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About Santa Fe
Santa Fe was once the capital of Spain's, and then Mexico's, territories north of the Rio Grande, but its visible history extends far beyond the arrival of the Spanish; it is thought to have been the site of Puebloan villages that had already been long abandoned by the time the Spanish arrived in 1607. It became the state capital when the territory of New Mexico achieved statehood in 1912.
In the early 20th century, the area attracted a number of artists, such as Georgia O'Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz. The region remains important on America's art scene. The arrival of Igor Stravinsky and the founding of the Santa Fe Opera, one of the world's leading opera companies, had a similarly invigorating and enduring influence on the musical community. Many people go to Santa Fe for spiritual gatherings and to practice meditative arts at the many spas and resorts that are in and around Santa Fe.
Santa Fe is rooted in paradoxes. On the one hand, it is one of the United States' oldest cities (by some reckonings the oldest), and many residents can trace their roots and property holdings in town back to the 17th century. On the other hand, it has also been the target of a teeming influx of wealthy immigrants in the last 30 years or so that has spurred a great deal of new construction and created inflated prices for real estate—and drastically elevated taxes on old family properties, many of which are owned by families that can't afford the taxes. The tension between new and old, rich and poor, etc., is a persistent undercurrent in the community. These and other factors (not the least of which is a well-deserved reputation as a haven for flamboyant characters) contribute to Santa Fe's uniqueness.
Much of the city's attractiveness, from both scenic and cultural perspectives, arises from its setting in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. This location produces a mild continental climate with four distinct seasons. Winters are pleasant, with day-time highs usually in the 40s (Fahrenheit), often "feeling" warmer due to the sunny conditions. Snow varies wildly from year to year; some winters see almost no snow, while others will have several individual storms dropping a foot or more each. (The sun and high altitude mean that roads usually aren't clogged too badly, even by the big storms, for more than a day or two, as the snow melts rapidly.) Spring, usually dry and moderate in temperature, is still probably the least pleasant time to visit from a weather perspective, because of strong winds. Early summer (June, early July) is hot and dry, with highs around 90, but gives way around mid-July to a truly delightful climate as summer, monsoonal thunderstorms peel off the mountains and cool the afternoons down. Bring rainwear if visiting in July or August. The monsoons typically die out in early September leading to a fall with dry, sunny days and clear, crisp evenings; first frost is usually in October, with snow starting to stick in the mountains at about that time.
One caution: the elevation is high enough to challenge the lungs of the visitor freshly up from sea level. It's wise to spend your first day on relatively sedentary activities (museums, walking the downtown area) and move to more active things after you've had some time to acclimatize.
Santa Fe hosts a seemingly unending series of community fairs, festivals and celebrations, of which the most characteristic is the Fiesta de Santa Fe. This grand city-wide festival is held over the weekend after Labor Day in mid-September, after most of the summer tourists have left (and has been described as Santa Fe throwing a party for itself to celebrate the tourists leaving!). The celebration commemorates the reconquest of Santa Fe in 1692 by the Spanish after the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. Fiesta opens with a procession bearing a statue of the Blessed Virgin known as La Conquistadora to the Cathedral of St. Francis. Revelry starts with the Thursday night burning of Zozobra, also known as "Old Man Gloom," a huge, animated figure whose demise at the hands of a torch-bearing dancer symbolizes the banishing of cares for the year. Prepare for BIG crowds - this event is not for the faint of heart and can be downright scary for small children! The crowning of a queen (La Reina) of the Fiesta and her consort, representing the Spanish nobleman, Don Diego de Vargas, who played a key role in the founding of the city, is a matter of great local import. Revelry continues through the weekend and features such events as the hilarious children's Pet Parade on Saturday morning and the Hysterical/Historical Parade on Sunday afternoon. A Fiesta Melodrama at the Community Playhouse effectively and pointedly pokes fun at city figures and events of the year past. The Fiesta closes with a solemn, candle-lit walk to the Cross of the Martyrs.
A few of the other festivities during the year, arranged in (usual) chronological order through the year, are:
- ArtFeast, Edible Art Gallery Tour. February 22–25, 2007
- Santa Fe Community Days, mid-May
- Santa Fe Plaza Arts and Crafts Festivals, mid-June and Labor Day weekend
- Rodeo de Santa Fe, late June-early July
- Santa Fe Wine Festival. Usually first weekend in July, located at Rancho de las Golondrinas, taste and enjoy some of the finest wines in New Mexico in the beautiful outdoor setting of a living history museum
- Santa Fe International Folk Art Market. Early July, a huge gathering of folk artists from around the world showing their work on the Milner Plaza at Museum Hill
- Summer Antiquities Show, July
- Santa Fe Jazz Festival. Mid- to late July
- Summer Spanish Market. Late July in the Plaza
- Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival. With a series of internationally known musicians, July and August
- Mountain Man Rendezvous, mid-August, Palace of the Governors
- Santa Fe Indian Market. This annual mid-August event is the most significant Santa Fe festival for tourists and collectors. The entire downtown area is filled with vendors of American Indian arts and crafts, ranging from $10 tourist trinkets on up to breathtaking works of the highest quality. It advertises itself as the world's largest show for Native American artisans, and the description is probably accurate; an artisan who wins one of the top prizes in the juried competitions here is "made" as a significant folk art figure. Lodging is tight in town on Indian Market weekend, so if you're attending, make plans early—Indian Market weekend in 2008 is August 23–24.
- Thirsty Ear Music Festival. August–September, Eaves Movie Ranch
- Santa Fe Wine and Chile Fiesta. In late September, pairs wines from vintners around the world with the spicy foods for which Santa Fe is known. Winemakers' dinners, special tastings and the Grand Tasting on the Santa Fe Opera grounds make for a vintage weekend! This event is a sell-out for Santa Fe, so lodging is at a premium - reserve early.
