Santa Fe has always been one of my favorite cities in the country. The history, colors of the southwest, Mexican food, and art are all unique Santa Fe. The city itself is a celebration of our nation’s heritage. From the adobe architecture to the desert landscapes and and Native American history, Santa Fe is a snapshot of the old west. In fact, the city was founded way back in 1607 by the Spainards and still maintains Spanish charm along with Native American culture.
If you’re planning a trip to New Mexico, here are a few tips and must-see sights!
Where to Stay
Growing up in Denver, my family often drove down to Santa Fe, New Mexico for vacations with my grandparents. We almost always stayed at the historic La Fonda on the Plaza – a beautiful adobe hotel on the grounds of the first inn in Santa Fe more than 400 years ago. If you’ve never been to Santa Fe, I recommend trying to stay at La Fonda. From the rooftop bar overlooking the plaza to the history of the hotel, it really colors your stay in the southwest.
While I was back home in Colorado for a month staying with family, my parents, brother and I decided to drive down to Santa Fe for the weekend. With COVID still very real, we opted to stay in an AirBnB so we could eat meals from the comfort of our own space.
I couldn’t recommend our AirBnB more – with two bedrooms, a full kitchen and outdoor space, this condo was perfect for a family of four and a perfect safe and sanitary home base. The condo’s location was great too – just a quick 10-minute walk to the main plaza of historical Santa Fe and only about a five-minute walk to the main city streets of the city. And for ease of access, our condo had a parking spot right out front.
Art + Jewelry
As I’m sure you know, Santa Fe is best known for its art and jewelry. Artists line the plaza offering goods, silver and turqouise jewelry. Around every corner there are vendors offering handmade jewelry and art, all with the unique flare of the southwest. There is shop after shop of high-end jewelers offering beautiful pieces of silver, turqouise and other native stones, most made by members of local Native American tribes.
Though you really can’t go wrong window shopping and popping into whatever store appeals to you, my personal favorite jewelry shop in Santa Fe is Sissel’s Fine Quality Indian Jewelry on San Francisco Street. I spent an hour in this store trying on various pieces and cannot recommend this spot enough. The owner, Sissel, is a Norway native living in Santa Fe – she is a delight and was so fun and helpful.
Each August, when there isn’t a pandemic, Santa Fe holds an Indian Market showcasing the native talent of the southwest. Though I’ve been to Santa Fe during the Indian Market and cannot recommend it enough, the hotel prices skyrocket during the market and book up very quickly. Regardless of what time of year you visit Santa Fe, there will be plenty of southwestern art, textiles and jewelry. Santa Fe is known for its many fine art galleries and countless jewelry stores.
Santa Fe Eats
One of my very favorite things about Santa Fe is the Mexican food – or more accurately, New Mexican food. Now, I am a Mexican food conniseur and would eat it seven days a week if able. And there’s a big difference between Mexican, Tex-Mex and southwest Mexican food. New Mexican food specializes in hatch green chilies and is much more “authentic” than Tex-Mex.
Santa Fe is most famous for their New Mexico style enchiladas, where the tortillas are stacked like pancakes instead of rolled into individual enchiladas. Enchiladas are always a sure bet and are the most popular menu item at Santa Fe restaurants.
One of my favorite spots, The Shed, is located right off the main plaza and is probably the most popular restaurant in town. But for good reason! The Shed boasts world-class enchiladas and tangy margaritas. The place is also COVID safe, with plenty of outdoor seating.
Another popular spot for New Mexican food is Tomasita’s. Similarly to The Shed, Tomasita’s gets pretty busy around meal times. I had the chili rellenos and cannot recommend them enough! This spot also provides outdoor, COVID-friendly seating.
Santa Fe Railyard Arts District
If you want to venture away from the touristy main plaza of Santa Fe, I’d highly recommend checking out the Railyard Arts District, located, as you may have guessed, at the old train station. Not only is this area less touristy, it also is really aesthetic and industrial – the old Santa Fe railyard station looks like something from a Wes Anderson movie. I’d recommend going to brunch or an early lunch at Tomasita’s and walking around the railyard.
On the weekends, there is a farmers’ market at the railyard. Vendors from around the area set up tents offering produce, flowers, handmade goods and art. There were beautiful dried flowers and dried chilis that were so much more unique than a lot of the knicknacks found in the more touristy parts of Santa Fe.
Additionally, across the way from the railyard is a big market with vintage clothing, jewelry, leather goods and more. Not only were these items less expensive than the shops around the main plaza, most of the items were vintage or one of a kind.
Have you ever been to Santa Fe? Where are your favorite spots or must-see places?
I hope you’re staying well in the New Year. Thanks for reading!