1. A Southwestern Breakfast: The Most Important Meal of the Trip
If you ask friends for restaurant suggestions before visiting Santa Fe, chances are that Pasqual's will be the most frequently, and most emphatically, recommended. It certainly does tick all the boxes one wants ticked in Santa Fe. The menu, which is composed of Southwest and Mexican staples, features generously seasoned dishes nearly all of which are made with organic ingredients. And the atmosphere couldn't be more idyllic: The inside of the cozy, historical pueblo-style building is full of vibrant colors and buzzing energy. Seize the opportunity to order your first of many dishes "Christmas style"—that is, with both red and green salsa.
Café Pasqual's, 121 Don Gaspar Avenue, pasquals.com.
2. Take In the Canyon Road Art Scene
Canyon Road and its adjacent side streets make up the best area to take the pulse of Santa Fe's diverse art scene. Start your tour on nearby Garcia Street, at Garcia Street Books and Photo Eye bookstore. (Downtown Subscription, the coffee shop next door, will sort you out if you need a post-breakfast jolt before taking on the bulk of your art walk.) Then wind around to Paseo De Peralta to visit Nedra Matteucci and Gerald Peters galleries before making your way down Canyon Road proper, which boasts half a mile of must-see exhibits and collections.
Start at Garcia Street Books, 376 Garcia Street, garciastreetbooks.com.
3. There's a Chocolate Treat for Everyone
At Kakawa, it's not a question of if you want chocolate, but how you want it. Options abound: you could spring for the sipping variety (a house speciality), which can be served warm or iced, or the ice cream (we recommend the spicy Aztec chocolate), or you could select a few truffles, mendiants (chocolate discs topped with nuts and dried fruit), or chili-infused bites to nibble on at one of the bistro tables inside the cafe. (If you were wondering: We ordered it all.)
Kakawa Chocolate House, 1050 Paseo De Peralta, kakawachocolates.com.
4. Go Where the Action Is
Santa Fe's plaza is at its most exciting at midday, when the music of buskers wafts through the park and the food carts hiss and sizzle through the lunchtime crush. Be sure to peruse the wares sold by Native American vendors, who typically display their offerings (everything from necklaces to flask holders) on blankets in the shade along the perimeter of the park. If it's offbeat fashion you're after, pop into Santa Fe Dry Goods' Workshop, which specializes in unconventional styles from Europe. When you're ready for lunch, sidle up to the El Molero Fajitas truck for a juicy chicken wrap and convince someone to split an order of tamales with you.
Santa Fe Plaza, 63 Lincoln Avenue, no website
5. Georgia O'Keeffe Museum
Before visiting the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, you may have already noticed her famous colors saturating this amazingly colorful part of the world. You won't find a better education on her work than here—not only does the museum house more than 3,000 of the artist's works, they also look after many of her former residences and studios throughout New Mexico.
Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, 217 Johnson Street, okeeffemuseum.org.
6. Your Humble Adobe
Located within walking distance of many downtown bars and restaurants, the sprawling Inn on the Alameda is a great homebase for your weekend of exploration. If you check in between 4 and 5 p.m., you'll be strolling right into the hotel's wine-and-cheese happy hour, which takes place in the rustic, cozy lobby. But don't worry if you miss it—you'll find plenty of comfort and relaxation elsewhere on the premises, whether that's via an in-room fireplace or by unwinding with a soak in the outdoor hot tub. In the mornings, then inn also serves an indulgent buffet breakfast, featuring local specialties and morning staples like quiche and warm, flaky croissants. At the end of the day, sinking into your room's ultra-soft bed may well become an unexpected highlight of the trip.
Inn on the Alameda, 303 East Alameda Street, innonthealameda.com.
7. Cocktails at "The Pink"
Work up an appetite with drinks at the charming Pink Adobe, or as locals simply call it "The Pink." While no one would fault you for beelining for the margarita section of the cocktail menu (they offer five house recipes), we recommend the bright and spicy Bulleit Storm, which is composed of Bulleit rye whiskey, ginger beer, a splash of St. Germain elderflower liqueur, and fresh lemon juice.
The Pink Adobe, 406 Old Santa Fe Trail, thepinkadobe.com.
8. Dinner at Joseph's
The culinary offerings in Santa Fe are nothing if not consistent, but Joseph's, which opened in 2014, brings something unique to the table. Often, head chef and owner Joseph Walde uses the tenets Southwestern cuisine as a mere starting point (or simple, final flourish) for his dishes, and combines them with cooking styles from other regions to create something totally original. On our visit, we happily tucked into the Warm Charred Ratatouille and the Chicken Kale and Prosciutto Roulade, the latter of which was lent Southwestern flair via a roasted red pepper coulis.
Joseph's of Santa Fe, 428 Agua Fria Street, josephsofsantafe.com.
