48 Hours in… Santa Fe

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Santa Fe is a desert haven for art, wellness and natural beauty, making it a destination that has been on my bucket list for a while! This New Mexico hot spot is a wonderful weekend getaway, and I thorough enjoyed the 48 hours I spent in Santa Fe this past August.

When I decided to do my bachelorette party in Santa Fe, a lot of people gave me a weird look – it’s not exactly a popular place to spend a weekend partying — but partying wasn’t what I wanted out of my bachelorette party. Exploring a new destination, getting in some relaxation, and eating good food was what I wanted out of my pre-wedding celebration. Looking for a destination bachelorette party that was a little more unconventional, Santa Fe was the perfect place for me, because it was a weekend filled with relaxation, art, good food and beauty!

Flying into Santa Fe can be a little expensive, since it is a small airport. If you’re looking to save a few dollars to spend elsewhere, I would recommend flying into Albuquerque. There are daily shuttles from the ABQ airport to Santa Fe, so you don’t need to rent a car if you don’t want to. But it’s an easy hour drive from the airport if you do decide to rent a car.

Here’s how I would recommend spending 2 days in Santa Fe:

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Morning: Take a Cooking Class

Since Santa Fe is such a hot bed of culinary activity right now, I thought it would be so much fun to take a cooking class! With my gal pals, we attended the “Contemporary Southwest I” course at the Santa Fe School of Cooking. We arrived a few minutes early to explore the cooking shop that is attached to the classroom. It is filled with unique cookbooks, earthen cookware and delicious local ingredients. If I had a larger suitcase, I totally would have bought stuff!

Michelle Chavez was our teacher & head chef and I have to admit, she is a badass woman! By the end of the course, me and all my girlfriends had a girl crush on Michelle! She started the class by giving us a history lesson of Santa Fe, walking us through the local culture and indigenous ingredients that make up New Mexican cuisine.

The class itself was more of a presentation/demonstration style course rather than interactive, which I didn’t realize ahead of time, but came to really enjoy. We got to sit back, learn and enjoy all the smells emanating from Michelle’s stove top. The kitchen is stunning and is well setup for classes – it has TV screens, mounted mirrors and a large tables for the guests — and Michelle does an amazing job of explaining everything she is doing as she is doing it.

At the end of the class, of course, we got to enjoy the freshly cook meal. On our menu was roasted tomato soup, green chile mac & cheese, chile-rubbed flank steak and flan for dessert. The green chile mac & cheese was definitely the crowd favorite. It was rich, homey and slightly spicy. I can’t wait to make this recipe at home!

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Afternoon: Gallery Hopping & Museum Visits

Santa Fe has an unrivaled folk and indigenous art scene, which was one of my highlights from our trip. There is so much handmade beauty to see and appreciate, so I would recommend dedicating at least a few hours to hopping between galleries and visiting museums.

Most of the galleries are clustered around Santa Fe plaza and the nearby streets, so it’s easy to park and explore by foot. It’s fun wandering in and out of the galleries seeing all the different art styles and curation tastes.

For museums, there are quite a few to choose from such as the New Mexico History Museum, Palace of the Governors, New Mexico Museum of Art, Georgia O’Keefe Museum (more on that below), IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, Gib Singleton Museum of Fine Art and New Mexico State Capitol. Your days could get very long if you plan to visit all of these spots, so I would recommend choosing one or two that are really important to you and aim to hit those all morning.

If you plan your trip intentionally around art visits, you’ll want to check the city’s events calendar to see if you’ll be there at the same time as an art market! These are a local highlight and bring in flocks of visitors. There are lots of folk fairs throughout the year, and we happened to be there on the weekend of Indigenous Fine Art Market. We didn’t even bother going into most galleries, because the streets were basically galleries! There was some incredible work from Native American artists, and I even came home with the handmade mandala you see below.

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Evening: Enjoy a delicious locally-inspired dinner

Santa Fe has a delicious restaurant scene with lots of great options clustered all around the downtown area. We had a hard time choosing our meals in Santa Fe! Most of the cuisine is focused on local & regional cuisine, particularly Southwestern and modern Mexican. Our favorite dinner was at the refined New American restaurant Radish & Rye. I was a big fan of the corn chowder, fried green tomatoes and lamb chops, but they also have rock star cocktails! Other good dinner spots include Geronimo, Luminaria,  or Sazon.

