Rich in art, artsy in attitude, and rich in culinary tradition, Santa Fe offers a lot to savor
Rich in art, artsy in attitude, and rich in culinary tradition, Santa Fe offers a lot to savor.
By Alison Bailin Batz
Given its unique historical combination of Native American, Spanish, and Anglo cultures––and the resulting influence of each of them in the art, food, architecture, and entertainment of the region––Santa Fe is often called The City Different.
And while crowds visit the area in droves during the fall and spring months, especially during the nearby Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta each October, insiders know that winter is the sneaky best time to experience all The City Different has to offer.
Here are some of our favorite places to stay and things to experience in the area all season long.
Nestled into the Sangre de Cristo foothills and overlooking the Rio Grande River Valley on nearly 60 acres of pristine land––yet less than 10 minutes from the heart of downtown Santa Fe––sits the Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado. Each of the resort’s 65 casitas, ranging in size from 630 to 1,600 square feet, boasts an intimate fireplace and cozy, private terrace and many have nearly panoramic views of the surrounding terrain.
As impressive as the casitas is the spa, which offers both traditional and Native American-inspired treatments including the Mountain Spirit Purification Ritual. This experience begins with a smudging of sage, followed by an adobe clay body mask. Next, a warm, restful scalp and foot massage connects both of your energies to heaven and earth. After your mask, refresh with a shower and then embrace your final gift: a juniper-sage massage using hot stones. Other inspired therapies include the Blue Corn and Honey Renewal and Sacred Stone Massage, respectively.
For those looking to find their solace in the great outdoors––even in the winter––there is an expansive trail available to all guests just behind the resort that is exceptionally beautiful during the winter months, as well as guides who are able to whisk guests off for three-hour and longer adventures to the frozen waterfalls of Rio en Medio and Tent Rocks Canyon.
If your sport is food, the Four Seasons has you covered there as well, recently announcing the appointment of internationally renowned Kai Autenrieth as executive chef of its award-winning Terra restaurant. His first U.S. station, he most recently helmed the Four Seasons luxe resort in the West Indies and brings experience from nearly every corner of the globe to the kitchen.
Insider’s tip: Book Chef Autenrieth’s Taste of Place experience, a three-day culinary adventure that exposes guests to the true culinary treasures of Santa Fe and includes a private meal at San Ildefonso Pueblo with a visit to the Than Povi Art Gallery, a history walk with the former governor of the Pueblo, and a Native American artist demonstration on day one; a trip to Gruet Winery to taste the best pinot noir and chardonnay-based sparkling wines in the region on day two; and exclusive time with Chef Autenrieth as he guides guests through the Santa Fe Farmer’s market and then treats them to a private chef’s table dinner in his kitchen or at the resort’s garden.
In addition to Terra, Santa Fe boasts dozens of the top destination restaurants in the country.
A can’t miss––Cafe Pasqual’s.
Named for the folk saint of Mexican and New Mexican kitchens and cooks, San Pasqual, this café nestled within a historic pueblo-style adobe home exploding with hand-painted Mexican tiles and murals, only seats 50 people at any given time. The often long wait for breakfast, lunch, or dinner is worth it. They hand make everything––from bread to salsas to ice cream––and their organic offerings rival those on menus in even New York or San Francisco.
For wine lovers and those looking for a little romance, consider La Casa Sena. This bar and restaurant features as many as 15,000 bottles of wine (many of which they also sell) at any given time, which got the attention of Wine Spectator several years ago, who named the venue to several awards many years over. Executive Chef José Rodriguez, a 30-year-veteran of the New Mexico culinary scene, changes the menu frequently, with an eye toward balancing local ingredients and more global influences. He is also always looking to infuse the menu with different elements to partner with the restaurant’s diverse wine list, often caught saying “the food will be unbounded by one culture.” The result is an explosion of flavors from regions near and far––some continents away.
And while certainly food and wine are celebrated throughout Santa Fe, it would be remiss not to mention the city’s unofficial drink of choice––the margarita.
So popular is the cocktail, as it is in Arizona, that there is an actual Margarita Trail. With more than 30 Santa Fe-area venues engaged, including the Terra Bar at the Four Seasons, trekking along the “trail” is easy. Guests simply purchase a $3 passport for the trail at any of the participating venues or the Downtown Tourism Center and use it to venture across the entire city (though many are within walking distance––or Uber distance) to get deep discounts on margaritas of every shape, size, and flavor. The best part––bartenders stamp your passport as you complete margaritas along the trail––which eventually leads to prizes that range from t-shirts and bartending books to formal margarita kits to use at home. A bonus––the passport is valid forever, not just for one day or the duration of your stay.
Winter visitors rejoice, one of the area’s most stunning ski resorts, Ski Santa Fe, is a mere 20-minute drive from the Four Seasons, and even less from downtown Santa Fe. The resort boasts 660 acres of stunning terrain and 1,725 vertical feet of skiing. Something for everyone, from children to experts, the resort has 77 trails and averages 225 inches of snowfall annually. The Four Seasons also offers on-site Adventure Partner Guides who can take guests snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and even Nordic skiing in groups of any size and of any ability level.
And if looking for something daring, but perhaps a little less sporty, there is Meow Wolf and its House of Eternal Return.
Meow Wolf itself is an arts production company that creates immersive, multimedia experiences that transport audiences of all ages into fantastic realms of storytelling. Their work is part haunted house, part interactive children’s museum, part jungle gym.
In 2016, the company opened its first-ever Art Complex and permanent installation––the House of Eternal Return. Upon entering, you start a sort-of “choose your own adventure” experience through fictional––and often very alive––worlds these artists have created, rooted in horror, pop culture, traditional art, and more.
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