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Santa Fe, New Mexico City Trip

Go horseback riding during your visit to Santa Fe, New Mexico

Day 1 Day 2 Day 3
Where to Stay Where to Eat What to See & Do

72 Hours in Santa Fe, New Mexico

New Mexico is nicknamed "The Land of Enchantment," and Santa Fe stands at its epicenter. Flanked by two mountain ranges and set under an azure sky filled with whirling ravens and raucous sunsets, "The City Different" feels less like a city and more like an integral part of the landscape. People have been drawn to this oasis over the past five centuries, and Santa Fe wholeheartedly embraces its Spanish, Native American and Anglo heritages.

While the Santa Fe airport offers direct flights to Dallas and Denver, most visitors fly into Albuquerque International Sunport and head north via Interstate 25. Another option is Highway 14, otherwise known as the Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway.

There are ample lodging options in Santa Fe, including several luxurious hotels within walking distance from downtown and the historic Santa Fe Plaza. Among the best is the Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi, with an elegant Southwestern décor and modernly furnished rooms. Perhaps the most storied accommodation is La Fonda on the Plaza, located on the southeastern corner of the Plaza. A Fonda, or inn, has stood ground here since 1610, and the current incarnation features individually decorated rooms, a lively downstairs bar and a bird's-eye view of life on the Plaza and St. Francis Cathedral.

The Superior King with Balcony Room at the Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi in Santa Fe, New Mexico

Other notable options downtown include the Eldorado Hotel & Spa, the historic La Posada de Santa Fe Resort and Spa, The Inn & Spa at Loretto and the Hotel St. Francis. Each provides a unique vision of Santa Fe through its art, architecture and style. The Drury Plaza, opened in 2015, was the first new hotel downtown in 18 years. Two other options include Hotel Santa Fe, The Hacienda & Spa, the city's only Native American owned-property, and Santa Fe Sage Inn featuring restaurant and bar Derailed.

More modest lodging can be found along Cerrillos Road, which runs southwest from the city center and is home to chain restaurants, big-box stores, and a number of local gems. Book a room at Courtyard by Marriott Santa Fe or, as an alternative to the chain hotels, consider staying at El Rey Inn, which features one-story casitas surrounded by lush gardens.

Santa Fe offers abundant dining options, many of which include three-season al fresco dining. Traditional northern New Mexican food blends Mexican and Spanish influences and revolves around savory red and green chile, corn and beans. Yet Santa Fe's culinary scene spans the globe — you'll find everything from crispy frog legs and Vietnamese pho, to Indian curries and East African goat stew. Many restaurants emphasize some combination of local, organic, gluten-free and vegan fare.

The Bishop's Lodge, Father Lamy and Willa Cather

In the mid-17th century, rumors arose about loose conduct among Catholic priests in the American southwest. The French Father Jean Baptiste Lamy was transferred from Cincinnati to Santa Fe to supervise things and to create a provisional diocese known as the vicariate apostolic of New Mexico. Bishop Lamy's journey took him from Ohio to St. Louis, down the Mississippi to New Orleans, onto a boat to Galveston and up the Rio Grande river valley, arriving at his new home a year later! In the 1860s Bishop Lamy purchased for $80 what became his home and is now 420 acres of a family and business retreat known as the Bishop's Lodge. A great source of additional information about the Bishop is Willa Cather's 1927 novel Death Comes for the Archbishop. The book's protagonist, Jean Marie LaTour is based on Father Lamy and his life in New Mexico, where he served as Archbishop from 1851-1888. The novel also captures the vastness of New Mexico's geography with great attention to descriptive detail. A great read for the plane ride to or from Santa Fe!

SANTA FE DAY 1: Palace of the Governors, Georgia O'Keeffe Museum and St. Francis Cathedral

The Plaza has been the heart of Santa Fe for more than 400 hundred years. Today, instead of trappers, campesinos and shepherds, you'll wander around alongside artists, counter-culture teens, well-to-do retirees from Texas and tourists thronging the square. For shopping, you'll find world-class boutiques specializing in fine leather apparel, Indian jewelry and art.

Just off the Plaza is Café Pasqual's, a favorite among locals and a great stop for breakfast. The menu offers flavorful breakfast burritos loaded with chorizo sausage, huevos rancheros made from golden organic eggs, and eclectic options like smoked trout hash with Gruyere. The atmosphere is lively, and the dining room is lined with hand-painted Mexican tiles and murals — just be prepared for a wait, especially during peak seasons. Locals usually opt for the community table, which is a great way to converse with fellow travelers, and the wait for a seat is far more bearable.

