Santa Fe Sojourn: The Art and Culture Capital of New Mexico

Your perfect weekend itinerary in the alluring Southwest city



There is something in the air in Santa Fe. And it’s not just the smoky scent of piñon wood that permeates every corner of New Mexico’s capital in the evenings, when locals burn the spicy-sweet indigenous plant. The southwestern destination has been gaining popularity among the cultural cognoscenti as a weekend getaway, luring visitors with its heady mix of Pueblo-style architecture, mystical desert landscape, elevated Tex-Mex cuisine, and art- and design-drenched community. We hopped a direct flight from LAX to Albuquerque and drove the 50-mile Turquoise Trail, a scenic byway that winds through historic mining towns, to spend a weekend in The City Different.


The smoky scent of piñon wood permeates every corner


Joshua Tree-based husband and wife duo Jay and Alison Carroll (he’s a prolific creative director, she’s a food industry vet, and they’re also behind the olive oil brand Wonder Valley) have worked their magic on the city’s buzziest hospitality offering, El Rey Court (rooms from $149/night). Inside a renovated 1936 motel set off of Route 66 (and a 10-minute drive from the historic plaza), whitewashed adobe style pairs with expertly curated modern statements (spanning Dennis Hopper photos to paintings by L.A.-based artist John Zabawa and textiles sourced from weaving studios in Chimayo, N.M.). Locals and visitors alike frequent La Reina, the on-site bar, where bartenders recommend mezcal for sipping and mix up finely balanced margaritas.


Or, treat yourself to an overnight at Los Poblanos, a historic inn and organic farm dating back to 1932 that is surrounded by 25 acres of lavender fields in the Rio Grande River Valley and a mere 10-minute drive from downtown Albuquerque. The property’s field-to-fork restaurant Campo is a destination in its own right, with seasonal menus featuring elevated, locally inspired bites such as blue corn hushpuppies, and smoked mushroom mole verde. Pack a picnic with provisions (cheese, crackers, pastries) from the Farm Shop, or stock up on lavender salve and sage bundles before you head home.


For a luxury alternative, the Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado Santa Fe (rooms from $299/night) feels like a true escape. Set amid the Sangre de Cristo foothills, the 57-acre dude ranch-turned five-star property has all the makings of a top-tier resort getaway with local touches, including casitas embellished with bold southwestern accessories, beamed ceilings and kiva fireplaces. At the spa, offerings include an altitude adjustment massage, an indulgent mountain spirit purification treatment (think sage smudging and an adobe clay body mask), and the blue corn and honey renewal, a local remedy for desert-ravaged skin. And for an immersive experience, you can arrange for dinner from the in-house fine dining restaurant Terra to be served in the hotel’s teepee, which is said to be positioned on the property’s “spiritual vortex.”


Start your day at Modern General with green chile cilantro corncakes or an acai bowl washed down with a sweet green juice and browse their selection of design books and thoughtfully crafted kitchen and garden tools. On Saturdays, hit the Santa Fe Farmers Market at the Railyard, a historic, revitalized section of the city that’s also home to internationally renowned arts organization Site Santa Fe and a collection of curated shops. At the market, stock up on chiles, snack on a fresh pupusa, or indulge in a local legend: a blue corn blueberry lavender doughnut from Whoo’s Donuts. Nearby you’ll also find a top pick for dinner: upscale Mexican haunt Paloma, where the decor is unabashedly festive, the mole is perfectly seasoned and the tortillas are made from local, landrace blue corn.


More than 80 galleries and studios are packed into the Canyon Road Arts District’s half mile. For the best selection of Navajo textiles in town, head to Shiprock Santa Fe — a local institution for over 30 years — where fifth-generation art dealer Jed Foutz has amassed historic and contemporary Navajo rugs and blankets, Pueblo pottery, folk art and silver and turquoise jewelry. Finally, no cultural figure is more synonymous with Santa Fe than Georgia O’Keeffe; and, indeed, you could spend your entire trip in homage to the iconic artist — from the museum in town devoted to her work, to Ghost Ranch, the site of many of O’Keeffe’s most famous landscapes and now a retreat and education center. If you only have time for one stop, make it a pilgrimage to her home in Abiquiu, where the legend’s modern aesthetic and pioneering life philosophy is faithfully preserved.



Feature image: Inside GEORGIA O’KEEFFE’s Abiquiu house studio.


This story originally appeared in the October 2019 issue of C Magazine.

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