Santa Fe: Where the locals go

Santa Fe is more than just a plaza! I’ve rounded up the best of Santa Fe’s natural beauty, amazing food, cultural highlight, and yes... including some stops on the plaza.

108 Cathedral Pl, Santa Fe, NM 87501, USA
There is so much art to see in Santa Fe, it’s endless. Along with artisan markets, small galleries, the Georgia O’Keeffe museum and numerous small shops, we visited the MOCNA. It’s a museum that is connected to the Institute of American Indian Arts and is a very manageable space. There are all sorts and time periods of art and revolving shows. Definitely worth an hour or so if you are in Santa Fe. There is also a great gift/book shop as well. **The artist in the picture above is Keith Braveheart
Entrance Rd
I’m not sure at what age humans develop the skill to stand still and appreciate scenery, but based on a scientific survey of kids who live in my house, it’s not age seven. (On a trip to the Canadian Rockies, as my wife and I snapped photos of the relentlessly picturesque mountains, my son, Luke, investigated how quickly he could break his toy helicopter.) Luke expects Mother Nature to be his playmate. At Bandelier National Monument, about an hour’s drive from Santa Fe, New Mexico, she is. The visitor center offers kids a booklet of activities that, when completed, earn them a Junior Ranger patch. (You could call it a bribe. We prefer the term incentive.) The scavenger hunt sent us off on the Main Loop Trail in search of birds, trees, and bugs, as well as the feature that sets Bandelier apart and makes it perfect for kids: cave dwellings. Ladders of salvaged wood lead to rooms that the Pueblo people carved out of the cliffs here over 800 years ago. “I don’t want to go up, Daddy,” Luke said. “It’s too steep.” “You’ve got this, buddy,” I said. “Just take it slow.” There were no lines of impatient parents pushing their children to race up the ladder. (We saw no more than 20 people on the trail.) Luke could climb the rungs at his own pace. He paused in triumph at the top, then set off to wander the caves. While Mom and Dad squatted—“Watch out for your bald head, Daddy”—Luke could explore without even hunching. After about 45 minutes, we were walking back toward the visitor center. We crossed a nearly dry creek by hopping hand in hand from one downed log to another and were back in time for lunch, before hunger, fatigue, or boredom could set in. It was a parent’s—and child’s—dream hike. This appeared in the August/September 2014 issue.
1050 Paseo De Peralta
This unassuming adobe house in Santa Fe is home to one of the world’s ‘top ten places’ to drink chocolate. (Seriously. It ranks up there with anything in Europe or South America.) Walk the few blocks from the city’s central Plaza, open the door and inhale the pre-columbian fragrance of the eight or nine ‘drinking elixirs’ that will be swirling and ready to serve. Free samples will tempt and educate you... My wife lingered over the “Spanish” blend, sipping on a blend of chocolate, floral essence, coconut sugar and spices, while I had their version of “atole,” a traditional hearty breakfast drink made with blue corn masa, chocolate, honey, Mexican vanilla, and local chimayó chile pepper. But there’s more to cacao here than just drinking; the handmade truffles, caramels and mendiants are arrestingly good! The house-made agave caramels dusted with chile powder (again, from the beloved chimayó peppers from their namesake valley just north of the city) or topped with nuts from the pinyon pines so common in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo mountains--these are treats with a definite taste-of-place. Sip. Savor. Linger. Marvel.
100 Old Santa Fe Trl.
The Santa Fe plaza was deserted after a rare summer rain. During the day folks come to the plaza for lunch at the iconic fajita and empanada carts, stationed on the corners. Musicians, backpackers and tourists escape from the sun here. Starting June 21, come to the Plaza for another season of free music and dancing at the Bandstand.
710 Camino Lejo, Santa Fe, NM 87505, USA
When most people look at a piece of turquoise, they see a pretty blue stone. The people of New Mexico see water, sky, bountiful harvests, and a source of health and protection. Turquoise has been a valuable stone—in jewelry, for ceremonial purposes, and as an object of trade—for more than a thousand years. Many works of art incorporating turquoise are on permanent display in New Mexico, at institutions like the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture in Santa Fe. You can also, however, see (and touch) them at street festivals and markets along with weaving, pottery, silverwork, Kachina dolls, and more. You may even decide to take a bit of New Mexico home with you.
Santa Fe, NM 87501, USA
The popular Dale Ball Trails system offers 23.4 miles of interconnected high-altitude desert trails in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, where piñon and juniper forest greet sturdy ponderosa trees as you ascend to higher altitudes. The system passes pretty close to town, and navigation is simple thanks to clear trail markers. If you’re so inclined, follow the steepest path along the ridge to the top of Picacho Peak. The reward for your hike is a breathtaking 360-degree view.
105 W Palace Ave, Santa Fe, NM 87501, USA
The entire north side of Santa Fe’s downtown plaza is taken up by the 1610 Palace of the Governors, the oldest continually occupied public building in the United States. Its front adobe facade is completely shaded, and in this “portal,” the Native American Vendors Program has been operating for over six decades. A daily lottery ensures a rotating selection of artisans from the various pueblos throughout New Mexico. Yes, there might be some “finer” pieces available in the chic boutiques elsewhere in Santa Fe, but here, in the shade of a four-century-old adobe building, you can meet the artists and even haggle a bit. Be respectful, though—these are not cheap trinkets made in a sweatshop abroad: The crafts and the jewelry are usually made by the person with whom you’ll be conversing. (An interesting side note: The Palace was taken over in 1680 and occupied by Native Americans during the Pueblo Revolt until 1692, when the Spaniards returned. This is the only government seat in the U.S. to have ever been taken over by Native Americans. It then served as the residence of the governor during the Spanish, Mexican, and U.S. territorial regimes, until 1907. In 1912, New Mexico became a U.S. state. Today, the Palace serves as a museum.)
308 Read St, Santa Fe, NM 87501, USA
Santa Fe Spirits is a laid-back downtown tasting room showcasing their small distilleries production which includes a well-balanced portfolio of gin, vodka and silver whiskey to a barrel-aged apple brandy accompanied by a few bar snacks. Try a few pours of the gin infused with osha root and and sage and kick up your heels.
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