After breaking fast, jump right into Santa Fe's culture at the Palace of the Governors, where you can stroll and shop. This humble one-story building on the north side of the Plaza has flown the flags of Spain, Mexico, the Confederacy and the U.S. Territory. Appropriately, it is now part of New Mexico's history museum, featuring changing and permanent exhibits as well as a terrific gift shop. The Palace was given the rare designation of National Historic Treaure in 2015. Under the Palace's shady portal facing the Plaza, Pueblo artisans spread blankets year-round and lay out turquoise-and-silver jewelry, beadwork, and other keepsakes that make perfect gifts for you and anyone else. The program is strictly enforced so that only the artists themselves can sell, and so long as they are working only with authentic materials. Much of the jewelry is finely made — and much less expensive than what you will find in retail stores.

The Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico

Next, head to the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, which celebrates northern New Mexico's first lady of art. The museum is home to more than 1,000 of O'Keeffe's works, including paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs and sketches, as well as traveling exhibitions highlighting other 19th-century and contemporary artists.

For lunch, head to The Shed, where the legendary blue corn enchiladas and fiery red chile have been trademarks of the restaurant since it opened in 1953. Here you can also try the mocha cake, one of the best frozen desserts in Santa Fe.

After your meal, visit some of Santa Fe's religious attractions. Start at St. Francis Cathedral, an historic Romanesque church built by the famed 19th-century New Mexican prelate Archbishop Jean Baptiste Lamy. Pay special attention to the statue of the Madonna, called La Conquistadora, which was brought to Santa Fe by the Spanish in 1692. Afterward, check out the nearby Loretto Chapel, which houses a miraculously crafted wooden staircase. Legend holds that the chapel sisters prayed for nine days to St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters, to find a way to access the second-floor choir loft. On the ninth day, a mysterious carpenter came to the chapel with a donkey and toolbox looking for work. After completing an exquisitely spiraling staircase using only wooden pegs, he disappeared without a trace.

Legend says that the spiraling staircase at Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe, New Mexico, was built by a mysterious carpenter

Santa Fe is a city made for walking, but by now you might be in the mood to rest your feet and fortify your energy. If lunch left you salivating for more New Mexican fare, then a trip to Maria's New Mexican Kitchen is in order. Maria's has been welcoming guests for more than half a century in a house originally built in the 1880s, and the margaritas are famous (or perhaps infamous). There are more than 200 to choose from, and the recipes for these can be found in The Great Margarita Book, written by former owners Al and Laurie Lucero. Don't miss Maria's wonderfully tender shredded carne adovada.

For a casual meal downtown, try the San Francisco Street Bar & Grill, which overlooks the plaza from the corner of San Francisco Street and Don Gaspar. The restaurant offers contemporary southwestern and American dishes, including a pan-seared shrimp salad with sliced mango and candied pecans, as well as hearty pasta dishes like penne alla calabrese with julienned pork, crushed red chile and fennel seed. Another informal choice is the Blue Corn Café & Brewery. The main attractions here are hip versions of New Mexican food, big two-fisted hamburgers and handcrafted IPAs and root beer.

To experience a fine upscale meal, make reservations at Geronimo or Santacafé, both award-winning contemporary global restaurants. Both are also hangouts for Santa Fe celebrities, although you don't need to be famous to be seduced by the food. Santacafé blends southwestern and Asian cuisines, as in the cactus and shitake mushroom spring rolls — and the seafood dishes are sublime.

If you eat at Geronimo, consider the elk tenderloin, and save some time for a digestive stroll along Canyon Road. This street is filled with galleries, shops and sculpture gardens and deserves another trip in the daytime. The downtown area is also lovely to revisit at night, when the Plaza and St. Francis Cathedral are softly lit, and live music emanates from the watering holes and portals busy with buskers.

Chef John Sedlar's new restaurant ELOISA is located at the recently-opened Drury Plaza Hotel.The restaurant offers diners a spellbinding take on indigenous New Mexican cuisine. The menu pays homage to Sedlar's grandmother — who cooked for Georgia O'Keeffe — and the cuisine of his childhood. "The Father Of Modern Southwest Cuisine" is yet again drawing national recognition for his artistry in the kitchen.

Continue to Day 2


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