Greetings Internet Stranger! Welcome to 24 hours in Santa Fe. Santa Fe, New Mexico is famous for many things. It’s got a gobsmacking natural setting in the Santa Fe Mountains. It has a fascinating history because it was the home of everyone from Native Americans to Spanish colonists to Game of Thrones writer George R.R. Martin.
Christian Bale sang a song about it in that cinematic treasure, Newsies. It has a scrumptious and unique local cuisine. But most of all, Santa Fe is famous for its art. From the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum to the galleries of Canyon Road, Santa Fe is filled with art galore. Join me for 24 hours in Santa Fe of sepia tones, yonic flowers, and pounds and pounds of food.
24 Hours in Santa Fe
Where to Stay?
There are many lovely historic hotels where you can spend your 24 hours in Santa Fe. But my personal favorite is the Inn of the Governors. It’s in a gorgeous historical building, there’s a great breakfast spread, and it’s located right near attractions like the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. Plus, it’s haunted! I mean, I don’t know that for a fact. But I just assume everything in Santa Fe is haunted because it’s so dang old.
24 Hours in Santa Fe
What to Pack?
You’ll need comfy shoes for all the walking we’re going to do today. If it’s summertime, I love my special pink Birkenstocks. These aren’t your grandpappy’s Birkenstocks anymore. They come in every shade, and I always get compliments on my electric magenta shoes.
New Mexico can get very hot, so don’t forget the sunscreen. My favorite is the Neutrogena spray bottle because it’s so easy to apply. And as a solo traveler, I can actually use it myself on my own back. I just put it in my purse and re-apply throughout the day.
Finally, since we’re going to be out all day, you’ll want a battery for your cell phone. I always use the Anker charger. It’s light enough to fit in even a small purse. Plus the Anker lasts for several full charges of a phone, so I’ll never run out of juice!
24 Hours in Santa Fe
Morning: Georgia O’Keeffe Museum
The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum might be the best museum dedicated to the work of a single artist in the country. Of all the artists associated with New Mexico, the late O’Keeffe is the most prominent. She lived to be almost 100 years old, and she spent most of her life painting everything from flowers to skulls to skyscrapers. Even though she traveled extensively and painted around the world, New Mexico was her first love. It’s only fitting that the museum dedicated to her work is in Santa Fe.
The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum has an astonishing collection of her pieces and they rotate them regularly. This way, even though the museum is smallish, you feel like it’s a different museum every time you visit. I can’t guarantee my favorite works from the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum will be on display at any given time, but l’d still like to share with you…
Approximately top 5: georgia o’keeffe museum
1) cafe Pasqual’s
Before we throw ourselves into the world of aaaaahrt, we need to feed our bellies. My favorite breakfast place near the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum is Cafe Pasqual’s. It is named after the patron saint of New Mexican kitchens, San Pasqual. That’s so cool that each state has its own patron saint of kitchens. I wonder who the patron saint of New Jersey kitchens is? I presume it’s St. Ant’nee.
Cafe Pasqual’s doesn’t take reservations, so there’s usually a line for breakfast. Just show up reasonably early and you can easily get a seat at the communal table if your party is small. My favorite breakfast here is the huevos motulenos. This is an egg dish from the Yucatan. New Mexican cuisine is quite different from Mexican cuisine, so I enjoyed having the opportunity to sample Mexican food in Santa Fe.
Huevos motulenos is kind of a kitchen sink dish. You put sunny side up eggs on fresh tortillas and top the whole thing with: black beans, feta cheese, green peas, and bananas. This is New Mexico so there needs to be chile too. I always order Christmas, which means you get both red and green chile. The great fun of this dish is all the different flavors in each bite. It somehow adds up to a coherent and satisfying experience.
2) georgia o’keeffe Flower paintings
Georgia O’Keeffe was most famous for her paintings of flowers, and the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum has lots of these. You can tell a flower is a Georgia O’Keeffe if it is huge, brightly colored, and painted in close up. Many people felt that the flowers were meant to represent women’s sexual organs. O’Keeffe often expressed frustration at this analysis and said that they were just flowers. I have to say that these black and blue beauties just look like blooms to me.
But this flower just looks straight up like a vagina. Come on, Georgia! There’s no shame in celebrating your femininity!
Georgia O’Keeffe was a lot more than some hippie-dippie symbolic flower painter. She was also a sophisticated world traveler who spent time in cities all over the world. Her paintings of New York City are not as well-known as her flowers, but I think they should be. Her longtime lovah/eventual husband Alfred Stieglitz was a prominent photographer in New York and O’Keeffe became familiar with the city because of her relationship with him.
I think this painting of New York City from the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum does have something in common with her paintings of flowers. They both have a mysterious and hidden quality. I feel a kind of peaceful silence in my mind when I look at them. Of course the sharp and long shapes of the skyscrapers are in contrast with the soft and rounded shapes of the flowers. Now I feel like Freudian analysis is sneaking into my interpretation of these paintings even though O’Keeffe wouldn’t want it to. Damn you, Siggy!
My favorite Georgia O’Keeffe paintings at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum just might be her skulls. Every time I look at them, I’m reminded I’m going to die one day. This is useful because it helps me avoid doing stupid things like trying to take a selfie while hanging out the back of a chopper during a hurricane. Don’t do it all for the ‘Gram kids.
Also, the skull on the left is definitely a vagina with a rose on top, and the one on the right is clearly a phallic symbol. Freud has gotten into my head and he won’t go away! My world is completely shattered. It’s like I’m a freshman in college who has taken her first psych class and now I can’t stop underlining obscure passages of novels and claiming that they’re secretly about sex.
