That's right--locals call this Santa Fe, "Fanta Se." It's actually not a surprise given how stunningly beautiful the high desert is. I had no idea until I moved here. If anything, New Mexico was at the bottom of my list but, once I got here, I was sold: twelve-thousand-foot peaks covered in pine and aspens, foothills in juniper-and-pinon, striped sandstone cliffs, hills spotted with earth-colored adobe homes (it's a zoning law, here--they have to look like that), temperate seasons, art galleries galore, and sunsets that are as red as they come.
Mr. Cowboy Boot and I both agree that this place is uber-romantic. This state didn't earn the nickname "Land of Enchantment" for nothing! So, if we were going to soak up Santa Fe's richness, here's how we'd do it.
Natural Hot Springs in New Mexico
This "city" (more like town with only 60,000 people) is home to some of the best massage schools in the country. It draws tons of natural health junkies which means the spas and hot springs couldn't be better
-For the full spa experience, head to Ten Thousand Waves a couple miles above town. Tucked into the mountainside and shaded by juniper and pinon trees, this Japanese-style oasis exchanges robes for kimonos. Book a private tub for around $100 and soak for an hour with your sweetie.
-Make a day of it and drive an hour-and-a-half northwest to Ojo Caliente, a ten-pool mineral springs resort. While crowded and a bit touristy, the natural lithium, iron, soda, and arsenic pools feel spectacular.
-Prefer to not pay for naturally-enriched pools? Directly across from Santa Fe's Sangre de Cristo mountains are the Jemez mountains filled with natural hot springs (and quite a few less-than-clothed hippies). Take your chances and hike five miles in to the San Antonio Hot Springs--a collection of pools that are as warm as bathwater.
Hotel in Santa Fe
Stay walking distance from town and the infamous "plaza" (worth about a ten-minute gander). In the plaza you can peruse the Native American jewelry merchants who lay out their turquoise-and-silver bracelets beneath the portal of the Palace of the Governors--the oldest public building in the country. The Eldorado Hotel & Spa, La Fonda on the Plaza, and Inn of the Anasazi will charm you with southwestern decor, upscale service, and their proximity to everything. If you'd rather hole up outside of town, opt for the Bishops Lodge for horseback-riding or the brand new Encantado Resort for sheer indulgence, a ten minute drive north in Tesuque.
Beeline it to Maria's New Mexican Kitchen and order a margarita (one will put you on your ass) and the chile rellenos--seriously, the best relleno you can find. I'm on a mission to find a better one simply because I don't think it can be done. Moderately priced and it's worth every penny.
For something nicer, head over to Los Mayas Restaurante where the owner, Frederico, will pick a flamenco song on his guitar for you and welcome you "to his casa." The posole--hominy soaked in olive oil and spices--is phenomenal. If you're in Santa Fe, it's impossible to skip town without having a Frito Pie--a bed of chili, lettuce, tomato, and cheese on a pile of Fritos
The place to have it? El Parasol, a take-out Mexican food joint that won't cost more than $5 for one of these local specialties.
Taking breaks from New Mexican food is imperative to y our health. That's when we go for wood-fired pizza at Tesuque Village Market, sushi at Shokho (try the Santa Fe Roll with green chile), or inventive Italian cuisine and handmade pasta at Il Piatto.
Drink & Dance
Santa Fe isn't the most happening of places for nightlife (the median age here is 40), but there are a few hidden gems if you know where to go. Just outside of town, Santa Fe Brewing Company puts on great shows (Brett Dennen, The Infamous Stringdusters, Grace Potter and the Nocturn als, Mason Jennings, Yonder Mountain String Band) and serves up their own microbrews. My faves are Santa Fe Wheat and the darker, but still smooth, Santa Fe Nut Brown. The place the locals go? Hands-down, The Cowgirl. Come here on any given night and you're bound to see people at the bar (not the case at all of our establishments in our sleepy town). A huge outdoor patio strung with lights makes for a perfect summer-night margarita. Local bands like the Santa Fe All-Stars play here and keep the energy alive.
Our favorite part about New Mexico is its wilderness: pine forests, vast deserts, raging rivers and serene lakes. Our advice? Get out of town and experience a bit of the state.
The Rio ChamaJump 40-foot cliffs into Lake Abiquiu:
Hike through Native American ruins:
Hike through Native American ruins:
Local spices at the Farmer's Market
Rent a bike and ride up art gallery-lined Canyon Road and down shady Acequia Madre:
Gallery on Canyon Road
Visit Santa Fe's Farmer's Market, on Saturday and Tuesday mornings:
So, what do you think? Honeymoon-worthy?