Places to Love: Santa Fe, New Mexico
I’m in a city that began as the original cultural crossroads of the United States. Santa Fe is home to a confluence of Native American, Spanish, western and eastern influence. Here, traditions are strong and artistic boundaries are pushed. Out of all the places I’ve traveled, I return here again and again. Whether it’s the light, the art scene, or the margaritas, I’m simply drawn to The City Different. Here’s why Santa Fe is a place to love.
PLACES AND STORIES TO LOVE
Breakfast burritos, enjoyed over the funnies
Open since 1975, there’s nothing more quintessentially Santa Fe than a breakfast burrito at Tia Sophia’s. I had the great pleasure of enjoying breakfast with Ricardo Cate, the US’s only Native American cartoonist in a mainstream newspaper. His comic strip, Without Reservations, runs six days a week and features the Chief and the General– meant to represent his view of native versus mainstream culture. He uses humor to communicate the Native American experience, and it doesn’t take long to discover his very funny comic has a deeper message.
IF YOU GO
In the 1980s, Tia Sophia’s waitress Martha Rotuno famously coined the phrase ‘Christmas’ in reference to ordering both red and green chiles. Merry Christmas!
210 W San Francisco St
Santa Fe, NM 87501
No separation of art and state
You may know Santa Fe is a major hub for artists. But here’s something surprising– one of the most extensive collections is housed in the state capitol. The Capitol Art Collection, created in 1992, aims to collect, preserve, and exhibit art that reflects the diverse people of New Mexico. The collection consists of nearly 600 artworks, exhibited inside the State Capitol Complex as well as on its grounds. Curator Dr. Cynthia Sanchez walked me through the amazing collection, made of paintings, sculptures, photography and more. It’s worth mentioning each piece was donated (read: no taxpayer money was used to fund it) and is currently valued at over $5.6 million.
IF YOU GO
The Capitol building is open Monday through Friday 8:00am – 5:30pm, and Saturdays throughout the summer. Tours are given regularly throughout the year and can be arranged by calling 505-986-4589.
The Capitol Art Collection
411 State Capitol
Santa Fe, NM 87501
The Best in Northern New Mexican cuisine
Santa Fe’s restaurant scene rivals cities three times its size. For the best in northern New Mexican cuisine, head to Tomasita’s. Owned and operated by Georgia Maryol for 45 years, this is the place for delicious food smothered in red and green chiles– the thing that sets Northern New Mexican cuisine apart. Maryol, whose parents immigrated from Greece, grew up in New Mexico– so even though her DNA is Greek, her soul is New Mexican, and these are the foods she grew up eating. Try the enchiladas, which aren’t rolled, but instead served flat and smothered in sauce.
Walk the Margarita Trail
Santa Fe is known for a lot of things, but one of my favorites comes with salt on the rim and a squeeze of lime. Yep, I’m talking about the margarita– the beloved cocktail whose roots stem back to Santa Fe. For one of the best in town, head to Cowgirl BBQ, a favorite watering hole featuring live music, great food, and friendly service– served on the rocks.
You’ve just crossed over into the Twilight Zone
You enter a home of a family that’s vanished without a trace. Every room offers a clue as to what happened, each with a passageway or portal leading you to a magical new world. No, it’s not the Twilight Zone, it’s an art installation called House of Eternal Return by the artist collective known as Meow Wolf. This explorable, immersive art installation inspires visitors of all ages. The wildly imaginative, sprawling space is a collaboration of over 100 local artists, creating a unique combination of children’s museum, art gallery, jungle gym, and fantasy novel.
A Japanese tradition in the City Different
Santa Fe is an epicenter for the healing arts. Whenever I’m here, I make it a big part of my experience. As far as spas go, there’s nothing quite like Ten Thousand Waves. I’ve been coming here for twenty years to soak in a tub, surrounded by a mountain landscape. It does wonders for a sense of serenity. This time, I signed up for a traditional Japanese Shiatsu massage from veteran body worker, Mark Hess. This was more than a relaxing massage– it’s about leaning into what your body needs to be in its most optimal state.
IF YOU GO
The spa’s bathing experience is modeled after the great hot spring onsen of Japan. Both public and private tub experiences are available, and include outdoor hot tubs, cold plunges, saunas, lounging decks and more. Reservations for private tubs and suites are strongly suggested.
Ten Thousand Waves Spa and Resort
21 Ten Thousand Waves Way
Santa Fe, NM 87501
Fresh Air, Santa Fe-style
One of my favorite activities? Hiking. In Santa Fe, it’s all about the Dale Ball Trails. Just 10 minutes from downtown you’ll find 22 miles of trails offering stunning views of the city. Tim Rogers of the Santa Fe Conservation Trust showed me around, and let me do some of my own wandering. Getting into nature is such a great way to feel connected to a destination, and these public lands are the perfect place to do just that.
Drop your bags at a legendary hotel
Santa Fe has a long history as a travel destination. What brought it to a more national level was the Transcontinental Railroad. If you visited the city via train, you probably stayed at La Fonda Hotel. City records show a hotel has stood at this site for 400 years.
Today, travelers come to marvel at La Fonda’s 1920s style, as well as learn about its roots as a Harvey House. Restaurateur and hotelier Fred Harvey was the first person to start a hotel and restaurant chain in the west, complete with impeccable service from Harvey Girls. These ladies were more than waitresses… landing the gig required the women to have an education (well, an 8th grade education… but it was the 1800s), “good moral character,” manners and a neat appearance. Harvey paid good wages, with free room, board, and uniforms. In return, Harvey Girls provided excellent service. In fact, Harvey Girls remain synonymous with fantastic hospitality.
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DID YOU KNOW?
Harvey Girls needed to agree to a six month contract, which stipulated that they not marry during their stint. The jobs paid quite well, and women happily signed up. A bonus of the job? A free rail pass to their chosen destination.
La Fonda on the Plaza
100 E. San Francisco St.
Santa Fe, NM