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The Lowdown | New Mexico

Simply Santa Fe Words by Jeri Clausing

Where New Mexico, USA

Quick Quote $600 per day per person (including hotel)

Best Season Summer and Fall

Thinking of Art, Culture, Food, Mountains

Best Portrayed in No Country for Old Men, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Longmire

It’s known as the “City Different,” different, located in what the locals proudly refer to as the Land of Enchantment. Neither is it an exaggeration, for the one-of-a-kind high mountain desert, artistic enclave of Santa Fe, which with its magical mix of natural beauty and diverse cultural history, makes it easy to see why even some Americans don’t realize it’s part of the 50 states. Whether it’s the magic that drew one of America’s earliest known civilizations, the Anasazi Indians, along with later rounds of  Spanish, Mexican and Anglo settlers to Santa Fe and New Mexico, or whether it’s their diverse influences that helped create that magic is debatable.

Founded in 1690, Santa Fe is the oldest state capital in America. Settled by the Spanish, surrounded by Native American pueblos and just a few hundred miles from the Mexican border, the fusion of cultures is apparent in everything from this city's food to its traditional adobe flat-roofed architecture, jewelry, and art.

Today it is a favorite destination not only for tourists, but also as a home or second home for writers, artists and celebrities seeking a simpler, more solitary life.

Where to Stay

Inn  of  the  Five  Graces  This  24-suite  property  is  one  of  Santa  Fe’s  better  kept  secrets.  Across  Old  Santa  Fe  Trail  from  the  oldest  church  in  the  United  States,  the  San  Miguel  Mission,  and  next  to  the  oldest  house,  designers  Ira  and  Sylvia  Seret,  transformed  a  neglected  cluster  of  adobe  buildings  into  this  magical  retreat  full  of  exotic  antiques,  rugs,  textiles  and  unique  architectural  elements. 

“Few would dispute there is an underlying spiritual element and unique natural light that makes the skies here just a little bit bluer, the sunrises just a little bit pinker, the sunsets a bit more orange, and the overall atmosphere enchanting.”

Just  a  block  off  Santa  Fe’s  main  downtown  plaza, is La Posada, a  200-plus-year-old  luxury  property  has  grown  over  the  years  to  become  a  small  village  with  a  wide  variety  of  rooms  and  suites, including one-bedroom  casitas  with  wood  burning  fireplaces.  Belly  up  to  the  big  wooden  bar  in  the  19th  Century  mansion that  houses the lobby, restaurant, even even a  private  art  collection.Ten minutes from downton, near Santa Fe’s famed outdoor opera house is Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado Santa Fe, an  intimate, 65-room hotel set on 57 acres in the Sangre de Cristo foothills. Rosewood’s Inn of the Anasazi offers true luxe just off the main plaza.

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Words by Jeri Clausing New Mexico Editor

Jeri Clausing is a veteran newspaper and wire service reporter and editor who now freelances from her home in New Mexico. A former senior editor for Travel Weekly, she is still a regular contributor and writes their weekly blog on luxury trends. Her travel stories have also appeared in The New York Times, The Associated Press and Conde Nast Traveler China.

Where to Eat

One  of  the  best  reasons  to  visit  New  Mexico  is  the  food, which with its native chiles and mix of Spanish, Native American and Mexican influences is like no other Mexican food.  The  Shed  is  one  of  the  most  popular  places  for  traditional  green  chile  dishes and margaritas, ,  but  it  can  also  be  impossible  to  get  into. A second option is its  sister  restaurant, La Choza,  a  few  minutes  off  the  Plaza.   For more progressive American cuisine, try James  Beard-recognized  Chef  Martin  Rios’ Restaurant  Martin, which offers a perfect   mix  of  refined  and  comfortable in an old house near the state Capitol. One  of  Santa  Fe’s  newest  hot  spots is Sazon.  Created  by  Chef  Fernando  Olea,  Sazon  offer  contemporary  and  traditional  interpretations  of  recipes  from  old  Mexico,  in  particular  its  many  varieties  of  mole.  And no  visit  to  Santa  Fe  is  complete  without  breakfast  (or  lunch  or  dinner)  at  Pasquals  on  the  Plaza.  Be  prepared  to  hang  out  on  the  street  for  a  while,  the  restaurant  is  small  and  is  a  favorite  of  locals  and  tourists.  But  it’s  worth  the  wait  for  their  organic  food.  Try  the  blue  corn  pancakes  or  avocado  toast.  

