For starters, I no longer live in Texas – but I used to. I now live in northern New Mexico and it seems that everyone, everywhere, talks about Santa Fe. That wasn’t necessarily the case when home was the Lone Star State. The thing is, the conversations are never about one particular aspect. Some love the city for its history, which is valid – Santa Fe is the nation’s oldest capital city and not only has one of the oldest Historic Districts Ordinances in the United States, but it also has five distinct historic districts.
Yet, others talk about Santa Fe for the art and museums. That makes sense, too. After all, there are literally world-renowned galleries and museums throughout the city. On the popular Canyon Road, there are more than 100 art galleries, cafés, restaurants and shops in an area encompassing a half-mile.
RELATED: Summer in South Haven, Michigan
The foodies also weigh in about Santa Fe. There is a lot of talk about the chili: red, green or the combination of the two fondly known as Christmas. New Mexico is the chili capital of the world and Santa Fe is recognized for its award-winning restaurants.
Then the margarita experts weigh in on the establishments they think serve the best. As if this were a professional undertaking (and it seems to be in this capital city), Santa Fe is home to the Margarita Trail that includes passports and a society, with earned points and prizes. The margarita isn’t just a libation in Santa Fe – it is its own work of art. Santa Fe is one of the few places in the country where you can enjoy a tequila tasting, much like you can with craft beers or wines in other areas.
So, with all the enthusiastic chatter about Santa Fe, and the not-so-secret fact that the average temperature in the summer is 75 degrees, I thought Texas-based readers, along with everyone else, would be interested to learn more about this destination that’s ideal for all ages.
Make no mistake, Santa Fe is old. And she’s proud of it. She could write the book on aging gracefully because the old gal is full of energy and spirit that appeals to everyone. Santa Fe is home to the nation’s oldest church and the nation’s oldest house. She is also known as The City Different due to the wealth of contrasting and diverse influences of cultures that include Native Americans, Spaniards and Mexicans. If you are looking for homogeneity, keep going. But if you are ready to discover a city that offers something different around every corner, Santa Fe will not disappoint.
Having a home base in close proximity to where you want to be is always crucial to a more comfortable and enjoyable experience. There are a number of hotel options near the historic plaza but the one that stands out is the Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi. You will have to park your car (valet service is readily available) because you will quickly find this is an area that is best suited for walking and/or casually strolling and parking spaces are limited. The small, luxury boutique hotel celebrates its Spanish heritage with handcrafted furnishings, wood ceilings and kiva fireplaces. The doors were my personal favorite; hand-carved and beautifully painted, they were works of art. Be sure to check out the door to the wine cellar, which can be rented for private dinner parties or an intimate dining experience for two. It is here in the Anasazi Bar and Lounge that you can schedule a Tequila Experience – a flight tasting that will leave you educated, more informed, and, no doubt, with a smile on your face.
RELATED: Playing in Portland, Austin’s unofficial sister city
Santa Fe is home to some of the nation’s best restaurants. If you want to go where the locals go, be sure to make a reservation at The Compound. Owner and Chef Mark Kiffin won the James Beard Best Chef of the Southwest Award and despite 22 years of experience, shows no signs of slowing down. The vibe is welcoming and locals love to have dinner and conversations around the sunken bar. It may be one of the only bars in the country that takes reservations. If you want a dining experience that includes watching the bartender make drinks in an atmosphere where there are no strangers, this is where to be. This is not the “sit at the bar alone with your thoughts” kind of place. This is a place where you will sit down and immediately be enveloped by friendly conversations.
Al fresco dining is always a favorite and there are many places that have patios and outdoor areas. One of the loveliest patios in the city can be found at the Market Steer Steakhouse. Santa Fe already gives off authentic old-world European vibes and here, sitting under a
canopy of trees, climbing vines and string lights by the oldest fountain in the city, Co-owner and Chef Kathleen Crook takes outdoor dining up a notch. The menu is a la carte, which affords the diner the opportunity to try a number of different dishes to accompany what is arguably the best steak in town. Whether or not you’re a bread pudding fan, Chef Crook’s signature dessert, which takes three days to make, is definitely worth trying.
You will be able to make your visit to The City Different exactly what you want it to be. If you enjoy strolling through narrow, historic streets, listening to the chimes of cathedral bells, it is easy to spend the day wandering in and around the historic plaza area. If you want to learn how to cook with New Mexico chili and make bizcochitos, the state cookie, you will enjoy the three-hour cooking classes offered at the Santa Fe School of Cooking. (Bonus: You get to enjoy the meal made during class.)
There are dozens of galleries and museums and for those interested in absorbing art that represents vast numbers of cultures, purchasing a Museums and Historic Sites Pass is a great way to gain access. The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum is always popular and reservations must be made in advance.
A couple of miles from the historic plaza, BODY Santa Fe is a treat. The combination yoga studio, boutique, art gallery and award-winning spa offers a unique wellness experience. If you are someone who enjoys spa treatments, do not miss out on this. You will need to plan well in advance but one look at the variety of massages alone is indicative of just how special this place is. Unassuming on the outside, once discovered, visitors return year after year from all over the nation.
It’s hard to fathom a city in the United States that is 412 years old and no other city in the nation can deliver the history, culture and experience of Santa Fe. The City Different will leave an impression with you regardless of how you choose to spend your time there.