- Santa Fe Film Festival. Early December; the web site is usually updated in the fall to reflect the coming offerings
- Winter Spanish Market. Early December
- Las Posadas, a pre-Christmas commemoration of Mary's and Joseph's search for lodging taking place outdoors on the Plaza. This event takes place in mid December and is a truly unique experience. The audience "participates" in the play by holding candles and following Mary and Joseph in their search for lodging. El Diablo (the devil) appears on rooftops throughout the plaza and hurls insults at the crowd, which responds in kind. This is a wonderful family event.
- Farolito Walk, a Christmas Eve walk around the historic areas of downtown Santa Fe, throughout which have been set farolitos, small brown bags filled with sand and a votive candle, to light the way for the Christ Child
- Winter Antiquities Show, late December
In addition, many of the Native American pueblo communities nearby schedule dances and other ceremonies to celebrate specific feast days throughout the year that welcome tourists (along with a few that are for tribe members only).
Santa Fe is an important center for music and musical groups, the most illustrious of which is the Santa Fe Opera. The opera house is on US 285 on the north side of town and is partially "open air," so that opera goers get attractive views of the Jemez Mountains near Los Alamos as an additional backdrop to what's on stage. The Santa Fe Opera is known around the world for staging American and even world premieres of new works, the operas of Richard Strauss, and promising new artists on their way up (and, to be fair, one or two aging superstars each season who are on their way down, not up). Opera season is the summer, with opening night (tickets are almost impossible to get) usually around July 1 and the last performances in mid-August. (Bring a light jacket/wrap and an umbrella to the later performances; the open-air nature of the house can make August performances nippy and drippy, although seats are protected from the rain.) Many performances sell out well in advance, so book early. (KHFM radio, frequency 95.5 MHz, airs a "ticket exchange" that may be helpful in finding tickets to sold-out performances, if you find yourself in town on the spur of the moment during opera season; they currently stream their broadcast online, so you can check the ticket exchange even before you arrive.) People-watching here can be as much fun as the opera itself; you'll see folks in the most expensive formal wear sitting next to others in jeans, which is typical of Santa Fe. Dressing up at least a little from jeans is a good idea, though. Pre-performance "tailgate dinners" in the parking lot, as though you were attending a football game or such, are part of the tradition and color; you can bring your own, or see under "Eat/Other/Splurge" below.
Other important musical/performing-arts venues in town are:
- Armory for the Arts, 1050 Old Pecos Trail; mainly theater.
- GiG, 1808 Second St, ☎ +1 505 989-8442. A spinoff (they describe themselves as a "stepchild") of the Jazz Festival; coffee-house environment with jazz, folk music, etc.
- Greer Garson Theatre, 1600 St. Michael's Drive, +1 505 473-6511. On the campus of the College of Santa Fe; visit the web site to see what's playing there. Comfortable, with good acoustics.
- James A. Little Theater, 1060 Cerrillos Road. On the campus of the New Mexico School for the Deaf, remarkably enough.
- Lensic Performing Arts Center, 225 W. San Francisco Street, ☎ +1 505 988-1234. Box-office. A converted movie theater with a pleasant atmosphere. As with most downtown sites, parking can be a pain, but there is a parking garage a block west that's usually OK in the evening.
- Paolo Soleri Theater, 1501 Cerrillos Road, ☎ +1 505 989-6300. An outdoor amphitheater at the Santa Fe Indian School, popular for events in spring, summer and fall.
- St. Francis Auditorium, at the New Mexico Museum of Art (see above).
- In addition, many churches host concerts of various kinds, among them St. Francis Cathedral and the Santuario de Guadalupe downtown, and the remarkable Santa Maria de la Paz Catholic Community far out on the south side of town (11 College Avenue) -- extraordinary acoustics at the latter.
Some of the musical groups using these spaces are:
- Aspen Santa Fe Ballet. A professional ballet company that splits its time between Santa Fe and Aspen, Colorado. Three or four performances a year, usually at the Lensic.
- Juan Siddi Flamenco Theatre Company. Santa Fe's premier flamenco troupe performing six nights a week June through September.
- Maria Benitez Teatro Flamenco/Institute for Spanish Arts. Internationally renowned Spanish/flamenco dance and music, they also offer classes (+1 505 955-8562 for class information).
- Moving People Dance A contemporary dance company that throws the annual Santa Fe Dance Festival each June.
- Musica Antigua de Albuquerque. Many groups based in Albuquerque do performances in Santa Fe as well; this one specializes in music of the Middle Ages, Renaissance and Baroque, performed with period instruments as well as voices.
- MusicOne: The Santa Fe Concert Association. Not a performing group but rather the body that brings in many visiting artists.
- Sangre de Cristo Chorale. One of the best of the many "community-based" choral groups drawing on the enormous pool of skilled singers in northern New Mexico. Two repertoires per year (usually Christmas, with a well-regarded dinner concert, and spring), as well as special events throughout the year.
- Santa Fe Desert Chorale. Fully professional choral music, with summer and winter programs, including works specifically commissioned for the ensemble.
- Santa Fe Pro Musica. Chamber orchestra, multiple performances from September through April.
- Santa Fe Symphony and Chorus. Classical and contemporary works performed September through May, including interpretive lectures and occasional youth concerts.
- Santa Fe Women's Ensemble. A 12-voice choral group, performances Christmas and spring.
- Serenata of Santa Fe. Yet another choral group with a September-to-May schedule.
There are others; if you hear one you like, add it.
As one might expect from its location between mountain and desert, Santa Fe is rich in outdoor activities, particularly hiking, cycling, and horse riding. Most are slightly outside town itself and are covered in the "Get out" section and pages cited there, but a few in-town possibilities:
- The Cross of the Martyrs is a good short walk, located on a hill just northeast of Downtown. From Paseo de Peralta, the paved walkway ascends to the top of the hill, where a cross honoring the Spanish martyrs of New Mexico has been placed. Unfortunately, getting to the entrance to the trail involves uncomfortably close proximity to car traffic, as one has to walk along a narrow but extraordinarily busy street on very narrow sidewalks, but the view of Santa Fe makes it all worth it. Old Fort Marcy Park and Prince Park Commemorative Walkway, at 300 Kearney Ave, is just around the corner a short walk from the cross, and is an in-town (one really can't call it "urban") park suitable for a short hike to begin getting your cardiovascular system adjusted to the 7000-foot altitude.
