Travel Like a Local: Santa Fe

Travel Like a Local: Santa Fe

Explore a few of our favorite Santa Fe destinations

Words by Nicole Harlow
Photos by Jay Carroll
Photos by Kelly Calvillo

Of all the reasons to step into the world of New Mexico, I think the best place to begin is with the richly-toned layers of earth and sky that will envelop you. Shades of sienna, sand, and sage contrast with distant, purple mountains. Traveling clouds cast shadows the size of whales that seem to swim across the sunny desert plains before your eyes. At the end of the day, the sun beams orange before taking its light away from you, mile by mile, laying a blanket of darkness and setting the stage for a full show of stars. Alive and engaging, they call it “the land of enchantment” for a reason. 

Add a sweeping layer of adobe structures to this picture, and you’re in Santa Fe. The characteristic building style sets the cityscape apart from any other, preserving time through city efforts ensuring that new construction fits in with the old. Along with the evolution of adobe from original Native American dwellings, many of the things that make Santa Fe unique and that you'll be enjoying yourself, have deep cultural roots that should be recognized and remembered. Located right on the historic Plaza, the New Mexico History Museum is a great place to learn about the territory before going on to explore the neighboring shops full of textiles, baskets, tools, pottery, and my favorite—the native, wearable art of jewelry that inspires my own business, Niett Metals.

Visit Santa Fe year-round, whether it’s dusted with snow or shimmering with Aspen leaves. Hike the many surrounding nature trails and explore the Santa Fe Botanical Garden. In winter, take a day off from your pick of winter sports for my ideal day of R & R, beginning at Ten Thousand Waves hot springs, inspired by the great Japanese mountain hot spring resorts, followed by an afternoon dedicated to taking in the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum.


For some of the best traditional food in town, head to The Shed Restaurant for lunch or dinner, located just off the Plaza. Red or green? Referring to red or green chile sauce, this is the question you'll usually get when ordering many traditional New Mexican dishes. Some claim one sauce is hotter than the other, but I would say it depends on the individual peppers, and you won't know until you try! If you can’t decide, order the duo—or Christmas style—and try both. Hint: if you can’t take the heat, use that honey on the table to soothe your burning mouth. 

For breakfast, lunch, or dinner, eat like a local at Tesuque Village Market. With its relaxed atmosphere and vast, well-loved menu, there’s sure to be something for everyone. Don’t miss their wood-fired brick oven pizzas, starting at 4 p.m. 

Stay and Play

Built in 1936 along old Route 66, an old roadside motor court inn has been renovated into the well-designed El Rey Court hotel. Clean lines of rustic materials and playful blocks of color feel modern, fresh, and simultaneously vintage inside its old adobe buildings. In contrast to many of the more lavish hotels in the city, it’s not stuffy, overdone, or overpriced—and the 
minute you walk into the lobby you’ll have a hard time playing it cool and resisting taking photos, especially when you enter La Reina. Rated one of the nine best mescal bars in the United States by Supercall and Thrillist, La Reina fulfills its promise as the place, “where fast lives slow down.” The drinks are simple and the bartender, your friend. 


Go to Shiprock Santa Fe for historic and contemporary Native American artworks and mid-century modern furniture, located on the Plaza. Whether it’s that piece of jewelry or rug you promised yourself you’d find, they are experienced and knowledgeable about what they carry, and you’re sure to feel great about your purchase.

Visit the shop of ceramicist Kimmy Rohrs, of Whiskey & Clay, and hope you catch her when you do. She’ll brighten your day and is the person to ask if you’re looking for what to do next around town. She blends porcelain with stoneware for her timeless pieces—and luckily she ships, as I warn you: you’ll want one of everything.