The capital city of New Mexico is quite well-known as a center for creative arts and their Pueblo-style architecture.

If you are an art enthusiast, you’ll find that Santa Fe boasts an incredible number of galleries and museums that are impossible to cover in just one trip. They’ve got the New Mexico Museum of Art, Museum of International Art, and the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, just to name a few.

There are bountiful of shops and galleries that are abundant with world-class hand-made creations such as jewelry made from turquoise and other precious stones, pottery, and hand-woven rugs and baskets.

Santa Fe has a lot to offer that goes beyond arts and exhibits. The town possesses a natural beauty that is truly impressive — quite a magnificent playground for several outdoor activities ranging from hiking, skiing, and biking. They have numerous hiking and biking trails with Tent Rocks being the most famous among visitors.

Being the oldest capital city in North America, Santa Fe has a very long history. There is much to learn from their stories that go way back — tales about revolution, invasion, and reconquest.

With nineteen Native American communities that populate the area, it is easy to see how their beliefs, arts, and traditions shaped and enriched the city that we know today. There is a plaza where you can buy works of arts directly from the creators. You may also choose to participate in the Pueblo Feast Days or any other tribal celebrations to truly live the experience.

Want something more? Try the fine dining experience and first-class spas where you can get pampered and indulge yourself to your heart’s content. So, if you are looking for ideas on where to go and what to see on your next trip to Santa Fe here are a few places you’d want to include in your itinerary.

Where to Stay

If you want to dive straight into Santa Fe’s rich past, go to La Fonda on the Plaza. It is a historic hotel that was established in 1607. They can offer you a tour to see the inside of the hotel and hear its stories. The location of the hotel is right on the spot where the first inn in the town was first built during the time when the city was founded by the Spaniards. It might as well be the oldest hotel in America.

It was a favorite option for a place to stay amongst soldiers, gamblers, gold seeker, politicians, and trappers at that time. It has stood well through major events such as the Civil War, the railroad expansion, and the statehood of New Mexico.

La Fonda has quite a remarkable history under its belt, that is both colorful and very fascinating, which makes it more of a landmark than a hotel. It plays a very significant role in the town’s and its people’s history.

The most interesting story behind the hotel though was about when the property was leased to Fred Harvey. He was very well-known for his Harvey Houses, as well as his Harvey Girls. The Harvey Girls were what they call their staff of exceptionally trained waitresses who dress modestly and are required to have good morals, good manners, very eloquent, and well-educated.

For their roles, they received good wages and free room and board. During their time it was ground-breaking for women in history. It was an impressive feat to be a woman with what they have considered a respectable job title, other than being a school teacher.

Now, looking at how art history has influenced the hotel’s structure and design, you’ll see a blend of different cultures from its past. There is a room with a lovely Spanish-style fireplace. As you will glean during the tour of the hotel, the design was actually of Arab influence.  

It is striking how different cultural influence can blend in and harmonize in just one space. The tour is absolutely worth your time, especially those who enjoy peeling back the layers of history.

For those who favor staying in a luxury hotel, you can go to The Rosewood Inn of Anasazi located at the center of Sante Fe. It holds the same standard as the Rosewood Hotel in London. So, you can expect the same level of quality in service, comfort, and luxury during your stay in this hotel.

The interiors put a modern twist to the traditional Santa Fe style of decor. This 58-room hotel offers an intimate vibe that makes you feel right at home.

The Eldorado Hotel & Spa might be the best representation of the city of Santa Fe. This hotel has astounding decors, as well as luxury amenities and accommodations. The staff is friendly and very accommodating. They got a roof-top pool, too.

It sits at the heart of Santa Fe, making other destinations in the city easily accessible even on foot. You can ask the staff for everything you need like directions, maps, or recommendation. They also have free WIFI.

Good Eats

For your first dining experience, what better way of celebrating it by going to Santa Fe’s best. Their “Restaurant of the Year,” the La Boca Restaurant, is also a recipient of the “Award of Excellence” which was given by none other than the International Wine and Food Society. It was a restaurant started by Chef James Campbell Caruso, an 8-time James Beard Award nominee, in 2006.

It is a cozy restaurant that has an intimate décor that serves delicious modern Spanish tapas. Guests are serenaded by a Spanish guitarist, completing the European wine bar atmosphere that the eatery gives off. The friendly and attentive servers will be happy to guide you through their menu and impressive wine list, making the experience comfortable and relaxing.