- Santa Fe River Park runs along the so-called Santa Fe River (it rarely has more than a trickle of water), with access convenient along the south side of the downtown area. You'll share the path with myriad walkers, bikers, and some boarders and horse riders.
- The campus of St. John's College, 1160 Camino Cruz Blanca, is the starting point for several hikes of lengths ranging from 2 to 7 miles, the latter being the ascent of Atalaya Mountain, one of the foothills of the Sangre de Cristos that rises just east of town. Park at the visitors' parking lot and choose your hike.
- The entire route of the Santa Fe Southern Railway (see above under "See") can be hiked, biked, and ridden on horseback. It is a nationally designated Rail with Trail, and plans are underway to develop its trail facilities. There are trailheads on Rabbit Road (continuation of Old Pecos Trail on the south side of I-25) and on County Road 660 ("Nine Mile Road"). Needless to say, keep an eye out for trains.
- Geocaching has become popular in Santa Fe, as might be expected from the general atmosphere of the city. The geocaching.com web site lists hundreds of caches in and near town, sufficient to keep even the most ardent cacher busy for a while. One caution: Santa Fe's reputation as a playground for the rich and famous has created a number of closed and gated neighborhoods, many of them quite intolerant of trespassers and aggressively patrolled. If your route to a cache leads you to a closed gate, take it seriously, and either look outside the perimeter for your quarry, or seek a different cache.
- Horse riding is available at several stables on the west side of town, and at Bishops' Lodge. If you have your own horse, or contract with an outfitter, your choice of places to ride is enormous. Popular trail systems in the Santa Fe area include the Santa Fe National Forest, Pecos Wilderness, Caja del Rio, Cerrillos Hills Historical Park, and Pueblos (access requiring a permit). A little farther afield is Los Alamos, Valles Caldera National Preserve, and the Carson National Forest.
- Genoveva Chavez Community Center, 3221 Rodeo Road, ☎ +1 505-955-4000. Contains three swimming pools, an ice rink, a gymnasium, and a fitness center.
if you're cycling, thorn-resistant tires and tubes are almost mandatory owing to the ubiquitous "goat's head," a weed whose seeds seem custom-made to puncture bike tires. A well-regarded bike shop is Rob and Charlie's, 1632 St. Michaels Drive, +1 505 471-9119. They have just about everything you'll need for riding in the area, including recommendations, but unfortunately, they don't have rental bikes. For rentals, try Mellow Velo (formerly Sun Mountain Bicycles), 102 E. Water St., +1 505 982-8986; they also offer guided rides on some of the mountain-bike routes in the mountains. For hiking, trail running and climbing goods and services, check out Sangre de Cristo Mountain Works, 328 S. Guadalupe St., +1 505 984-8221.
Golf and other sports are less accessible in Santa Fe than in some other cities, as many of the golf courses are either private and reserved for residents of adjoining gated communities, or out of town at one of the nearby pueblos and in Los Alamos. Santa Fe Country Club, Country Club Road (off Airport Road), +1 505 471-0601, is a "semi-private" course that welcomes the public and includes tennis courts; call for tee times. Marty Sanchez Links de Santa Fe, 205 Caja del Rio Road, +1 505 955-4400, is the "municipal" course in town—well, almost in town, as it's off the Santa Fe Relief Route a good eight miles from the Plaza. Golf in Santa Fe is "challenging;" the altitude may tire you (although the thin air may also help the ball fly farther and straighter), and weather can interfere, with strong winds in the spring and afternoon thunderstorms in the summer. Still, Santa Fe is a great place to get outside, and that includes golf and other sporting activities.
Santa Fe, and the rest of New Mexico, is known for its huge and spicy plates full of Southwestern food. Restaurants in Santa Fe run from expensive haute Southwestern to down-home fast-food style plates, where you will be asked "red or green" (chile). You can try a mix of both red and green chile peppers by asking for your dish "Christmas". However, Santa Fe also has a number of excellent restaurants offering other cuisines—possibly too many of them, in fact, as the highly competitive marketplace forces even some very good ones out of business before their time. It is almost impossible to overstate the dining possibilities here; they far outstrip those in most American cities ten times Santa Fe's size. As with several other New Mexico towns, restaurants in this description are broken into the sub-categories "New Mexican" (which, note, is not the same as "Mexican" by any means) and "Other." Meals (exclusive of drinks and tips) will usually cost $10/person or less at the "Budget" places, $10 to $25 at the "Mid-range" ones, and more—sometimes much more—at the "Splurges." Note that many Santa Fe restaurants are somewhat "casual" as regards business hours; if a place doesn't have hours listed below, inquire locally as to when it's open, as the hours may change erratically.
- Santa Fe Farmers Market, 1607 Paseo de Peralta (Paseo de Peralta at Guadalupe), ☎ +1 505 983-4098. The Santa Fe Farmers Market represents over 100 active vendors and features hundreds of different agricultural products. To further meet Santa Fe's demand for fresh, local produce, the Market began operating year-round in 2002, and with more and more farmers using extended growing techniques, the "off season" becomes more successful every year.
There are so many good New Mexican restaurants in town that a description here can barely scratch the surface. A note on red and green chile: half of the writers on New Mexican food claim that green chile is hotter than red, while half claim it's the other way around. In reality, the best authority on the spiciness of the chile at the particular restaurant you eat at is the restaurant itself, so if you're concerned about the chile being too hot, simply ask; you'll get a straight answer far more often than not. One thing that's definitely true, however, is that green tends to be fleshier than red, and adds a bit more substance to the dish, independent of the heat level.
