santa fe new mexico travelogue
A travel report by Lynn McKamey (ScubaMom)
Santa Fe is truly unique and calls itself "the city different".  That's quite true - no other place in the world offers such a concentration of  Native American arts, culture, and Southwestern history. 

The city is 7,300' above sea level and has a cool, dry desert climate.  Set near the gorgeous foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, some of the nearby mountain peaks are over 12,000 feet and local ski areas often have snow pack in excess of 100 inches.  In the summer, nights are cool and days are warm.  Travelers are often treated to some glorious sunsets such as the one below. 

Santa Fe sunset
We've been vacationing in Santa Fe for years, but had never been there during the winter season.  Our family chose it for our holiday vacation with hopes that snow might be on the mountains so that we could combine skiing with sightseeing and shopping. 

We were joined by friends which brought our group total to 14 with ages from 24 to 56 coming from all over the country - Vermont, Boston, Durango, and Texas.  Half drove to Santa Fe, the others flew to Albuquerque.  In past years, we've spent our holidays in Lake Tahoe, Jackson Hole, Banff, and Salt Lake City - quite a distance from our home towns, so I had thought that Santa Fe would be easy to reach via airlines and buses - I was quite wrong!  More about that later. 

When planning this trip, I looked for condominiums near the center of town and found only a few which could accommodate large families.  Fort Marcy Condos north of the Plaza was a possibility, but was booked for our time period, however the Eldorado Hotel manages the Zona Rosa Condominiums and had 3 bedroom units available.  Only 4 blocks from the Plaza, they were an excellent choice!  At the last minute, our youngest daughter and her friend decided to join us, so Eldorado reservations booked them a cute room at the Las Palomas Casitas, another property it manages, and just a half block from our condos. For more information, go to my detailed review of these properties by clicking HERE

As always, there is plenty to do in Santa Fe - shop, visit all the museums, browse the stores and galleries on Canyon Road, take day trips to the mountains, and eat. 


The first night, we had dinner at the Pinon Grill - the favorite entree was "Chimayo Chile Seared Prime Rib" best described as mesquite grilled, blacked beef encrusted with mild New Mexican spices!  Don't miss ordering this flavorful dish.  The next day, we had an early lunch at Pasquals which offers some of the best mexican food, sandwiches, and soups in Santa Fe.  The restaurant is tiny and there's always a line, but it's well worth the wait. 

The Shed offered excellent New Mexican cuisine - one family ate lunch there; the other enjoyed dinner.  We also discovered the Plaza Restaurant, a diner really, with great choices of good basic American and Mexican food.  One of our favorite Santa Fe restaurants is Tomasita's - while it advertises North New Mexican food, we think it's very close to Tex-Mex.  Our vegetarian daughter was in heaven since they offer lots of meatless choices. 

We chose the Pink Adobe for our "holiday dinner" - as always the selections were excellent and service perfect.  Half of us ordered Mexican food, the others dined on steaks cooked to perfection and succulent salmon. 

The Pink Adobe

We discovered a French restaurant on Burro Alley called the Cafe Paris owned by a husband-wife team who prepare fabulous food!  Rahera was born in Tahiti; Paul is from France.  For lunch, we had all kinds of soups, sandwiches, crepes, and omelettes, followed by chocolate truffle desserts.  The dinner menu looked superb and they also serve breakfast.  We also stopped by several times to sample some of their French pastries and specialized coffees. 
We didn't have a chance to dine at El Nido (the nest) or the Steaksmith this time, but both are excellent dinner destinations. 
We found some other great restaurants on recent trips. 

Café San Estevan near the SANBUSCO Market Center has a great selection of New Mexican with some continental specials.  Also a small, intimate atmosphere. 
Café San Estevan
The Guadalupe Cafe, close to the Pink Adobe, has wonderful salads, New Mexican, and American specialities.  Good for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. 
If you are near the Plaza and want just some good old comfort food, dine at the Plaza Restaurant Cafe - an old Santa Fe Tradition.  The menu is huge including everything from Mexican Food to burgers to their delightful Santa Fe meat loaf. 
Locals love Tiny's, south of the Plaza at 1015 Pen Road.  It serves a wide array of food - steaks, New Mexican, burgers, and sandwiches at very reasonable prices. 
If you plan a driving trip, Restaurante Rancho de Chimayo is an excellent restaurant destination, set in the scenic hills north of Santa Fe about a 40 minute drive along the High Road to Taos.  It serves some of the best native northern New Mexican Cuisine for lunch or dinner in a historic New Mexican estate. 
Chimayo Restaurant
If you take a day trip to Taos, be sure to have lunch (or dinner) at the great little Apple Tree restaurant on Bent Street near the Plaza! 
Santa Fe has enough stores, galleries, and boutiques to keep someone busy browsing and buying for days.  Ortega's On the Plaza is always a great place to find Southwestern style jewelry.  Unusual ladies wear can be found at Origins, Spirit of the Earth, and Purple Sage.  The Santa Fe Weaving Gallery has some of the most gorgeous natural fiber coats and jackets I've ever seen - very fashionable "wearable art" woven in fine silks, wool, and cottons.  Other downtown shops offer everything from tourist trinkets to fine art. 

Our 98 pound Akita puppy chewed up my favorite winter boots two weeks before our trip, so I had to wear my 30# snow boots instead. Needless to say, I spent the first day searching for some new boots at every shoe store in town.  Walking On Water (on Water Street) had a nice selection but couldn't fit my size 11 feet.  The Overland Sheepskin Company had some great outdoor boots and Street Feet did too.  Finally, I found the perfect boots at the Yarrow Collection - each pair is handcrafted by a Santa Fe artisan in colorful sheepskin and several low and high top designs are available.  The shop also has fanciful sheepskin coats and vests. 