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Must dos:

An  almost  indescribable  experience,  Meow  Wolf  is  a  globally  renowned  interactive  community  art  collective  launched  in  2016  with  support  from  Game  of  Thrones  creator  George  R.  R.  Martin.  It’s  first  permanent  installation,  the  House  of  Eternal  Return,  takes  visitors  through  a  multi-dimensional  mystery  house  with  secret  passages  and  portals  to  surreal,  maximalist  and  mesmerizing  art  exhibits.  Spend another  day  soaking  in  a  private  outdoor  tub,  taking  cooking  classes,  getting  a  massage  or  experiencing  an  authentic  Native  American  Sweat  Lodge  ceremony  at  the 70-acre  Sunrise Springs resort  just  south  of  the  city.  And of course, there is the art. And lots of it.  One  of  the  things  Santa  Fe  is  most  famous  for  is  Canyon  Road,  which  is  lined  with  galleries  featuring  well-known  artists  of  a  variety  of  Southwest  and  other  genres.  But  the  renovated  Railyards  and its Site Santa Fe just  south  of  the  Plaza  now  offers  art  lovers  an  additional  must-see  at  this  renovated  beer  warehouse  that  features  contemporary  exhibitions. Just a few blocks off the Plaza, visit  the  museum  dedicated  to  one  of  the  Southwest’s  most  famous  artists, Georgia O’Keeffe, or take  day  trip  60  miles  northwest  to  her  home  and  studio  in  Abiqui  to  see  the  famed  New  Mexico  skies  and  landscapes  that  inspired  her  work. 

Nightlife

One thing Santa Fe isn’t known for is it’s nightlife.  But  you  can  still  dance  the  night  away  (ok,  at  least  until  midnight)  at  El  Farol,  a  restaurant  on  Canyon  Road  that  turns  into  a  favorite  nightclub  with  live  music  by  local  bands  on  weekends.

Side Trip: Taos

No trip to northern New Mexico is complete without a stop in Taos, a more casual, hippie little  sister to Santa Fe. Just an hour-and-a-half north, the drive through the scenic Rio Grande gorge alone is the worth the trip.  Shop and see the local art scene in Taos’ town square, visit the Gorge bridge, which at 600 feet above the Rio Grande is the 10th tallest bridge in the country; or visit local potters and artists in the town of Arroyo Seco, which is on the way to the scenic Taos Ski Valley, known for its great  hiking trails in the summer and expert ski runs in the winter.

Must dos: Visit the home of Mabel Dodge Luhan, a salon hostess who moved to New Mexico in 1919 and married a Taos Pueblo Indian. She is credited with luring writers and artists like Georgia O’Keeffe and Ansel Adams to the Land of Enchantment by sending out invitations to people she barely knew. Or get into the hippie vibe with a visit to the Earthship community, a colony of self-sustaining homes that look like spaceships embedded in the scenic landscape. There are about 70 homes in the 633-acre subdivision, all made from all recycled materials.The community is also the headquarters of one of the early leaders in the sustainable building movement, Earthship Biotecture. And don’t miss your chance to see in person San Francisco de Asis, one of the most painted and photographed churches in the world. Built between 1772 and 1816, the traditional adobe, mud and straw Spanish mission structure is synonymous with New Mexico, made famous by painter Georgia O’Keeffe and photographers Ansel Adams and Paul Strand.

Where to eat: For breakfast, Michael’s Kitchen and Bakery offers a plethora of homebaked pastries and bread along with tradition diner food with or without a New Mexico chile twist. For dinner, venture to Aceq in the village of Arroyo Seco for a fresh dinner from this family owned farm-to-table restaurant, which uses the best in local, wild and farm-fresh ingredients to develop a unique contemporary New Mexican twist on comfort foods and fine dining classics. For a traditional New Mexican lunch or dinner of enchiladas or other green and red chile favorites, hit Orlando’s, just north of the main town square. 

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