- Five and Dime, 58 E San Francisco St, ☎ +1 505 992-1800. The former Woolworths on the Plaza was said to be the birthplace of the "Frito Pie"; it has since been replaced by the Five and Dime. The original chef is purported to still serve them there. The Frito Pie consists of a Fritos corn chips topped by meaty red chile and cheddar cheese, with onions and jalapeños as a garnish, served in the original Frito bag.
- The Shed, 113½ E Palace Ave, ☎ +1 505 982-9030. M-Sa 11AM-2:30PM and 5:30PM-9PM. The quintessential New Mexican lunch spot. In a little plaza off East Palace Avenue in the heart of the downtown area, recessed off the street and hard to find, but worth the effort to poke around the several side plazas until you locate it. They operate a sister restaurant, La Choza, at 905 Alarid St. It is open evenings and is on an obscure side street close to the main drag of St. Francis Drive, well outside the downtown area. Both serve "traditional" New Mexican food (enchiladas, stuffed sopaipillas, etc.) in a rustic setting. Reservations are recommended. Lunch entrees from $7 or so at both, dinners from $9.
- Felipe's Tacos, 1711-A Llano St, ☎ +1 505 473-9397. M-Sa 8AM-9PM, Su 9AM-6PM. Huge burritos, tacos and very, very authentic Mexican food for as little as two dollars. It's located only a few blocks from Santa Fe High, so after school can be a little crowded, but it's worth the wait.
- El Merendero (Posa's), 1514 Rodeo Rd (secondary location at 3538 Zafarano Dr, ☎ +1 505 820-7672. M-Sa 7AM-8PM, Su 8AM-3PM. This is primarily a catering/retail-sales outfit (delivery throughout town, sometimes delivering very large orders, as well as by parcel) of long standing and good reputation, but has recently opened two fast-food-style outlets for their wares. It's definitely not fine dining, but a reasonable representative of basic New Mexican fare for those in a hurry. Entrees $5-10.
- Plaza Cafe, 54 Lincoln Ave, ☎ +1 505 982-1664. 7AM-9PM daily. An old standby a stone's throw from the vendors on the Portal. Open for all meals, but particularly recommended for lunch, although it's crowded.
- Tecolote Café, 1203 Cerrillos Rd, ☎ +1 505 988-1362. Tu-Su 7AM-2PM. Breakfast and lunch only. Great New Mexican and traditional American breakfast fare. No toast.
- Tia Sophia's, 210 W San Francisco St, ☎ +1 505 983-9880. Breakfast and lunch 7 days; much loved by locals for breakfast.
- Tortilla Flats, 3139 Cerrillos Rd, ☎ +1 505 471-8685. Su-Th 7AM-9AM, F-Sa 7AM-10PM. A well known New Mexican establishment with typical Santa Fe fare. Frequented by many locals, another great stopping point for a quick meal or a casual dinner. Less than $10.
- Tomasita's, 500 S Guadalupe St (just south of downtown in an old railroad station), ☎ +1 505 983-5721. M-Sa 11AM-10PM. Considered by many to serve the definitive "traditional" New Mexican food. Expect to wait, as it's enormously popular. Entrees around $9–11, but splurge a little and get the sangria too.
- Blue Corn Cafe, 133 Water St (secondary location at 4056 Cerrillos Rd), ☎ +1 505 984-1800. 11AM-10PM daily. A curious combination of New Mexican cuisine and a microbrewery.
- Maria's New Mexican Kitchen, 555 W Cordova Rd, ☎ +1 505 983-7929. M-F 11AM-10PM, Sa-Su noon-10PM. Margaritas are a specialty here, but the traditional New Mexican cuisine is also good, if a bit heavier than at Tomasita's. Parking, though ample, is a pain to get to; approach from the east, on Camino de los Marquez rather than Cordova.
- Tabla de Los Santos, 210 Don Gaspar Ave (inside the Hotel St. Francis), ☎ +1 505 992-6354. M 7:30AM-11AM, Tu-Th 7:30AM-2PM and 5PM-9PM, F-Sa 7:30AM-2PM and 5PM-10PM, Su 7:30AM-1:30PM and 5PM-9PM. New Mexican cuisine with great tasting pork chops and chile rellenos. Great views of the Santa Fe Plaza.
- Ore House on the Plaza, 50 Lincoln Ave, ☎ +1 505 983-8687. M-F 11:30AM-2:30PM and 5:30PM-close, Su noon-2:30PM and 5:30PM-close. Combines Northern New Mexico cuisine and steakhouse offerings, with balcony dining on the second floor. Reservations strongly recommended, as it's crowded during tourist season. The cantina (bar) is a popular watering hole as well.
- La Casa Sena, 125 E Palace Ave, ☎ +1 505 988-9232. M-Sa 11:30AM-3PM and 5:30PM-10PM, Su 11AM-3PM and 5:30PM-10PM. An example of "Southwestern" cuisine—the merging of traditional New Mexican preparation and presentation with more modern, creative ingredients (sometimes a little too creative). Reservations recommended.
- Coyote Cafe, 132 W Water St, ☎ +1 505 983-1615. 11:30AM-close daily. Another highly-regarded "Southwestern" dining experience, although there has been a recent tendency for chef Mark Miller, (however Mark Miller sold the Restaurant to a group of employees); to use his restaurant to engage in puffery on behalf of his big-city franchises elsewhere. It's still an excellent restaurant, if an expensive one -- $50 per person for dinner, including wine/dessert and tip, is not unusual. Reservations recommended.
- Gabriel's, on State Road 285 (exit 176) north of town (past the opera) near the outlying village of Pojoaque, ☎ +1 505 455-7000. Su-Th 11:30AM-9PM, F-Sa 11:30AM-10PM. As much "Old" Mexican as New Mexican. The guacamole appetizer is fantastic, as are the fajitas. Dinner with guacamole and sangria will cost $25 or so. The art gallery across the parking lot is worth a look too, when you're done with your meal.
