Last summer I had the opportunity to go on a few solo trips while Kevin was away at various training exercises. Typically, when I’m planning a new adventure, I’ll pull up Google Maps and just stare for a few minutes. I was looking for something within driving distance of Colorado Springs, and despite my apathy towards New Mexico at the time, Santa Fe kept coming up as a viable option.
I’ve driven through New Mexico a couple of times now, and simply put, Breaking Bad did a wonderful job of capturing the vibe that resonates with this state. Now, I’m certainly over-generalizing here, but the few times I’ve traveled through the Land of Enchantment I couldn’t help but feel like I was stuck in some sort of 1980s time warp. Not an entirely horrible thing, but certainly not at the top of my bucket list.
After some more Pinterest research, I decided to give Santa Fe a shot. Unlike the deserted highways in the middle of the New Mexican desert, Santa Fe was brimming with charm, enchantment and art. Although my visit was short, it was long enough to change my mind about the state I had previously felt so indifferent about. Here are some of my recommendations and highlights!
Where to Stay
I am a huge Airbnb advocate and try to book through them whenever possible. The experience is always more authentic and personal when you’re staying in someone’s home that they’ve decorated and put their heart and soul into it. It’s also much more affordable in comparison to hotels. Often times, B&B’s will post their rooms to Airbnb, which was the case with my Santa Fe stay.
I booked the “Bunkhouse” at Suitable Digs. This guesthouse is one of four located on a green, sustainable piece of land about 10 minutes from the city center. For about $100/night, I had a quaint studio to myself. Additionally, I access to the greenhouse and peaceful surroundings, which made for quiet mornings doing yoga and enjoying the fresh air.
Where to Eat
When I arrived to Santa Fe I got settled in and headed straight to the downtown area, otherwise known as The Plaza. Here, Adobe structures abound and Mexican restaurants can be found on every street corner. Based on my Pinterest research, I opted for The Shed. Now, I’m no connoisseur in the Mexican food department, but I have had some incredibly tasty enchiladas while I lived in Phoenix. With that being said, this restaurant certainly did not disappoint.
For breakfast I indulged at the French Pastry Shop and Restaurant. I loved the rustic vibe to this little spot. At the time I was avoiding caffeine, so I enjoyed a refreshing glass of OJ and a pastry, of course!
If you’re looking for a mid-day treat, don’t miss Kakawa Chocolate House. This cute little joint is on the outskirts of the Plaza, but it’s worth the search! They specialize in chocolate elixirs from all over the world. It was the sweetest afternoon pick me up!
Upon arriving to The Bunkhouse and realizing just how cozy it was, I decided it would be a perfect opportunity for some much needed R&R. Instead of heading into town and eating out for each meal, I grabbed some groceries and made some homemade meals.
Pro Tip: This is one of my top-secret methods to saving money on the road!
What to Do
Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument
Man, that’s a mouth full! Located roughly 50 minutes outside of Santa Fe, Tent Rocks is a hiker’s dream. The oddly shaped rock formations will stop you in your footsteps as you question how in the heck they got that way. There’s a couple of hike options. I opted for the easier one, which is about 3.1 miles round trip. I went on a week day, so it wasn’t incredibly busy. You do have to pay attention to hours because it does close. Also, there is an entrance fee (under $10).
Wander Around The Plaza
I have to admit, I spent most of my time wandering in and out of shops in the downtown area. If you’re looking for unique jewelry, items for the home, clothing or Native American goods, you’ll have plenty of options. I wouldn’t say this is the best area for the budget traveler, as most boutiques are quite expensive. But still, window shopping can be fun too!
Also, there is a grassy area in the Plaza that hosts special events and concerts in the summer. Check out the schedule here.
- Check out the local art. There are over 250 art galleries in Santa Fe, so I’d recommend picking out a few beforehand.
- Peruse the farmer’s market. If you’re doing any home-cooking while you’re in Santa Fe, I’d highly suggest getting some of your ingredients from the farmer’s market. Nothing beats fresh and local! It’s open on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 8-1. In the summer, there’s a Wednesday evening market from 3-7pm.
- Take a day trip to Taos. I’ve heard wonderful things about this city, which is about 90 minutes from Santa Fe.
Santa Fe forever changed my perspective on New Mexico. Just goes to show how we should never judge a book by it’s cover, or in this case, an entire state based on it’s lonely deserted highways.
I’ve also spent a few days in Albuquerque for the International Hot Air Balloon Festival. Of the two cities, I would recommend Santa Fe. It was the perfect combination of charm, interesting architecture, tasty food and natural adventure. If we ever happen to pass through New Mexico again, I’ll for sure be making a pitstop!