Santa Fe is a charming town in Southwest USA. And worth a visit if you are in the area. The town is a prime visual example of Southwestern style, with adobe homes seeped natural earth tones and the influence of Native American and Hispanic Colonial architecture. It’s also a haven for the arts, temperate weather and my favorite quality, good food!
I’m lucky with family residing in Santa Fe, I’ve been able to enjoy this city over the years with frequent visits. Sitting at the base of the Rockies, it’s a small mountain town, less than 100,000 people. The pace of life reflects a small town, there’s definitely no rush to go anywhere or do anything. But even for a small town, Santa Fe embraces tourism, and there’s plenty of activities in both summer and winter to keep you busy.
As the third oldest city founded in the United States, and the oldest US capital, Santa Fe has a lot of history to offer.
Santa Fe is an easy one hour road trip from Albuquerque, NM, where the biggest airport is located. However, the smaller Santa Fe Airport also has several flights with non stop service from Dallas, Denver, and Phoenix. There are multiple hotels on the Plaza (town center) to accommodate your stay depending on your motivation for a visit. I’m going to outline a recent one day visit to Santa Fe, with some outdoors activities, gallery strolls, and of course, feasting!
Breakfast: Santa Fe Baking Company
If you’re going on a hike, you’ll need a hearty breakfast, and this is where Santa Fe Baking Company fills the void. Think meaty, goey burritos smothered in your choice of green or red chilly. We’re talking burritos bigger than your head, you’ll need two hands to handle these guys. If you get the burritos to-go, they conveniently pour the red chile nectar on the inside of the burrito, for maximum handling. If spice is not your thing in the morning, they also have killer coffee choices, and pastries.
Morning Activity: Hike
Dale Ball Trails : Picacho Peak
There are a number of hikes near the town of Santa Fe that give you great views and vary in range from easy to difficult. We decided on Picacho Peak mountain hike, which is part of the Dale Balls trail system. It’s located about ten minutes from the plaza along Upper Canyon Road. While not extremely strenuous, the 2.5 mile hike still gave us a workout with the 1000 foot climb, and our calves were feeling it! We were rewarded at the top with sweeping views of the valley and town below. We also had the option of continuing the hike to the adjacent peak, Atalaya, which would have added an additional 600 ft in elevation gain. But we cut our hiking excursions there as were ready for another burrito!
By now you have worked up an appetite. This place is a must any time we go to Santa Fe, so I’ve mentioned it in both of my Santa Fe Guides (the other being Santa Fe for the Art Lover). Its especially worth going to after you have completed a hike, because, you know, you already burned the calories, so you can afford it (wink). Popular among tourists and locals alike, Tomasita’s is a good place to try the flavors of New Mexico. Perpetually busy, we usually have to wait to get a table and during dinner times, the wait is usually an hour or more. The decor is nothing special; simple tile and beamed roofs. But you come here for the food and the service. Once seated, the service is fast and friendly. There’s plenty of space for small and large groups, and the staff is wonderful with families. For drinks, we usually get the silver coin margarita. It’s happily stiff and is a welcome refreshment paired with the spicy food. Prices are reasonable for the size of the portions. I usually get the cheese enchiladas, served Christmas (with both red and green chile), and an added fried egg to the top. My partner usually gets the Tuesday plate, a ginormous serving consisting of a taco, enchilada, and chile relleno. The chile of course is hot! Both spicy and temperature wise. The food is tasty but filling, especially with the generous baskets of sopapillas on the side. And we always save room for the sopapillas. They are served with honey, or cinnamon butter on the side, a perfect dessert!
Afternoon Activity – Sculpture Gardens or Archaeology
Santa Fe is the third biggest art market in the US, behind New York and Los Angeles, so there’s even time for the outdoorsy adventurer to enjoy a gallery. Shidoni Gallery is an open air art exhibition just northwest of Santa Fe. The galleries are open Tuesday – Saturday from 9 am – 5 pm. Entering the outdoor sculpture park is free, and it’s a nice place to roam around and admire nature and art in the same area.
If you have time and are a fan of ancient history, Bandelier is a worthy visit. It’s a national monument and protected park area where a civilization from almost 1000 years ago once lived. You can see their homes carved into the canyon walls, and petroglyphs dating back to a human presence in the area over 11,000 years ago. You can walk the paths to learn about their history, climb the ladders into their dwellings, and tour the fields where they once planted their crops.
Dinner and a Show – Santa Fe Opera
During the summer, it’s worth a visit to the Santa Fe Opera for one of the many shows. The unique open air design of the building beautifully captures the performances, in sync with both nature and art. To take in the performances in the drop back of the dessert is a mesmerizing experience. This is one of the only opera experiences where tailgating is encouraged, providing fans of the opera a way to imbibe with snacks and wine in the parking lot before the show begins. Don’t have your own picnic gear? The Inn of the Turquoise Bear offers special picnic packages : https://www.turquoisebear.com/santa-fe-vacation-packages.html#packages.