The Scoop: Santa Fe is known as The City Different because of the diverse blend of cultures packed into New Mexico’s capital city. The historic downtown plaza highlights the Southwest’s unique flavors with its authentic local restaurants, beautiful Pueblo-style architecture, and world-renowned art galleries. Couples visiting Santa Fe can slow down for a few days and savor the simpler things in life — like a sweet-tasting margarita or a hike through the mountains.
Many people think of the desert when they think of Santa Fe, New Mexico. They imagine tumbleweeds and dry sands stretching for miles of empty space, but that’s not the New Mexico I know.
When I think of New Mexico, I think of my family sitting in a colorful restaurant and daring each other to try the hottest salsa on the menu. I think of crowded, open-air marketplaces full of turquoise jewelry and landscape paintings. I think of cool mountain air and quiet outdoor hikes. I think of sunshine and river rafting and ski slopes.
Every year, about 2 million visitors stop by Santa Fe to enjoy its quaint yet vibrant atmosphere.
Although Santa Fe is the oldest capital in the U.S., its diverse population helps the city stay contemporary while honoring its Native American and Spanish roots. That means you’ll find hip bars and breweries right around the corner from historical landmarks and museums in the walkable downtown area.
This well-known cultural hub sits at the base of the southern Rocky Mountains, so tourists can go hiking or skiing in the afternoon and then enjoy an opera show or a five-star restaurant at night. Thanks to its distinctive surroundings, Santa Fe is a romantic and budget-friendly destination for couples looking to get away from it all.
“We pride ourselves on being multicultural,” said Simon Brackley, President and CEO of the Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce. “People from all over the world choose to be here because we have a great quality of life.”
Showcasing Multicultural Festivals, Museums & Exhibitions
Santa Fe is the third largest art market in the U.S. by sales, and people come from far and wide to see the pieces on display here. The city is home to over 250 art galleries and dealers, plus more than a dozen museums, so art lovers can spend hours browsing and adding to their collections.
Every August, the Santa Fe Indian Market unites more than 1,200 artists from 100 Native American tribes in a festive atmosphere. During this weekend, Santa Fe Plaza becomes a bustling hub of activity where people can view stunning original pieces, including pottery, baskets, textiles, silverwork, beadwork, and paintings. The market also features a Live Auction Gala, a Native American clothing contest, and performances of indigenous music, dance, and storytelling.
Santa Fe frequently hosts celebrations of local art, film, food, and culture. Couples can book vacations around Santa Fe’s large and spirited festivals and take in a cultural experience like no other.
Speaking of unique experiences, the Meow Wolf art collective has been delighting and baffling visitors for years now. This art installation is open six days a week (closed on Tuesdays), and general admission is $24 for New Mexico residents and $29 for out-of-state visitors. Meow Wolf offers an immersive art display full of unforgettable and strange sights, and you can spend many happy hours exploring its secret passageways and interactive rooms.
Meow Wolf has fueled many thoughtful conversations since opening its first permanent location in Santa Fe, and the collective intends to expand to Denver, Las Vegas, and Washington, D.C. in the next couple years.
Santa Fe’s art scene is as rich with diversity as its people. The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum recognizes the most popular works of the 20th century while the Pop Galley features more contemporary and avant-garde pieces.
Award-Winning Breweries & Restaurants Spice Things Up
Santa Fe is full of the expected. It may be the oldest capital city, but it supports a youthful, fun-loving population. These people value community and have established traditions that are unique to this city. For instance, Santa Fe Opera fans tailgate before performances in the summertime, bringing folding chairs, picnic baskets, tents, and even candelabras to the outdoor event.
As far as date ideas go, setting up a dinner for two and then going to the opera sounds pretty fantastic. The Santa Fe Opera offers tailgate picnic boxes to patrons, but you can also bring your own food from a nearby restaurant.
Santa Fe is a foodie paradise with hundreds of locally owned restaurants that feature just about every type of cuisine imaginable. Whether you’re in the mood for hot Mexican food or traditional Middle Eastern cuisine, you can satisfy your taste buds by exploring this standout culinary scene.
