Santa Fe Essentials

Looking for things to do in Santa Fe? This list has the favorites for food, drinks, hiking, museums, and more!
By: Nancy Zimmerman
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Food and Drink Essentials: Best Places to...


Kaune's Neighborhood Market
511 Old Santa Fe Trail 505-982-2629
A full-service neighborhood market that’s been around forever, Kaune’s is known for its high-quality meats and a wide variety of imported specialty foods you just can’t get anywhere else. They even deliver!


La Montanita Co-Op Food Market
913 W. Alameda St.
Members get a discount on the fresh, organic, locally produced vegetables, fruits, and meats. A bit pricier than regular supermarkets if you’re not a member, but you’re supporting local growers and ranchers and getting healthier products in the bargain.

Santa Fe Farmers Market
1607 Paseo de Peralta
Known as one of the country’s best farmers markets, this one offers locally grown organic fruits, vegetables and meats as well as baked goods, body care products, unique condiments, crafts, gift items and more. It’s as much a social scene as it is a market, with locals and visitors mingling. Open Tuesdays and Saturdays 7 am to noon in summer, Saturdays 9 am to 1 pm in winter.  


The Shed
133 1/2 E. Palace Ave. 505-982-9030
It’s housed in an old hacienda that dates back to 1692, so you know the atmosphere is authentic. This family-run favorite is where locals like to bring their out-of-town guests to sample local specialties like Hatch-grown chile (milled fresh daily) and blue corn tortillas.


El Farol Restaurant and Lounge
808 Canyon Road (505) 983-9912
If you could hit only one spot to get a taste of the real Santa Fe, this would be it. The town’s oldest bar, it’s been serving up Spanish-style tapas since before they were cool, and it has the most eclectic bar scene in town. Whenever movies are made in the area, which is often, their stars invariably stop by here, so the people-watching is great.


1501 Paseo de Peralta 800-825-9876
Serving an innovative menu using Native American ingredients, Amaya, the dining room of the Pueblo Indian-owned Hotel Santa Fe, offers unusual flavor combinations like apple-ginger sautéed salmon and cinnamon-sherry marinated duck breast that marry traditional ingredients with contemporary style.


Holy Spirit Espresso
225 W. San Francisco St. 505-920-3664
A tiny downtown spot suitable for a quick pick-me-up, with what some say are the best espressos and lattes in town -- even visitors from Seattle agree. Open until 4 p.m.      

Nightlife Essentials: Best Places to...


Santa Fe Brewing Company
27 Fire Place, (505) 424-3333
This place began life in 1892 and has weathered a number of closings and reopenings since then. The tasting room is open to the public for tours; the pub and grill next door also offer the award-winning brews along with burgers, salads and wings. There’s a playroom for kids and frequent live music performances by local and big-name artists.    


Atomic Grill
103 Water Street, 505-820-2866
This casual eatery is the only place in town that’s open into the wee hours, usually 3 a.m. in summer, midnight in winter. More than 100 beers (served only until 11 p.m.), free wi-fi, and a varied menu of sandwiches, pizza, all-hours breakfast and New Mexican dishes keeps the night owls happy.


Cowgirl BBQ and Western Grill
319 S. Guadalupe St., 505-982-2565
A lively patio, a hip crowd and live music make this a fun hangout, with well-prepared bar snacks and full meals to complement the beer. You might run across the odd visiting celebrity, so keep your eyes peeled. There’s a playground/patio in back for the kids, so you won’t need a babysitter.


401 S. Guadalupe St., (505) 983-4559
Site of the old WilLee’s Blues Club, the revamped space now includes a larger stage and dance floor and a new bar. Get down to everything from reggae to rock, salsa to jazz, with both DJs and live music, depending on the night. It’s also open for lunch and dinner, with a menu emphasizing fresh local ingredients.  


Friday Night Gallery Crawl
There are more than 200 art galleries and art museums in Santa Fe, and on any given Friday night there are a number of openings to choose from, usually held from 5 pmto 7 pm Mingle with the locals and enjoy the refreshments while checking out some world-class art. Check the "Pasatiempo" supplement in the Friday issue of the local daily, the Santa Fe New Mexican, for lists of openings.

Entertainment Essentials: Best Places to...


Free Fridays at the Museums
Santa Fe’s internationally acclaimed museums are a delight at any price, but on Friday evenings from 5 to 8 pm the downtown sites are free! Visit the New Mexico Museum of Art, the Palace of the Governors, the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, SITE Santa Fe and the New Mexico History Museum for a broad range of offerings. On Sundays, New Mexico residents get in free all day, and Wednesdays are free to seniors.


Standing Room at the Opera
Santa Fe’s world-renowned Opera allocates 106 standing-room tickets for $10; you can usually find an unused seat to occupy come intermission. For $5 (free for kids aged 5 to 17) you can take a backstage tour for a glimpse of the scenery, costumes and props. Before the performance there's usually a free lecture about the opera that's being presented.  


