Topping the 2023 Travel & Leisure’s, Best Cities to Visit in the US list at number 2, Santa Fe, remains a top travel and tourist destination in the Southwest. Santa Fe offers gorgeous architecture, fantastic worldly cuisine, the largest art market in the Southwest, multiple festivals, and outdoor adventures- it’s hard to know where to begin when planning a trip. Being a part-time resident for about a year, I am now equipped to share my travel guide for a long weekend in Santa Fe (aka, what I would tell my friends to do when they visit). Here is The Neighborly approved guide to a wonderful weekend spent in one of the most magical cities in the world.
A Very Brief History–
Santa Fe is the oldest capital city in the United States and the oldest European community west of the Mississippi. Santa Fe is also home to the oldest public structure, The Palace of the Governors. Throughout Santa Fe’s long and varied history of conquest and frontier violence, the town has also been the region’s seat of culture and civilization. Inhabitants have left a legacy of architecture and city planning that makes Santa Fe the most significant historic city in the American West today.*
From the Spanish conquest to the Pueblo Indian revolt, Mexican occupation, and eventual US takeover- there is so much history and a blending of religions, cultures, and architecture- the city is truly fascinating.
A Note About Architecture–
The architecture of Santa Fe is mostly Pueblo style, with authentic adobe structures and newer buildings constructed to mimic the mud and straw historic structures with unique charm. The style born of age, tradition, and environment are priceless assets and heritage of Old Santa Fe. *
How to Spend Your Days-
The perfect days in Santa Fe are spent walking, you can experience the entire town on foot and if you can deal with the elevation (lots of hydration), then you’re in for a treat. This is a town of dog lovers as well, so if you bring your 4-legged friends, they are welcome on most every patio and you will meet so many dog owners and lovers everywhere you go. The bonus is that walking all over lets you eat and drink whatever you want and is the perfect way to be hungry for more!
The premiere art destination of the Southwest, Santa Fe is home to more than 250 galleries. Difficult to get to all the galleries in town; make sure to see if your favorite artists are showing at any local galleries to enjoy their Santa Fe work or you can start your journey on famed Canyon Road, head to the Square and then finish up a the Railyard. Here are some of my most frequented galleries:
Throw a rock, hit a restaurant. There are over 500 places to eat and drink in Santa Fe, and so many I have yet to try; here are some of my favorites I have on repeat.
The Teahouse– pastries and tea/coffee or the best salads for lunch. Plus a perfectly unpretentious patio and dog friendly.
Dolina Cafe & Bakery– gorgeous pastry case, great traditional breakfast offerings.
La Bocca– Tapas bar, wonderful outdoor space, delicious bites- great for lunch.
La Mama– fresh coffee drinks, delightful food offerings, and stop for a tinned fish and a $4 beer in the afternoon.
Food Trucks-502 Old Santa Fe Trail, the perfect pit stop when getting to town or if you’re in between Canyon Road and the Railyard.
Santacafe– fine dining and elegant service with a courtyard patio and super stiff martinis.
Rio Chama– happy hour is wonderful here!
You know this is expert advice coming from your professional shopping partner! Below are my picks for the best places to find something special to wear or bring home.
SOTE– contemporary women’s designers, housewares, jewelry
Standard & Strange– men’s and unisex boutique carrying non-typical, special pieces
Los Poblanos Farm Shop & Bar Norte– satellite boutique from the famed Farm in Albuquerque
Back at the Ranch– my religious experience- heavenly boot shop for unique and custom-made cowboy kicks!
The Raven– curated furniture consignment with fabulous displays
Santa Fe Antiques– tried and true antiques with Santa Fe flair
Railyard Farmers Market- Wednesdays and Saturdays- wonderful vendors, fresh produce, and art!
Ten Thousand Waves– Japanese soaking spa, an unforgettable experience.
There is so much more to enjoy that I haven’t even brushed the surface of here. Wonderful museums, arts festivals, concert series, hikes, etc. Definitely consult an events calendar before visiting and add items of interest to your agenda.
When I took my first trip to Santa Fe back in 2012, it really made an impression on me and felt like home immediately. I knew that this city would continue to be in my life and I dreamed of owning a home here someday. Well that someday came sooner than I thought and I couldn’t be more joyous to spend summers in the City Different, learning more about it with each trip.
Enjoy Santa Fe, NM!
Written by: Misha Renteria
*Santa Fe Board of Tourism, https://www.santafe.org