For starters, you might want to give the Alcachofas a try. They are grilled artichokes with Spanish goat cheese, orange zest, mint. Other best dishes that are highly recommended are the mussels, which is an aji Amarillo fish broth served with chorizo rioja and garlic, and the Fried Portuguese goat cheese that has cherry port mostarda, tarragon mojo verde, and crostini.

If you want something fresh, have a taste of their amazing vegetable dish of parsnips and carrots with yogurt topping. All the dishes here are served with the utmost attention to detail. The freshness and quality of ingredients, presentation, and the overall taste of the dishes are well planned and simply delightful.  Check out their impeccable wine pairings for an exquisite and satisfying dining experience.

Another restaurant you should try is La Plazuela, located at La Fonda on the Plaza. It is one of Santa Fe’s oldest restaurants that was built in the 1920s. Its initial design was a form of an open patio. Today, the restaurant still holds its former glory and aesthetics, even while indoors. They brought in the outdoorsy ambiance by installing natural lighting, a fountain, and indoor trees.

Its marvelous interiors are as impressive as its rich history, and so are their cuisines. La Pazuela is one of the best restaurants that you can find in Santa Fe. Their food offers a fresh take to the classic New Mexican dishes. This is where you’ll get the real taste of local flavors and dishes that sets apart Santa Fe from everyone else.

One of the house specials is the Enchiladas del Norte, a yellow corn tortilla stuffed with Mexican cheese and drizzled with Hatch red sauce which was locally made. For your main course, order the Fajitas de Santa Fe. It is a marinated shrimp with chicken, bell peppers and sweet Spanish onions. You can choose to have it with either corn or flour tortillas.

A perfect place for a happy hour is The Pink Adobe, or as locals kindly call it The Pink. Its popularity has turned it into a local and a national landmark. It sits at the heart of the historic district of Barrio de Analco, right across the oldest church in the US, the San Miguel Mission. This fifty-year-old establishment has a distinct taste in food, drinks, and décor.

The Dragon Room belongs to the top 19 bars in the world. They serve amazing appetizers, as well as margaritas. Their must-try item in the menu is the Clams Lucifer, which are Manila clams with Mexican tequila coupled with red chili broth. It was a winner of the Santa Fe Grand Tasting contest. Just be warned that is it very spicy, a signature taste of Santa Fe.

The Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi also serves fantastic food in their 38-seat dining room. The interior is visually stunning, and the dishes are just divine. Their menus, created by their Executive Chef Edgar Beas, is a fusion of old and modern techniques, mixing advanced recipes and crafty play. Their food reflects both Southwestern and native heritage, utilizing the freshest local and seasonal ingredients.

Try out their Burrata; it is served with young beets, pomegranate, field greens, and hazelnut. You might be astonished at how much you’ll love the Roasted Brussels Sprouts that has parsnips, manchego cheese, Meyer lemon, and kalamata olive.

And for a finale, order the Périgord Truffle Ravioli. It is a dish of wild mushrooms, maple, sage and brown butter. These are excellent food choices that can be perfectly paired with wine.

Shop Away

While visiting the Palace of the Governors, you should head over to the plaza for an amazing shopping experience. This historic plaza is located at the very heart of Santa Fe. Here you can visit Native American shops and vendors that sell their wares every day.  They implement a lottery system that helps sellers secure a spot in the plaza, giving you something new to see every time you come here.

You’ll find stunning art, jewelry and other products that are truly unique. The city of Santa Fe works hard to ensure that the Native American products sold in the plaza are indeed authentic. The locals do advise visitors to purchase the items directly from the artists themselves to make sure you are getting your products from a reliable source.

Vendors in the plaza are quite friendly. They allow people to take a look and try some of the things they sell before you purchase. As you will observe while looking at the items very closely, you’ll see that most of them have discernible markings. They are Native American symbols that have a meaning attached to it. The sellers will be more than happy to explain them to you if you inquire about them.

The meaning and story behind each piece make the items even more valuable and interesting. Each turquoise is a product of craftsmanship and a wonderful culture. You’ll be taking home with you more than just a souvenir item, but also a riveting tale.

It is best to visit Santa Fe during the summer festivals or throughout the hot air balloon festival in Albuquerque. If you want an enchanting experience, you can watch the Canyon road illuminated with about thousands of farolitos or paper lanterns with candles inside. There are countless restaurants, museums, art galleries, and shops you can visit.

So, make sure that you make the most of your trip by planning your destinations ahead. Include places in your itinerary that will give you the real taste of Santa Fe’s food, arts, nature, history, and brilliant culture. Whether its enjoying outdoor activities, marveling at the natural beauty or discovering rich history, Santa Fe has everything that you would want to experience.