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TNTP Travels: Santa Fe, New Mexico (Babymoon!)
As I sit down to write this post, it’s blowing my mind how much time has passed since the last TNTP travel guide. TWO YEARS! And considering that many of us are just beginning to emerge from total shut-down pandemic life to some semblance of our “normal” lives, I’m just immensely grateful to be able to write about travel at all during this time.
I am currently 5 months pregnant and due with our first baby (a girl!) at the end of September! After much encouragement from our friends with kids — plus our recent status as vaccinated, woohoo!! — Sam and I decided to go for it and plan a domestic babymoon to Sante Fe, New Mexico.
We chose Santa Fe because we wanted to go somewhere beautiful, warm, culturally interesting, and relaxing that would work for 4-day weekend, so Santa Fe fit the bill! We were there from May 21-24 and while it ended up being chillier than expected (not to mention one day when it rained and hailed on-and-off all day), it was nothing a light jacket and some museum visits couldn’t solve!
During our four days there we spent about two days exploring the city and two days of serious babymooning by way of day passes and massages at the Ojo Santa Fe Spa Resort. (More on that later on in the post!) While I can imagine we might have spent a little more time sightseeing and less time sitting in a body-temperature hot tub if we weren’t on our babymoon, I honestly wouldn’t have changed anything about our trip.
There are many reasons to visit Santa Fe. If you are an art lover, appreciate desert landscapes and American Southwestern architecture, want to gain a deeper understanding of our country’s Native American heritage, enjoy Mexican-adjacent cuisine (hello New Mexican food!), love turquoise/silver/all things Southwest aesthetic, or simply want a tranquil place to relax in dry heat, Santa Fe is for you!
Here is my list of recommendations based on our experience there plus a few things we didn’t make it to that were highly recommended. I hope you find this guide helpful if you find yourself planning a trip to Santa Fe!
GETTING THERE & GETTING AROUND
Fly into Albuquerque: It’s about an hour away from Santa Fe. There is a small airport in Santa Fe, but you’ll likely find a better flight deal flying to Albuquerque.
Rent a car for your trip: Much of the city itself is walkable (there are a few main neighborhoods to explore), but if you plan to head out of the city at all or simply want to get yourself from the Albuquerque Int’l Sunport (that’s the name of the airport!) to Santa Fe, you’ll be glad to have the car.
Stop in Madrid, NM: If it’s not too early/late in the day and you’re not in a rush, try to take the scenic route (Route 14 – also known as the Turquoise Trail for its proximity to the Cerrillos Turquoise Mines) and stop in the small, funky artist town of Madrid, which you’ll drive straight through anyway. Find a place to park, then walk up and down the main road to stop in artist galleries, pick up some authentic souvenirs, and maybe even grab a bite to eat. There are a few main restaurants with ample outdoor seating — just ask the local business owners their favorite!
WHERE TO STAY
Hotel Santa Fe: Santa Fe has numerous resort-style hotels located in and outside the city. While we’re usually the Airbnb type, we wanted to indulge a bit since we were on our honeymoon, so we booked our stay at Hotel Santa Fe, which ended up suiting our needs perfectly. Hotel Santa Fe is located in the heart of the city, just a few minutes drive/15-minute walk from the city’s main Plaza. It is also the city’s only Native American-owned hotel, and the hotel itself is a beautiful homage to the art and culture of the local Pueblo people.
We stayed in the Haciendas portion of the hotel, which included an in-room fireplace (!!) and $12 breakfast credit to the hotel’s lauded restaurant, Amaya, each morning. The hotel had fantastic service and offered some great amenities including free coffee & breakfast treats each morning, free wine and beer happy hour every day 5-7pm, and free & quick transportation around town via the hotel’s shuttle. The shuttle made seeing the town a breeze without having to worry about parking our car. Hotel Santa Fe also has an outdoor pool and Amaya has a teepee you can reserve to eat in for an additional charge. Super cool!
Ojo Santa Fe Spa Resort: If you’re looking for more of a “getaway” place to stay, Ojo Santa Fe Spa Resort is where it’s at! We had initially tried to book our stay here but we booked too late and the hotel didn’t have availability for our desired dates. Located about 20 minutes outside of Santa Fe, Ojo has a true oasis feel with lush greenery, numerous swimming pools and hot tubs, a spa, a lovely on-site restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating, plus chickens and PUPPIES that you can play with!
Since we couldn’t stay overnight at Ojo but still wanted to enjoy a visit there, we ended up booking massages at the spa plus day passes to the pools which was AWESOME. (Babymoon tip: They have a body-temperature hot tub!!!) It was actually so awesome that we went back a second day! They have an option to book a cabana at one of the pools, but you honestly don’t need that. Best advice is to grab some lounge chairs or hammocks early and you’ll be set.