- Luminaria, 211 Old Santa Fe Trail, ☎ +1 505 984-7915. 7AM-2PM and 5PM-10PM daily. In the Inn at Loretto. Enjoy views of the Loretto Chapel and Old Santa Fe trail while dining.
Santa Fe has plenty of standard chain restaurants (Olive Garden, Outback, Red Lobster, etc.), but why bother? There are enough excellent "local" ones that you can save your trips to these more ubiquitous eateries for cities less well-endowed from a culinary point of view. All restaurants below are uniquely Santa Fean in their character and cuisine.
- Bobcat Bite, 420 Old Las Vegas Highway, ☎ +1 505 983-5319. W-Sa 11AM-8PM. An utterly unpretentious burger joint on the way into town from the east, far from the downtown area. Nothing fancy here, just huge and tasty burgers, etc., in a setting that evokes a 1950s small-town diner. No credit cards accepted.
- Chopstixs, 238 N Guadalupe St, ☎ +1 505 820-2126. A fast-food, take-out or dine-in Chinese restaurant. Built into an old gas station, it looks like the kind of place that you should stay a mile away from, and that's what makes it so good.
- The Pantry Restaurant, 1820 Cerrillos Rd (corner of Cerrillos & 5th), ☎ +1 505 986-0022. M-Sa 6:30AM-9PM, Su 7AM-9PM. Delicious food served in a diner-type setting. The waitstaff are super friendly, and the portions are humongous. The customers fill the small front quickly in the mornings, but seats are often available at the bar (which serves delicious milkshakes, even before noon). $5-$10.
- Pyramid Cafe, 505 W. Cordova Rd (in a strip mall on Cordova Road south of downtown), ☎ +1 505 989-1378. Daily 11AM-9PM. Good Greek/Mediterranean lunches. Nothing fancy, just good, casual food. Don't bother with reservations, but call to check on hours. Lunches from $5 or so; occasional belly-dancing entertainment. Now also open in Los Alamos if your travels take you in that direction.
- Santa Fe Baking Company, 504 W. Cordova Rd, ☎ +1 505 988-4292. M-Sa 6AM-8PM, Su 6AM-6PM. Across Cordova Road from Pyramid and offers tolerable sandwiches, soups, etc., for lunch, but don't go just for the lunch (or breakfast); grab a dessert while you're there, these being what it's known for. Can be very busy at lunchtime on weekdays, with chaos on all quarters. Call-in orders welcome.
- Santa Fe Steamer, 3242 Cerrillos Rd, ☎ +1 505 438-3862. Tu-Sa 11AM-9PM. Seafood, breezy and informal yet with attentive service. The fare is quite good considering that the nearest ocean is about 500 miles away; some creativity. Portions are not large, but in a weight-conscious age, they're large enough.
- Tune-Up Cafe, 1115 Hickox, ☎ +1 505 983-7060. M-F 7AM-10PM, Sa-Su 8AM-10PM. Occupies the space formerly "Dave's Not Here." Local hangout featuring the owners' Guatemalan cuisine with a New Mexican flavor. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The location, near the main St. Francis Drive artery, is more convenient for the through traveler than to downtown.
- Upper Crust Pizza, 329 Old Santa Fe Trail, ☎ +1 505 982-0000. Winter daily 11AM-10PM, summer daily 11AM-11PM. Widely considered to serve the best (American-style) pizza in town. Free delivery, but if practical, consider dining in instead; Old Santa Fe Trail is one of the main tourist drags, and you get a chance to combine pizza munching with people watching.
- Whole Hog Cafe, 318 S. Guadaloupe, ☎ +1 505 474-3375. Daily 11AM-9PM. A barbecue chain centered in Arkansas and Louisiana, but with two New Mexico outlets (the other is in Albuquerque); fast-food-meets-steakhouse format, but the BBQ is high-quality by any standards. Try the "Volcano" BBQ sauce (you'll have to ask for it at the counter) and see if it's hotter than the New Mexican cuisine elsewhere in town. If it blows you away, sauce #3 also has some kick and is tasty. Lunches (handy as it's in the pandemonious Cerrillos Road shopping area) from $5.05.
- Cowgirl BBQ, 319 S. Guadaloupe, ☎ +1 505 982-2565. M-F 11AM-Midnight, Sa 10AM-Midnight, Su 10AM-11PM. Drinks served until 1:30AM, Midnight on Sundays. Santa Fe mainstay where tourists and locals alike flock for some semblance of nightlife in Santa Fe. Decent food, 4 red pool tables ($12/hour, 7'), decent prices, and live music every night, except Mondays- Karaoke. The BBQ ain't bad, either.
- India Palace, 227 Don Gaspar Ave, ☎ +1 505 986-5859. Daily 11:30AM–2:30PM, 5PM-10PM. Second location: India House at 2501 Cerrillos Road, +1 505 471-2304. Surprisingly excellent Indian cuisine, both operated by the same family, with essentially identical menus. India Palace is more "atmospheric," India House more convenient (better parking), and the sag paneer at both is to die for. India House may have entertainment for some dinners. Figure $15–20 a head, and worth every penny.
- Mariscos La Playa Restaurant, in two locations: 537 W. Cordova Rd., +1 505 982-2790, and 2875 Cerrillos Road, +1 505 473-4594. Daily 11AM-9PM. An example of the difference between "Mexican" and "New Mexican" cuisine; these restaurants definitely are the former, with an emphasis on seafood prepared as in Old Mexico. (You definitely won't find the Pulpo—octopus—dishes on the menu at their New Mexican counterparts!) Nothing special as regards ambience/presentation, but good, authentic food.
- Mu Du Noodles, 1494 Cerrillos Road, ☎ +1 505 983-1411. Dinner Tu-Sa from 5:30PM. Features noodle/pasta dishes from around the world, but most of the dishes are from China or Southeast Asia. Parking can be a challenge. Ambitious cuisine for New Mexico, although perhaps equally ambitiously priced.
