10 Experiences That Will Reawaken Your Soul in The City Different

Leah LeMoineJuly 1, 2020
Share This

Travel Advisory: Contact all businesses, monuments and state and national parks before visiting to verify operation and hours.


After months of stifling uncertainty, your body and spirit need fresh air and wide-open spaces. Fortunately, there’s still plenty to safely experience in Santa Fe. From open-air culinary indulgences to serene hiking trails, here are 10 ways to “uncover your different” in The City Different.

1) Take a day trip to Bandelier National Monument.

Hikers, birders, botany enthusiasts and history buffs all flock to the Pajarito Plateau to see Bandelier National Monument, home of the ancestral Pueblo people from 1150 -1550 CE. You can see remnants of their canyon wall dwellings made out of volcanic tuff. Imagine what life was like for them as they grew the “Three Sisters” crops that sustained so many early indigenous cultures: corn, beans and squash. In June, Bandelier increased access to Frijoles Canyon for day use, though social distancing was still recommended and the visitor center, campgrounds and shuttle bus system remain closed. nps.gov/band/index.htm

2) Stroll the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market in the Railyard District.

The intoxicating scent of green chiles roasting greets you as you approach the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market (held Tuesdays and Saturdays), which has been “keeping it fresh since 1968,” as its organizers boast. After just one visit, you’ll understand its longevity. Held in the buzzing Railyard District, the market boasts vendors inside a vast warehouse and along its outside walls, so you can easily maintain social distancing courtesy as you peruse the freshest produce, meat and dairy products from local farms, along with flowers – available fresh or dried into elegant, fragrant bundles. Buy a piping-hot tamale or cup of locally roasted coffee for a taste of Santa Fe as you load up your tote with local honey, skincare products, jewelry and gifts. Don’t forget the most iconic Santa Fe souvenir of all: a ristra, or dangling garland of dried chiles. You’ll see this festive ornament[1]  hanging outside the entrances of many residences and shops in The City Different. santafefarmersmarket.com

3) Hike in the stunning Santa Fe National Forest.

Some of the Southwest’s most glorious hiking trails can be found in the Santa Fe National Forest. While you can experience myriad outdoor adventures in its abundant 1.6 million acres, from trout fishing to whitewater rafting, two hikes are especially notable for Santa Fe visitors. Battleship Rock is so named because its hulking, 200-foot expanse of volcanic rock looks like a Navy warship. Beneath its imposing shadow are the East Fork Jemez and San Antonio Rivers and a pleasant [2] picnic area with plenty of space for picnics and fishing. If the melodic rush of natural water reawakens your soul, a trek to Jemez Falls is a must. The waterfall is the highest of its kind in the Jemez Mountains, and its beautiful cascade is visible – and highly photographable – from the Jemez Falls Overlook, just a short hike from a campground and day use area.  fs.usda.gov/santafe/

4) Hit the mountain biking trails.

Santa Fe is a wonderfully bikeable city for urban cyclists, but mountain bikers have even more trails to play with. The Rail Trail winds along the old Atchinson, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway line, starting at Railyard Park in southwestern Santa Fe and continuing to Lamy, a census-designated place 18 miles south of Santa Fe. La Tierra is a multi-use trail system in the northwest part of the city that encompasses approximately 25 miles and is home to the annual La Tierra Torture Race. Dale Ball Trails also includes nearly 25 miles of trails in the picturesque foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains – the easiest way to transition from city to mountains. The Dale Ball system connects with the Dorothy Stewart Trail, a tidy, 1.9-mile loop used by many Santa Feans for daily exercise. The Chamisa Trail is longer (4.5 miles) and more heavily trafficked, but it rewards with quaint creek and wildflower views. As its name suggests, the Santa Fe River Trail follows along the Santa Fe River, passing by parks and offshoot trails. It’s another trail that has an easy access point from downtown Santa Fe.

5) Lose yourself in art at Allan Houser Sculpture Park and Gallery at Haozous Place.

