A Carless Tour of the Top Santa Fe, New Mexico, City Gems

A Carless Tour
of the Top Santa Fe, New Mexico,
City Gems

Article by Linda Kissam
Photos by Allan D. Kissam

To say there is a lot to see in Santa Fe, New Mexico, is a huge understatement, but I’ve got you covered. Give me two days and I’ll show you the best this place of light, inspiration, timeless traditions, and history has to offer. I think you’ll also love that much of your discovery can be done without a car.

Lodging Gem

Beautiful native art everywhere in this hotel

Santa Fe is nestled at the foot of the rugged Sangre de Cristo Mountains at an elevation of 7,200 feet in New Mexico’s desert highlands. My recommendation to explore this place is to base yourself at the Eldorado Hotel & Spa. It is within walking distance of topnotch restaurants, upscale shopping, and local attractions. The hotel is a New Mexico-based, minority-owned company offering award-winning accommodations and a restful spa. The parent company, Heritage Hotels & Resorts, Inc. was established in 2005 to develop culturally distinct hotels and resorts. When you enter this property expect to find the heart and spirit of Santa Fe through exceptional service, beautiful rooms, timeless design, art, and unique craftsmanship.

Exploring the BEST sip and eat gems in downtown Santa

  1. Margarita Crawl: First things first. If you’re going to visit Santa Fe, you have to taste a margarita or two. Get a hold of a Santa Fe Margarita Trail Passport. It comes in a booklet form or an online version. It will guide you to some of the best margarita’s you have ever had – all at a special price. Just present your passport and get $1.00 off the featured margarita. Sit down and map out a walking tour of where you want to go. Lunch or dinner sipping. No disappointments here. Creative recipes are ready to impress. Personally, I enjoyed my margarita crawl at the Agoyo Lounge, the Thunderbird Bar & Grill and the Cowgirl Grill. Make it to five places, get your passport stamped and receive a free shirt. Cheers!
  2. Food: The best food venues are just a few steps from your hotel. Get a taste of the Santa Fe’s food scene and sample classic New Mexican flavors when you stop into these local eateries.You really MUST try Café Pasqual’s on Gaspar Ave. for breakfast… it’s all good, authentic faire. This place is super busy. Call ahead or come early to get a chance to taste this superior eatery. It’s a hallmark of the foodie experience.

    Two spots for lunch come to mind.  Lunch at the Museum Hill Café is fabulous. Casual and yummy, it is another popular place that lives up to its highly touted menu selections. While you’re there, visit the acclaimed Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian. Or if you’re in the mood for a Mexican style lunch or dinner, try La Choza Restaurant. Oh-my-gosh vibrant flavors and selections. Also an exceptional stop on the Margarita Trail.
  3. For dinner and cocktails there is one really exceptional dinner place just steps from your hotel that I guarantee you will love.  You can come casual, but expect one of the better dining experiences in the area. The Hotel Santa Fe Hacienda & Spa is a “tradition-centric retreat that invites you to experience true hospitality in the city’s only Native American owned hotel.” At the AMAYA restaurant you will savor fresh seasonal ingredients and local Pueblo and Northern New Mexican culinary. Chefs source the best possible ingredients blending them together to create contemporary menus rich in the region’s Native American history. I loved every bite and sip.  I know you will feel the same.
  4. For a real mid-day treat head over to the Kakawa Chocolate House.  It specializes in producing fine, hand-made dark chocolates, chile chocolates, drinking chocolates, chocolate truffles and caramels, based upon historic European and Mesoamerican recipes. You absolutely indulge yourself in one of their many “sipping” chocolate drinks and a treat from their bakery.  If you’re looking for gluten free options, you have found your groove. Sip and stay awhile. The drinking chocolate elixirs at Kakawa are their most famous and popular items. Think deep, rich contemporary elixir creations.
    Just a block from your hotel is the first class Santa Fe Cooking School. Book a class so you can bring home the skills to cook your own authentic New Mexican foods. Classes are generally hands on and reasonably priced. Their gift shop will have you gleefully opening your wallet to stock up your kitchen with unique pots, pans, décor and spices. I loved my class. You will be dazzled.

Three Gem-Worthy Activities

You may want to call an Uber for one or more these activities, depending on how far you like to walk and what you intend to purchase.

A trip to Ten Thousand Waves Spa is worth every minute and dime you spend. It is a half to full day, mostly mountain feel outdoor experience. Wear your own bathing suit or you can rent one from them for a small fee. Built on the Japanese tradition of bathing in thermal waters this experience is meant to provide powerful relaxation and release gained by sitting in hot water surrounded by the beauty of nature. It is a unique “Japanese-adobe’ esthetic, combining the traditional with state-of-the-art technology.” There are several pools to choose from. Try them all, including the surprising foot soak trough. Not surprisingly, this is a popular place.  Make a reservation. A day pass is about $40. Lots and lots of spa treatments to choose from. A good way to understand what this place has to offer is to book an Ashi Anma Foot Treatment for about $65.  I valued the experience and think of it fondly on stressful days. 19 minute drive from your hotel. 9.1 miles

If you like pottery and a fine mix of local artisan wares, make your way to the Lyn A. Fox Fine Pueblo Pottery Gallery. There will be someone to guide your through the selections. Ask if either a potter or Katsina Doll creator will be in house demonstrating their highly honed skills. This is a special treat for your senses. Five minute drive from your hotel. 0.07 miles 18 min walk.

Finally, Explore the Santa Fe Farmers Market. One of the largest farmers’ market in New Mexico. Colorful, vibrant, tasty. Open Saturdays all year round and Tuesdays May – November. Both indoor and outdoor stalls. Food, crafts, vintage hall. Three minute drive from your hotel. 0.06 miles. 15 min walk.


Once you have done this quick tour of Santa Fe, you will definitely want to come back to enjoy more, more, more.  The churches, the museums, the art galleries, the shopping, the eateries, visiting the pueblos. The possibilities go on and on…and you can fill up your margarita passport just a bit more. Just sayin.

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For additional information on what to do and see in the Santa fee area visit www.santafe.org and read these related articles

Passport to Pueblo Country: Your Ticket to Tsankawi Trail and San Ildefonso Pueblo

Experience Pueblo Culture at Native American-Owned Hotel Santa Fe

Explore the Rich Culture of Taos Pueblo, New Mexico

The ‘Stars and Bars’ once flew over Santa Fe

Authors note: Although many of the places I mention in this article hosted me, the opinions are truly my own.

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