Part 1 of this series covers the best way to kick off a New Mexico trip with outdoor adventure, native American culture, and noshing in Albuquerque. Continue reading for Part II -- a deep dive into the arts, more culinary delights, and a little bit of spa-ing in Santa Fe.
If Albuquerque is the quirky, fun cousin you visit when you want a change of perspective, Santa Fe -- about 65 miles to the northeast -- is its older, sophisticated sister who's more established in her creativity. While the two cities are more similar than they are different, you’ll still find different vibes and flavors in Santa Fe. It’s filled with an incredible amount of museums and, famously, home to Canyon Road, which is lined with more than 100 galleries. There's a chance to indulge in a little pampering, too, after all the cultural enrichment.
It’s easy to forge on with your New Mexican adventure, too. Drive for just about an hour, or hop on the Rail Runner train from downtown Albuquerque to the Santa Fe Depot. The ride runs five zones, or $10 one-way, in roughly an hour and 40 minutes.
DAY FOUR: On to Santa Fe’s Downtown Museums & Shops
The train deposits you straight into the Railyard, where you’ll find a farmers market every Saturday year-round -- the perfect place for casual mid-day noshing. Expect to see wedges after wedges of cheese, golden pastries the size of your head, and local jams and honeys alongside New Mexico smudge sticks and succulents from around the world.
If you need a pick-me-up, try some "drinking chocolate" at Kakawa Chocolate House, where cacao transcends the dessert category to the health-minded realm. Owner Tony Bennett is often onsite to explain how his “elixirs” provide a natural energy and immune boost sans caffeine crash. The rich, creamy potions are divided into three categories (Mesoamerican, European, and contemporary) based on the origins of each historical recipe. Just don’t expect your run-of-the-mill hot chocolate here; our favorite, the Mayan, has a distinct kick of chili along with strong spice and herbal flavors.
Spend the rest of the day downtown, where culture hounds and shopaholics alike will find a veritable playground. Art lovers can’t miss the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum (not to mention wonderfully curated galleries like Patina), while the nearby Palace of the Governors and the New Mexico History Museum lend insight into the city’s past.
For shopping, Santa Fe also has a fantastic Native American market program, located in the plaza right outside the Palace of the Governors. Each vendor you meet here had to host a craft demonstration at their home studio to secure their spot. Take the chance to pick up some souvenirs here or simply chat with the artists about the methods passed down from members of their tribe.
End the night at Osteria D'Assisi, a farm-fresh Italian restaurant helmed by a young chef who, after training at the age of 14, has already worked at two Michelin-starred restaurants.
DAY FIVE: Exploring Canyon Road & A Little Pampering
After a day of transit and exploration, this is a good morning to take it easy, whether you want to sleep in or continue to stroll downtown. If you’ve had your fill of museums and boutiques, let the architectural mystery at Loretto Chapel amuse you. Word is that the curiously unsupported spiral staircase here was built by angels or St. Joseph himself, but we’ll let you draw your own conclusions.
When you’re hungry, make a quick stop at the lively Cowgirl Hall of Fame, where a juicy burger is the perfect complement to their frozen margaritas. Take a table on the outdoor patio to enjoy some sun and live music.
And then it’s time to experience one of the most well-known attractions in town: Canyon Road. It may only run a half-mile long, but its 100-plus galleries would take days to fully explore. The good news is that plenty of sculptures and artwork are displayed right along the street or in courtyards just beyond, so you can enjoy on-the-go. That said, we still highly recommend making time for spots like Mark White Fine Art that's hard to miss with a field of kinetic wind sculptures, and Waxlander Art Gallery, home to a sculpture garden with a calming, babbling fountain.
After all this time on your feet, treat yourself to a spa experience. Try the Nidah Spa at the AAA Four-Diamond Eldorado Hotel, where you can soothe tired muscles with 25- to 80-minute massages, bliss out with body wraps using local ingredients (think: cactus and agave, chocolate mole, or chile honey), or enhance wellness with energy healing treatments.
After finding your zen, nip to the rooftop bar of La Fonda -- an iconic hotel with roughly 400 years of history -- before dinner at TerraCotta Wine Bistro. The welcoming restaurant offers a $30 three-course prix fixe as well as an a la carte menu, featuring fare like smoked tuna salad and tenderloin of New Mexico grass-fed beef.
DAY SIX: Some More Sun Before You Leave
Make your last morning a memorable one with a filling breakfast burrito, which in these parts of the country more often than not comes drenched in sauce. Order various versions at eateries like Posa's, Tia Sophia's Restaurant, El Parasol, Cafe Pasqual's, and Tecolote.
Once you’re all fueled up, spend your remaining hours in and around the Santa Fe Botanical Garden, which encompass a series of five culturally and historically themed courtyards, a hillside orchard, and an eight-acre hiking trail (more areas are coming in fall 2016). But roses and lavenders, and perennials and plants that don't require much water, aren't the only attractions here. Right across the street sit not one but four art and culture museums. You’ll have to prioritize, so be sure to plan ahead -- or, even better, plan a return trip.