With its dramatic landscapes and historical architecture, Santa Fe
(which means “holy faith” in Spanish) is a city like no other. Sitting at 7,000 feet above sea level, the capital of New Mexico is a playground for discovery. From culinary experiences to art fairs and from the opera to the outdoors, there are plenty of festivities happening and things to do.
I experienced the best of what the area has to offer through a pre-designed travel itinerary as a guest of Tourism Santa Fe. And from the moment I arrived in Albuquerque to drive northeast into Santa Fe, I knew that I was in for quite the experience.
Whether you are a foodie or an adventurer, here are seven ways to get the most out of a trip to Santa Fe.
EXPLORE THE OUTDOORS
Covering all the trails of Santa Fe is no easy task: The city is surrounded by over a million acres of public land and is the starting point for a variety of outdoor adventures including hiking, camping, and fishing. Explore the vast amount of hiking and mountain biking trails or go camping in the forest.
Before taking to the outdoors, keep the effects of high altitude in mind: The air gets dryer, air pressure decreases and moisture quickly evaporates from your skin. Our tour guides shared some practical tips to stay hydrated and have a safe and enjoyable climb:
1. Drink plenty of water on the way While you are sitting at the airport, on the plane or in the car, drink water. Don’t try to save trips to the restroom by skimping on liquid.
2. Ease into your activity Allow your body time to acclimate and take longer rest periods than usual.
3. Carry water wherever you go and drink often Pay attention to your body’s thirst signals and drink a little more than what you think you need. A headache is a sign of dehydration.
4. Consume foods with high water content Maintain your hydration levels by consuming water-rich fruits and vegetables such as cucumber and watermelon.
5. Avoid excessive amounts of caffeine. Caffeine is a diuretic and may inhibit your body’s water absorption. Try to limit liquid your fluid intake to mostly plain water.
TAKE IN THE ARCHITECTURE
Moving through Santa Fe feels like being in the middle of a modern day Flintstone era. Made of earth-colored adobe bricks (a mixture of sun-dried earth and straw), the low-slung buildings look magical paired with a backdrop of majestic mountains.
Pueblo architecture became synonymous with Santa Fe in the 1900s. Since then, its traditional elements have experienced a contemporary twist. For example, there might be tile flooring instead of traditional pine board flooring in a house or building. Other architectural styles in Santa Fe include the Victorian and Italianate styles.
Modern architects are now working to blend history and modernity in their designs to create a sleek, fresh look for Santa Fe. But preserving the history and aesthetic of the city is a priority.
CHOW DOWN ON SPICY FOOD
With over 200 restaurants featuring foods ranging from the region’s savory specialties to modern Southwestern fare and international cuisine, Santa Fe has evolved as a foodie destination.
If you want to enjoy traditional Santa Fe flavours, chile is a staple. Driving through the city, you can spot garlands of dried red chiles hanging outside of homes.
Serving an average of 40 tons of chile per year, the award-winning restaurant Tomasita’s is the place to go for traditional red and green chile.
Start your mornings with a smoothie from Sweetwater Harvest Kitchen. I opted for the sweet chili mango smoothie, luscious and rich in flavor. Wrapped in a wheat tortilla and smothered with Christmas chile sauce (red and green chile combined), the breakfast burrito was also fantastic.
BRUSH UP ON YOUR COOKING SKILLS
While tasting so many dishes, you might feel inspired to get into the action yourself. I found myself getting a deeper appreciation for the culinary arts during a visit to the Santa Fe School of Cooking.
I spent an evening with renowned chef Michelle Chavez as she whipped up a red oakleaf lettuce salad with pears and a honey sherry vinaigrette, masa-crusted pork chops, cumin marinated potatoes and a heavenly peach cobbler for dessert. The evening was rich in taste but also in education. It did not feel like an average step-by-step cooking class.
For the people of Santa Fe, having some of the top restaurants is just the tip of iceberg when it comes to their love of culinary traditions. Food brings the city together.
PEOPLE WATCH AT THE FARMER’S MARKET
Head to the farmer’s market to find the best local foods but also to experience the warm and welcoming community atmosphere that is always flowing through the veins of Santa Fe.
With 150 vendors selling food and artisanal products as well as live performances and entertainment, The Santa Fe farmer’s market is one of the oldest, largest and most successful markets of the country. It operates year-round and provides an opportunity to mingle, learn new things and people watch.
SADDLE UP AT THE BISHOP’S LODGE
My horse-riding skills are lacking, so when I headed to the Bishop’s Lodge Ranch Resort & Spa, I was a bit on edge. Luckily, the wranglers on staff were great to work with. They paired me with a horse based on my skill level and experience and my anxiety quickly turned to excitement. The horses were calm and patient and had the route all figured out. If you are looking for an excuse to saddle up with your cowboy boots and hat, this is it.
Located in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Range of the Rocky Mountains, the family-friendly resort also features hiking trails, tennis courts and outdoor pools.
TAKE INSTAGRAM-WORTHY TRAVEL PICS
Santa Fe is a photogenic city. The combination of unique architecture and great lighting with dramatic shadows provides the perfect setting for taking beautiful pictures. And if you’re into photography, you will need to find a compromise between carrying your camera gear safely and heading to locations off the beaten path.
Between climbing, going on tours and producing content, this New Mexico experience kept me extremely active. I needed a functional camera bag that wouldn’t have me compromising on style.
I was introduced to ONA BAGS by the wonderful graces of the internet. The Nylon Camps Bay camera backpack is handcrafted from premium 1050D ballistic nylon fabric and features full-grain Italian leather accents and solid brass hardware in a sleek gunmetal finish. I knew the water resistant feature would come in handy in case of rain.
As a photographer, I was blown away by the beauty of my surroundings and got to take incredible shots. But this trip also encouraged me to try activities outside of my comfort zone. I didn't expect to enjoy my journey as much as I did and when I left, I remained under the spell of Santa Fe.