With the Sangre de Cristo Mountains as your backdrop, and shopping, hiking or art gallery strolling at your leisure, Santa Fe can’t be beat as a girls’ trip destination. The opposite of Vegas — the nightlife is calm, the atmosphere peaceful — it’s the perfect place to kick back, relax and enjoy all that red and green chile sauce, those pine-nut pancakes and the artsy New Mexico vibe.
Pack a swimsuit for spa and pool visits, warm clothing for fall temps and some fitness gear if you’re up for adventure. Then, rent a convertible and kick back in the “City Different.”
2 p.m.: Unpack and relax
Arrive at Albuquerque International Sunport (ABQ), grab that rental and take an hour-long drive to the El Rey Inn on Route 66. It’s a 1930s motel set on a picturesque five acres with vine-wrapped adobe buildings and quaint gardens for reading or sunbathing. Be sure to drink plenty of water: The city sits at 7,200 feet.
5 p.m.: Dinnertime
Drive to Santa Fe Plaza, and head one block south to 31-years-running, organic-focused Santa Fe staple Cafe Pasqual’s. We loved the mole enchiladas, the toasted BLT with roasted green chile strips, and Amy’s Hippie Dippie green drink with kale and ginger.
6:30 p.m.: Downtime
Take a five-minute walk to La Casa Sena Wine Shop in the Plaza — the only shop downtown that sells good wines and spirits — for a few beverages. Head back to the hotel, put on your suits, grab those drinks and head to the El Rey’s heated spa, in a private, open-air alcove in the hotel’s north courtyard.
8 a.m.: Coffee on the patio
Grab coffee and a pre-breakfast snack on the El Rey’s Spanish-tiled dining room patio. When the hostess offers “tortillas and a banana,” say yes. They are fresh-pressed, hot and oh-so-good smothered in butter.
9 a.m.: Morning run
Pile in the car, park in any spot in the plaza and go for a run. You’ll catch shopkeepers prepping for the day. A trail just northeast of the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi offers a scenic uphill stroll.
11 a.m.: Full breakfast
You’ll find those perfect blue-corn, pine-nut pancakes — fluffy and with that just-right balance of sweet and nutty — at Tecolote Cafe. Order a single pancake for the table to share (trust us, they’re huge), along with your own red-chile huevos rancheros plate. You are in Santa Fe, after all.
1 p.m.: Spa time
Lush Japanese gardens and baths at Ten Thousand Waves are just a 20-minute trek away and spa-party perfect. Book your own private bath in an enclosed outdoor hot tub with sky views, get a therapeutic massage or have both with the Buddha Treat package, which also includes an herbal wrap and salt glow. This is where you’ll want to spend the day.
5 p.m.: Dinner on the Plaza
The Shed restaurant is another city must in the Plaza. The blue-corn tortilla and green chile enchiladas and burritos or chicken enchiladas verde — enjoyed in one of nine different rooms beyond a quaint flagstone patio — are worth the wait. And an excuse to slip into the bar for a prickly pear margarita.
7 p.m.: After-dinner imbibing
Enjoy post-dinner drinks and watch the pink horizon bounce off rooftops at the fifth-floor, outdoor Bell Tower Bar at the 1929-built La Fonda hotel, which affords the best city sunset views.
9 a.m.: Hearty breakfast
Head over to the hip new Railyard District, where the Flying Star Cafe awaits. You can’t ever have enough huevos rancheros in Santa Fe; those, along with the ranch breakfast with spicy green chile turkey sausage, baked goods, desserts and coffee, are worth the calories.
10:30 a.m.: Farmers market stroll
Stock up on lavender-infused lotion bars and soap, watch local farmers stone-grind blue corn for tortillas, and grab an apple-cider slushie at the nearby Santa Fe Farmers Market. Shop the market’s stores for jewelry, paintings and textiles, then browse the area’s high-end art galleries.
1 p.m.: Light bite
Head back to the Plaza for lunch at the Plaza Cafe, a city staple since 1905. Get the blue-corn enchiladas or order appetizers for the table. Our picks: the surprisingly flavor-packed hummus and pita, guac and chips, and a basket of hot cinnamon-sugar sopaipillas.
2 p.m.: Shop the Plaza
It’s all about shopping here. We loved Oleaceae, which stocks olive oils, balsamic vinegars and sea salts from around the world. The Golden Eye is as small as a walk-in closet, but the fine jewelry, handcrafted locally, is unusual and delicate. Find hand-woven scarves, rugs and fine linens — or even a vintage Pendleton blanket — at Faircloth/Adams, inside the Inn and Spa at Loretto.
7 p.m.: Flamenco and sangria
The back patio is hot, hot, hot at Canyon Road’s El Farol, where both the flamenco shows and the tapas are authentic. Beautiful men and women wear ornate costumes and create the accompanying live music. It’s a must.
10 a.m.: Museum exploring
There’s always the famous Georgia O’Keeffe Museum and more than 100 galleries to explore along Canyon Road. But we enjoyed exploring Museum Hill, a hub of four museums including the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian and the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture. Shops have great jewelry and pottery.
4 p.m.: Chapel tour
Swing by the Plaza’s Chapel of San Miguel, the oldest church in Santa Fe. The authentic 78-pound bronze bell is on view; a pane of glass offers a peek into the frame’s 1710-built adobe walls.
5 p.m.: In the Pink
Just across the chapel is the Pink Adobe, also known as “The Pink,” which serves up both New Mexican and steak and seafood dishes and, of course, red chile platters. Get post-dinner drinks at the adjoining Dragon Room Lounge, with hand-painted wooden tables and glowing lanterns. Unlimited free bowls of buttered popcorn are paired with incredibly strong and delicious drinks. Two words: Black Dragon.
9 a.m.: Departure
Grab some hot tortillas to go, take one last stroll through the gardens, say goodbye to the mountains and return to Albuquerque.