- Pasqual's, 121 Don Gaspar, ☎ +1 505 983-9340. Breakfast and lunch daily 8AM-3PM; dinner daily from 5:30PM. An old standby in the downtown area. As with many Santa Fe restaurants, the menu blends New Mexican cuisine with more traditional American fare. Reservations recommended for dinner, which approaches "Splurge" territory, and recommended particularly for breakfast, when it's far better value for dollar than the restaurants at the several nearby hotels.
- Pink Adobe, 406 Old Santa Fe Trail, ☎ +1 505 983-7712. Daily 11:30AM-9PM. A long-time Santa Fe standard, near the downtown area. A mix of continental and New Mexican cuisine that borders on "Splurge" territory.
- Pranzo Italian Grill, 540 Montezuma Ave (in the Sanbusco Center), ☎ +1 505 984-2645. Su 12PM-10PM, M-Sa 11:30AM-3PM and 5PM-11PM. May be the best Italian restaurant in town. Reservations advisable. Expect it to be loud.
- Wok, 2860 Cerrillos Road, ☎ +1 505 424-8126. M-Th 11AM-9PM, F-Sa 11AM-9:30PM, closed Sundays. Chinese food is a weakness (at least relatively speaking) in Santa Fe, but this unpretentious place has some supporters.
- 315, 315 Old Santa Fe Trail, ☎ +1 505 986-9190. Lunch F 11:30AM-2PM; dinner Su-Th 5:30-9PM, F-Sa 5:30-9:30PM. A restaurant whose name is also its street number. Reservations advised. French/Continental cuisine in a sidewalk-bistro-like setting. Good wine list, and save room for the crème brûlée dessert. You can easily drop $50 a person here and feel good about it.
- Angel Food Catering, 100 N. Guadalupe #103, ☎ +1 505 983-2433. Not a restaurant, but rather a catering service that specializes in the very popular "tailgate dinners" for the Santa Fe Opera (see above). Phone in your order (reservations are required at least 24 hours in advance), then pick it up at the kiosk on the Santa Fe Opera grounds. Menu is American/Continental with Southwestern influence. Expect to pay about $35–40 per person; wine is not included.
- The Compound, 653 Canyon Rd, ☎ +1 505 982-4353. Lunch M-F Noon-2; dinner daily beginning at 6PM. Located on Canyon Road near the art galleries. Although the Compound once enforced a dress code of jacket and tie, new chef/owner Mark Kiffin eliminated any formal dress requirement. Southwestern cuisine. Entrees from $25–40; reservations strongly advised.
- Geronimo, 724 Canyon Road, ☎ +1 505 982-1500. Daily 5:30PM–9:30PM. Another fine restaurant amid the galleries. The menu tends toward Continental but is entertainingly diverse and changes frequently. Dinner reservations are recommended and can be placed via the (unnecessarily ostentatious) web site. $40 per person will get you an excellent dinner.
- El Mesón, 213 Washington Ave, ☎ +1 505 983-6756. Tu-Sa 5PM-11PM. Spanish cuisine, well prepared and attentively served; the paella is excellent. Diners used to sangria New Mexico-style may find this restaurant's version a bit dry. Live entertainment most evenings. Expect to pay $40 per person or more.
- Las Fuentes at Bishop's Lodge Resort, Bishop's Lodge Road, ☎ +1 505 819-4035 (reservations). Daily 7AM-9:30PM. At the pricey Bishop's Lodge Resort (see under "Sleep"/"Splurge"), north of downtown on the way to the village of Tesuque. One of the few "Splurge" restaurants that offers three meals a day, including a Sunday brunch. Eclectic cuisine, basically American.
- Osteria d`Assisi, 58 S. Federal Place (three blocks north of the Plaza), ☎ +1 505 986-5858. Lunch M-Sa 11:00AM–3:00PM, dinner nightly from 5PM. If Pranzo (above) isn't the best Italian restaurant in town, this one may be. Prices range from about $10–12 for a simple Neapolitan-style pizza to $70 or more for a grand 5-course dinner with wine (come hungry and expect to leave full), or anything in between.
- Ristra, 548 Agua Fria St, ☎ +1 505 982-8608. Dinner nightly from 5:30PM. Despite its name, the menu is primarily Continental with French tendencies, although there are New Mexican overtones. Service is attentive to the point of being almost intrusive, but not quite; on parle français, and probably other major languages as well, as it's popular with opera goers and the manager and waitstaff have international backgrounds. Expect to spend around $70 per person.
- Santacafe, 231 Washington Ave, ☎ +1 505 984-1788. Lunch daily 11:30AM-2PM, dinner daily from 5:30PM; brunch Su 11AM-2:30PM. One of Santa Fe's big-name restaurants, and you probably pay a little extra for the celebrity, but the American/Continental fare is creative and well presented, with attentive service. Expect to spend around $50 per person.
- The Old House Restaurant, 309 W. San Francisco, ☎ +1 505 995-4530. Dinner nightly from 5:30PM. AAA Four Diamond restaurant that Zagat honored as New Mexico’s best. Contemporary global cuisine featuring seasonal and regional ingredients, with Southwestern and Asian influences. The wine selection earned Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence. Expect to spend around $50 per person.
- Tulips, 222 W. Guadalupe, ☎ +1 505 989-7340 (reservations). Tu-Sa 6PM-10PM. Santa Fe is full of unpretentious, little-advertised, yet good hole-in-the-wall restaurants that nobody has heard of, and this one is better than most. American-meets-Continental cuisine; the elk tenderloin is marvelous. Portions can be a bit small, but in an overweight age, that's not such a bad thing. Quieter than some of its competitors, which can be a relief. Expect to spend upward of $100 for dinner for two with wine and dessert.
Two of the ubiquitous alcoholic beverages in Santa Fe are the familiar margarita and the possibly-less-familiar sangria, a wine-based concoction incorporating fruit, more commonly associated with Spain and Central America. Most of the better New Mexican restaurants in town have their own house sangria; it goes well with New Mexican cuisine, and is claimed by some to be a useful antidote if the spicy food gets the better of you. It's considered much more of a day-to-day beverage here than in many other places. Visitors should note that the high altitude may increase sensitivity to alcohol.
