Santa Fe, New Mexico, is a diamonds and denim type of town, where jeans and boots are at home next to designer fashion at the Santa Fe Opera or the bar. Santa Fe is infused with creatives and art, from small vendors on the street selling turquoise jewelry to fine art galleries selling six-figure work. It’s an ancient town that’s young at heart, where retirees make turns at Ski Santa Fe next to 20-somethings who enjoy a honky-tonk afterward.
When to Go
With more than 330 days of clear skies annually, Santa Fe is a four-season destination. Powder snow in winter thrills skiers and snowboarders, and warm days with cool nights in the 60s make summer Santa Fe’s busiest season. Spring sees blooming lilac, hollyhocks, and other flowers along with late snow, and come fall golden aspen leaves quiver against a dark blue sky in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains as roasting chiles and cozy piñon fires begin to scent the air.
Almost monthly there’s a unique cultural or artistic festival happening in Santa Fe. Among the largest are July’s contemporary and traditional markets that feature artwork by some of the best Hispanic artists in the nation. In August the Santa Fe Indian Market attracts art lovers from all over the world who shop for the best in Native American art directly from hundreds of artists. September sees the Burning of Zozobra, a 50-foot-tall marionette that represents Old Man Gloom. The Fiestas de Santa Fe that commemorate the Spanish re-entry in 1692 also take place in September. On December 24, farolitos, paper sacks filled with sand and candles, illuminate the Plaza and Canyon Road.
What to Eat
Santa Fe is known the world over for its traditional New Mexican cuisine, a centuries-old blend of Native American and Spanish influences that usually includes a generous serving of red or green chile (spelled here with an e) peppers. Beef or chicken enchiladas and burritos served with a side of Spanish rice, corn, beans, and a squash dish called calabacita are typical fare, as is chile relleno (chiles stuffed with cheese and deep fried), carne adovada (red chile-marinated pork), green chile chicken casserole, and posole (a hominy and chile stew with chicken or pork). For dessert, custard flan and a pillowy fried dough called sopaipillas served with honey are favorites. Many fine-dining Santa Fe restaurants and chefs are known for their fusion of traditional New Mexico dishes with global influences.
Souvenir to Take Home
Santa Fe is famous for its traditional silver and turquoise jewelry, Pueblo pottery, and Navajo weavings. Red chiles are traditionally tied into long strings called ristras in order to dry for cooking, but are also hung outside of homes for decorative purposes. Southwestern-style clothing and boots also go home with many Santa Fe visitors.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Sustainable Travel Tip
The New Mexico Rail Runner Express commuter train travels between Santa Fe and Albuquerque several times daily, with a shuttle bus to and from the Albuquerque International Sunport base at the downtown Albuquerque station. The Rail Runner leaves from Santa Fe’s Railyard District, an area within walking distance of the Santa Fe Plaza and itself a destination with local shops, restaurants, art galleries, and museums, including SITE Santa Fe, that showcases contemporary art.
San Miguel Chapel, built in 1610, is one of the oldest churches in what is now the U.S. and is a favorite Instagram subject with its adobe walls and bell tower. The Gothic-styled Loretto Chapel and its Miraculous Staircase, a wooded corkscrew stairway that uses no nails or central support, is another photo favorite. For an overview of the city, climb the hilltop stairs to the Cross of the Martyrs, a great sunset vantage point. Throughout Santa Fe quiet gardens with sculptures, flowers against adobe walls, and other street scenes will fill your feed.