Community Tables
If dining out alone makes you feel awkward or lonely or both, you’re in the right town: community tables at local restaurants let singles meet and mingle over their meals in a no-pressure atmosphere. Try Cafe Pasqual’s (505-983-9340) for an eclectic menu and a cheery ambience (owner Katharine Kagel reports that some marriages have resulted from fortuitous encounters at her friendly table), or head to the Tecolote Cafe (505-988-1362) for a hearty breakfast or lunch in the company of local businesspeople.


According to the Santa Fe Community Foundation, Santa Fe has more volunteers per capita than any other city in the country. And with scores of nonprofit organizations in the area, the opportunities to volunteer your time and skills are abundant. Visit the Foundation’s website to access their Volunteer Guide, which lists activities in fields ranging from animal welfare to the environment, education, arts and culture, business development and more.


Romantic Courtyards and Patios/Fireside Lounging
There’s something about the adobe architecture here, with its sensuous curves and cozy contours, that lends itself to lingering conversations. For a meal or a drink in romantic Spanish-style courtyards and patios, try these places:  

  • Staab House at La Posada de Santa Fe Resort and Spa (505-986-0000)
  • Georgia O’Keeffe Cafe's courtyard next to the eponymous museum (505-946-1065)
  • La Casa Sena’s patio (505-988-9232)
  • During the winter, snuggle by an aromatic piñon-wood fire at Amavi (505-988-2355) or Geronimo (505-982-1500).


Ten Thousand Waves
3451 Hyde Park Road 505-992-5025
Zen-like simplicity and serenity are the hallmarks of this Japanese-style spa, where you can have a soak, a massage and/or a spa treatment in a park-like setting. An evening session in an outdoor tub under the stars is both soothing and invigorating, not to mention romantic. Luxury lodging is also available.


Santa Fe Children’s Museum
1050 Old Pecos Trail 505-989-8359
Kids of all ages (and adults) go nuts for the cool interactive exhibits and hands-on programs here -- this one’s good for multiple visits. Off-site programs include a gentle nature hike for preschoolers and their parents.


Santa Fe Southern Railway
410 S. Guadalupe St. 505-989-8600
The half-day round-trip train ride from the Santa Fe Railyard to the neighboring village of Lamy lets kids enjoy the stunning mountain scenery aboard the vintage cars of the Santa Fe Southern Railway, part of the famous Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe line of Western lore.


Kakawa Chocolate House
1050 E. Paseo de Peralta 505-982-0388
This artisanal chocolate maker concocts exotic chocolate elixirs according to historical recipes spanning the era from 1000 BC to the mid-1900s, including traditional Mayan and Aztec formulas (made with chile!) as well as European, colonial American and colonial Mexican drinking chocolate.  


Montecristi Custom Hat Works
322 McKenzie St. 505-983-9598
These custom handmade hats by master craftsmen are favored by everyone from U.S. presidents to real cowboys. Also available are intricate hatbands, belts and custom buckles.

Back at the Ranch
209 E. Marcy St. 505-989-8110
When Hollywood stars are in town for movie shoots, this is where they go to order fine custom cowboy boots, belt buckles and assorted Western accessories.

Outdoor Essentials: Best Places to...


Hiking and Walking
1474 Rodeo Road 505-438-7840
The nearby Santa Fe National Forest has more than 1.5 million acres of public lands with superb hiking trails. Check with the Forest Service office for trail maps and suggestions. Bring lots of water, as the high altitude, dry climate and strong sun can take their toll in a hurry. Feel free to bring Fido, but keep him on a leash.  


Head north of town to the put-ins on the Rio Grande or the Rio Chama for one- or multi-day rafting and kayaking trips. The season is April through September; April offers the whitest water. Contact Kokopelli Rafting Adventures (505-983-3734) or New Wave Rafting Company (505-984-1444).


At Ski Santa Fe, about 16 miles from downtown, you’ll find 69 ski trails, primarily suited to intermediate and advanced skiers, although about 20 percent of the terrain is rated as easy. Bring your sunscreen: the hot Southwestern sun remains strong in winter. About 75 miles away is Taos Ski Valley, where the true experts hit the black-diamond runs. Taos has finally caved and decided to allow snowboarding, a controversial but ultimately popular decision.


Frank Ortiz Park on Camino Las Crucitas
It’s the only official dog park in town, and it’s a canine dream come true: plenty of room to run, off-leash dirt trails and lots of birds to chase. Come between 5 and 6:30 pm if you like to socialize with other dog owners, and avoid midday hours during hot weather -- there’s not much shade here.


Hill of the Martyrs
600 Paseo de Peralta
One of the few great views of the city that’s not in a private residence. You can walk up the winding brick path from Paseo de Peralta below, or drive up the back way from Fort Marcy if the thought of a steep climb doesn’t appeal.

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