WHAT TO DO
Santa Fe is a haven for art lovers and culture-appreciators. Most of what we did centered around those topics, but there are also plenty of amazing outdoor excursions outside of the city, in the nearby town of Taos, and further out in New Mexico! If that’s your vibe, you’re sure to find some awesome adventures with a quick bit of research.
If you’re planning to visit more than two museums, be sure to get the New Mexico CulturePass which grants unlimited access to 15 museums and historical sites and lasts 12 months for just $30/pass!
Here’s what we did in Santa Fe:
Santa Fe Farmer’s Market: Every Saturday & Tuesday at the Santa Fe Railyard. This was a fun experience to feel like a local and get a sense of the local produce and eats! You can shop for spices and dried chilies, snack on a tamale or burrito, and do a bit of souvenir shopping. We loved the Mercado del Museo indoor market across the street which sold international textiles, jewelry, vintage clothing, and other unique finds.
Museum of International Folk Art: A small museum located on Museum Hill, this was one of the funkiest museums I’ve ever been to! Folk art traditionally means art and handicrafts created by everyday people using whatever supplies they have access to. The museum’s collection contains folk art pieces spanning the globe — from India to Europe to Mexico and much more. In addition to the rotating exhibits (we caught one on Santa Fe’s music culture and depictions of Japanese monster-like ghosts called yokai) there is a permanent collection called the Girard Wing, named after its donor Alexander Girard, which contains the most fabulous display of items collected from around the world, including toys, dolls, wooden villages, bird cages, beadwork, textiles, and so much more. This wing was definitely the highlight of the whole museum and worth the trip alone!
Museum of Indian Arts & Culture: Across the plaza of Museum Hill is the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture. The name drew us in, knowing that there is such a rich history of art and craft within the Native American heritage. While we did catch a beautiful traditional dance being performed outside of the museum and a pretty mind-blowing modern glasswork exhibit inside, unfortunately, the permanent collection wing was under renovation when we visited. Be sure to check with the museum on this before visiting because there isn’t too much to see inside otherwise.
New Mexico Museum of Art: Located right on Santa Fe’s main plaza, the New Mexico Museum of Art is another relatively small museum but one with a wonderful collection of art by local artists within a traditional New Mexican-style building. I walked the entire collection in about 30-45 minutes but really enjoyed the works on display which ranged from painting to photography to sculpture. One of the best features is the museum’s central courtyard which displays stunning frescos that depict traditional New Mexican scenes.
Explore the city’s Plaza: The Plaza in Santa Fe makes you feel like you’re in a city in Mexico, South America, or Europe, not the United States–and it is just lovely. Like any city plaza, there are numerous restaurants and shops to check out, and of course a grand church worth popping into for the architectural experience alone. My favorite store was The Rainbow Man, located right next to The Shed restaurant, which has a gorgeous assortment of wares from Mexico and New Mexico alike. See the “Where to Eat” section below for a few great spots in the area.
Meow Wolf: Located about 15 minutes drive from the center of town, Meow Wolf is an indoor interactive, multimedia, and multidimensional experience that’s meant to transport you into a different world and take you along a mysterious sci-fi storyline. While I don’t want to give too much away, it’s definitely worth experiencing at least once if you think you’d be into something that’s like the Museum of Ice Cream meets a non-scary haunted house (think: Sleep No More) meets a trippy art installation. Very fun! Two warnings, however: Meow Wolf is for all ages, so if you go during the day there are bound to be small children running around. Also, while it seems they take all necessary safety precautions, it did feel a bit crowded for Covid-times and a little extra claustrophic of an experience in a mask. If you’re on the more risk-averse end of the spectrum, maybe wait a bit to experience it.
Georgia O’Keefe Museum: BOOK FAR IN ADVANCE! Reservations at the Georgia O’Keefe Museum are booked out for months now at this point (likely due to Covid safety precautions), so I was super bummed to miss out on this legendary collection in its hometown. I’m so hoping to make it next time I find myself in Santa Fe!
Canyon Road: While we drove down it numerous times, we never stopped to walk Canyon Road, which is a half-mile stretch of art galleries, shops, and eateries that are the heart of the Santa Fe art scene. It’s definitely a must-visit if you have the time!
New Mexico History Museum: New Mexico has an immensely rich history, starting with the Native peoples who have inhabited the territory for thousands of years, to the invasion of Spanish settlers, to the eventual acquisition of the land by the United States. My biggest regret about our time in Santa Fe was not becoming more familiar with the history of the region, which is why this museum is high on the list of places to visit next time.
