Editor's Note: In this three part special feature, we’re exploring three of New Mexico’s most magical cities: Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and Taos. In this installment, we're heading to oldest capital city in the country — Santa Fe.
Santa Fe, aka “the City Different,” is the oldest city in New Mexico and it's full of all the cultural character you’d expect. This walkable town is known for its art scene. There are a ton of things to do, but there’s an emphasis on art and you see it everywhere.
La Posada de Santa Fe is an art-centric hotel that makes a great introduction to Santa Fe with a festive atmosphere, over 600 works of art, and cozy rooms with fireplaces. It’s an historical property located just a couple of blocks from the Plaza and gallery-rich Canyon Road. When it’s too far to walk, there are complimentary SUVs to give you a lift, making this a great choice for those coming up from Albuquerque on the train.
Santa Fe has an elevation of 7000 ft. If you’re having difficulty adjusting, La Posada offers an Altitude Adjustment massage at the spa, or you can pop in for some oxygen and chlorophyll drops that help make you feel more comfortable. Breakfast on the colorful patio is the perfect way to start your day in Santa Fe. The Huevos Rancheros and Buttermilk Pancakes are both delicious.
Fabulous food options abound in this city, and it’s hard to make up your mind where to eat. After indulging in delicious (but heavy) New Mexican cuisine, head over to Vinaigrette for some healthy organic farm-to-table food that is so good you might be tempted to eat there every day. It has a cozy atmosphere that feels like home and features a huge variety of salads to choose from. You’ll get nourishment for the body and soul, and four legged friends are welcome on the patio.
You know who was a fan of farm to fork food? Georgia O’Keeffe. And the O’Keeffe Museum is not to be missed. Even if you’re not into art, this woman was a badass and it’s impossible not to be inspired on some level. She was an organic gardening minimalist who loved nature with all her soul, and moved to New Mexico because she felt that’s where she belonged. If you still can’t get enough O’Keeffe after the GOKM, head to Abiquiu for a tour of her studio, as well as horseback riding at Ghost Ranch to see firsthand the landscapes that inspired her.
If you’re a western movie buff (or simply like your luxury), consider staying at the Four Seasons Rancho Encantado, which was once a 57-acre dude ranch and hangout for movie stars practicing their riding skills. John Wayne was a regular and good friend of then-owner Betty Egan, whose saddle is displayed prominently near the bar. It's legend that Wayne once gave her his favorite horse. Egan, who was quite the hostess, gave the place its name, “Enchanted Ranch.” Robert Redford, Jimmy Stewart, and even the Dalai Lama were once guests. Egan’s old house still sits on the property where people continue to talk about her fondly, as if she was their friend too.
This hotel is a good choice for those utilizing public transportation, as they not only provide shuttle service, but also offer Mercedes convertibles for guests to use for free, so you can head out for day trips in style. By the time you factor in the extra values (no resort fee either), it starts to make sense. And why not enjoy a luxury oasis after being in the desert? Views are sweeping and spectacular. You’ll see the Rio Grande River Valley, and the Sangre de Cristo and Jemez Mountains. You feel like you’re in a secluded hideaway, but it’s only 10 miles from downtown Santa Fe.
Decor is industrial cowboy chic. Sexy concrete floors and lots of rustic wood and stone create a gorgeous textured look throughout the resort. They kept materials from the old dude ranch and incorporated them into the new construction, so though it’s ultra modern, it has a rustic character. Rooms are huge, minimalist, and contemporary, yet cozy and comfortable with wood burning adobe fireplaces, soaking tubs, and outdoor living space.
On-site adventure partners will provide excursions, like hiking around Tsankawi prehistoric sites within Bandelier National Monument. A guide will take you on a moderate hike to see petroglyphs, or you can choose from various cultural excursions. After you wear yourself out, head to the spa where you can get unique treatments inspired by Native American rituals. Dine al fresco by the fire pit and watch that legendary New Mexican lighting as the sun goes down in a dance of purple, orange, and red above the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
For horseback riding, head to the Stables at Tamaya Resort about 45 miles from Santa Fe. It’s worth the drive (and you can take the convertible). They say they have “five star horses,” and they are not kidding. Want to ride like the wind, off trail, and on historical Native American ground? This is your place. Inexperienced riders can go on a trail ride with gentle horses that regularly carry young children, but if you want to feel the ecstatic freedom of what it’s like to ride a horse for real, then go riding with Ernesto Lopez. Lopez, head wrangler and farrier, will take you on a private ride that’s tailored just for you. Want to see the river? You’ll go along (or in) the Rio Grande.
Set amid a stunning landscape owned by the Santa Ana Pueblo, it’s even more beautiful when you realize the stables are also a rehab facility for abandoned and abused horses. You’d never know it looking at these gorgeous healthy horses, as they are friendly and responsive and engage with you as you ride. It’s nothing like your typical trail ride and so rewarding. Between the breathtaking views and hearty doses of horse-love, it’s an experience you walk away from feeling rejuvenated and alive.
If you want to keep the cowboy vibe going a little longer, head back to Santa Fe and sit at John Wayne’s favorite table at The Compound, or grab some grub at the more casual Cowgirl BBQ joint in the Guadalupe neighborhood. There’s an interesting vintage western shop on the same street called Double Take that film crews frequent to get costumes and props.
Santa Fe has a distinct atmosphere, interesting people, color popping all around you, excellent food and an outdoor life to satisfy the urge for adventure. It leaves an impression on you that will definitely have you wanting to go back for more.