Much of the beer consumed in the community is imported from Mexico, and there are also a few microbreweries. If you're sticking with non-alcoholic beverages, a tip: Many locals advise against having soft drinks with New Mexican food, instead preferring iced tea. This preference is based on the belief that carbonation in drinks (including beer) tends to accentuate the spiciness of the chile peppers and cause the spicy component to hang around in the throat, while iced tea mutes it. Do the experiment, or at least have your designated driver do it.
- Fusion (formerly Swig), 135 W Palace Ave, ☎ +1 505 955-0400. Most Santa Fe night spots have more of a coffeehouse vibe than a dance-till-you-drop atmosphere, but dancing is available here, with occasional tango lessons. "Touristy" rather than "popular with the locals," as one might expect from its location near the Plaza; LGBT-oriented according to some, but not all, visitors.
- Secreto Lounge, 210 Don Gaspar Ave, ☎ +1 505 983-5700. One of the best places for people-watching in all of Santa Fe. The crowd tends to be more sedate here than at some other places. Two great guys to look for here. Daniel and Chris, both award winning mixologists.
- Inn on the Alameda, 303 E Alameda St, ☎ +1 505 984-2121. Included in its rates is an afternoon wine and cheese reception, and with its location at the base of Canyon Road, it offers an easy way to relax after a day of gallery-hopping.
- Second Street Brewery, 1814 2nd St, ☎ +1 505 982-3030. Su noon-10PM, M-Sa 11AM-11PM for food, later (closing time unspecified) for the bar. Brewpub, with live music most evenings Thursday-Sunday and art exhibits (this is Santa Fe, after all) at other times. Note that they've been fined in the past by the state of New Mexico for permitting consumption of alcohol off grounds, so they may be sticklers for keeping your drink on-site. Second location: Second Street Brewpub at the Railyard. 1607 Paseo de Peralta #10.
- Changes in New Mexico laws during the 1990s led to the development of casinos at a number of nearby American Indian pueblos. The closest to Santa Fe are along US 285 on the way to Pojoaque. Big-name acts occasionally appear and liven up the night life, although you're as likely to catch a falling star on his/her way down-and-out as a current, lively act. The two listed here may run shuttle services connecting to the major in-town hotels; inquire locally as to availability.
- Several of the local-style bars can be found on Cerrillos Road and St. Michaels Drive, if you'd prefer to avoid the touristy places. Warning: some of these can get rowdy, and DUI is a problem in the area as well.
Santa Fe is a designated UNESCO Creative City and is one the best places in the world to shop specifically for Native American Indian arts and crafts. How to proceed depends on what your goals are and how much you want to spend. If your goal is to obtain mementos of no great intrinsic value, check out the Native American vendors on the "Portal" (accent on second syllable) in front of the Palace of the Governors; the jewelry and pottery is inexpensive (of course, you get what you pay for) and its authenticity is guaranteed. Pickings may be a bit thin on Sundays, and the vendors pick up and go home after 5:30. A word of warning: do not patronize the similar vendors on sidewalks out around town unless you know they're OK. If they're not on the Portal, there's a reason, and one common reason is that they're passing off non-Indian junk as authentic. Some authentic artisans may be off the Portal, but caveat emptor.
For higher-quality (and -priced) Indian art that you'll feel good about when you get it home, galleries cluster around the Plaza. Some reputable ones (there are more) are:
- Allan Houser Gallery, 125 Lincoln Ave. Suite 112, ☎ +1 505 982-4705. M-Sa 10AM-5PM. Showcases sculptures, drawings, and paintings by Allan Houser. A sculpture garden south of Santa Fe with more work by Houser is open for tours.
- Andrea Fisher Fine Pottery, 100 W. San Francisco, ☎ +1 505 986-1234. Summer M-Sa 10AM-6PM, Su 12PM-6PM; Winter M-Sa 10AM-5PM, Su Noon-5PM. Museum quality Native American pottery.
- Blue Rain Gallery, 130 Lincoln Avenue, Suite D, ☎ +1 505 954-9902. M-Sa 10AM-6PM, closed Sun. Specializing in contemporary Native American art, including pottery, paintings, glass sculpture, jewelry and mixed media.
- Lyn A Fox Fine Pueblo Pottery at Traders Collection, 219 Galisteo St (between East Alameda and Water St.), ☎ +1 505 992-0441. 10AM - 5PM. Specializing in fine historic Pueblo pottery from the eight northern pueblos, including Native American clay pots, dough bowls, vases, olla pots, and storyteller pottery.
- Packard's, 61 Old Santa Fe Trail (at the southeast corner of the Plaza), ☎ +1 505 983-9421, toll-free: +1 800 648-7358. An old standard with an excellent, diverse collection and some "Anglo" work as well.
- Steve Elmore Indian Art, 839 Paseo de Peralta, suite M (between Palace & Alameda), ☎ +1 505 995-9677. 10AM-5PM daily. Specializing in Native American antiques with an emphasis on historic Pueblo pottery, Navajo weavings, kachinas, and old pawn jewelry.
- Estrella Del Norte Vineyard & Tasting Room, 106 N Shining Sun (15 miles north of Santa Fe on NM 503, The High Road To Taos), ☎ +1 505 455-2826. 10AM-6PM daily; 12PM-6PM *winter hours close at 5PM. Specializing in local New Mexican folk art.
There are other good ones as well; if you find one that you think offers particularly good value for dollar, please expand this list. You can spend as little as $100 for a small piece, or spend more money than you have for something that's literally one-of-a-kind.