City Tour of Santa Fe: Similarly, we’d have loved to do a walking or bus tour of Santa Fe to gain a better understanding of the history, monuments, and fun facts about Santa Fe. There are a few different tour companies so if that’s something you’re interested in, definitely look for one with good reviews!
WHERE TO EAT
Paloma: Hands-down our dinner at Paloma was our favorite meal in Santa Fe. While most chile-slinging restaurants in Santa Fe are New Mexican cuisine, Paloma was distinctly Mexican with many nods to inventive Oaxacan cuisine. Paloma is only open for dinner plus brunch on Sundays. Try your best to make a reservation but if there aren’t any available, the restaurant keeps spots open for walk-ins, just try to get there extra early and/or prepare to wait (it’s worth it!). We killed time by wandering into a magical art gallery next door — Alberto Zalma’s Art Shop — where we hung out and made friends with the artist himself–and ended up purchasing two pieces from him! You can also try grabbing drinks at Tomasita’s across the street while you wait, but 100% hold out for dinner at Paloma!!!
Favorite things we ate: Squash Blossom Quesadillas, Cauliflower Tacos, Beet Salad, La Dona dessert, Mezcal flight – bartender’s choice
The Shed: This New Mexican staple right off the Plaza was recommended to us by just about everyone! It was the perfect first meal / lunch in Santa Fe since it was delicious, filling, and quintessential Santa Fe. There is a lovely courtyard and the interior rooms are colorful and eclectic — a really fun vibe!
Favorite things we ate: Chips with Queso, Green Chile Burrito, Poblano Relleno, Dulce Diablo cocktail
Coyote Cantina: There are a small handful of rooftop spots in Santa Fe and Coyote Cantina is the ideal choice for something fun and casual. Connected to the more upscale Coyote Cafe right off the Santa Fe Plaza, this bar & restaurant has an extensive list of creative cocktails (think Señor Frogs-style with their own unique twists!) and yummy, filling bar food. We were seated just in time for sunset!
Favorite things we ate: THE NACHOS (without pork) — the best we’ve probably ever had.
The Bell Tower Bar at La Fonda: The Bell Tower is the rooftop bar at La Fonda hotel off the Santa Fe Plaza and boasts some of the best sunset views in the city. The seats here fill up quickly, so definitely get there early to snag a spot if you want to watch the sun go down. The food menu is bar snacks only, so keep that in mind when making meal plans. While we couldn’t get seats, they let us sneak in for a quick peek at the view which was worth checking out!
La Choza: La Choza was recommended to us by nearly everyone we spoke with. The sister restaurant of The Shed, it’s another New Mexican food staple in Santa Fe. If we had another night in town, we would have definitely ended up here for dinner!
The Pantry: Another restaurant that was recommended to us over and over again by locals. Described to us as a “greasy spoon” restaurant, The Pantry seems to be an ideal breakfast or lunch spot, though it’s open every day until 8pm.
WHAT TO BUY
Turquoise: New Mexico is one of the United States’ main sources of turquoise. Outside of Santa Fe are the Cerrillos Mines, from where Cerrillos turquoise is extracted. A piece of jewelry or raw turquoise stone is a great way to bring a piece of Santa Fe home with you — just be sure to confirm that the turquoise is real and find out whether it was sourced in New Mexico. Gypsy Gem in Madrid (where the photo of this turquoise map was taken) is a great source for Cerrillos Turquoise pieces!
Chiles: Dried chiles, chile sauce, chile powder — New Mexican food isn’t New Mexican food without New Mexican chiles! Pick up dried or powdered chiles from the Santa Fe Farmer’s Market or a local food purveyor, or even bring home some fresh green chiles if you’re traveling within the country, then whip up a delicious chile sauce at home to continue savoring the flavor of New Mexico!
Art: Santa Fe is a haven for artists who draw inspiration from the desert landscape and the creative energy that flows through the city. You can find wonderfully curated galleries on Canyon Road, in Madrid, and dotted around the city of Santa Fe, like Alberto Zalma’s Art Shop where we purchased two pieces of the gallery owner’s own work! In my opinion, art is a fabulous way to bring home a piece of any city you visit!
Woven Textiles: New Mexico has a long tradition of weaving, specifically blankets, using the wool of Churro sheep brought to America by the Spaniards in the 1500s. This tradition continues today with New Mexican weavers producing in the traditional styles. Seek out New Mexican-made woven blankets and rugs, or even visit the Española Valley Fiber Arts Center just 30 minutes north of Santa Fe to take a class & learn more about New Mexican weaving techniques! (More info on New Mexico’s weaving history here and here!)
Have additional Santa Fe reccos?! Share them with our CommuniTEA in the comments below!! And let us know if you use this guide to help plan your travels to Santa Fe! Happy exploring!!!!!
Peace, love & neon,