Handcrafted boots and a vest at Yarrow
Canyon Road, known as "the art and soul" of Santa Fe is a mile long historical street lined with very upscale boutiques, galleries, art studios, and lots of little restaurants.  It is about 5 long blocks southeast of the Plaza and starts near the junction of Alameda and Paseo De Peralta.  Seeing it all can easily take an afternoon. 

Fenn Gallery at 1075 Paseo de Peralta is one of the finest art galleries in the Southwest.  It features 19th and 20th century American paintings and sculpture, works by early Taos and Santa Fe painters, as well as artists of the American West and masters of American Modernism and Impressionism. 
For more information about shopping, go to my Santa Fe Shopping page

Eleven excellent museums are in Santa Fe, the capital of New Mexico and the second oldest city in the United States.  Across from the Plaza, the Palace of the Governors features a 17,000 item collection detailing the history of New Mexico and Native American civilization. Other nearby museums are the new Georgia O'Keeff's Collections, the Museum of Fine Arts, and Institute of American Indian Art Museum. 
Jeff, Kenneth, Lynn (ScubaMom), and Katherine
Jeff, Lynn (ScubaMom), Kenneth, and Katherine
outside the Museum of International Folk Art.
While downtown, don't miss the lovely Loretto Chapel which features a spiral staircase built without nails or any visible means of support by a mysterious, wandering carpenter in 1878. 

A short drive down Old Santa Fe Trails to Camino Lejo takes you to The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, one of our favorites.  The nearby Museum of International Folk Art is also worth a visit. 

Day Trips
Most visitors to Santa Fe have a car and take advantage of several wonderful day trips to nearby areas of interest.  Probably the most scenic and popular is taking the "high road" to Taos through gorgeous mountains (see the map below).  We usually go during late morning and stop at Chimayo to visit the Santuario de Chimayo, a small chapel which some believe to have healing powers, and enjoy naive New Mexican food at Rancho de Chimayo.  Taos offers lots of shopping and a historical atmosphere.  Be sure to have lunch or dinner at the Apple Tree Restaurant.   If we are returning near sunset, then we take the "fast way" back along Route 68 to Interstate 84.  (Don't do the "high road" at night - you'll miss the views and the road is quite curvy). 
Bandelier National Monument park
If you want to see Anasazi cliff dwellings, then visit Bandelier National Monument park about a 1 hour scenic drive from Santa Fe.  Set in the Frijoles Canyon and surrounded by hill, the park has a small stream running through the center.   It has lots for anyone and everyone to do - go through the visitor center, the exhibit room, and take a short walk to see the ruins or do some hiking along several trails. 
View from top of Trail
A walk to see the pueblo ruins and cliff dwellings is about a mile round trip. Paths and steps to the cliffs provide outstanding view of the canyon - I took the picture above at the top of the dwellings path and our friend Koren climbed one of the many ladders into a cave room. 
Koren in a cave dwelling

Be sure to purchase a small Bandelier guidebook and trail map before you start exploring - it gives details about various areas of the ruins. 
Other day trips can be taken to visit pueblos, quaint towns such as Chama, and Native Indian historical ruins. 

a canyon

Summer visitors enjoy white water rafting - check with your hotel for more information. 

Taos offers some of the best skiing in New Mexico and the ski area is about an hour and half drive from Santa Fe.  Santa Fe Ski Basin also has ski runs and is served by shuttle buses from most of the major hotels. 

Even though there was no snow in Santa Fe during our Christmas visit, both ski areas had enough for some fairly good skiing. 

Getting There
Santa Fe is located about an hours drive north of Albuquerque, and visitors should have an automobile to see all that the town and region has to offer. While Santa Fe has a tiny airport served by commuter flights, most people fly into the Albuquerque airport and rent a car there.  In our case, since half our group were driving, those flying into Albuquerque took the "Sandia Shuttle" van service to reach Santa Fe.  Non-stop vans  make the 70 minute trip 10-12 times a day and will drop riders off at most of the major hotels.  The cost is about $25 per person one way; $45 for round trip.

AIRPORT SHUTTLES:  It is important to have a reservation with Sandia Shuttle Express before arrival and if your airline schedule runs late, be sure to call them to reserve a later bus.  Some of our group who had delayed airline schedules forgot to call and were left standing at the curb -- they ended up renting a car to reach Santa Fe.  For information, reservations, and current bus schedules, call (505) 438-0687 in Santa Fe or (888) 775-5696. 
RENTAL CARS: All the major car rental companies are available and we usually rent a car. 

If you have time for a scenic drive to Santa Fe, take the lovely Turquoise Trail about 2 leisurely hours through hills and valleys.  Stop in Madrid, a funky little artists' town and browse the shops and have a beer at the  Mine Shaft Tavern or coffee at Java Junction shown below.  All the studios and shops are in old buildings like this one. 

Java Junction
If you must fly on American Airlines via the Dallas-Ft. Worth Airport to reach Albuquerque, then take this link to my "Suggestions for making connections through the DFW airport". 
Click on the Map for a larger image
ScubaMom's Santa Fe Hotel Reviews
ScubaMom's Santa Fe Fashion Shopping Trip
Excellent list of Restaurants 
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Photographs, images, & map Lynn McKamey
Some photos are taken by Koren Sherrill
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