In the northern Rio Grande Valley, nestled in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo range of the Rocky Mountains, you’ll find Santa Fe, also known as the City Different. If that sounds like the start of a fairytale, that’s because it is. Santa Fe, which aptly translates as “holy faith,” inspires awe and wonder from all those who venture into its adobe walls. At 400 years of age and 7,000 feet of altitude, this picturesque destination is the oldest and highest capital city in America. It claims the country’s oldest church, the unassuming San Miguel Chapel, and the oldest public building, the city hub loftily named the Palace of the Governors. But as historically rich as this city assuredly is, it is also an internationally renowned artistic hotbed and boasts culinary experiences to rival those of the world’s most modern cities.
To navigate your way into this semi-arid steppe in the north central part of New Mexico you’ll fly into Santa Fe Regional Airport, situated just 10 miles from the heart of town. Like the Spanish settlers of the early 1600s and the Indigenous people of America who arrived millennia before, you’ll be greeted by vast landscapes under crystal blue skies. It’s this stunning vista that has captivated generations of artists—perhaps most notably trailblazing modernist painter Georgia O’Keefe, whose centrally located museum is a must-see. Modern Santa Fe luminaries include contemporary Native American photographer Cara Romero, who showcases her work at Santa Fe’s world-renowned Indian Market alongside Diné textile artisan Naiomi Glasses, whose captivating and colorful work is a repeat feature in Vogue magazine.
It’s difficult to overstate the influence of Santa Fe’s art scene. Everyone from the French existentialist philosopher Simone de Beauvoir to cool girl go-to fashion designer Isabel Marant has felt the Southwest’s impact on their creative process. There are more than a dozen museums here, including a cluster of one-of-a-kind institutions that sit atop what’s known as Museum Hill, among them the renowned Museum of International Folk Art. Contemporary spaces include SITE Santa Fe for innovative visual art, and Meow Wolf, the immersive arts fever dream that’s taken the Southwestern art world by storm.
If you’re interested in collecting, a visit to Santa Fe’s Canyon Road is a must. This charming treelined corridor has the highest concentration of art galleries in the country. But as with many things in life, some of the greatest treasures can only be found off the beaten path. Andrea Fisher Fine Pottery, handily located a stone’s throw from beloved eatery Cafe Pasqual’s, houses an extensive collection of works by the continent’s most famous Native American potter, Maria Martinez. (Her works can also be found in the Smithsonian American Art Museum.)
For a piece of wearable art, consider a visit to Lucchese Bootmaker’s Santa Fe outpost. Nothing says “American West” like a pair of cowboy boots and Lucchese’s iconic works have graced the feet of presidents and kings. More inclined toward the aesthetic of Harry Styles and Alexa Chung? Then do as they do and head over to Back at the Ranch boutique to have a pair custom made. With a little advance notice this woman-owned business, with a one-off location ensconced in a historic adobe, will close their doors for your special fitting. Thanks to their access to some of the most exclusive leather tanneries in the world, they can match your new boots to your Fall 2022 hot pink Valentino jacket.
A contemporary side of Santa Fe can be found by visiting the Railyard District. Its Saturday Farmers Market is among the nation’s best. In the fall, the green chiles for which this region is well known will be roasting in open air stands, beckoning with their distinctive smoky, sweet bouquet.
Santa Fe’s culinary scene rises to the standards of its erudite visitors and inhabitants. A straw poll of area residents will provide a diverse list of favorites, all worth a visit. But there are a few destinations which make every list. Izanami, located a few miles outside of town at the Ten Thousand Waves resort, is a casual but extraordinary izakaya restaurant. You’ll find Miyazaki wagyu beef on the menu alongside house-made ice cream and desserts. The conscientious menu uses organic and local ingredients from farms with whom the resort has close relationships, making the dining experience even more intimate and personal.
Back in town on Canyon Road, situated inside the thick adobe walls of an 18th-century home and warmed by a cozy kiva fireplace, is Geronimo restaurant. This Santa Fe standout has received several culinary awards, including Forbes’ Four-Star accolade, considered by many to be one of the top 10 restaurants in the country. The comfortable dining room gives guests, who are invited to linger, the feeling of breaking bread in the home of an elegant, well-traveled friend—if that friend were an accomplished chef. Guests fly across the country to enjoy superbly crafted dishes like the Tellicherry-rubbed elk tenderloin or the 72-hour sous vide short ribs, an exceptional dish is served with a crispy potato terrine and fresh Italian truffles.
Delightfully sated, the only thing left to do is retire to an exquisite sanctuary to rest and rejuvenate. While you may have missed your chance to scoop Tom Ford’s Tadao Ando-designed architectural gem (which just sold for the significantly reduced price of $48 million), you can still experience the city he called home with all the comforts of a well-appointed ranch. Enter the recently opened Bishop’s Lodge, an Auberge Resorts Collection property set on 317 acres of land bordering the Santa Fe National Forest: It takes inspiration from the ancient and the modern, deftly mixing them into its room decor and exterior environments. The Lodge’s Bunkhouse offers the ultimate privacy, with its 12 guest rooms spread across nearly 10,000 square feet of impeccably curated Southwest living space. It’s the perfect spot from which to watch the spectacular sunset over the mountains that cradle this unparalleled destination.
GETTING THERE: Consider landing in Santa Fe Municipal Airport, a 20 minute ride from downtown. The facility includes Golf Cart Service, Courtesy Cars and 24 Hour Surveillance.