The farolitos that bathe Santa Fe in an ethereal evening glow throughout December may be gone, but this is still a magical city to visit in the winter. You can ski, golf and horseback ride on the same day and when it comes to history, art and culture, Santa Fe simply can't be beat. As the oldest capital city in North America (founded by Spanish colonists in 1610), the blend of Spanish, Native American and Mexican cultures have created a unique style of cuisine, art and hospitality.
Things don't change around here too quickly, but that's part of the city's charm. The biggest news in luxury travel is that Auberge Resorts Collection is planning to open Bishop's Lodge later this year. In the meantime, here's a guide to a relaxing weekend in Santa Fe.
New Mexico's only Relais & Chateaux hotel is Santa Fe's most charming and colorful place to stay. The Inn Of The Five Graces was originally opened by owners Ira and Sylvia Seret as a showcase for their design showroom and import business Seret and Sons. Located within traditional adobe buildings surrounding intimate stone courtyards, each of the 25 guestrooms is outfitted with one-of-a-kind Central and South Asian décor, including vintage Indian dhurries, Tibetan prayer desks, embroidered blankets and carved wood mirrors. There are Southwestern design elements too, including hand-painted ceramic tiles and the intricate mosaic showers and bathtubs are simply breathtaking.
The new Spa of The Five Graces opened last summer, featuring botanically-based ISUN Skincare from Colorado and the Moroccan meets New Mexican architecture matches the hotel for a truly serene sanctuary. The spa menu is simple, but excellent therapists customize facials and massages to suit your needs.
Both The Inn Of The Five Graces and Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi have cozy kiva fireplaces in every guestroom, although they're gas-lit rather than wood-burning at the latter. The 57 guestrooms and Anasazi suite at Rosewood showcase indigenous rugs and hand-woven fabrics against white adobe for a polished Southwestern style. Service is unfailingly gracious and you can try a tequila or mezcal tasting at the bar before dinner at Anasazi Restaurant, the best hotel restaurant in town with perfectly seared bison filet and elk chops.
Start your day with Santa Fe's best coffee and light breakfast at one of Iconik Coffee Roasters' cafés or a heartier meal at Dolina, a cozy bakery and café specializing in Eastern European flavors from owner Annamaria O'Brien's childhood in Slovakia. There's creamy paprikash, langos fried bread with garlic butter and tomato confit and morning soup with organic lamb broth, wild rice and caramelized onions. On the sweet side, the gluten-free Hungarian makos dios cake made from ground poppy seeds and walnuts is a unique delight.
Wealthy local residents adore Sazón for its authentic Mexican cuisine by chef Fernando Olea. Begin with a tasting of six sweet and savory moles with mini corn tortillas rather than traditional bread service while colorful Frida Kahlo portraits watch over you. Although he's not classically trained, Olea cooks with confidence and verve. You'll spot him in the dining room each night in his cowboy hat, ensuring that guests are enjoying his signature sopa de amor – a creamy roasted poblano soup with lump blue crab and cold amaretto foam. Select your favorite mole and he'll pair the complex sauce with the best protein to showcase its flavors. A still life hanging across the dining room shows all of the ingredients including apricots, pecans and red chiles that comprise his New Mexico mole, a creation Olea made for Santa Fe's 400th birthday.
Sazón's sister restaurant Sassella is the newest fine dining restaurant in town, just opened in July beside the Georgia O'Keefe Museum and helmed by gregarious Italian chef Cristian Pontiggia. Red wine risotto with rattlesnake sausage infuses a touch of Southwestern flair into an otherwise authentically Italian menu. Sassella boasts the largest gin list in town, but their reasonably priced wine list is equally noteworthy. Whatever you're in the mood for, from champagne to super Tuscans, you'll certainly drink well here.
While Santacafé maybe have been open since 1983, new ownership has breathed new life into the 19th century adobe house. The locally beloved Talus Wine Ranch pork dumplings remain on the menu, but new additions like a vegan main course showcasing sunchokes three ways – tempura, confit and as a vadouvan spiced purée – are internationally modern.
It gets pretty cold here in winter, but as you wander around town, there are plenty of museums, boutiques and 250 art galleries to stop inside. First-time visitors would be remiss to skip historic landmarks like the Palace of the Governors, originally built by Spaniards in the 17th century to govern the American Southwest, and the New Mexico History Museum next door to better understand Santa Fe's roots. Marvel at the mysterious spiral staircase in Loretto Chapel and say a prayer in San Miguel Chapel, the oldest church in the United States. If this isn't your first rodeo, you can get straight to shopping and checking out new museum exhibits.
Along Canyon Road's half mile stretch of art studios and galleries, there's plenty of Western fine art, antiques and even magical realism at The Longworth Gallery. Two newer galleries – Hecho a Mano and Cielo Handcrafted – have beautifully curated collections from emerging local artists.
After touring the galleries, warm up with hot chocolate and truffles at Kakawa Chocolate House. European-style drinking chocolates are based off recipes that Thomas Jefferson and Marie Antoinette enjoyed and Mesoamerican elixirs use 100% cacao, sweetened with a little coconut sugar and flavored with New Mexican chilies if you like the heat. Best-selling truffle flavors include prickly pear, mezcal and goat cheese sage. Kakawa has a second location right by Meow Wolf, Santa Fe's hottest interactive art experience. See if you can solve the mystery of what happened to the Selig family – but it might take you hours upon hours of traipsing about the whimsical, neon, alien multiverse.
Sorrel Sky Gallery hosts an annual artist workshop series from February through June where guests can learn to paint, screen print and take photos alongside their favorite artists. Their collection of Western and Native American paintings and sculptures is accompanied by contemporary and traditional Western jewelry with plenty of silver and turquoise. Patina Gallery is another favorite for jewelry, featuring more than a hundred international artists and a couple of locals like Claire Kahn who specializes in crocheted serpentine bracelets and necklaces with Japanese glass seed beads. If you're looking for vintage jewelry and home goods, Shiprock is still the strongest game in town when it comes to Navajo rugs and blankets, pottery, turquoise bracelets and silver concho belts.