The best things to do in Santa Fe, New Mexico

Claire Hannum, CNN | 10/2/2017, 6 a.m.
It's called the City Different for a reason -- Santa Fe, New Mexico's creative culture and distinctive adobe architecture make ...
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Red or green?

Santa Fe's blend of Native American and Spanish heritage makes for a local food culture that's tough to replicate outside the city limits.

No visitor to Santa Fe will leave without being asked "red or green?" at least once. (Spoiler: they're referring to chile.) It's actually the state's official question.

Whether you favor one type of chile to the other or would rather try both at once (a blend known as Christmas), Tomasita's is a great place to get a taste of local ingredients in action. (Tomasita's, 500 S. Guadalupe St., Santa Fe, NM, 87501; +1 505 983-5721)

For a slice of history with dinner, there's Santacafé, which sits in the famed Padre Gallegos house. Built between 1857 and 1862, it once served as the home of controversial priest Jose Manuel Gallegos, who was defrocked in 1852 for his allegedly scandalous behavior. (Santacafé, 231 Washington Ave., Santa Fe, NM, 87501; +1 505 984-1788)

Museum Hill Cafe has some seriously scenic outdoor seating for refueling between museum visits. (Museum Hill Cafe, 710 Camino Lejo, Santa Fe, NM, 87505; +1 505 984-8900)

For a dinner that's as much about atmosphere as it is the food, La Plazuela at La Fonda On The Plaza is the go-to -- while eating, diners can gaze up at the restaurant's impressive wrought-iron chandelier and colorful windows. (La Plazuela, 100 East San Francisco St., Santa Fe, NM, 87501; 1+ 505 995-2334)

For dessert, there's Kakawa Chocolate House, which serves up historical drinking chocolate -- which is just as delicious as it sounds. (Kakawa Chocolate House, 1050 E. Paseo de Peralta, Santa Fe, NM, 87501; +1 505 982-0388)

In the evening, get a taste of local beverages at the Santa Fe Spirits Tasting Room. (Santa Fe Spirits Tasting Room, 308 Read St., Santa Fe, NM, 87501; +1 505 780-5906)

Where to sleep and recharge

Most Santa Fe accommodations stay true to the area's heritage with lots of Southwestern influence to their architecture and décor.

For a resort experience in the center of the action, there's La Fonda On The Plaza. La Fonda stands on the site of Santa Fe's first inn, which was founded by Spanish settlers in 1607. (La Fonda On The Plaza, 100 E. San Francisco St., Santa Fe, NM, 87501; +1 505 982-5511)

The resort is home to so much art and history that it offers guests complimentary docent-guided art tours of the property.

The Inn and Spa at Loretto, beside the chapel of the same name, is the most photographed building in Santa Fe, and it's easy to see why. This boutique hotel's spa is top notch for some indulgence on a busy day. (Inn and Spa at Loretto, 211 Old Santa Fe Trl., Santa Fe, NM, 87501; +1 505 988-5531)

Also nearby is the laidback Inn of the Governors, a cozy family-owned inn just a few blocks from the plaza. (Inn of the Governors, 101 West Alameda St., Santa Fe, NM 87501, +1 505 982-4333)

And beyond

Less than two hours outside of Santa Fe, you can get to know and celebrate Native American history at Taos Pueblo, which reflects on a 1,000-year span of Taos Indian history.

One hundred residents live inside the historic adobe structure, and more than 1,900 Taos Indians still on live on the surrounding land. Residents welcome visitors to join guided tours and get to know the culture.

Taos Pueblo, 120 Veterans Hwy., Taos, NM, 87571; +1 575 758-1028