The Coyote Cafe offers upscale Southwestern dishes in a low-key and cozy environment. Its menu includes duck leg confit, lobster tails, and eggplant ravioli artfully arranged on the plate. These Instagram-worthy dishes are as fun to look at as they are to eat, and couples won’t soon forget the dining experience at the rooftop cantina or intimate lounge.
Known for its farm-to-table menu, Radish and Rye is a popular local date spot with a menu that changes with the seasons. Many reviews praise the restaurant’s bourbon cocktails, shareable appetizers, and sultry atmosphere. “The lights are dim and warm, which makes the place perfect for a date,” said Carolyn P. in a Yelp review.
If you’re looking for an authentic margarita, La Choza is the place to go. This family-run New Mexican restaurant has been a Santa Fe staple since 1983. Its generous portions of beans, meats, and green chiles pair well with specialty, build-your-own margaritas, which are made with premium tequilas.
After their dinner, couples have plenty of drinking establishments where they can retreat for a brew or a cocktail. Santa Fe Brewing Company is New Mexico’s original craft brewery. Since 1988, it has made beer in the spirit of the Southwest and garnered a good reputation for its quality brews and sustainable practices. The brewery uses solar power to keep the lights on and locally sourced hops to keep the craft beer delicious.
Located in the Railyard District, Second Street Brewery is another favorite among local and visiting beer lovers in Santa Fe. When the brewery opened its first location in 1996, it only had nine beers on tap. Today, Second Street features dozens of beers, has three taprooms in Santa Fe, and distributes craft beer statewide.
“My boyfriend and I visited 2nd Street Brewery for the first time this weekend, [and] we loved it,” said Susie N. in a Facebook review. “The food was great, delicious craft beer, and the service was excellent. We definitely will return.”
Couples Can Explore Hiking Trails or Take It Easy at the Spa
The weather in Santa Fe makes it a natural choice as an outdoor vacation destination. On average, Santa Fe boasts 325 days of sunshine each year, and it has four distinct seasons to enjoy. During the summer, many visitors go river rafting on the Rio Grande, while during the winter, they hit the slopes on the Rocky Mountains.
Santa Fe’s ski season typically lasts from late fall through early spring, when a combined 300 inches of snow powders the slopes. Ski Santa Fe gets people’s hearts pumping on beginner-friendly and challenging terrains stretching out from La Casa Lodge.
Whether you want to try horseback riding or fly fishing with your significant other, you can find an outdoor adventure to suit your interests in Santa Fe’s natural parks, mountains, and rivers.
Of course, you don’t have to break a sweat to have fun in Santa Fe. The city has many relaxing destinations and activities. Couples can luxuriate in natural hot springs just outside of town or book an appointment at a local spa. Ten Thousand Waves is a tranquil resort and spa inspired by traditional Japanese healing practices. What began as a small bathhouse in 1981 has expanded to include spa suites, outdoor hot tubs, massage rooms, and a Japanese restaurant.
Couples can spoil themselves with a therapeutic massage or herbal wrap treatment and then enjoy a rejuvenating time in private or communal hot tubs at the resort.
In addition to its hiking and biking trails, Santa Fe also has a Chocolate Trail to explore. Sweethearts can indulge their sweet tooth by sampling chocolates mixed with nuts, lavender, chiles, and other flavors.
Santa Fe is a Cool Place to Get Away in the Southwest
Santa Fe is a cultural oasis in the middle of the desert, and its colorful events, museums, and restaurants make visitors see the Southwest in a different light. This capital city is full of activity all year-round from opera tailgates in the summer to skiing competitions in the winter.
It’s no wonder New Mexico’s nickname is The Land of Enchantment. This area captures the imagination with its mountainous landscape, indigenous culture, and diverse community. Its capital Santa Fe offers a peaceful escape where foodies, art lovers, and outdoor enthusiasts can find something to savor together.
“It’s unlike anywhere else,” Simon told us. “It’s a great getaway because traffic is light, and everything you could want is within a 10-minute drive.”