Santa Fe is one of my favorite destinations, but we don’t always take time to explore the surrounding terrain and all it has to offer. Summertime is perfect for getting off the beaten path and venturing outside New Mexico’s famous city, especially if you are looking for places less crowded this year. If you fly into Albuquerque, take the 60 mile scenic route along the Turquoise Trail towards Santa Fe. You will quickly see why the landscape has inspired so many artists over the years.
One of the first places worth stopping on the trail is the Tinkertown Museum in Sandia Park, an eclectic maze of rooms filled with handmade marvels and Wild West novelties. The old coal mining town of Madrid is the main attraction along the trail with an array of small shops and galleries now nestled into the bygone old buildings. We love to stop for lunch at the Mine Shaft Tavern, where you can get the best green chili burger you have ever tasted while listening to a live blue grass band.
Once in Santa Fe the historic La Fonda Hotel is a great place to hang your hat. Designed by architect John Gaw Meem, known as the Frank Lloyd Wright of the Southwest, the hotel is a wonderful adobe structure that sits on the city’s historic plaza. One block down is Shiprock, a Native American art and textiles gallery owned by Waxahachie native Samantha Hamilton and her husband Jed Foutz.
Breakfast our first morning is always at Café Pasqual’s, where you are certain to find a line out the door, but it’s worth the wait. “Red or green?” is the official state question, referring to the type of chile you want served over pretty much any New Mexican dish. Answering “Christmas” will get you both sauces and the way I like to start my day. After indulging in a plate of Huevos Motulenos we shop the Spanish antique stores and check out the old turquoise at the plaza’s pawn shop. Summer is traditionally the high season in Santa Fe when the arts scene explodes, so head over to Canyon Road where you can easily spend the day strolling through numerous art galleries. Close by is the impressive Museum of International Folk Art as well as the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. At the end of Canyon Road is the oldest bar in town called El Farol, a great place to take a break and enjoy a glass of cava. A poolside cocktail back at the La Fonda pool, or their rooftop terrace is a great way to relax before heading back out for the evening.
Another favorite past time is driving up towards the Santa Fe ski resort to Ten Thousand Waves, the world renowned Japanese spa. The property is beautiful with lantern lined paths of piñon trees, trickling waterfalls and koi-filled ponds. Wrapped in a kimono you can relax with a warm foot bath, book a private teak hot tub or enjoy their sauna and steam rooms between massage treatments. I love to go in the evenings so we can just relax and go straight to bed after a few hours of pampering. There is also a wonderful Japanese restaurant there called Izanami.
Summertime is perfect for taking the high road to Taos. It takes about an hour to drive north from Santa Fe, but you want to leave plenty of time to wind through the mountains, stop to soak in the incredible views of the Carson National Forest and visit small towns like Las Trampas, where one of the best preserved Spanish colonial churches has stood for over 200 years. If the Taos Pueblo has reopened from Covid it’s a great adventure for families to see the multistoried adobe homes that are now a World Heritage Site and one of the oldest continuously inhabited communities in North America. I still remember as a child getting corn necklaces and moccasins there. On your drive back to Santa Fe take the Low Road and stop at the Puye Cliff Dwellings along the Santa Clara Canyon. Established in 1550, Santa Clara is famous for its polished black pottery and magnificent cave like structures that served as homes to the ancient tribe.
Back in Santa Fe no trip would be complete without dinner at Geronimo’s. The beautiful old adobe structure is quite literally one of my favorite restaurants in the world. We have enjoyed many a celebration there for over 20 years.
As you head back to the Albuquerque airport stop to visit Los Poblanos Farm, also designed by architect John Gaw Meem. Los Poblanos is a 25 acre organic farm with a beautiful inn and award winning restaurant. The front fields were bloom with fragrant lavender used to produce their skincare products and honey you can purchase in an adorable shop on the farm.
Santa Fe’s unique style is rich in culture, characterized by its thriving art community and its Pueblo Revival architecture, but all of the surrounding areas are just as breathtaking, interesting and worth experiencing. This is why it’s called The Land of Enchantment.