YEAR-ROUND FUN IN “THE CITY DIFFERENT”
BY JANIS TURK
“The City Different” seems an odd official nickname for a city as pretty as Santa Fe, New Mexico. However, this popular vacation destination’s century-old moniker conveys the message that Santa Fe is a city like no other.
Adobe-inspired architecture, markets filled with turquoise and silver jewelry, Native American textiles and art, Georgia O’Keeffe paintings, green-chile-pepper-enhanced cuisine, romantic hotels edging a central plaza: All these give this quintessentially Southwestern city an almost magical allure. Many say that the vibe in Santa Fe strikes them on a spiritual level, and some locals say they visited once and experienced such an instant connection to the area that they chose to move there. With art and music festivals, fine art galleries and museums, world-class spas, romantic lodging options, historical and cultural treasures, serene subalpine, savannah and grassland landscapes, snow ski resorts and more, Santa Fe is different, all right—and, yes, different is good.
Geronimo, Canyon Road, 505-982-1500 – For more than two decades, this famous elegant eatery along Canyon Road has often been voted Santa Fe’s best restaurant, serving inventive Southwestern fare in a historic 1756 adobe house with a welcoming wooden front porch. In fact, Geronimo has been voted one of the “Top 100 Restaurants in the Country” by OpenTable. Santa Fe’s only Mobil/Forbes 4 Star and AAA Four Diamond award-winning restaurant, Geronimo offers a fine dining experience featuring chef Sllin Cruz’ seasonal “global eclectic” cuisine.
The Famous Plaza Café, Santa Fe Plaza, 505-982-1664 – This iconic café on the main plaza is Santa Fe’s oldest restaurant, a family-owned diner that locals and visitors both enjoy. A consistently good family-friendly place, the Famous Plaza Café has been run by a Greek family, the Razatos, since 1947, serving everything from blue corn green chile, carne asada, enchiladas and chicken-fried steak to gyros with a Greek salad on the side.
La Casa Sena and La Cantina at Casa Sena,
Across from La Fonda, near Santa Fe Plaza, 505-988-9232
For more than 30 years, La Casa Sena has been a true Santa Fe tradition, serving New American West cuisine inspired by local influences and seasonal ingredients. This classy little eatery also offers an award-winning wine list and features a shady patio, an outdoor bar and a wine and spirits shop. In the restaurant’s adjacent and more informal La Cantina, diners can enjoy a cabaret setting, as talented singing wait staff sing show tunes and other crowd-pleasing songs. A stay at La Fonda and a musical meal at La Cantina is a family tradition our kids enjoy whenever we visit Santa Fe.
Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi on the Santa Fe Plaza, 505-988-3030 – The Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi is one of the most serene little luxury inns in the city, and best of all, it is set on the historic Santa Fe Plaza. With architecture that blends into the adobe-style theme of downtown buildings, the hotel rooms celebrate a modern, sophisticated Southwestern aesthetic, featuring hand-crafted/hand-painted furnishings and gas-lit kiva fireplaces. The Anasazi Restaurant is open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with brunch on Sundays. A current discount deal allows guests to spend three nights and enjoy a complimentary fourth night when booking now through Dec. 17, or book a Rosewood Escapes package to enjoy even more special options and amenities.
La Fonda on the Plaza, 505-982-5511 – La Fonda on the Plaza has been a distinctive 4 Diamond luxury Santa Fe destination for 90 years, and it’s the Santa Fe hotel my family likes best. Renovated in 2013, the hotel offers 180 guest rooms, including 15 exclusive luxury-level rooms and suites built around a rooftop terrace (we always book the suite closest to the terrace). All rooms and suites feature original artwork and hand-crafted/hand-painted headboards created by local artisans. Upgrades such as spacious sitting areas, fireplaces, separate living and sleeping areas and balconies are available. With a cocktail lounge, fitness area, hot tub, sauna and pool and a bright inner courtyard restaurant, this hotel boasts an ideal location close to the Plaza and the Cathedral Basilica. Through Oct. 31, guests can enjoy an “Eat, Stay, Cook! A Culinary Adventure” package, and through Dec. 31, spirits fans can enjoy “Book, Lime & Shaker,” a citywide tequila trail tour package.
“Different” things to do in Santa Fe:
• Visit the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, near La Fonda, and then walk over to the lovely little Loretto Chapel with its mysterious legendary spiral staircase.
• Stroll through the Palace of the Governors and the New Mexico History Museum on the Plaza.
• Visit the famous Georgia O’Keeffe Museum and take a road trip to the village of Abiqui (48 miles away) to visit O’Keeffe’s home and studio and Ghost Ranch retreat and education center. (Reservations may be required, and opening dates may change).
• Shop and nosh on good eats at the Santa Fe Farmer’s Market on weekends.
• Browse the shops and art galleries along Canyon Road.
• Experience a completely new, immersive form of storytelling at the incredible House of Eternal Return by art collective Meow Wolf and supported in part by Game of Thrones creator and resident George R.R. Martin. This 20,000-square-foot electronic and tactile multimedia art experience for all ages and interests is “like nothing you’ve ever seen before,” says Martin.
• Hit the new Santa Fe Margarita Trail, an ongoing culinary cocktail experience that highlights 31 restaurants and bars offering uniquely designed and named margaritas using the finest tequilas and ingredients. A passport includes all the restaurants and recipes, and as you collect stamps, you earn prizes.
• See cliff-dwellings and petroglyphs at Bandelier National Monument. It’s set on 33,000 acres of spectacular rugged canyon and mesa country with cliff dwellings and drawings that provide evidence of a human presence there over 11,000 years ago.
• Visit the New Mexico Museum of Art. Just west of the Plaza, the New Mexico Museum of Art (formerly the Museum of Fine Arts) displays an extensive permanent collection of Southwestern artists, including major pieces by Georgia O’Keeffe.
• Relax and restore your body, mind and spirit with a spa day at Ten Thousand Waves, a luxurious Japanese-inspired spa and wellness retreat featuring serene lodging and healthful dining options.
• Ski Santa Fe. With a base elevation of 10,350 feet, Ski Santa Fe is located only 16 miles from downtown and features 79 trails (20 percent easy, 40 percent intermediate, 40 percent expert), 225 inches of average snowfall, and snowmaking on more than 50 percent of the mountain, making it a great place for family ski trips.
• Road trip over to Taos, another distinctly New Mexican-style town about an hour’s drive from Santa Fe. There stay at El Monte Sagrado Living Resort and Spa, visit the Taos Pueblo, and snow ski in winter and early spring at Taos Ski Valley.