Morning: Visit the Georgia O’Keefe Museum

I included the Georgia O’Keefe Museum separately from the others because 1) it is the most popular museum to visit, but also because 2) it was the most inspiring and memorable spot for me personally. We started our day here to avoid the crowds, and it was a great plan! But prior to starting another packed day of activities, grab brunch at Tune-Up Cafe for a fast and hearty breakfast. Their scrambles, huevos, or burritos will surely keep you full all day!

The Georgia O’Keefe Museum is housed in a modern yet traditionally built Santa Fe adobe house just off the main street in town. It is entirely separate from her home & studio in Abiquiu which are also open to the public, so don’t get them confused. The museum catalogs the life & creative process of one of America’s most influential female artists, proving to be an incredible inspiration to me. I loved seeing her sketches, early work, and more obscure pieces, as well as some of her more famous works of art.

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Afternoon: Relax at 10 Thousand Waves

One of the nicest spas I’ve been to in the United States, Ten Thousand Waves is well worth the price. Only 10 minutes from downtown Santa Fe, the spa itself is inspired by Japanese mountain hot spring resorts and overlooks a National Forest. Having been to Japanese hot springs, this is the real deal. The setting couldn’t be more serene & beautiful! They did an amazing job integrating the spa environment into the natural environment. From the second you walk in, you’ll feel more peaceful.

Ten Thousand Waves offers a full selection of spa treatments including facials, massages and skin treatments. My massage was in a private Japanese cabana overlooking the mountains, making for a relaxing ambiance. Another highlight of my afternoon here was the bathing pools. There are communal pools, private pools and women-only pools. I spent most of my non-treatment time in the female-only pools hopping between the sauna, hot pool and cold pool. With a good book at my side, this was an amazing way to spend an afternoon.

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Evening: Take in the Amazing Meow Wolf

I have never been through anything like Meow Wolf, and it is an absolute must-do if you’re visiting Santa Fe. When my maid of honor Maryam tried to explain Meow Wolf to me, I honestly didn’t even understand what exactly it was. I had no idea what to expect because I couldn’t get a good feel of it from the photos.

Meow Wolf describes itself as “an arts production company that creates immersive, multimedia experiences that transport audiences of all ages into fantastic realms of storytelling. Our work is a combination of jungle gym, haunted house, children’s museum, and immersive art exhibit. It is home to Meow Wolf’s first permanent installation, House of Eternal Return.”  

After visiting the House of Eternal Return, I can honestly say that this is one of the top 10 experiences I’ve ever had in my life. 

I’ll do my best to explain it but essentially the House of Eternal Return is an interactive art installation that you can walk, climb and jump through. Kids love it, so if you’re not into children, I would recommend going at night. (If you want to get a better sense of the vibe at Meow Wolf, check out their Instagram feed.)

The premise of the installation is that you have discovered a house has fallen through a wormhole in space, and it is now your portal to the entire universe. You will walk into a kitchen, for example, and then open the fridge to a secret hallway that connects you to a room made entirely of bubble wrap. There are other rooms that are  just made of robotic hands or neon trees or black & white geometric painting. It is such an explosion of uninterrupted creativity and human expression unlike anything I’ve ever been through before. It’s truly amazing and one of a kind!

The installation offers a lot of stimuli so you’ll need to take a decent amount of time to explore it all. I’m not even convinced I saw it all and we were there for 2 hours! It all wraps around itself and there are tons of little secret passageways to explore, so it’s easy to get lost or stumble upon something new around each corner, which is why I would have hated being rushed through it. We went at night when there was a live music show happening inside the installation, and it was spectacular because the music permeated throughout the 20,000 square feet area.

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Morning: Brunch at Sweetwater Harvest Kitchen

On your way out of town, grab brunch at the airy & bright Sweetwater Harvest Kitchen. Their housemade kombucha and juice was a delightful way to start my day, and they’ve got good, fresh food to boot! Me and my gals wanted to order just about everything on the menu, as you can see from the photo below. I was so inspired by their acorn squash egg in a hole that I now make it at home all the time!

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Ready to plan your own weekend in Santa Fe? Check out my suggestions for throwing a kick-ass destination bachelorette party!

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Author: Megan Arz

I am a travel and food obsessed Midwesterner living in Chicago and dreaming of the world. I work as a full-time program manager for Greenheart Travel, but I am also committed to integrating the travel lifestyle into my every day routines. I am passionate about ethical travel, meeting new people, creating unique memories and eating local cuisine!

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