Where has the summer gone? I promised you this guide to Santa Fe, New Mexico on Instagram two months ago. We flew off to Santa Fe the day after we got married for a short honeymoon. We wanted a relaxed atmosphere, beautiful scenery, nice weather, and great food, and we found it all in Santa Fe.
We fell in love with Santa Fe’s color scheme, starting with its expansive blue sky and the adobe buildings that blend into the desert landscape. Santa Fe’s multicultural history, with strong Native American, Spanish and Mexican influences, is evident everywhere from the architecture to the food. We loved the fresh Southwestern cooking style and could not get enough green chiles.
I’ve been tossing around the idea of travel guides like these for a while. I rely on similar guides when planning trips and always take notes on our favorite meals afterward. Why keep all my research and notes to myself? Please let me know if you’d like to see more of them. Suggestions for improvement are always welcome, and please share your favorite Santa Fe destinations in the notes.
What & Where to Eat
Santa Fe is famous for its fresh Southwestern cuisine. They put green chiles on everything, and we loved them every time. Green chiles are hearty and mild, and make the perfect vegetarian/vegan filling for burritos and quesadillas. If you love red and green sauce equally like I do, be sure to order your enchiladas “Christmas” style so you get to try both.
You’ll also want to try an agave margarita, which is made with agave wine instead of the usual tequila. Since we were in Santa Fe for our honeymoon, we splurged on a couple of gourmet meals and I regret it because they were not in keeping with the regional cuisine. I think we would have preferred laid-back dinners at Southwestern restaurants instead.
Cafe Pasqual’s enchiladas are featured in the intro photo to this post, and they were amazing. Do not miss this New Mexican restaurant, located in Downtown Santa Fe. The ingredients are mostly organic and the soba salad and agave margaritas were fantastic, too. The place is small, so expect a wait—go before or after the standard lunch times to get a table more quickly.
Food Trucks on Santa Fe Trail
Santafamous Street Eats is a food truck stationed at 518 Old Santa Fe Trail, and the source of those beautiful tacos pictured above. We ordered all three of their vegetarian tacos, and they were as good as they looked. We also got the flash-fried avocado at El Sabor Spanish Tapas in the same parking lot, and it was fantastic.
The Shed is a colorful Southwestern restaurant on the Plaza operating since 1962. It has a great courtyard area for outdoor dining when the weather’s nice. We actually didn’t go there on this trip, but I remember loving it on our family trip way back when. I don’t know if The Shed can beat Cafe Pasqual’s, but it’s worth trying.
Maria’s New Mexican Kitchen
Maria’s New Mexican Kitchen is an old dive bar on one side and a restaurant on the other. Go to the dive bar side for a margarita, singular, as one Maria’s margarita at altitude is equivalent to three margaritas elsewhere. We learned this the hard way. The only trouble is selecting your margarita, since they offer over 100 varieties, all made with 100% agave tequila. Their guacamole is good, too.
Tia Sophia’s is a casual diner, and I strongly recommend their saucy breakfast burritos. The menu says that their longtime waitress coined the word “Christmas” to describe the combination of red and green sauce. I ordered my vegetarian breakfast burritos Christmas style, naturally, and it was exactly what I needed after the margaritas the day before.
Terra at Rancho Encantado
Terra is the Four Season’s restaurant, and it was the perfect relaxing dinner after our long day of travel. I wondered how I got so lucky as we sipped cold Sancerre on the patio with mountains in the distance. Terra offers fresh Southwestern fare, with several vegetarian options. The chile relleno was incredible and I’ll try to recreate it for the blog soon.
The Compound is a gourmet restaurant in an old adobe home decorated by Alexander Girard. The service, food and wine were all very good. I found myself wishing that the cooking style were more Southwestern since we were only in Santa Fe for a few days, but if you want a nice and quiet meal, this might be just the place.
Geronimo is the fine dining establishment in Santa Fe, and it was too buttoned-up for my taste. The celery root “osso buco” was interesting and I appreciated their vegetarian tasting option, but my husband’s meal wasn’t cooked properly (they immediately offered to fix it). If we were to do this night again, we’d pick a more casual and colorful place to eat.
Notes for next time
I’d love to try Vinaigrette for farm-fresh salads, Coyote Cafe Cantina for rooftop cocktails, Paper Dosa for fresh South Indian cuisine, and Kakawa Chocolate House for drinking chocolate. Izanami is a Japanese restaurant located at the Ten Thousand Waves Spa, and the food looked beautiful and interesting (we stopped there for a glass of wine after our massages).
What to Do
Explore the Plaza and Downtown
You can’t miss Downtown Santa Fe, home to many of the restaurants and attractions listed in this guide. On the Plaza, you’ll find silver jewelry, Western art galleries, and gifts to bring home. We found a few gems but came home empty-handed. I fell in love with all the fancy pillows at Wild Life (part of Santa Fe Dry Goods), my husband admired a Filson backpack at Red River Mercantile, and I’m kicking myself for not buying a poncho at Chocolate + Cashmere. Stop at La Casa Sena Wine Shop for a bottle of cold natural wine on your way back to the hotel.
