A few weeks ago we spent an extended weekend in Santa Fe, New Mexico and I must say, it stood up to all the hype. This place is ultra foodie, breathtakingly beautiful, full of culture and art, and uber chill. The trip was an excuse for QT in a fun location with my parents, and we left rejuvenated and inspired. Below are a few shots from our visit, along with a bit on where we stayed, hiked, and ate: in that order. (Thanks again to my parents for making it happen!)
Other Travel Guides:
US: Alaska (Juneau) | Alaska (Glacier Bay) | Utah (Arches) | Arizona (Flagstaff) | Michigan (Traverse City)
Europe: Italy (Amalfi Coast) | Italy (Rome & Naples) | Greece (Santorini)
Our house for the weekend was The Artist’s Retreat, a perfect home base for the week. It was in a neighborhood close to downtown, which we’d recommend for convenience. We’re big fans of online home or apartment rentals like Airbnb and VRBO (check out the sweet little places we found in Alaska and Rome & Naples), since they have so much personality and feel so much more homey than the typical hotel.
Bandelier National Monument
When we travel we prioritize two things: hiking and food (you may notice that trend in our travel guides). We did three separate hikes outside Santa Fe, each more impressive than the next. First was Bandelier National Monument, full of natural beauty, dwellings carved into the soft rock cliffs, and petroglyphs. The best part was that we got to climb ladders into said dwellings, which made us feel like big kids. (The ladders were a little scary to be honest – Alex didn’t even attempt them.)
It looks easy from back here, but climbing down while suspended in mid-air without a view of your next foothold was a little unsettling.
Tsankawi Prehistoric Site
We did another quick hike after Bandelier (located here), and we all agreed we enjoyed it even more than the first. It felt more intimate and much of the hike followed narrow channels worn in the soft rock (it almost felt engineered, like Disney Land). There were also petroglyphs and an incredible view. Don’t miss this one if you’re in the area.
Tent Rocks was undoubtedly the most impressive hike of them all, and one of the more stunning landscapes I’ve seen in the US outside of Utah (Arches + Monument Valley). The arch-shaped formations are completely natural. Alex and I felt like we were on the set of Star Wars (pretty sure Luke Skywalker lived in here at some point). If you’ve got time for one hike in New Mexico, this is it.
Intense hiker vibes.
Santa Fe is a dining mecca, so it was difficult to decide on just a few restaurants (since time was limited and many of our meals were hiking to go). Here are a few highlights:
The best dining Santa Fe dining experience hands down was Cafe Pasqual’s. When Alex and I try new restaurants, we look for places with soul — not white table cloth fancy or uber trendy, but places that have a story and a personality. Pasqual’s has the soul we look for: high quality farm-to-table food (a combination of New Mexican and American cuisine), served up in a homey environment. Think menu items like queso fundido with sauteed shiitake mushrooms or salad of arugula, fennel, sugar snaps, and lemon-shallot vinaigrette on a golden polenta triangle, served up next to enchiladas with traditional rich, dark mole sauce. Our table shared the first two, which were crazy good. Napo’s Pupusa was my main dish, a corn masa cake with zucchini, corn, and green chili served with a roasted tomato-jalapeno salsa. Top that off with salted burnt caramel ice cream with chocolate-toasted pinenut toffee, and we were in heaven. And did I mention their agave wine margaritas? It was only photo I was able to snap; they were a perfect starter.
Another must visit is Kakawa Chocolate House, famous for its drinking chocolate. Drinking chocolate, you say? It’s rich, velvety, and the perfect afternoon activity in our experience. They also sell fancy chocolates, which we also tried a few of: the standout was the citrus chipotle truffle.
The Shed offers traditional New Mexican cuisine in a homey atmosphere. I had the Christmas enchiladas (below), and they were solid; just spicy enough. This was a more casual setting and great for lunch.
Another highlight was Izanami. It’s a Japanese small plates restaurant that’s a little outside the main part of the city at the Ten Thousand Waves spa hotel. Everything about it was soothing, from the smell of incense outside and the hushed atmosphere inside. Maybe it’s a little off the beaten path to have Japanese in Santa Fe, but this place rocked it; compared to my food experiences in Japan a few years ago, the flavors were spot on and I loved the American-French-Japanese fusion. A seemingly endless array of dishes arrived at our table; some highlights were fried Brussels spouts with sweet chile vinegar and bonito flakes, the pickle selection, the wagyu beef burger, and the dark chocolate tart with miso caramel. We went on a whim after reading a few reviews, and at the end of the night we were all believers.
Lastly, we had the very great honor to observe a pueblo dance. Some of the pueblos invite the community on special days to observe their dances, religious ceremonies that are passed down from generation to generation. It was a very special experience and we are so grateful to have been able to be a part. (Note: Photographs are not allowed at the dances. This photo was not taken at that time but was captured by my mom on a separate occasion at a cultural center where photographs were allowed; we added it here for a visual.)
For the three days we had in Santa Fe, we wouldn’t have changed anything about the way we spent our time. Let us know if you’ve been and what your favorites were, or whether you’re planning a future trip!
About the Authors
Cookbook Author and writer
Sonja Overhiser is author and recipe developer of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the “best vegetarian cookbooks” by Epicurious, and a recipe developer and healthy & sustainable food advocate behind the award-nominated food blog A Couple Cooks.
Cookbook Author and photographer
Alex Overhiser is photographer and recipe developer of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the “best new cookbooks” by Bon Appetit, and a recipe developer, photographer, and technical expert at A Couple Cooks.