Visiting a city offering a foreign cultural experience without crossing international borders provides a solution for Americans craving foreign travel but leery of health or safety issues.

A weekend in Santa Fe, New Mexico, pairs the comforts and familiarity of being in the United States with different faces, intriguing flavors, natural wonders, and geographic intrigue.

This UNESCO-designated Creative City is one of the largest art markets in the United States. Among its lures are unique adobe architecture and a heritage drawing from Hispanic, Mexican, Native American, and Anglo cultures. And it presents all this against the scenic backdrop of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

As the nation’s oldest capital city, Santa Fe preserves and shares its history while offering outstanding cuisine, wellness retreats, visual arts, and unparalleled cultural experiences.

What to do during a weekend in Santa Fe

What to do In Santa Fe: Visit the Museum of International Folk Art

Museum of International Folk Art

The things to do in Santa Fe range from hiking and biking to arts and culture, but some of the museums and experiences are unique to the city.

While many exhibits change, a permanent display of primitive pieces from around the world anchors the Museum of International Folk Art‘s collection.

When you’re seeking something different — really different — in The City Different, Meow Wolf House of Eternal Return, filled with immersive art, is the answer. This unique (in the truest sense of the word) interactive experience appeals to all ages.

Dedicated to O’Keeffe’s artwork, the Georgia O’Keefe Museum is the world’s largest repository of her works.

Outside the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture

Museum of Indian Arts & Culture

The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture/Laboratory of Anthropology documents the achievements of the diverse peoples populating the Native Southwest. While here, don’t miss the museum’s gift shops. They carry many artisan crafts and book titles that can’t be found elsewhere.

Stroll Canyon Road. Whether in the mood to shop, browse, or indulge, stroll this picturesque half-mile in the city’s Historic District. It’s lined with fine art galleries, boutiques, and exquisite restaurants. 

Where to stay in Santa Fe

Hotel Santa Fe

Hotel Santa Fe

There are a variety of accommodations for weekenders visiting Santa Fe. These are a few of my favorites:

The Hotel Santa Fe – The Hacienda & Spa displays its award-winning Native American art collection throughout the property. And a complimentary shuttle service and a strategic location make exploring the city’s food, history, art, architecture, and outdoor adventures easy. Also adding to this pet-friendly hotel’s popularity is a nightly, complimentary happy hour when guests refresh with juices, wine, cheeses, crackers, and chicken wings. The included breakfast offers bread, muffins, hard-boiled eggs, cereal, and fruit. Other pluses include an onsite spa, private Teepee Dining, and butler service in the Haciendas.

The Inn of Five Graces lies in the heart of downtown Santa Fe and is within walking distance of many attractions and galleries. A personal favorite, this exquisite retreat combines Bohemian chic and luxury by synthesizing décor from the East and West.

Close to Santa Fe, the elegant Bishop’s Lodge Resort provides the ultimate resort setting in a quiet yet luxurious environment. It’s only an hour from Albuquerque airport and about 15 minutes from the Santa Fe Regional airport.

Where to feast in Santa Fe

Collage of cooking class and available food in Santa Fe

clockwise from top left: Santa Fe Cooking School class; Santa Fe Cooking School dish; Kakawa House of Chocolate; Clafoutis Bakery and Restaurant

Want to learn how to prepare various southwestern dishes as well as more about unique southwestern ingredients? Then enroll in a Santa Fe School of Cooking class that demonstrates regional techniques, foods, and spices. And afterward, dine on the results, savoring the flavors of New Mexico.

For an elevated dining experience, check out SkyFire at Bishop’s Lodge. It highlights both international flavors and southwest cuisine. But be advised that a 20% service charge is included on all guest checks.

Tomasita’s is known for its Northern New Mexican cuisine. And equally renowned for its margaritas. For a top-shelf experience, try the Grand Gold Margarita. All New Mexican entrées are accompanied by delicious sopaipillas.

A small family-owned business, Clafoutis Bakery and Restaurant serves French cuisine that easily rivals anything you might find in Paris. The restaurant’s sweet and savory dishes include the Provencal omelet, Les Croques (Croque Monsieur and Croque Madame), waffles with fruit, green chile ham croissant, and quiche. It’s open for breakfast and lunch.

Pop into Kakawa House of Chocolate for an authentic chocolate drink tasting. Forget American-style hot chocolates. This tasting includes traditional Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican Mayan Aztec drinking chocolate, 1600’s European drinking chocolate, Colonial American, and Colonial Mexican drinking chocolates. (Try my favorite: the chocolate with chile.)

A weekend in Santa Fe will tempt you to return (or stay longer).

What’s appealing to an over-50 traveler?

  • New Mexico’s capital city, Santa Fe is culturally diverse, with history and traditions drawing from Native American, Hispanic, Mexican and European cultures.
  • The art scene is vibrant, and the culinary scene is one of the best in New Mexico.
  • Museums abound, and the city is host to incredible art markets and festivals.

Take note

  • Santa Fe lies at 7,199 feet. Because of the elevation, it is best to take things slowly to avoid or ease altitude sickness, which presents with headaches and difficulty in breathing.
  • Drink plenty of water. Avoid alcohol. And give yourself time to adjust.
  • Because the skies are usually sunny, bring a wide-brimmed hat and sunscreen.


For the latest in travel restrictions, be sure to check the following website: NMDOH – Coronavirus Updates | Coronavirus Updates in New Mexico (


Photo credits: All photos by Karin Leperi Pezo.

Disclosure: The City of Santa Fe hosted the author  for purposes of review. Any opinions expressed are strictly those of the author.


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