If you have any interest at all in "Anglo" art, make sure you walk down Canyon Road (an easy stroll from downtown), which is full of unique, quirky and just plain fun art galleries. Other galleries are west and south of the Plaza in the downtown area itself. A small sampling to give you a sense of what's there (note that opening hours at these can be somewhat erratic and are not always posted):
- Axle Contemporary, variable locations and hours; check website for daily updates, ☎ +1 505 670-5854. A mobile gallery of contemporary art, featuring works on paper and installation in a beautiful custom-retrofitted 1970 aluminum stepvan. Art by both established and emerging New Mexico-based artists.
- Chuck Jones Gallery, 135 W. Palace Ave, ☎ +1 505 983-5999. Hours apparently "flexible". Amid the galleries featuring the scenic and cultural beauty of the Southwest and Native Americana, you can find this one featuring the "beauty" of ... Daffy Duck, Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner!? This gallery memorializes the great cartoon artist and his successors in animation art, with many originals. Not what you might think of as typical of the Santa Fe art scene, but highly entertaining.
- Gabriel Gallery, 6 Banana Lane (off US 285 north of town), ☎ +1 505 455-9230. Paintings, sculpture, jewelry; across the parking lot from the excellent Gabriel's restaurant (see below), and combines well with a meal there.
- Gerald Peters Gallery, 1011 Paseo de Peralta, ☎ +1 505 954-5700. M-Sa 10AM-5PM. One of Santa Fe's "high-end" galleries, with works by some famous artists (Hurd, Remington, Miro, etc.), bearing six-digit price tags in some cases. If you're looking for inexpensive "souvenir" art, look elsewhere, but the serious art collector should definitely check this one out.
- Glenn Green Galleries, 136 Tesuque Village Road (in Tesuque, 5 miles north of the Plaza), ☎ +1 505 820-0008. M-Sa 10AM-5PM; Sunday by appointment. Established in 1966, 5 acre sculpture garden and gallery. Contemporary sculpture, paintings, prints and wall art by artists such as Allan Houser (whom the gallery represented from 1974-1994), Khang Pham-New, Eduardo Oropeza, Melanie Yazzie, etc.
- Jane Sauer Gallery, 652 Canyon Road, ☎ +1 505 995-8513. M-Sa 10AM–5:30PM; Su Noon-5:30PM; closed on Su in winter. One of the top "material-based" galleries in the country showing the work of over 70 internationally-acclaimed artists using fiber, glass, clay, and sculptural materials to create their art.
- Klebau Photography Gallery, 220 E. Santa Fe Ave, ☎ +1 505 954-4777. The proprietor of this photography-oriented franchise is also deeply involved with Santa Fe's classical-music scene, and may be able to give you tips on what's playing if he's there (buying something doesn't hurt, of course).
- Manitou Galleries, 123 W. Palace Ave, ☎ +1 505 986-0440, toll-free: +1 800 283-0440. M-Sa 9:30AM–5:30PM, Su 11AM-5PM. One of the relatively few Santa Fe galleries open 7 days a week. Mid-range ($100 to $20,000) work, mainly with a Southwestern theme; nice bronzes.
- Mark White Fine Art, 414 Canyon Rd, ☎ +1 505 982-2073. Daily 10AM-5PM. Meditative wind sculptures. Inside the gallery you can view radiant and unique paintings on metal.
- Mill Fine Art, 530 Canyon Road (East section of Canyon Road), ☎ +1 505 982-9212. 10AM-5PM. Exhibiting primarily contemporary and minimalist artwork.
- Nedra Matteucci Fine Art, 555 Canyon Road, ☎ +1 505 983-2731. Traditional paintings and sculpture by contemporary European and American artists.
- Nedra Matteucci Galleries, 1075 Paseo de Peralta, ☎ +1 505 982-4631. M-Sa 8:30AM–5PM. Another gallery by the well-known Santa Fe entrepreneur, this one with an emphasis on 19th- and 20th-century work, including a number of works from the art colony at Taos.
- Shidoni Arts, Bishops Lodge Road (at the outlying village of Tesuque), ☎ +1 505 988-8001. M-Sa 9AM-5PM. 8 acres of sculpture garden display the diverse and eclectic—some would say peculiar—work of the locally-celebrated Shidoni Foundry, along with furniture, ceramics, photography, etc.
- Waxlander Gallery and Sculpture Garden, 622 Canyon Road, ☎ +1 505 984-2202. Daily 9:30-5:30PM. Contemporary artists led by Phyllis Kapp.
- William R. Talbot Fine Art, 129 W. San Francisco St (upstairs), ☎ +1 505 982-1559. Historic maps, regionalist prints and paintings.
- Winterowd Fine Art, 701 Canyon Road, ☎ +1 505 992-8878. M-Sa 10AM-5PM, Su 12PM-4PM. A reasonable (if comparatively conservative) example of the many Canyon Road galleries; friendly and helpful service.
This listing barely scratches the surface of the art scene in Santa Fe; the community phone book lists over six pages of galleries. There are some tourist traps among them, but far more good stuff than tourist junk.
- In downtown Santa Fe there are quite a few specialty stores for toys, book stores, clothes and a variety of other stores with handmade goods such as purses and jewelry.
- On the south side of the city there is an outlet mall at the intersection of I-25 and Cerrillos Road and a large gathering of newer, big-box stores like Border's, Best Buy, and Target on Zafarano Road near Cerrillos and Rodeo Roads, across the street from the enclosed Santa Fe Place mall. A second (and slightly smaller) enclosed mall, the De Vargas Center, is located at Paseo de Peralta and Guadalupe, just north of the downtown area. Within the downtown area proper is the Sanbusco Center, a partially-enclosed mall with mostly upscale shops, anchored by a Border's and a Cost Plus World Market.
- A Santa Fe institution is the Tesuque Pueblo Flea Market just north of the Santa Fe Opera along highway 285. It's open on weekends except during the winter, and offers cut-rate shopping for just about anything you can get elsewhere in town. Visit to look for random memorabilia (although you may wonder why you bought them when you get home!) and also for some entertaining people-watching.
This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Santa Fe (New Mexico) on Wikivoyage.