The work of the late, multitalented artist Allan Houser feels more vital than ever as you walk through the extensive grounds of the Allan House Sculpture Park and Gallery at Haozous Place. Houser’s Chiricahua Apache ancestry informed his oeuvre, which includes drawings, paintings and sculptures of indigenous people and themes. His sculptures are magnificent – modernist and abstract, yet rooted in tradition.[3]  Absorbing their beauty and reflecting on the centuries of Native Americans who have lived on this land is soul-stirring. allanhouser.com

6) Relish history-minded fine dining on The Compound’s patio.

Santa Fe’s legendary Canyon Road arts district is home to many special places, from the finest art galleries to temples of fine dining. Even among these luminaries, The Compound stands out for its history and commitment to excellence. It began as an adobe home, part of the McComb Compound, and was converted into a folk art-inspired restaurant in 1966. Chef/owner Mark Kiffin has been at the helm for the last 20 years, and in 2005 he won the prestigious James Beard Award for Best Chef of the Southwest. Now you can dine on lobster salad and summer pea soup for lunch on the restaurant’s lovely patio, or tuck into grilled natural reserve Angus beef tenderloin or Colorado rack of lamb in a private dining experience. compoundrestaurant.com

7) Pair small plates with live music and flamenco at El Farol.

Reinvigorate several senses all at once with a visit to El Farol, one of Santa Fe’s most iconic hot spots since 1835. Your senses of smell and taste will be enchanted by traditional Spanish tapas including croquetas (croquettes; flavors change daily), gambas al ajillo (shrimp swimming in garlic, chile and chive oil), boquerones (marinated white anchovies with heirloom tomato and avocado) and patatas bravas (crispy potatoes with garlic aioli and spicy tomato sauce), as well as hearty steaks, piquant paella and daily specials. Your sense of hearing will be excited by flamenco music[4] [LL5] . Your sense of sight will be overwhelmed – in the best possible way – by the heady mix of the music, the artistically plated food and the jaw-dropping murals by famous artists covering the restaurant’s walls. elfarolsantafe.com

8) Feast on classic New Mexican cuisine at The Shed.

You haven’t been to New Mexico until you’ve stuffed yourself with posole, tamales, enchiladas, carne adovada and chile in every possible incarnation. Cross all of those off your list at The Shed, a Santa Fe staple since 1953, where you can order everything from tacos to burgers draped with chile – red, green or “Christmas-style,” which means both. Pick a perch on the colorful patio and linger over build-your-own margaritas made with fresh lime and lemon juices or a specialty cocktail like the Sangre de Cristo, named for Santa Fe’s famed mountain range: Don Julio Blanco Tequila and Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur. sfshed.com

9) Try teas from all around the world at The Teahouse on Canyon Road.

Tea lovers will be in heaven at The Teahouse, which offers a menu of more than 150 teas from across the globe. Silver Needle white tea from China? Shade-grown Gyokuru tea from Japan? Tulsi Mango Peach tea from India? The Teahouse has them all, along with a robust menu of matcha, yerba mate, tea-based drinks, espresso and coffee concoctions, floats and more. There’s also a lengthy food menu and a roomy patio, so you can nosh on Paleo Eggs Benedict for breakfast or tuck into braised brisket with fennel pollen and herbs over creamy polenta for dinner without feeling crowded. teahousesantafe.com

10) Toast to new experiences and much-needed rejuvenation at Second Street Brewery.

Santa Fe’s premier craft brewery opened in 1996 and has expanded to include three locations. Locals love The Original Alien Burger, an all-natural Angus patty topped with an organic, blue-corn-dusted chile relleno, chile-jack cheese, smoked bacon, stout-infused queso and Hatch green chile; the Railyard Chile Philly, a cheesesteak gussied up with caramelized onions, mushrooms, bell peppers, stout queso and your choice of red or green chile; and Northern New Mexico-style enchiladas with red, green or Christmas-style chile, cheese, black beans and rice. Pair these signature dishes with the beers that strike your fancy. Perhaps an Agua Fria Pilsner, a Winsor Trail Pale Ale or Boneshaker Amber? They even make barleywine, if beer isn’t your thing. Hunker down on the patio and raise a toast to enjoying life again – safely, of course. secondstreetbrewery.com