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Grey and rainy days blanketed New York City in melancholy. My soul yearned for freedom, adventure and sunshine. Santa Fe, New Mexico beckoned me westward bound.

Santa Fe is a small town with the cosmopolitan culture of a large city. Pedestrian-friendly streets, a thriving art scene and world-renown cuisine reminded me of New York City. Open skies, adobe architecture and mountainous terrain told me I was firmly planted in the Southwest. 

I stayed at the Santa Fe Motel & Inn, which allowed easy walkability to so many great areas. A dog-friendly town, Freddy Mercury (my beloved pooch) came along for the adventure. 

Here are some favorite takeaways from my November 2018 trip:

1.   The Plaza.

The Historic Plaza is an open-air park in the center of downtown Santa Fe. It’s a hub of activity--people chatting, vendors selling tamales and Native American artisans displaying crafts alongside the Palace of Governors. No better place to sit and people-watch for a while. 

2.   Ten Thousand Waves.

Vacations are all about relaxation. Where better to wash away your worries than a Japanese-inspired spa on a mountaintop? The healing communal baths are outdoors, so you can gaze upon pine trees while being cocooned in healing waters. The onsite restaurant, Izanami, is modeled after a traditional izakaya—serving small plates and alcohol in a casual atmosphere.

3.   Canyon Road.

Santa Fe has the second largest art market in the USA after New York City. Nestled in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Canyon Road has over 100 galleries, boutiques and restaurants in a half-mile walk and is worthy of a full-day of exploration. Freddy and I ambled slowly from gallery to gallery (the majority of which are dog-friendly), enjoying everything from modern, contemporary, and abstract art to Native American turquoise jewelry. Gallery owners were beyond friendly—one even beckoned me to sit and share a pot of tea. 

4.    The Railyard & Railyard Arts District.

A stone’s throw from my motel, The Santa Fe Railyard houses a cornucopia of good things—a weekly farmer’s market, contemporary art galleries, restaurants, a brewery, and the Violet Crown Cinema (where you can watch a movie and eat dinner). My favorite galleries were Tai Modern (featuring intricate, Japanese-inspired bamboo baskets) and Evoke (showcasing the work of the talented graphic novelist Kent Williams). 

5.   Gastronomic Pleasures.

I never discriminate when it comes to food. The street-side tamale is just as worthy as a Michelin-starred meal. Santa Fe is a foodie’s dream. I wish I could have stayed longer and eaten more. But, here are some favorite spots from my weeklong trip: 

  • The Hotel St. Francis has a great bar called Secreto. Their welcoming staff offered me a free smoked sage margarita. When I shared that I was a Japanophile, they insisted I try a specialty cocktail featuring sake and homemade mushroom bitters. One of my favorite drinks of 2018, it perfectly captured umami. 

  • Vinaigrette is a bright, vegetarian-friendly restaurant with an extensive list of yummy salads. I veered away from the standards, opting for an Ethiopian-inspired stew and it was hearty and delicious, especially paired with a fragrant white wine. Their neighboring sister restaurant, Modern General, would be Martha Stewart’s dream—filled with wooden tools, books and organic, sustainable eats. 

  • Want to rest your weary feet after all that walking? No better place to lounge than Rosewood Inn at Anasazi’s—a modern, upscale version of the pueblo.  Their lounge features light bites and classic cocktails in a peaceful, unpretentious setting.

  • Santa Fe Spirits is a friendly bar where bonding with locals is easy. Chase away the evening chill with an apple hot toddy. I didn’t try the distillery’s $10 tasting flight, but it had everyone buzzing.

In a week, Santa Fe worked its magic. I returned home refreshed and ready to hit the ground running. 

My trip cost $1300 through Expedia for both hotel and flights from NYC.

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