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From its Pueblo Revival-style architecture to the snow-capped Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Santa Fe, New Mexico, and its surroundings are brimming with history and spectacle. 

In some ways, Santa Fe still feels as remote as it did when it was established 400 years ago. However, this cultural epicenter is filled to the brim with things to do. The landscape’s rugged beauty has drawn artists and writers throughout history, inspiring thousands of years of art and literature. Newcomers to Santa Fe will be awed by its adobe buildings and world-famous galleries.

Yet, if you step outside of town, a new world of sparse beauty opens up. Spend some time taking in the region’s diverse history during your stay, and you won’t regret it. 

Related: 10 great places to live in the American Southwest

Where to stay

For a classic Santa Fe experience, book a room at La Fonda on the Plaza. Founded in 1922, La Fonda has since been a gathering place for cultural icons from J. Robert Oppenheimer to Georgia O’Keeffe, Eleanor Roosevelt, Cormac McCarthy and John F. Kennedy. The list goes on. La Fonda has served as Santa Fe’s watering hole throughout its history. Today, the hotel houses a museum-quality art collection and a top-notch dining experience. You might soak in some of this inspiration while staying within the hotel’s Pueblo Revival-style walls.

The historic La Fonda on the Plaza hotel

La Fonda on the Plaza

Hotel Santa Fe is the only Native American-owned hotel in the downtown area and provides an experience rich with culture, including an award-winning Native American art collection that adorns its walls. During your stay, take in the scent of lavender at the spa or book a private dinner at the Amaya restaurant in a traditional teepee. 

What to do

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Santa Fe, New Mexico


While in Northern New Mexico, it’s essential to venture out of town and see some of the stunning landscapes surrounding Santa Fe. Within just thirty miles of downtown are a number of historic destinations, including the sacred Santuario de Chimayo and the once-secret town of Los Alamos. The views of soaring pine forests and hills dotted with ocotillo and cholla are well worth the drive. 

History buffs won’t want to miss out on a self-guided walking tour of Los Alamos, now a National Historic Park, where world-class scientists led by J. Robert Oppenheimer developed the atomic bomb. One can peer into the windows of Oppenheimer’s former home and learn more about the Manhattan Project’s controversial and long-reaching history from the Bradbury Science Museum and the Los Alamos History Museum

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Don’t miss out on New Mexico’s scenery.


Swing through Chimayo on your way back to Santa Fe for a visit to the Santuario de Chimayo, an important Catholic pilgrimage site, then hop over to the world-famous Rancho de Chimayo for dinner (be sure to call ahead to ensure a table). 

For an afternoon in town, plan your day around a visit to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. O’Keeffe’s paintings epitomize the soul of New Mexico, which was the renowned painter’s home for over 40 years. Be sure to book a reservation in advance, as the museum can quickly fill up during the summer months. Diehard fans can book a guided tour of her home in Abiquiu, about an hour’s drive from Santa Fe. Again, booking a tour at least a month in advance is best. 

Where to eat and drink

Locals will recommend Maria’s New Mexican Kitchen as a lunch or dinner spot for classic New Mexican fare. The restaurant itself features pieces of Santa Fe history, including furniture from La Fonda that predates World War II. Well-known for their range of 150 margaritas, Maria’s dishes up everything from classic blue corn enchiladas with red or green chile to their signature spare ribs.

Stop by Ohori’s Coffee Roasters for fresh coffee roasted daily in carefully tended micro-batches. Founder Susan Ohori originally trained with Peet’s Coffee founder Alfred Peet and brought her expertise to her own Santa Fe establishment. Take home a few bags of the Santa Fe blend to conjure up memories of your trip. 

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La Choza and The Shed are sister restaurants, with La Choza being the Railyard district counterpart of its downtown cousin. Both are notable for their curious side dish to traditional Northern New Mexican cuisine: garlic bread. Renowned for their infamously spicy red chile, both restaurants offer plenty of drinks to help cut back on the heat. 

Where to shop

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Pottery at the Santa Fe Indian Market, which hosts 1,200 Native American artists from the U.S. and Canada every year in August. The market draws crowds of up to 150,000 annually.

AFP via Getty Images

The plaza is the heart of Santa Fe, bustling with shops selling everything from high-end turquoise jewelry to artisan crafts. At the far end of the plaza, Native American artists from the surrounding pueblos sell hand-made jewelry and other goods beneath the awning. Finely crafted silver and turquoise are spread out on blankets, giving visitors a chance to speak with the artists themselves.

If you want to try dressing like a local, a good hat isn’t a bad way to start. Santa Fe Hat Company is a tiny Adobe shop with an array of fine hats arranged in the windows. The shopkeeper, sometimes seen hanging out in the doorway, can take your measurement and help find the perfect hat to keep the high-altitude sun away. For more clothing options, visit 4KINSHIP, a Diné-owned upcycled clothing store on Canyon Road selling one-of-a-kind garments you won’t find elsewhere.

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Literature lovers will want to check out author George R.R. Martin’s bookstore, Beastly Books, which specializes in fantasy and science fiction. Stop by Collected Works, the oldest bookstore in town, for a range of other genres. 

Plus: Looking to unplug? Here are 12 peaceful towns great for going off the grid.

Local obsession

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Santa Fe, New Mexico

AFP/Getty Images

While green chile is nationally recognized as the New Mexico state obsession, there is plenty of other local fare to get obsessed with. Try sopapillas, an Indigenous-derived frybread served with (almost) every meal, frequently with a bottle of honey. Sopapillas come to the table in baskets, free to smother in honey, soak up remnants of green or red chile, or dip in a bowl of posole. Often you won’t even have to ask for sopapillas, as they are so essential to meals in most New Mexican restaurants.

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Much of Santa Fe’s food is spicy and savory, so you might want some sweets to cut back on the heat. Kakawa Chocolate House sells chocolate in all forms, imbued with flavors of history. Their drinking chocolates, truffles and caramels draw on everything from Pre-Columbian to Colonial Mexican recipes. With three locations in Santa Fe, you should have plenty of opportunity to sip a chocolate elixir and contemplate the rich history of this beautiful area. 

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