial winner of the local alt-weekly’s reader poll for the city’s favorite red-chile sauce.
Santa Fe has the third largest art market in the U.S. (after New York and Los Angeles). More than half the community is employed in the arts industry. Get oriented at the New Mexico Museum of Art to glimpse the town’s art society past. Then stroll Canyon Road, a nearly-mile-long stretch that packs in fine art galleries featuring traditional realist paintings to cutting-edge installations. Top off your day with a meal at one of the city’s finest destination restaurants, The Compound, tucked just off this walkable route.
Explore the city’s grandest spiritual destinations at three downtown attractions. San Miguel Mission church describes itself as the oldest church in the U.S. You can glimpse mud bricks that were part of the adobe-buttressed beauty’s 1600s structure. The Loretto Chapel is known for its grand — perhaps even miraculous — staircase. Conclude with a visit to one of Santa Fe’s architectural icons, also one of its most unusual: the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, a Romanesque cathedral the stands out in a sea of adobe.
No trip to Santa Fe is complete without breathing in the natural surrounds. Head to the Aspen Vista Trail in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, a popular trail for locals after work. The high elevation offers city views that unfold as the trail climbs. Back in town, freshen up for your reservation at Café Pasqual, whose menu pulls influences from New Mexico, old Mexico, the Mediterranean, and Asia to create a fiesta of flavors.
Spend an entire day (or more) on Museum Hill, a complex of the city’s best museums complete with a café so you don’t even have to depart for lunch. Explore the fascinating collections at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, Museum Spanish Colonial Art, and Museum of International Folk Art.
Native culture is vital to the city’s cultural identity. To glimpse the region’s deep roots, road trip to Los Alamos to visit Bandelier National Monument. Here, Pre-Puebloan peoples resided in cave dwellings some 700 years ago. The main trail guides you through remnants of a valley floor village and then up into several caves and a kiva (ceremonial chamber).
Enjoy the city’s relaxed side by dipping into hot tubs at Ten Thousand Waves, a spa retreat built in the style of the Japanese onsen, one of the many spas available in this alternative-healing center.
Few experiences are more magical than Christmas Eve in Santa Fe.
Santa Fe for Foodies: Red, Green and Beyond … Take delight in James Beard-award winning choices and holes-in-the-wall in Santa Fe
Santa Fe Indian Market Weekend … Maximum art festival fun in 3 days in Santa Fe
Santa Fe Luxury Travel, Often at Budget-Friendly Prices … An indulgent weekend in Santa Fe, the City Different
Santa Fe Plaza Off the Beaten Path … Local favorites in the heart of Santa Fe