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3 Days in SantaFe


Three Days in Santa Fe


Santa Fe’s natural beauty, relaxed lifestyle, unique architecture, rich cultural heritage, and varied recreational options make it one of the country’s most popular destinations—Travel + Leisure readers recently ranked it as the  second-best city in the U.S. and the 14th best city in the world. Whether you’re visiting for the first time or have been journeying to Santa Fe all your life, the city offers an array of exciting, intriguing, illuminating, and satisfying summertime experiences you won’t want to miss.   


For more than half a century, the famed Santa Fe Opera (seven miles north of Santa Fe on U.S. Highway 84/285, 800.280.4654 or 505.986.5900, has been presenting both canonical and innovative operas to audiences from around the world. The season includes productions of timeless classics—Puccini’s La bohème and Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte; a revival of Bizet’s Pearl Fishers, which has become popular in the modern era; Jenůfa, a tale based on Moravian peasant life by Czech composer Leoš Janáček; and the world premiere of The Thirteenth Child, a Brothers Grimm–inspired fantasy thriller by Danish composer Poul Ruders. SFO’s unique open-air setting blends seamlessly with the dramatic landscape—you can enjoy a breathtaking sunset or the occasional thunderstorm and rainbow along with your opera.


Back in the heart of town, the lively Railyard District is a vibrant center of activity. The Santa Fe Farmers Market is held there, inside and around the pavilion at 1607 Paseo de Peralta, on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 7 a.m. to noon. Vendors offer a wide variety of produce, locally made cheeses, and New Mexico–raised meats as well as arts and crafts. Musicians contribute to the festive ambience. If you need a break from the sunshine, hop across the train tracks to the new Violet Crown Cinema (1606 Alcaldesa St., 505.216.5678,, which shows popular and independent films you can enjoy while you cool off with an ice-cold soda or a frosty pint of beer—the theater offers a rotating draft selection of 30 brews and ciders.


In the colorful dining room of Fiesta Oaxaca (135 W. Palace Ave., Suite 10, 505.982.9525,, a delightful downtown Mexican restaurant, Oaxaca native chef Alberto Lopez and his cheerful staff serve flavorful Mexican favorites—burritos for breakfast and lunch, tacos stuffed with a wide variety of fillings, tortas, and quesadillas—but the main event is mole—of which the menu offers four versions.


If you’re interested in exploring the food of Venezuela, wander around the corner to Santarepa Café (229-A Johnson St., 505.467.8379, At this sweet South American restaurant in a colorful bungalow, proprietress Isabel Mendoza offers an opportunity to get a gustatory glimpse of her home country. Sampler plates allow you to try arepas, cachapas, empanadas, and pastelitos with sides like sweet-and-salty fried plantains or crisp and golden yucca fries.


Want to enjoy a cocktail with a view? Head to the rooftop of the Drury Plaza Hotel, where Bar Alto (228 E. Palace Ave., 505.982.0883, serves a selection of cocktails, beers, and wines to savor while you take in the stunning mountain and sunset vistas. At The Bell Tower atop the beloved La Fonda (100 E. San Francisco St., 505.982.5511,, raise a glass to the rooftops of Santa Fe while the mountains glow in the distance. Try one of the season’s new tiki-inspired cocktails created by beverage manager Carla Gilfillan.


The iconic El Rey motor lodge (1862 Cerrillos Road, 505.982.1931, was built in the 1930s along the northern leg of the original Route 66. Renovated in 2016, the inn now consists of 86 rooms decorated with unique modern Southwestern décor and original artwork—all surrounded by colorful gardens and a pool. Creative directors Jay and Alison Carroll added the hip La Reina bar, which serves beer, wine, and signature tequila- and mezcal-focused cocktails from 5 to 11 p.m. Wednesdays-Sundays.


This has been a banner year for water in Santa Fe, so take advantage of the rushing rivers with a rafting excursion. Among Santa Fe’s many companies, Santa Fe Rafting (1000 Cerrillos Road, 888.988.4914, and Kokopelli Rafting Adventures (1401-A Maclovia Street, 505.983.3734, offer trips for individuals and groups ranging from a mellow float to full-day and overnight adventures.



Hiking is an ideal way to work up an appetite, and the majestic Sangre de Cristos offer some fine trails with views of Santa Fe, the Rio Grande Valley, and other mountain ranges in the distance. With more than 30 miles of connected trails, the extensive Dale Ball Trail System is nestled amid thousands of acres of piñon and juniper woodlands and can be accessed on Hyde Park Road, three miles northeast of downtown; on Upper Canyon Road, three miles east of Santa Fe; or via the Cruz Blanco Trailhead, southeast of town. Parking is free.