Travelers come from all over the world to wander through the oldest capitol city in the United States. History is evident is all areas of the city. The food, the architecture, the shopping, and the people are all unique to this small town.
While we were in Santa Fe, we stayed right off the plaza at the Inn and Spa at the Loretto. The window in our room opened over Loretto Chapel next door. We were lucky enough to arrive in time to watch a bride and groom coming out of the chapel following their wedding. The sun was setting, mariachis were playing, and the church bell was tolling. I am so glad that we were there for that special moment. It was a beautiful reminder that Santa Fe is more than a tourist destination. This is a town that people live in and love and we became part of that living history during our stay.
Whether you are here for the shopping, the art, the food, or the people, these are some of my favorite things to do in Santa Fe.
Jean Cocteau Cinema and Coffeehouse has become a Santa Fe landmark. This small theater with a single screen and 120 seats has been bought and sold several times over the past 30 years. Most recently it was purchased earlier this year by author George R.R. Martin. Martin’s known for his series of books, The Game of Thrones. He reopened the theater with plans to use it as an art space in addition to a theater. The cafe features film related art exhibitions in addition to offering pastries, pizza, and popcorn with real melted butter and a variety of toppings.
Santa Fe Farmer’s Market is open on Saturdays year round at the market’s permanent home by the Railyard. You’ll find fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables, quality meats, dairy and eggs, flowers, baked goods and jams, body and herbal products as well as original crafts. The vendors at the market sell only products grown and made in the Santa Fe region, so everything found there is truly authentic. Walking through the market is an experience not to be missed. Consult the market’s crop calendar prior to your visit for an extensive list of in-season produce.
Palace of the Governors was built in 1610. That makes it the oldest house and the oldest church in the US. The Palace faces The Plaza and the portal in front of the building is lined with artisans selling their own handmade Native American jewelry. When you are done browsing for souvenirs, you can explore the period rooms within the palace.
St. Francis Cathedral is a beautiful and unexpected landmark in a town dominated by adobe architecture. You can see the cathedral at the end of San Francisco Street looking east from the plaza. Mass is held daily at St. Francis.
The Shops at Sambusco are an eclectic assortment of shops and restaurants. The employees in each of the stores we visited were friendly and it was a lovely area to spend an afternoon. The Reel Life is not to be missed if there is a fly fisherman in your life. The selection of casual walking shoes at On Your Feet is enormous and varied and the sales staff knowledgeable. My sister and I both picked up great boots while we were there. The fact that my beloved Cost Plus World Market is in the area as well finished off our shopping perfectly.
Double Take is a consignment store like no other, with three stories and a huge selection of world antiques, western goods, Santa Fe pottery, contemporary and vintage fashions, mainstream and designer wear, home goods, and children’s items. Everything in the store is artfully arranged and it is a pleasure to browse. I could have spent hours just wandering the store. The store’s collection of Fiestaware made my gasp and the walls of new and gently used boots are a sight to be seen. If browsing a secondhand bookstore makes your heart happy, Books of Interest is located across the street from Double Take. Their selection of special interest literature is extensive.
Senor Murphy Santa Fe Candymaker is a quick stop not to be missed. For over 40 years, Senor Murphy’s has been making quality chocolates and candies. From chile peanut brittles to piñon candies to more traditional chocolate creations, this candy store has it all. We picked up green chile peanut brittle, piñon chocolates, and cherry sours to take home.
The Shed has been serving authentic northern New Mexican foods for over 60 years. If you’re looking for traditional Mexican foods, this is the place. The restaurant is a Santa Fe institution and it is busy from open to close. Keep an eye out for their small brightly colored sign marking the entrance to the restaurant’s courtyard. If it’s dinner you want, call ahead for reservations or be prepared to wait a while. If you aren’t already headed to the plaza and would rather avoid the crowds, La Choza is a sister restaurant to The Shed and is located in the Railyard District. Both restaurants offer intimate patio dining and similar menu choices.
