Before a recent trip to Santa Fe, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I hadn’t been to the famous New Mexico cultural mecca in more than two decades.
My memories of the place weren’t terribly positive; I seemed to remember it as a collection of retirees shopping for turquoise jewelry and talking about healing crystals. But I promised to keep an open mind and see what it could offer for us, a queer interracial couple with two teenaged kids.
What we discovered was a delightful city that offered plenty to see and do, much of it in a compact downtown area that was very walkable. We stayed at the lovely Inn & Spa at Loretto on the edge of downtown, which allowed us to wander and discover at our leisure. The highlights of our trip were:
The Santa Fe Plaza—Located in the center of downtown, this city square is dotted with trees and surrounded by galleries, restaurants and museums. On several occasions, we saw musicians performing, as well as traditionally dressed dancers.
When we mentioned that we had a taste for pizza, a local suggested that we sit at Draft Station, a bar/restaurant on the second floor of one of the buildings lining the plaza. While you can order pizza there, it actually comes from Rooftop Pizza, located on the far end of the building.
That dinner ended up being one of the most memorable of the trip, as we enjoyed watching an event at the plaza and the distant mountains bathed in sunset light.
Margarita Trail—Who doesn’t enjoy a good margarita or two—or ten? The Santa Fe Margarita Trail is a new initiative from Tourism Santa Fe. Purchase a passport for $3 and you’ll get a $1 discount on special margaritas at more than 30 bars and restaurants around town.
You’ll receive different prizes with every five stamps, including a T-shirt and an autographed copy of The Great Margarita Book.
New Mexico State Capitol Building—The state capitol building is a short walk from the center of Santa Fe and is certainly unique as it’s the only round statehouse in the United States. Referred to as The Roundhouse, the building was only completed in 1966; New Mexico was a relative latecomer to the U.S., as the 47th state (it was admitted in 1912). From above, the building resembles the Zia sun symbol, which is also emblazoned on the state flag.
The four-story structure (one is below ground) includes a central interior Rotunda that rises 60 feet through the top three floors. We walked in on a weekday afternoon and were able to wander all around the building. We checked out both the Senate and House chambers (neither was in session), and we even stopped by the Governor’s office.
The Governor’s administrative assistant was extremely friendly, chatted with us and asked our kids if they’d ever want to run for office—no commitment from them yet, luckily. Throughout her office, as well as all around the Roundhouse’s hallways, there is some amazing artwork displayed that is well worth seeing. The Roundhouse is almost an art museum in itself.
Santa Fe Botanical Garden—Located a few miles from downtown on Museum Hill, this civic treasure sits on 14 acres of land. Nationally recognized landscape architect W. Gary Smith created the master plan for the garden, which opened Phase 1 in 2013 and Phase 2 in 2016.
There are a number of different areas to investigate, including an orchard, meadow garden, lavender walk, and a dry garden. Walk across a small bridge and visit the Ojos y Manos: Eyes and Hands area, which explores ethnobotany, the shared history of plants and humans in New Mexico.
We also enjoyed the lovely series of large animal sculptures throughout the garden, which provided delightful surprises around many turns.
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