A Day On Santa Fe’s Canyon Road

canyon roadI’m not what could be described as a patron of the arts, yet for some reason, I seem to have a knack for living in cities famed for their galleries and arts and culture scene: Vail. Lahaina. Santa Barbara. Calistoga. Telluride. Could I be a latent art groupie?

Nah. I’m just attracted to scenic places. I also spent many years waiting tables to support my writing habit, and it’s always been my belief that if I’m going to suffer for my art, then I’m sure as hell going to live someplace beautiful … where I can also make mad tips.

I’ve never lived in Santa Fe, but I’ve spent a lot of time in what’s best described as the arts epicenter of the Southwest. I’ve written of my obsession with the city’s restaurants, but my fondness for Canyon Road is more about visual, rather than prandial, pleasures. According to its official website, “within a few short blocks, visitors to Canyon Road can experience more than two centuries of the historic adobe architecture for which Santa Fe is famous…”

Located within walking distance of downtown and the Plaza, this 3/4-mile stretch of galleries, boutiques, cafes, restaurants, and artists’ studios is world-renown amongst art collectors, particularly those attracted to Southwestern and Native American themes.

For me, Canyon Road is less about the art, and more about people watching, architecture, and cultural immersion. And let’s face it: with my writer’s salary, I’m hardly in the market for “investment pieces.” The great thing about Canyon Road, however, is you don’t need money or an interest in art to enjoy it.canyon roadOver the years, I’ve spent many peaceful hours, in all four seasons, wandering Canyon Road. I especially love the enchanting adobe homes that line the side streets and far eastern end.

There’s no bad time of day to visit, but I prefer early morning, before the galleries open, when the only signs of life are dog walkers and the odd sidewalk washer. A late afternoon or evening stroll or run is my other favorite way to experience Canyon Road. The hoards of tourists are gone, and I can pop in and out of galleries as I get in some much-needed exercise (eating, as I’ve mentioned, being my other favorite activity in Santa Fe).

See
What galleries you choose to visit of course depends upon your interests. For what it’s worth, I love Pachamama, a lovely shop specializing in Spanish Colonial antiques and Latin American folk art – both passions of mine. The owner, Martha Egan, is a renown scholar of Latin folk art, and has written some excellent books on the subject. One of the reasons I enjoy this storesanta fe is that it’s full of affordable treasures. I also love Curiosa, a quirky boutique selling milagros, folk art, jewelry and other trinkets.

Eat/Drink
Canyon Road is home to some of Santa Fe’s most famous (and expensive) restaurants, including Geronimo, The Compound, and the venerable El Farol. Personally, I suggest you save your money and fuel up with breakfast at The Teahouse, located at the eastern end. In addition to things like steel-cut oatmeal and house-made granola, they make absolutely insane, gluten-free “scones (more like muffins)” topped with a mantle of crusty melted cheese, green chiles and a soft-boiled egg.

If you’re jonesing to start your day with authentic New Mexican food, you can do no better than the pork or chicken tamales at Johnnie’s Cash Store (above), less than a ten-minute walk from the galleries, on Camino Don Miguel. Go early, and as the name implies, bring cash. Five dollars will fill you up.
inn on the alameda
While you may want to skip the more spendy places for a meal, the patio of El Farol is a favorite spot for an afternoon glass of wine or beer, or happy hour cocktail. The Tea House also serves beer, wine and coffee drinks.

For an afternoon pick-me-up, head down Canyon Road, and turn left onto Acequia Madre, which has some of the area’s most beautiful adobes. Make a right on Paseo de Peralta, cross the street, and you’ll see Kakawa Chocolate House. Revive with a hot or cold sipping chocolate (“elixirs”) and a sweet treat; the red chile caramel coated in dark chocolate is outstanding.

Stay
My favorite hotel in Santa Fe just happens to be located around the corner from Canyon Road. The Inn on the Alameda (right) is an attractive Pueblo-style property with 72 spacious, comfortable rooms, many with French doors and balconies. It’s not the hippest spot in town, as it’s popular with older travelers. I suspect it has something to do with the elaborate full breakfasts and the daily wine and cheese happy hour, both of which are gratis for guests. And really, who in their right mind wouldn’t love a deal like that?

Don’t let the median age dissuade you if you’re a bright young thing. The hotel has stellar service, an outdoor hot tub, free parking, allows pets and is close to all of Santa Fe’s attractions. It’s also across the street from a bucolic creekside running path, and offers killer packages (especially if you’re a food-lover) in conjunction with the Santa Fe School of Cooking, the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum and the farmers market. A stay here always feels like coming home to me, but then, Santa Fe just has that way about it.

P.S. Canyon Road on Christmas Eve is a vision of fairy lights and farolitos.

[Photo credits: gallery, Santa Fe Convention & Visitors Bureau; gallery, Flickr user xnergy; Johnnie’s Cash Store, Laurel Miller; Inn on the Alameda; Alice Marshall Public Relations]

Instead of Utah as a ski destination, head to New Mexico

Let’s say you’re interested in boycotting Utah but you really want to ski at an affordable destination. Consider New Mexico. The mountains are steep and become packed with powder; the sky is blue; and skiing is near places worth heading to whether you ski or not.

Consider this: Santa Fe and Taos

I’m not saying that Utah isn’t a lovely state–It’s gorgeous–breathtaking even. Then there’s David Archuleta who is cute as a button. He’s from Utah. So are the Osmonds. But let’s say you want to boycott the state because it’s been suggested as an appropriate response as of late. (See Meg’s post.)

If you do think about heading to New Mexico for a ski vacation, here are details to tip your decision-making in New Mexico’s favor.

  • Lift tickets are $6 cheaper at Santa Fe’s resort than at Utah’s Alta.
  • Lift lines in New Mexico, in my experience, are not particularly long.
  • If you ski in Santa Fe, head to the Japanese onsen-like Ten Thousand Waves for a glorious soak in a private outdoor hot tub. Some tubs are located in the midst of trees that glisten in the snow and moonlight. This is a perfect stop after a day of swooshing down a mountain over and over again.
  • Santa Fe is a place to shop like no other. Friends of mine– who never shop, said they’ve never been to a place that has given them the urge to buy things more than here. Canyon Road is filled with galleries and stores that are the definition of eye candy.
  • The best folk art museum in the world is in Santa Fe. Head to the International Folk Art Museum for a visual treat and a reminder of all the markets you passed through in your world travels. You’ll possibly be reminded of that item you didn’t buy, that very thing that is in the display case in front of you–specifically an odd painted piece of pottery that is shaped like a chicken–kind of. It’s from Senegal to be exact.
  • A meal at Cafe Pasqual is fit for a weekend that’s meant to be special. This is fine dining with an organic, Old Mexican, New Mexican and Asian twist. I can’t remember what I ate specifically, but I was on a date with a guy who wanted to impress. He did. Fine dining doesn’t mean you need to get all gussied up either.

If you head to Taos, you can stop at Taos Pueblo, the oldest continuously inhabited Native American town that is both an National Historic Landmark and a UNESCO World Heritage site.