Santa Fe & Taos, New Mexico
New Mexico is a truly magical state, but the most beautiful city and artist haven is Santa Fe.
I have been coming to Santa Fe, New Mexico since childhood, as we visited family in Colorado and often popped down to Santa Fe & Taos just a few hours away (I actually wrote a previous post about my last road trip in NM + CO). Art is big in my family, as is spanish and Native American heritage so it is of little wonder that we are continually pulled to this area. For the first time I actually drove from California, so I entered the state from the west, and into Navajo Nation and Zuni Reservation territory (stayed in Gallup, NM where I frequently saw signage in the Navajo language too), who’s art and traditions have a large impact on the state, along with Pueblo and Apache. The Navajo Nation (Naabeehó Bináhásdzo) covers about 17,544,500 acres , occupying portions of northeastern Arizona, southeastern Utah, and northwestern New Mexico in the United States. This is the largest land area retained by a Native American tribe, with a population of roughly 350,000 as of 2016.
Santa Fe is New Mexico’s capital, and sits in the Sangre de Cristo foothills. Founded as a Spanish colony in 1610, Santa Fe was once the northernmost outpost of the Spanish empire in the Americas, so most of the downtown area is a designated historic district, and among the pueblo-style architecture, Spanish churches, twisting streets, and tiny boutiques, you’ll feel like you’re in a completely different country (or time period). Santa Fe has a local culture that’s all about healthy living, organic food, and a surprisingly urban sensibility that will make you wonder why more cities don’t marry modern life with old-world peace of mind like they do in “the City Different.”
Much of this is from a previous post with some additions. Santa Fe has been a big draw for tourism, artists and retirees for years – it offers many accommodation options, excellent restaurants, and yes more shopping around it’s plaza BUT…it really is a great place to buy sheepskin from places like Overland or luxury cowboy boots from our friends at Back at the Ranch and unbelievable custom hats from O’Farrell Hat Company, to ship it home, often without taxes or shipping costs. I also grab a margarita, soapapilla, and yes enchiladas, at The Shed (the green chili alone could bring me back there in a heartbeat).
Do: Wander Canyon Road, a half-mile walk where every door leads into a wonderland of creative delights, is a mecca for art lovers, Shop The Plaza, visit the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, check out the Museum of International Folk art AND the Georgia O’Keefe Museum, catch a film at the jean cocteau cinema OR live music at the Santa Fe Opera house, experience the far-out collective Meow Wolf
Eat: I already mentioned my favorite, The Shed. Tomisitas is a local staple too. Geronimo, Dr. Field Goods, Jambo Cafe, Paper Dosa, Sazón, Café Pasqual’s, Bodega Prime
Stay: While Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado is beautiful, it is far away from the town center. Hotel Santa Fe, Inn and Spa at Loretto, Inn of the Five Graces, La Posada de Santa Fe Resort & Spa, Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi are all good choices. Also plenty of sprawling wellness centers right out side of town like the Sunrise Springs Spa Resort and Origin at Rancho de San Juan.
Some day trips to consider: Georgia O’Keefe’s Home & Studio, Ghost Ranch, Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, White Mesa (Technically you could do the scenic drive to Taos as a day trip as well, more on that below).
*Just a note, may be controversial, but wanted to be honest. With Albuquerque so close you may be tempted to visit, but skip it. There are too many other places to see and it doesn’t hold a candle to Santa Fe (#SorryNotSorry)
Taos is a small town known as a sort of mecca for artists throughout the years, and its a tradition that continues today. It’s still a wonderful place to buy art from locals, and while it can be touristy you need to walk the Taos plaza looking at shops I usually always pick up at least 1 new piece of silver jewelry, as well as see the Rio Grande Gorge and Taos Pueblos. The accommodations aren’t that strong but the dining is for authentic fare – I always need a legit enchilada fix, so I normally head to Orlando’s for a casual dining and the Love Apple is good too. Of course, few places in North America are anchored in a heritage like the Pueblo of Taos. This is the longest inhabited living arrangement in the US, and The Pueblo still has ten families of around 150 native people working to maintain the culture and the adobe architecture for generations to come. A living artifact, the past and present form a delicate harmony to produce a unique travel experience. The environment says a lot about the sustainability of this community. Tucked up against the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, with the Rio flowing through the center of the Pueblo, the inhabitants have maintained their lifestyle through wars, disease, cultural genocide and environmental impact to survive. From the efficiency of their adobe walls to provide comfort against extreme heat and cold, to the guiding wisdom of elders to keep the Pueblo vibrant, the way of life preserved within these walls is a testament to the strength and vision of native people, connected to this land with over a thousand years of tradition.
On a side note, we are opening our own online store Wild West Home as a nod to our roots, to highlight local products, and give back a percentage of proceeds to our National Parks. Sign up on the sight to be notified when we are open!
Author: Carrie Mitchell
Carrie A. Mitchell is the founder of L’Aventure Travel, the host of the Suitcase Sojourn Podcast, and author of the children’s travel book “To Be We”. Carrie is a global travel and hospitality expert who works with publications, brands and entertainment outlets on a number of travel related projects, from marketing consulting to editorial coverage to hosting & producing content for the web, TV and podcasts. She is always seeking to learn from people and places around the world, and share through her cultural exploration (40+ countries and counting)