Three Days in Santa Fe

Annie Lux | - January 14, 2008

Certainly there's plenty to see and do (and buy and eat!) in the downtown historic district to keep even the most energetic of visitors busy for another day or two. Still, you may want to venture a bit farther. With three days to spend in Santa Fe, you can explore other areas of the City Different and still have time for a day trip!

Here are a few suggestions for branching out while staying in town:

Guadalupe Historic District

The Guadalupe Historic District is named for the massive adobe church on the corner of Guadalupe Street and Agua Fria Street. First built in the late 1700s, the Santuario de Guadalupe is famous for its beautiful altar screen, which tells the story of a vision of the Virgin Mary by a Mexican peasant named Juan Diego in 1531. The large center panel is the prototype for the icon-popular throughout the Southwest-known as Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Outside the church, you'll find a neighborhood filled with shops and restaurants. Wander to the other end of Guadalupe Street to the Railyard, the site of Santa Fe's first train depot. [Factoid: The Denver and Rio Grande Railroad first came through town in 1880, bringing visitors and settlers in record numbers and sounding the death knell for the Santa Fe Trail.] Next time you come to Santa Fe, you won't recognize the place! A massive building project is planned for the site. Even now, there are plenty of antique shops to explore. More shops line either side of Guadalupe Street as well as its side streets. Stop for a latte at the Aztec Street Café, a funky local hangout located on (you guessed it) Aztec Street, just east of Guadalupe Street. Check out Double Take, right on the corner of Guadalupe and Aztec Streets, a favorite second-hand shop selling curios, jewelry, housewares, vintage clothes and furniture. Don't miss their wall of cowboy boots-probably the best deal in town.

Head west on Montezuma Street and you'll come to the Sanbusco Center. Browse for shoes at On Your Feet or clothes at CP Shades, Kioti, or any of the other specialty clothing stores. El Tesoro is a great place for lunch.

Another good lunch choice is the Cowgirl Hall of Fame Restaurant on Guadalupe Street. Have the green chile cheeseburger or the frito pie: Texas chile (with beef brisket or vegetarian) poured over an open bag of Fritos Corn Chips and topped with sour cream and onions (hey, you're on vacation, right?). On weekend nights the Cowgirl offers live music and a rowdy atmosphere. In warmer months the outdoor patio is a party every night. Or check out the Zia Diner across the street, which serves classic "diner" food with a Southwestern twist in a bright, casual atmosphere.

For more nightlife in the area, try the bar at Railyard Restaurant and Saloon, a loud and popular nightspot. WilLee's Blues Club on the corner of Guadalupe and Montezuma Streets is one of the few places in town (sigh) with a dance floor.

Museum Hill

You can easily lose yourself for an afternoon (or longer!) at the cluster of Museums of New Mexico located on Camino Lejo just off Old Santa Fe Trail. The Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian showcases the art and artifacts of tribes throughout the Southwest. Deepen your knowledge and appreciation of native cultures at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture. Explore the world of the Spanish conquistadors, missionaries, settlers and artists-as well as Spanish art from around the world-at the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art. And don't miss the Museum of International Folk Art, a stunning collection of works from around the world. All the museums have gift shops well worth visiting, and the Museum Hill Café serves American Continental as well Southwestern cuisine.

Canyon Road

Canyon Road on Santa Fe's east side is lined with galleries showcasing everything from traditional Southwestern and contemporary paintings to jewelry and sculpture. The Friday night "art walk" is a Santa Fe tradition. Many of the galleries host openings starting in the late afternoon. But you can do your own Canyon Road walk anytime. Most galleries are open every day.

Park anywhere on Canyon Road from Paseo de Peralta to Palace Avenue. (If there's nothing available on the street, there is a pay lot near the top of the hill. And yes, you'll get a ticket if your time runs out!) Work your way up and down the hill, stopping at every gallery or at just the ones that call you. Try Darnell Fine Arts for contemporary work; Alexandra Stevens has an eclectic stable of artists and styles. Both galleries are housed in charming old Canyon Road adobes. Nedra Matteucci Fine Art carries a marvelous display of paintings, sculpture and jewelry in a spacious light-filled space.

Hungry? Try the Tea House near the corner of Palace Avenue. They serve sandwiches, salads and pastries as well as the widest variety of teas you'll find anywhere. The garden is filled with locals all afternoon. Bring your laptop: The Teahouse has free wireless internet access.

Canyon Road is also home to two of Santa Fe's most upscale restaurants, The Compound and Geronimo. Treat yourself to a fabulous lunch; better yet, make a reservation and come back for dinner. Another must-do is El Farol. One of the most popular bars in Santa Fe (come out and dance on Friday and Saturday nights), it's also famous for its tapas.

Ready to see more of New Mexico? Hop in the car-there's plenty to see in just a half-day's time.


If you're only going to take one side trip, this is the one to do. Not only is the Santuario de Chimayó one of the most famous churches in the world, getting there is a real treat. Take Route 285 north out of town (it's the only road out of town to the north!). Wait for it: in a few minutes, a beautiful vista of pink hills will open up before you. Now you're in New Mexico! Keep driving north, past the signs for Los Alamos and the Cities of Gold Casino. Soon you'll come to a stoplight and a sign for NM 503. Turn right and enjoy this lovely road through the tiny town of Nambé for eleven miles. Watch for the sign for NM 76 toward the Santuario de Chimayó. You're probably noticing that the scenery has been getting more and more outrageous: can you tell that this land was once an ocean floor (waaaay back in the day)?

In a few miles you'll come to the Santuario de Chimayó, one of the most visited churches in the world. The little chapel is famous for its gorgeous setting, its simple and lovely adobe-and-wood Spanish-style architecture, and the beautiful santero-style (sacred folk art made by local artisans-santeros-in the eighteenth century) artwork inside. Mostly, though, the santuario is famous for its "holy dirt," said to have healing properties (as the crutches and testimonials in the room next to the sanctuary attest). Bring along a plastic bag-or buy a container at the gift shop-to take some of the dirt home with you, as millions of visitors have done before you.

Chimayó is also known for its chiles! Buy a ristra (a wreath or string of red chiles) or a bag of powdered green chile to spice up your kitchen. Ristras make great gifts: most of the shops will ship them for you.

Many Chimayó families have been practicing the art of weaving for generations. Stop in at Ortega's Weaving Shop. They carry beautiful handmade rugs, blankets, wall hangings and accessories.

Want to make your adventure into a whole day's trip? At Chimayó you're poised at the edge of the High Road to Taos, a gorgeous scenic drive through tiny old towns with beautiful historic churches (at the junction of NM 76, turn right and enjoy the scenery. At the end of NM 56, turn right onto NM 75, then left on NM 518, which will take you to NM 68 (turn right), the road into Taos. Driving time from Chimayó to Taos on the High Road: 1-1½ hours). Or turn left on NM 76 back towards the main highway (known as the Low Road) and continue north. Once you're through Española, this is also a beautiful-and much faster-drive (driving time: ¾ hour or so). Either way, you'll eventually arrive in the town of Taos in time to walk around its historic plaza and stroll down Kit Carson Street (grab a coffee or ice cream at Caffe Tazza). If you got an early start, you may even have time for a visit to Taos Pueblo (where you can easily spend an entire day), just a few miles north of town. There are plenty of great choices for dinner in Taos. Try the Apple Tree on Bent Street or Doc Marten's at the Taos Inn. Still haven't had enough margaritas? The bar at the Taos Inn makes a mean one. Have a seat in the patio out front and people-watch as you end it with some guacamole and chips.

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