The Plaza Cafe is Santa Fe’s oldest restaurant and it is right on the plaza. The restaurant opened in 1905 and has been serving traditional New Mexican food along with American foods for over a hundred years. You’ll find everything from blue corn carne asada enchiladas served with sopaipillas to chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes. This diner style restaurant is a great place to sit and watch the plaza.
La Boca serves contemporary and traditional Spanish tapas that will leave you dreaming of a return visit. I fell in love with bruschetta all over again after tasting their version piled with crimini mushrooms, cream sauce and a fried egg topped with truffle oil and reggianito cheese. The tuna tartare topped with avocado lime puree and pickled onions served alongside crispy plantains was a completely new food experience for me and I absolutely loved it. Seating is limited and reservations are recommended on the weekend. I’ve eaten there twice and every dish I tried was unforgettable. If you’re in town during the day, half-price happy hour is my favorite time to visit. Taberna is a more casual sister restaurant that was originally designed to accommodate the natural overflow that a restaurant like La Boca creates. Located just around the corner they are open for lunch and dinner as well.
Counter Culture Cafe is a long time favorite of Santa Fe residents and this restaurant was my favorite unexpected find this trip. It looks almost like an old warehouse from the outside, but as soon as you step inside you realize you’ve found a true gem of a restaurant. Our visit was inspired by a reader’s suggestion and I can not thank her enough! The menu is an eclectic blend of flavors and styles. From food truck fish tacos to green chile smothered breakfast burritos to amazing sandwiches and burgers covered with haystack fries (definitely try the fries!) the whole menu was a feast. I have no doubt that I’ll be back to visit again every time I’m in Santa Fe. There were at least a dozen other things that I would have loved to try. We couldn’t resist taking home the biggest cinnamon roll I’ve ever seen, because they came so highly recommended. We split that roll six ways and it was still a generous portion! You can find the cafe at 930 Baca Street, just off of St. Francis Dr. Their number is (505) 995-1105.
Liquid Light Glass is a must see if you are eating at Counter Culture. The showroom is just a few doors down and tucked into the corner of a small shopping area on Baca Street. Elodie Holmes is the founder and owner of Liquid Light Glass and her work is available is galleries and museums both nationally and internationally. She works out of an open studio next door to the showroom. If I’d known in advance of our trip, I would have scheduled a session with Elodie. She offers both public and private classes. Check the website for more information on how to schedule your own glass blowing session.
Ten Thousand Waves is a beautiful hot springs mountain spa just ten minutes from downtown Santa Fe. My sister and I treated ourselves to herbal wraps, massages, and the waterfall hot springs for our last morning in Santa Fe. It was the best birthday gift I could have asked for this year. The hot springs are my favorite part of every visit to Santa Fe.
Santa Fe National Forest is a gorgeous place to visit for an hour or for the weekend. Hyde Memorial State Park is set in the Sangra de Cristo mountains and is only a 15 minute drive from downtown Santa Fe. Hyde Park offers group sites, campsites and hiking trails and it feels worlds away from any city traffic. The leaves were changing colors while we were there and I couldn’t get enough of the breathtaking scenery. We ordered breakfast from Luminaria Restaurant before leaving our hotel and we took it with us to the park. We sat and watched the leaves fall while eating. It was one of the most memorable breakfasts ever.
The staff at the Inn and Spa at Loretto proved why this luxury hotel is rated so highly among world travelers. We spent our time at the hotel laughing and talking with the employees who were friendly and helpful, they made our stay perfect. Located just one block from Santa Fe Plaza with a full-service spa, casual fine dining, art galleries, shops and a tranquil garden this is a destination hotel that is like no other.
These are just a few of my favorite places to visit in Santa Fe. Did I miss some of YOUR favorite Santa Fe locations? I’d love to hear about them and add them to my list for future visits.
Disclosure: We were given guest passes to the museum and we were graciously hosted by Inn and Spa at Loretto. However, all thoughts and opinions are my own.