History and tradition beckon at this time of year. One of the most charming cities in the West—particularly during the holidays—and the oldest capital city in the country, Santa Fe provides a place to wander museums, shops, art galleries, and restaurants all on foot. Ditch the car and stroll the Plaza, its surrounding area, and Canyon Road to see local customs on display—particularly the luminarias or farolitos: candles in small paper bags anchored by sand that line sidewalks, rooftops, gardens, and more.
LARGER THAN LIFE
A must-see for fans of the iconic artist, the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum is just a few blocks from Santa Fe Plaza. A new exhibit, “Georgia O’Keeffe: Making a Life,” opens Dec. 8 and celebrates her way of living. It features books, artist’s materials, clothing, furniture, and more to give visitors a closer look at how she curated her own style and life. Get tickets ahead of time, up to 30 days in advance, as the museum sells out around the holidays ($18 and up).
Nearly everything in Santa Fe centers around the Plaza, the central gathering space that welcomes locals and tourists. It’s especially delightful this time of year: every tree decked in colorful lights; strings of red chiles called ristras hanging about as a sign of welcome; and, if you’re lucky, a light dusting of snow covering the whole scene. Boutiques, restaurants, and galleries surround the area, and it’s anchored by the Palace of the Governors, the building dating to 1610 designated a national historic landmark, which houses the New Mexico History Museum. Native American artisans sell jewelry and other wares on the walkway right outside.
Just a few blocks from the Plaza, Eldorado Hotel and Spa provides an easy place to relax. Rooms feature local art, and some include kiva fireplaces and balconies ($178 and up). The lobby is warm, welcoming, and dressed up beautifully for the season, plus there’s a hot chocolate bar every evening. Fix a cup with your favorite flavors and take in the sunset, or head to Paxton’s Taproom for more adult offerings, including 30 local beers on tap.
For a laid-back, comforting meal with locals, head to Upper Crust Pizza on Old Santa Fe Trail. In business for more than 40 years, this award-winning spot serves traditional favorites and novelty pies that spotlight the area’s flavors such as green chile. Take it to go or grab a chair at the warm indoor tables where you just might spark up a conversation with a nearby guest.
To escape the bustle of the city’s center, make the short drive to luxurious Bishop’s Lodge, an Auberge resort perched on 317 acres. Pamper yourself in rooms with large soaking tubs, kiva fireplaces, and balconies that overlook the valley ($810 and up). The property lights up at the holidays with thousands of farolitos or luminarias—different regions of the state use certain terms—welcoming you upon entry. For dinner, head to SkyFire restaurant for shrimp empanadas with chimichurri ($19), hatch green chile risotto with mushrooms and egg ($30), or a dry-aged wagyu with yellow pepper puree ($55).
THE HEART OF ART
Santa Fe has long been a haven for artists, and Canyon Road spotlights that spirit with blocks full of galleries that invite meander-
ing. More than 80 galleries live within the half-mile stretch, and walking up and back offers a peek at the art and secret gardens. When you’re ready for dinner or a cocktail, pop into El Farol, a legendary spot that features unforgettable flamenco shows Thursday through Saturday nights.
Meow Wolf combines adventure, a supernatural experience, and immersive art all in one. Two other locations opened last year, but Santa Fe’s House of Eternal Return is the original, and many still flock to partake in all its enchantment. From light shows to performance art to secret spots and music made with pipes, more than 70 rooms hold hours of engagement for everyone from the smallest children to the most intrigued adults ($20 and up).
Mark Your Calendar!
Dec. 24: Farolito Walk on Canyon Road. The event begins at sundown when thousands of the little lanterns light up the iconic spot. farolitowalk.com