Santa Fe Farmers’ Market at the Railyard
The hours at the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market vary (check their website), but it’s worth the trip. The vendors offer fresh produce, snacks, chiles (fresh, dried and powdered), and more. We bought some delicious green chile flatbread and dried chile powder that we can’t stop sprinkling on our meals at home.
Antiques Shopping on Cerrillos Road
My husband loves hunting for old treasures, so we explored several of the antiques shops on and near Cerrillos Road. Just start at one and ask the shop to point you toward the next. You’ll find interesting Southwestern decor, rugs, jewelry and more. We walked to Maria’s for margaritas afterward.
Ten Thousand Waves Spa
Getting massages seemed like a very honeymoon thing to do, so we booked hour-long massages at Ten Thousand Waves Spa. This Japanese spa is unlike any place I’ve ever been! You can even call them to book the day of, although your options will be limited. Be sure to allot extra time before and/or after to enjoy the outdoor baths.
Tent Rocks Trail
Tent Rocks Trail offers views of unique rock formations set against stunning landscapes. We walked the easy trail at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument in under an hour. They also have a longer and more strenuous hike with better views, if you’re up for it. Don’t forget sunscreen and bottled water!
Georgia O’Keefe Museum
I thought I knew Georgia O’Keefe’s work, but realized that I knew very little as we wandered through the Georgia O’Keefe Museum. The museum hosts the largest permanent collection of O’Keeffe’s work in the world. You can walk through fairly quickly or spend an afternoon here. It’s located just off the Plaza, so it’s easy to find.
Museum of International Folk Art
My friend Jordan insisted that we go to the Museum of International Folk Art, and it was really a unique experience. The museum displays a dizzying permanent collection of folk art from around the world. I loved the Alexander Girard: A Designer’s Universe collection, which showed how Girard’s folk art collections influenced his groundbreaking designs. That collection is available for the next few months.
Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return
Meow Wolf is “a unique art experience featuring an astonishing new form of non-linear storytelling that unfolds through exploration, discovery and 21st century interactivity.” I wish I could tell you what that means, but we didn’t make it inside because the line was so long! Meow Wolf has become a major Santa Fe attraction, so be sure to buy tickets online in advance.
Where to Stay
We stayed at Rancho Encantado, a Four Seasons resort. After all the wedding festivities, I knew we’d want a peaceful and relaxing place to stay, and we were willing to splurge since it was our honeymoon. Rancho Encantado was the perfect fit, since it’s about a 10-minute drive from town and offers a tranquil setting with mountain views.
We stayed on the second floor of a “casita” with a big patio. It was so quiet that we slept with the patio doors ajar, and woke up to cool mountain air and birds chirping. I snapped pictures of the neutral Southwestern decor as inspiration for our future home (someday!).
The resort’s restaurant, Terra, was a short walk from our casita. It was a great spot for dinner the day we arrived and breakfast the day we left. Next time, we’ll take advantage of their complimentary activities—they host hikes, yoga classes, cooking and cocktail classes for guests.
If you want to stay on the Plaza and be within easy distance to everything Downtown, you might enjoy La Fonda. Ironically, my parents stayed there on their honeymoon. El Rey Court is an affordable hotel that’s located along the original Route 66 (a busy street) about three miles from the Plaza. You’ll find many more options in a Google search.
Santa Fe Tips & Notes
Getting to Santa Fe
You can fly into Santa Fe’s airport. We opted to fly into Albuquerque (ABQ), which is a one-hour drive from Santa Fe, since we could fly direct from Kansas City on Southwest points. We were so tired from the wedding that we didn’t want to deal with a rental car, so we took an Uber all the way to the hotel for around 80 bucks.
Transportation within Santa Fe
We used Uber in Santa Fe, which was somewhat problematic because we couldn’t always find cell service, and outside of the Downtown area, Santa Fe destinations are spread out. Fortunately (miraculously!), the Four Seasons had cars that we could borrow for the day. Next time, we’ll rent a car.
In June, temperatures are comfortable (low of 50, high of 80). Given Santa Fe’s high elevation, the sun is extra hot, so don’t forget your sun protection gear—sunscreen, maybe a hat and light scarf/jacket, and sunglasses. You might also run into some random summertime rain showers, which pass quickly.
What to wear
I’d describe Santa Fe style as “casual mountain chic.” Don’t show up to the nicest restaurants in casual sandals, or they’ll give you the side eye. The weather is cool in the mornings and evenings and warms up during the day, so layers are a good idea. A few favorite items (affiliate links): this linen jumpsuit, these sandals for long walks/casual hikes, and this packable sun hat.
More Santa Fe Guides & Resources
- Things to Do in Santa Fe by A Couple Cooks
- Santa Fe Travel Guide by Wit and Delight
- Santa Fe Guide by Goop
- Official Santa Fe Tourism Site
Ok, that wraps up the Santa Fe guide. Do you want more travel guides? (Here’s my Austin, Texas guide.) Did I miss one of your favorite places in Santa Fe? Please leave your suggestions in the comments below!