The Must See & Do Guide to Santa Fe New Mexico

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We recently went on a lovely cultural trip to Santa Fe New Mexico, which included stops to a myriad of restaurants, historical landmarks, art galleries, restaurants, spas, hotels, artisan shops and cafes. For a summary and overview, I’ve organized some recommendations below about what to see and do for cultural aficiondos.

Below, is all things adobe a couple of short blocks from the main Plaza. Historical and cultural attractions in this area include St. Francis Cathedral, Palace of the Governors, Loretto Chapel, San Miguel Mission and the New Mexico State Capital.

There’s also a great History Museum, the Spiegelberg Museum, the New Mexico Museum of Art Shop, and to the north on Kearney Avenue, a stone’s throw from Gonzales Drive, lies the Cross of the Martyrs.

Overlooking Santa Fe, this reinforced concrete cross stands 25 feet tall and weighs 76 tons, and commemorates the death of 21 Franciscan friars and numerous Spanish colonists during the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. It was dedicated during Santa Fe Fiesta of 1920 and was the site of candlelight processions for many years. In 1925 the fiesta procession attracted about 3,000 people, and bonfires on the hillside illuminated the cross.

The Cathedral Basilica St. Francis of Assisi

The Railyard is a fun and lively area for Arts, Entertainment, Dining and Shopping. A few call outs include El Museo Cultural, the Hispanic Cultural Center, Santa Fe Clay, a ceramic art center and gallery, the Antique Warehouse, a Mexican Ranch furniture store, the Second Street Brewery at the Railyard for beer and pub fare and the Flying Stare Cafe, a great place for a family meal. There are also a myriad of art galleries throughout the Railyard area.

For entertainment, there’s La Fiesta Lounge at La Fonda, Santa Fe’s oldest hotel that previews local dance music and is known for their great margaritas, Santa Fe Bandstand, which is an outsize plaza that offers free music Monday through Thursday nights, the Vanessie Restaurant and Piano Bar on West San Francisco Street, which has piano and lounge entertainment nightly and the Lensic Performing Arts Center for live ballets, concerts, sympathies and more. Santa Fe has an Opera during summer months on an open stage and as I mentioned in a my food write-up, Cowgirl has live music and the food and bar scene is lively and fun (we went twice while we were there).

A few restaurant call-outs include Cowgirl, La Boca, Vinaigrette and The Compound, not necessarily in that order. More options and choices can be found in my Santa Fe foodie round-up including tons of photos from our restaurant reviews and other recommendations from locals. For serious foodies, it’s worth knowing about the Santa Fe School of Cooking, which offers classes at their new locaton on North Guadalupe Street on the corner of Johnson.

If you need enticing, check out this lobster salad at The Compound during lunch.

Below, The Cowgirl on South Guadalupe, which has live music throughout the week – a must stop when in Santa Fe (be sure to order a side of their coleslaw and their Game Burger)

La Boca on West Marcy Street in the center of town, a short walk from the Plaza.

Vinaigrette on Don Cubero Alley.

The Four Seasons Terra Restaurant on State Road 592. See my restaurant write-up.

Speaking of the Four Seasons, be sure to check out their spa for both individual and couple’s treatments. They have an awesome outdoor area for relaxation, a hot tub you can soak in afterwards and great views of the mountains on all sides.

Funky Architecture not far from the city center.

Grant Street.

There’s no shortage of art galleries to explore, from the renowned Canyon Road to the center of town and surrounding suburbs. A few paintings that caught my eye below.

Art along Guardaloupe

Since I spent a lot of time looking at art galleries while I was there, some of the artists I personally gravitated to include:

  • B.C. Nowlin: his paintings reflect his cross-cultural background where his family’s land formed the southern boundary of the Sandia Pueblo Reservation. Love his vibrant colors and horse paintings. I saw his work in Manitou Galleries.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the infamous Georgia O’Keefe Museum – I’ve always been a fan of her work and first learned about her in high school, but this was the first time I saw as much of her work in one place. Below are a couple of shots I took inside the museum (well worth a stop).

Closeby, a fun side trip is the scenic Turquoise Trail from Santa Fe Highway 14 South to the village of Madrid. Dating from the early 1800’s as a coal mining town to a recovered ghost town, Madrid is now a distinctive community of artists and craftspeople and even was a movie set for the “Wild Hogs.” Madrid is booming with old miner’s cabins remodeled into quality shops and a Mine Shaft Tavern, among other quirky shops and things to do.  You can tour the Madrid Old Coal Town Museum and visit the historic ball park for summer festivals and concerts.

The Santa Fe Chocolate Trail is also a must for foodies. For your stop over list, be sure to check out C.G. Higgins Confections on Ninita Street, The Chocolatesmith on Cerrillos Road, Kakawa Chocolate House on Paseo De Peralta and Todos Santos Chocolates on Sena Plaza Courtyard, all in Santa Fe.

Also refer to my Top Santa Fe Restaurant Picks and my write-up on the Inn at Santa Fe and the Four Seasons, where we stayed this past January.

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