9. A Midnight Movie Care of a Notable Local
If you have the energy after dinner, a midnight movie at the Jean Cocteau Cinema (conveniently located just a couple of blocks from Joseph's) is worth staying up for. After sitting vacant between 2006 and 2013, the theater was reopened by Game of Thrones author George R. R. Martin, and now hosts midnight screenings on Fridays and Saturdays. The slate varies from lesser-known indies to cult-y blockbusters, and films are shown both digitally and on 35mm.
Jean Cocteau Cinema, 418 Montezuma Avenue, jeancocteaucinema.com.
10. Watch the Masses Go to Mass
The stunning Cathedral Basilica is impossible to miss while traipsing around the center of town, and you'll be able to appreciate it most on Sunday mornings just before 10 a.m., when churchgoers mingle on the steps before going inside to take their seats for morning mass.
Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, 131 Cathedral Place, cbsfa.org.
11. A Diner With Homespun Flair
For breakfast, drive (or catch an Uber) out of downtown Santa Fe to eat at local favorite The Pantry, which serves up diner-style fare with a Southwestern twist. You simply have to decide how much of a twist you're in the mood for—you could keep things fairly simple with an order of the blue corn cinnamon pancakes or really go for it with the chile relleno omelette, which you can, of course, order Christmas style.
The Pantry, 1820 Cerillos Road, pantrysantafe.com.
12. An Art Experience Like No Other
If you're looking for a singular art experience, Meow Wolf, an "art complex" that opened earlier this year, is the place for you. The main point of interest for visitors will be the "House of Eternal Return," which is a massive art installation that can be explored via a series of trapdoors and surprisingly connected fantastical vignettes. Elsewhere on the premises, there's a space for workshops, where attendees can learn how to apply various media and technology to their creative endeavors.
Meow Wolf, 1352 Rufina Circle, meowwolf.com.
14. Join in the Chile Battle
Green chile, you will have realized by this point in your visit, is a source of pride in Santa Fe, and the best green chile in town is a hotly contested topic. We've got no complaints about Santa Fe Bite's green chile cheeseburger, which you can opt to top with bacon (something we highly recommend).
Santa Fe Bite, 311 Old Santa Fe Trail, santafebite.com.
16. Take a Quick Detour to Japan
It's been an eventful weekend—full of lots of walking and lots of eating. Now's the perfect time to take a short drive out of the city and to the edge of the Santa Fe National Forest, where the Ten Thousand Waves spa is nestled among the foothills of the mountain range that begins here. You'll experience an authentic Japanese bath house, with multiple pools and jacuzzis for soaking, a meditation room, and even a special pool specifically for soothing your feet, which can be enjoyed while overlooking a peaceful and very well-stocked koi pond. (If you become peckish during your visit, there is on-site restaurant that serves fresh, inventive Japanese fare.)
Ten Thousand Waves, 21 Ten Thousand Waves Way, tenthousandwaves.com
17. Dinner at The Shed
Back in town, visit the other restaurant in town that frequent visitors usually implore people to check out. The Shed is a family-owned restaurant that's been feeding locals and many visitors to the town's bustling plaza since it opened in 1953. They've pretty much nailed all the Santa Fe standards on the menu, but you'll want to make sure that someone at the table orders the red chile enchiladas. Now is also the best time to go nuts with the margarita menu (you'll be able to walk back to the hotel from here, after all).
The Shed, 113 East Palace Avenue, sfshed.com
18. Stargazing With the Astronomy Club
A sizable percentage of your time in Santa Fe will be spent looking skyward, in awe of the expansive landscape, which sometimes offers stunningly picturesque vistas perfectly (and somewhat uncannily) framed by the buildings in town. At night, take advantage of northern New Mexico's world-renowned dark skies by booking a stargazing session at Clayton Lake State Park; these are run by Art Grine, the president of the Astronomy Club who also happens to be the town's go-to barber. It's the ideal way to catch your last breath of that fabled Santa Fe magic.
Clayton Lake State Park, 141 Clayton Lake Road, emnrd.state.nm.us. (To schedule, contact Art Grine at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 575.374.1133.)
The Compound, compoundrestaurant.com
Rancho de Chimayo, ranchodechimayo.com
La Fiesta Bell Tower Bar at La Fonda Hotel, lafondasantafe.com
Secreto Lounge, secretolounge.com
Inn and Spa at Loretto, destinationhotels.com/inn-at-loretto
The Apartment at The Pink Adobe, airbnb.com
La Posada de Santa Fe, laposadadesantafe.com
Things to Do
Seret & Sons, seretandsons.org
Andrea Fisher Pottery, andreafisherpottery.com
Andrew Smith Gallery, andrewsmithgallery.com
Farmers' Market, santafefarmersmarket.com
Violet Crown Cinema, santafe.violetcrown.com
Santa Fe Opera House, santafeopera.org
Ghost Ranch, ghostranch.org
Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks, blm.gov
The Town of Milan, NM, 2-hours drive from Santa Fe
White Sands National Monument, nps.gov