In a place that sits 7000 feet above sea level, cattle out number people, and a color wheel of hot air balloons dot the sky from May to October, Santa Fe remains classic wild west: think home of Billy the Kid, Route 66, and Thelma and Louise’s epic ’66 Thunderbird convertible road trip through the New Mexico desert. The beauty of this dusty, mostly unpaved, adobe dotted landscape remains a spectacular geographic wonder of the United States. An Old Fort Marcy Park sunset that looks much like a 1970’s Tequila sunrise cocktail, with its blood orange and grenadine sky, competes for a top 10 spot in America’s best sunsets. New Mexican cuisine also earns accolades for its fusion of Spanish conquistador, cowboy chuckwagon, and Native American cookery. Commingled with locally grown red and green chiles and the sweetly nutty tasting, protein packed, blue corn flint maize of the Hopi Indian tribe, posole (corn boiled and soaked in slaked lime water) is niche southwestern food. It may be the only place left on the planet where eating iceberg lettuce instead of trendy kale or bitter arugula is compulsory and McDonald’s offers green chilies as a condiment. While it may sound kitsch, $3 cash and a quick stop at the Tourism Santa Fe Visitor Center buys a “Margarita Trail” passport and if nothing else, collect the stamps for bragging rights at some ultra cool watering holes.
A trip to Santa Fe is incomplete without sticking your head in the clouds one way or another. The rugged ridges of the Sangre de Cristo Range of the Rocky Mountains extends 100 miles from the border of Colorado all the way into Santa Fe and rise 12,000 feet in the Pecos Wilderness. Consider an earlier morning, beat the heat, and hike of the canyon trail at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument (the Sierra Club rates this hike easy/2hrs). The slot canyon with its narrow shady passages and intricately carved tuff eventually becomes a trail traversing 750 feet up where surreal 365 degree views reward adventurers who push to the top. If panoramic views excite you, but hiking in the desert does not, how about a smooth sail bucket list activity aboard a hot air balloon with unspoiled bird’s eye vistas of Taos and magical nature majestically rising from the earth?
Saturday mornings, mingle with locals at the farmers market and engage passionate folks about what it takes to throw their hearts and souls into what they love. A modern day goat herder that makes cheese from the milk and knits hats, mittens, and scarves from their mohair, kept me absorbed in conversation for an hour while a budding musician played Charlie Parker bebop jazz on a saxophone in the background. This experience may increase the desire to go local and see what’s cookin’ in your own backyard at farmers markets closer to home.
Nestled in the piñon forests above Santa Fe, Ten Thousand Waves delivers a serene and relaxing traditional Japanese spa experience. Tatami-mats, onsens, wooden walkways, and iron lanterns glowing along the paths leading to hinoki tubs and a setting reminiscent of the Hokkaido mountain range creates a tranquil foothills setting for a juniper scented, clothing optional, opportunity for spiritual renewal.
COYOTE CAFE -- 132 W Water St, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
THE COWGIRL BBQ -- 319 S Guadalupe St, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
COUNTER CULTURE CAFÉ -- 930 Baca St #1, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505
LA PLAZUELA AT LA FONDA -- 100 E San Francisco St, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
SANTACAFÉ -- 231 Washington Ave, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
SANTA FE BITE -- 311 Old Santa Fe Trail, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501