Original article at www.gonomad.com
Demanding work schedules and family responsibilities shouldn’t keep you from seeing one if the loveliest cities of the American Southwest, Santa Fe, New Mexico.
An hour and a half’s easy drive north of the airport in Albuquerque, Santa Fe is the perfect getaway for a long weekend, with enough pleasant sights, sounds, smells and sensations to carry you back to your busy life.
Known as ‘the city different,’ Santa Fe encompasses artsy aesthetics, Hispanic warmth, and Native American reverence for nature, and it all shows in the city’s industrious spirit and open friendliness.
It’s easy to fly into Albuquerque early on a Friday afternoon and hit the ground running, because the drive on Interstate 25 to Santa Fe is uncongested and a visual delight. Once at Santa Fe’s famous ‘Plaza,’ you will be in the heart of the action, and there are a number of hotels and bed-and-breakfasts that can make you comfortable here in the heart of the city.
One of my favorites is the Hotel Plaza Real, just off the Plaza on Washington Avenue. Unassuming and comfortable, this hotel offers a responsive staff and cozy accommodations, and its location will allow you to enjoy all the pleasures of the Plaza both day and night. At the front is a lovely veranda where you can people-watch over drinks after a hard day of sight-seeing.
Another favorite — a little pricier but eminently worth it — is La Fonda Hotel. This historic site has held a structure on it since 1607. The present hotel has been there since 1922, and their hospitality and service are a Santa Fe tradition. The restaurant on premises is one should definitely put on your schedule.
If you want to treat yourself to the works, however, I would recommend the Inn of the Anasazi, a few blocks off the Plaza, a four-star hotel that has more amenities than you could wish for, including a library on-premises that houses a number of books on southwestern art, history, and culture.
Here you will feel pampered and appreciated, with in-room massages and aromatherapy treatments — the perfect antidote to workaday stress.
De-Stressing in the Plaza
Now, settle in and enjoy the Santa Fe lifestyle. Take a little time to stroll around the shops in and around the Plaza. Quench your thirst at any one of the many restaurants and cafes.
One of my favorite places for a quick bite is located in the Plaza Mercado, a converted building full of quaint shops and home of the Santa Fe School of Cooking.
At The Blue Corn Café and Brewery you can relax over delicate, savory soups and delicious tacos and tamales with the ever-present green and red chile sauces that are used in such surprisingly deft ways in southwestern cooking. Enjoy the extensive list of beers and drinks. Moderately priced, this is one of those places you return to because you feel so comfortable.
Then, amble past the Governor’s Palace and choose a few wares from the many laid out by Indian merchants. Treat yourself to a viewing of the art and sculpture along Canyon Road.
Enjoying the Natural Wonders
Though Santa Fe is renowned for its upscale restaurants, shops, and galleries, it also offers many satisfactions for earthier tastes. At 7,000 feet, Santa Fe is the highest state capital in the country, with a number of easily accessible attractions in and around the city.
Here, you can pack in a lot of vacation in a little time, and without a big bankroll. Merely driving through the wonderful Sangre de Cristo Mountains is pleasure enough, with its many opportunities for photographing. The endless vistas and continuous play of light makes this range a visual treasure that will last in memory for a long time.
Tucked away in these mountains just a short drive on Route 501, off 84/20 from Santa Fe is Nambe Falls — on the Nambe Pueblo reservation territory — where you can enjoy an easy 15-minute hike up a mountain path (closer to a 20 minute mini-climb, to be honest) to a picturesque waterfall setting.
Take plenty of pictures along the way because you will be treated to spectacular vistas that stretch endlessly into the horizon. Then, take a drive up to the lake. You may spot jackrabbits and buffalo along the way.