Why you must visit Santa Fe in 10 great photos
Visiting New Mexico for the first time is like seeing a color you’ve never seen before.
Or rather, the many colors that paint the high desert skies above the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and the sun-scorched adobe houses in the foothills below. Here, dusk is an ever-changing canvas of gold, burnt orange and dusty pink, before descending into a starry night of cobalt blue.
It’s a timeless Southwestern scene stolen straight from the movies Easy Rider (1969) or city dwellers (1991), both of which capture the wild spirit of the place with its Native American heritage and the arrogance of John Wayne. This spring, film crews will return to shoot the story of the Los Alamos laboratory and the top-secret Manhattan Project, a World War II research and development mission that produced the first nuclear weapons. It’s a shocking story, and it all happened less than an hour from Santa Fe. The Los Alamos lab is still the state’s largest employer, supporting deep space research, nanotechnology , gene sequencing, nuclear weapons research and other critical studies, including coronavirus variants.
Luckily, you don’t need a PhD to get the most out of it. For tourists, it is an adventurous and welcoming place. They may call it a city, but Santa Fe really is a small town with big-hearted, hot-chili energy.
Sunset at Terra restaurant
Plan to spend the aperitif hour at the outdoor lounge of the Terra Restaurant. As the sun dips below the mountain peaks, the smell of piñon wood smoke fills the air and time seems to slow to the beat of a Spanish guitar. Sitting here, you can see why in 1967 the late owner Elizabeth Egan of Ohio was so charmed by this place that she packed up her kids, bought this 57-acre ranch, and named it “Rancho Encantado.”
Dinner at the Sazon
Chef Fernando Olea is a mustachioed Mexican hombre who creeps up to your table in boots and a cowboy hat to personally greet you and position your plate the way he wanted it presented. He alone is a reason to visit sazon, as are jaw-dropping mezcal flights, spicy margaritas rimmed with red chili salt, and award-winning moles. These vibrant and complex sauces give a new dimension to traditional Mexican dishes such as Chiles en Nogada (chillies in walnut sauce) and Enmolado de Pato (duck tortillas covered in mole poblano).
Boot Scootin’ Back to the Ranch
The best way to go out in Santa Fe is to put on a new pair of leather cowboy boots. And everyone in town knows the best place to get them: Wendy Lane Henry’s adobe shop on Marcy Street called Back to the Ranch, specializing in exotic skins. Here, you’ll find every conceivable combination of python, pigskin, calfskin, and ostrich leather to fashion a hand-sewn boot that could make a two-step wallflower or Reba McEntire sing.
The hot springs of Ojo Caliente
The mineral springs at Ojo Caliente have been a gathering place and source of healing for thousands of years. In 1868, the site became the first formal spa to be built over a hot spring in America. Today, more than 100,000 gallons a day of water rich in lithium, iron and arsenic are still rising to the surface, promising to aid digestion, relieve arthritis pain, boost the immune system and improve your mood. Who knows if it all really works, but I can tell you that I left happy. While Covid is still with us, I recommend booking a private bath, turning on the kiva, and letting the fire and ice elements work their magic.
Here, there is so much land to paint for the light. It’s no wonder artist Georgia O’Keeffe bought ghost ranch in 1940 and used it as a subject for his own personal canvas. Now the ranch is a 21,000-acre retirement and education center where you can hike your way or saddle up for a horseback ride to re-enact your favorite scenes from city dwellers (filmed here in 1991). What you’ll find are majestic canyons and cliffs, junipers, ponderosa pines and sagebrush, all sprouting into the open sky.
Rooms at the Four Seasons
Settle into one of the casitas or suites Four Seasons resort to experience the epitome of ranch guy glamor. With heated stone floors, deep soaking tubs, adjoining wood-burning fireplaces, and floor-to-ceiling windows, it’s about as luxurious as New Mexican hospitality gets. If you love stargazing, the property’s 57 acres in the foothills of Sangre de Cristo offer plenty of opportunities to look up and spot Jupiter, Orion, and Taurus — and sometimes all three from the comfort of your own balcony.
Plaza Blanca (The White Square)
These stunning white gypsum rock formations create a dramatic backdrop for a slow hike through the high desert terrain, which blooms with prickly cacti and yellow chamisa flowers even in winter. The site is located near the village of Abiquiu on the private grounds of the Dar al Islam campus, allowing visitors in a limited way to protect the natural wonder that inspired the famous works of local painter Georgia O’Keeffe.
72-hour vacuum-packed ribs
One of Santa Fe’s finest dishes is Executive Chef Sllin Cruz’s 72-hour sous vide short rib, served with crispy potato terrine, roasted shallots and wild mushrooms topped with shaved Italian truffles. . It is one of the best-selling dishes in the Restaurant Geronimo, which applies French and Italian technique to Southwestern cuisine. “We’re not looking for your typical crumbled ribs. After the sous-vide, we sear it in a skillet, then finish in a 500 degree oven, so you get a nice crust from the heat. It’s about creating the right texture and the right look,” Cruz said, holding court in the middle of a busy dining room. Cosily appointed with bourbon leather booths and white tablecloths, this is the kind of place you could come up with. Or, at least, impress your date by pretending to know how to order the perfect wine pairing.
Bubbles at Domaine Gruet
Welcome to the Domaine Gruet Tasting Room, inside the St. Francis Hotel in downtown Santa Fe. This is the best place to brush up on your hands-on knowledge of Méthode Champenoise sparkling wines, the specialty of this family-run business since 1984. New Mexico-based winery produces sparkling wines made from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, with roots coming from Gilbert Gruet. Champagne house in Bethon, France.
Mexican hot chocolate
Mexican tequila hot chocolate, enjoyed by the fire in your Four Seasons casita, is pretty much the last drink everyone needs right now. And if you feel like it, take a 15-minute drive downtown to the Kakawa chocolate house, which specializes in the consumption of chocolate “elixirs” from ancient Mayan and Aztec traditions. For something more contemporary, the cherry chili and prickly pear truffles are decadent and delicious… Like I said, the place exudes a tangy energy.