A Perfect Cultured Day in Santa Fe

Santa Fe, New Mexico’s capital, sits in the Sangre de Cristo foothills. It’s renowned for its Pueblo-style architecture and as a creative arts hotbed. Founded as a Spanish colony in 1610, it has at its heart the traditional Plaza. The surrounding historic district’s crooked streets wind past adobe landmarks including the Palace of the Governors, now home to the New Mexico History Museum.

There is so much to do in Santa Fe. To narrow it down was challenging. So challenging. That being said, I am convinced that I have curated a perfect day for you.

Normally, I recommend the charming, quaint, and, even iconic, spots to stay. I have done the same in Santa Fe. Don’t be turned off by my recommendation in favor of some quaint BnB. I recommend the Hilton on the Plaza. For real. I will tell you why. Location. It is just two blocks from the historic Santa Fe Plaza and there is parking. Second. It is a 300 year old hacienda. You will be bowed over by how beautiful it is. The curved ceilings. The terra cotta floors. The exposed wooden beams. You will be living in the most quintessential southwest hotel you could imagine. We went near Christmas time. The fires were burning in the multiple fireplaces throughout the property; there were lumeriarias everywhere. It was cozy and festive. While we didn’t stay much inside of the hotel, we really enjoyed a final nightcap at the hotel bar, too.  

You wake up in this perfect setting. The sun is shining (as it does 300 days of the year–your odds are good!), you are well rested because you took my advice and splurged to get yourself into the comfy Hilton Bed (seriously. It is so comfy, we bought one for ourselves!). If it is a Saturday, take a walk over to the Santa Fe farmer’s market. It is one of the best and largest farmer’s markets in the United States (for real. Fodors says so). You can literally eat your way through the market. Of course, there are stands that sell fresh fruits and veg, but also bakeries and a cafe. Pick up snacks for your road trip. And, make sure you grab some of the fresh roasted green chilies!! If the season is right, you might encounter people roasting them on site! Look for what looks like a mesh barrel that someone is turning over a fire. If you see that, follow your nose and get some of the freshest roasted chilies that you’ll ever encounter outside of Hatch, NM.  

From there, make your way back towards the Plaza and go to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. O’Keefe was one of the most significant artists of the 20th century. She spent nearly 40 years coming and going from New Mexico and eventually settled at the Ghost Ranch north of Santa Fe. The Museum holds the largest single collection of her work, with more than 3000 pieces. Not every piece they have will be on display at any given moment, but, since everything she did was beautiful, you won’t be disappointed. The museum is not terribly big, so budget a maximum of two hours or so for your visit. 

From there, cruise around the Plaza. Check out the many stores and take a close look at the jewelry being sold in front of the Palace of the Governors.  So many Native artists are exploited by traders, if you can, try to buy directly from the artists themselves or their direct emissaries. As you wander, consider popping into a few museums. I’ll admit, I have not been to nearly enough of the Santa Fe museums. But, of the one’s I’ve been to, I recommend the Museum of International Folk Art and the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture. If you go, please do tell me what you did and what you’d recommend!

In the afternoon, head over to Meow Wolf for the trippiest experience you can have sober. The right words to describe Meow Wolf don’t really exist. This is how Meow Wolf describes itself: “explorable, immersive art installation filled with technology, and fantastic environments to inspire visitors of all ages. The wildly imaginative art space is a collaboration of over 100 local artists and is a unique combination of children’s museum, art gallery, jungle gym, and fantasy novel.” That clears things right up, doesn’t it? In some ways, I think you should let yourself be surprised. Just go. Trust me. Have I ever led you astray? If you are going in the summertime, do book your tickets ahead of time. 

Post-Meow Wolf–I am thinking you might need to simmer down a bit. So, where best to simmer than a hot spring? Head over to Ten Thousand Waves for complete relaxation. They have a collection of pools, including private pools, that you can choose for your perfect soak. You can make reservations, which I recommend for the weekends. 

And finally, dinner. Give Radish and Rye a try. It is a fancier, farm-to-table restaurant that has never disappointed. Cas claims that the old fashioned there is one of the best he’s ever had. We took our server’s advice and got a collection of small plates to share. We were not disappointed. I suggest you do the same since their menu is ever-changing and seasonal. 

And, by this point, you are probably ready for your nightcap at the Hilton. Go on, relax by their fire and put up your feet. 

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