Santa Fe is an ode to beauty. The place is a piece of artwork, ever-evolving into a masterpiece, thanks to its endless trail of history, energy, intention, and the people that collaborate and contribute to its visage every day.
When we went to Santa Fe for the holidays, it was a wholehearted reunion with one of my very favorite places. And I was lucky enough to enjoy it with people I love and can’t get enough time together. It was an amazing escape.
Our four days in the land of green chile, adobe, and enchantment was highlighted by excursions, experiences, and most of all, food. We walked, ate, and drank. Drank and ate. Ate, walked, and slept. It was a most delicious cycle.
Our trip was filled with must-dos for any day, week, or lifetime stay in Santa Fe. At least once, visitors should try these various experiences, from where to stay to where to dine to where to spend a relaxing day.
Let’s start with food, shall we? Santa Fe is nothing short of a culinary paradise, marked with both casual and gourmet options that leave a napkin stain from all that mouth-watering excitement. I highly, highly recommend a stop at these fantastic places.
- Tomasitas. Tomasitas, near the plaza, is my very favorite restaurant in the world. Since I first tried their sopapilla-and-honey combination at age 10, I’ve been hooked. I even get the same thing every time, though I know everything on their menu is delicious and well-done (especially since I take bites of other people’s dishes whenever I can): a big bowl of red and green-mixed chile with beans, chicken, and cheese (I know, I shouldn’t), paired with a delicious house margarita (in my top five of all time, for sure). We ate at Tomasitas twice in our four day stay, and they were closed for half our stay; our hotel was also across the street. Priorities.
****Side note: I just realized that I have never been to Tomasitas without my mom. This is a fun and crazy fact, but don’t think that the quality of the food is wrapped entirely in nostalgia—it really is that good.
- Sazón. For Christmas Eve, my parents made us a reservation at Sazón, a fancy place with gourmet New Mexican cuisine and an atmosphere that feels like cashmere—luxurious, expensive, and worth the investment. The walls are an ode to Frida, with portraits and her work everywhere. The staff is unmatched, refolding napkins whenever someone leaves the table, never letting a water glass go below mid-level, and showing their expertise so flawlessly. The food, which was served with six batches of mole, was a delicious retreat into artistry, with artistic presentation, creative combinations, and above all, an outstanding taste. I had pork belly tacos and the chef’s special crab soup, and it was easily the best meal of my life.
- Restaurant Martin. Our Christmas Day meal was another stunner, presented as a high-end pre-fixed menu with four courses. We had a tuna small bite, artisan bread and crackers, then chose our own plates. I went with a venison appetizer, loin main course, and a decadent chocolate dessert. I was stuffed, but made room for a celebratory glass of rose-flavored champagne. It was the stuff of dreams, guys. Merry Christmas, from Restaurant Martin.
A Day Trip to Include
A significant highlight of our trip was announced before we left Colorado, as we were finishing up our gift exchange. My dad told my mom, Chad, and I, “and there’s one last gift! We are all going to Ojo Caliente, and each getting a massage!” I think our mouths dropped to the floor. What. A. Guy.
Ojo Caliente is a one-of-a-kind hot springs retreat located just an hour away from Santa Fe. Ojo is tranquil, an escape, a luxury soak. Each pool has a mineral theme (my favorite is the “Lithia” pool, like lithium, which is all about mood boosting), and there is a whisper-only policy. In one pool, there’s no talking aloud at all. This place is all about recharging, recovering, and getting away.
My parents are the best. During our day trip to Ojo, we were able to enjoy the spa as well as the pools, which came with robes and electronic lockers and showers with amazing products inside. My massage was incredible, even as a novice client. Chad had never had one before, and I was so happy that his first one was at such a divine place; it might be pretty hard to beat.
Ojo also has a lodge and an on-site restaurant definitely worth checking out. Their fish tacos, served with mango salsa, is a perfect way to fill up on divinity before going back to the hot waters.
Go to Ojo. Soak. Enjoy the mud bath, if possible. Whisper, but don’t lose your sense of humor (everything is funnier when you aren’t supposed to laugh). Rest, recover, and emerge anew. And if you have parents as generous as mine, give them an extra hug as soon as you can.
Local Treasures, for Every Trip
What’s a travel guide without local activity recommendations? In four days, we were able to pack in some mustn’t-miss hot spots.
- The Ark Store. This store, nestled behind the REI in the train station/arts district (a place worth wandering through and exploring, by the way), is an eclectic blend of treasures. There’s pretty much everything: crystals and jewelry, hippie-type supplies like tarot-reading and incense, affordable and high-quality clothes (my mom got me a llama dress, which I so love), feminist-branded bags and socks, children’s toys and art projects, and lots of books. The Ark literally has something for everyone.
- The Plaza. If you go to Santa Fe, you must go to the Plaza. I think this is universally understood and accepted; it must be, since it’s usually pretty busy. While you’re walking around, stop in a few shops, enjoy one or two historic cathedrals, admire the local vendor’s gorgeous art, and, if possible, buy a ticket to a museum. Totally worth it.
- Iconik Coffee Roasters. There are a few Iconik locations in Santa Fe. During our stay, we wandered into a downtown location, partly hidden away. I had a horchata latte, adoringly spiced with sugar and cinnamon. The place gets packed, but this coffee shop has all you need: books, couches, and baristas that make flowery designs in the foam.
Stay Here, At Least Once
Santa Fe is filled to the brim with so many delightful lodging options. It’s honestly hard to go wrong, though hotels can be quite expensive. I’ve stayed everywhere from the Eldorado to Bishop’s Lodge to a property owned by Two Casitas—adobe flats nestled into the bustle of alley-way driving.
This time, we stayed at Hotel Santa Fe. Thanks to the generosity of my parents, we were ushered to the Hacienda side of the property, which included unmatched service from the moment we arrived, a free happy hour with drinks and yummy foods, and complimentary breakfast each morning. The art, which is inspired by Native Americans, is captivating and litters the hallways and rooms. The shuttle is also a nice service, especially when there’s chill in the air.
If you can, treat yourself at least once to the hospitality that Hotel Santa Fe offers. It is so worth it, and makes each moment indoors pleasant.
Last but not least, there are certain events that make Santa Fe a holiday destination. There are so many things to do (there are hundreds and thousands of books that depict Christmas in Santa Fe, look it up!), and many traditions that exist in this artistic hub.
- Glow. We went to an exhibit at the Santa Fe Botanic Gardens called “Glow.” Like most of these displays, the gardens were transformed with Christmas lights and farolitos—paper bags with sand and a lit candle inside (known as luminarias elsewhere). Here, we were dazzled by the sculptures and illuminations, and escaped the cold in tents with live music and warm drinks. It’s a must-do holiday activity for sure, and will make the season come alive with cheer.
- Christmas Eve Farolito Walk. One of Santa Fe’s most cherished traditions includes lighting up the famed Canyon Road with faralitos and holiday light displays. Known for its galleries, Canyon Road transforms into a piece of art itself. Fun Fact: the word farolito translates to “little lantern” in Spanish. This event is a must, as it enriches soul, spirit, and the senses, especially as pinion logs burn along the sidewalks.
If you can, escape to Santa Fe. Whether you visit as a holiday getaway, romantic getaway, family trip, or a soul-searching vacation alone, you’ll find that the city has everything you need. Food, art, tradition, culture, history, and just about the kindest and most hospitable locals you can imagine, willing to share their magic with the world.
Santa Fe 2018 Slideshow