Santa Fe: The Desert Rose of the Southwest

At the crossroads of indigenous culture and hipster cool, Santa Fe is the Southwest’s most exciting city

Artists have long flocked to Santa Fe for its wide-open spaces and the suffused light brushing its deserts and mountains. This heritage, fostered by the likes of Georgia O’Keeffe and Gustave Baumann, has inspired the city’s modern revolution as a center for culture, inclusiveness, and creative boundary-pushing.

For conscious travelers, visiting Santa Fe can be a mind-expanding experience. The city embraces its First Nations in a big way, and members of Native American tribes are omnipresent, from the museums and galleries dedicated to indigenous arts to the dancers performing in the Spanish Colonial plazas to the pueblos scattered north of the city.

La Plazuela restaurant at La Fonda on the Plaza; textiles; a painted window at La Fonda. | Photo by: Robert Reck

Santa Fe’s only Native American–owned hotel, the Hotel Santa Fe, offers a big dose of regional hospitality with authentic adobe structures, traditional art and crafts, and private dinners in a teepee complete with hides and blankets. Book a room in the Hacienda, the hotel’s butler-served enclave with gorgeous fireplace suites and a dedicated lounge with a rooftop terrace overlooking Santa Fe and the ski mountains beyond.

La Fonda’s traditional Southwestern decor. Photo by: Robert Reck

There’s plenty to see in the city, but it’s a good idea to begin with the Santa Fe Plaza in the historic district. This pedestrian-friendly area is home to the famous Indian Market, as well as the Spanish market every July and some of the city’s most visited sites, including the Palace of the Governors, the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, and the Lensic Performing Arts Center. There’s a lot to explore, so start the day with huevos rancheros at the historic La Fonda on the Plaza and marvel at the eclectic art and painted windows before setting off on a walking tour.

Dining is an attraction of its own in Santa Fe. Don’t miss Sazón’s new Mexican cuisine; the mole here is the best north of the border. The Anasazi Restaurant is another must, as much for its faithful decor as for its innovative menu that respects native agriculture and local farming communities.

Guadalupe Church | Photo by: Genevieve Russell

For all its tradition, Santa Fe also has a hip vibe, nowhere more evident than at the interactive, multi-artist installation Meow Wolf. Visitors to this converted warehouse are transported to the surreal worlds of the House of Eternal Return as they seek clues to a mysterious story. It has to be seen to be believed.

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