5) Personal Items
The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum features Georgia O’Keeffe’s personal items as well as her artwork. O’Keeffe loved to travel and collect postcards and memorabilia. She had a separate labeled box containing all the items she picked up on each trip. That is a swell idea, Ms. O’Keeffe, and I am definitely stealing it. Only I plan on spending a little more time decorating each box. Those labels don’t look like she put much effort into it. I would expect more from an artist! At least put some flower/vaginas on top!
6) Lunch at Palacio Cafe
It’s easily to fall into a tourist trap in the historic center of Santa Fe. These are either terrible restaurants that only tourists eat at or small holes in the ground covered with leaves placed there by locals so they can laugh at tourists when they fall in. But I don’t approve of either kind of tourist trap. This is why I was happy to find the Palacio Cafe, which is a family owned restaurant right near the Palace of the Governors and the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum.
My Christmas enchiladas were fresh and spicy. It was the perfect lunch on a slightly cool New Mexican October day during a 24 hours in Santa Fe. But my favorite part of this lunch was the pozole. This is a stew made from long-simmered dried corn kernels. The pleasant chewiness and the warm taste of corn always make this dish satisfying if it is prepared with care and love.
24 Hours in Santa Fe
Afternoon: Palace of the Governors
Now that we’ve seen the art of Santa Fe at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, it’s time to move on to its history. Santa Fe is almost 100 years older than Albuquerque, New Mexico. It was founded by the Spanish in 1607, making it one of the oldest cities in the country. It’s the oldest continuously inhabited state capital in the United States. If these walls could talk, they have a lot of stories to tell. Also, they’d probably ask why all the walls in the city have to be the same color. (Santa Fe has an extremely strict design code, so by law all the exterior walls in the city are brown and white.)
If you want to learn all about New Mexican history, you must visit the Palace of the Governors during your 24 hours in Santa Fe. This building is the longest serving public building in the United States, and it is full of artifacts of New Mexican history. Each artifact tells a story, but for now I will limit you to…
Three fun facts about the palace of the governors
1) how old is it?
No one is 100 percent sure when the Spanish colonists started building the Palace of the Governors. We know that it began sometime between 1610 and 1620. The building has served as the seat of government for the Spanish, Native American, Mexican, and American governments. One of my favorite exhibits is an area where the old walls from the 1600s have been exposed and covered with glass.
It’s amazing that these walls and floors have stayed together for so long, since they are made from adobe brick, which is basically mud. My apartment was constructed in the 1970s out of stucco. It’s crumbling apart before my eyes and the winter air is seeping through my walls, so I have to write all my blog posts huddled up on my couch under the world’s ugliest but warmest blanket until spring arrives. Basically I should have the Spanish colonial government renovate my apartment with mud is what I am saying.
2) who was in charge here?
Of course the Spanish were not the only people to live in New Mexico hundreds of years ago. There were already many Native American groups living in the area, and they hated being taken over by the Spanish. In 1680, a rebellion of Native Americans was led by a man named Popé. Young Popé helped each Pueblo (Native American nation) communicate using a system of knotted cords. The rebellion was successful and the Spanish were driven out of New Mexico for 13 years. During this time, the Pueblos occupied the Palace of the Governors.
Unfortunately for the Pueblos, the Spanish were able to return and reconquer the territory and the Palace of the Governors. New Mexico remained a Spanish colony until Mexico gained its independence. However, many artifacts, such as Native American pottery, have been found in the Palace of the Governors dating back to the Pueblo Revolt. I wanted to share this story with my readers because too many people get the impression in schools that the Native Americans didn’t actively resist colonization. This is far from the case!
3) is there any art in this museum?
I’ve mentioned so many times that Santa Fe is famous for its art that you’re probably sick of hearing about it at this point. Well, continue to feel sick, Internet Stranger! Perhaps the most unique local art form is New Mexico is santero art. These are folk art representations of saints. There are two main kinds of santero. Retablos are two-dimensional paintings and Bultos are the 3D sculptures. (Don’t worry. You don’t need 3D glasses to see them properly.)
Spanish colonists went to great lengths to practice their religion so far from their home. Many did not have access to a priest, so wedding ceremonies often had to be delayed for months or even years until a wandering priest could turn up and make things legal. Similarly, Spanish colonists had to get creative when it came to finding materials for making santeros. Some would even paint images of saints on the sides of used (and cleaned!) metal cans for food.
To this day, santero art is still popular in New Mexico. Individual artists have become well-known in the area. Some artists are of Spanish descent, some are Native American, and some are both (or perhaps neither). You can also buy santeros at many galleries in Santa Fe including The Palace of the Governors gift shop. I’m not Catholic, but I carry a small retablo of Saint Christopher, the patron saint of travelers, with me on my journeys for luck. It can’t hurt!
24 Hours in Santa Fe
Evening: Food Tour New Mexico
New Mexican cuisine is truly a national treasure. It’s almost as unique as the cuisine of New Orleans, but it’s not nearly as well known. I’m a firm believer that the best way to get to know the cuisine of a city is through a food tour. You get loads of fun facts, you get guided around the city by a local, you can sample many more kinds of food than you could on your own…there’s basically no downside.
My aunt and I had a great experience on our 24 hours in Santa Fe with Food Tour New Mexico. Everything we ate was delicious and had a local connection. The logistics were well organized and our guide was extremely friendly and stuffed with local knowledge. Also the tour was able to accommodate for one guest’s lactose intolerance and another’s shellfish allergy. I’m sure when you take the tour you’ll enjoy
Approximately top 5: 24 hours in santa fe food edition
Luminaria is the restaurant inside the Hotel Loretto. Their executive chef, Sean Sinclair, used to chef at The Inn at Little Washington, which is one of the most prestigious restaurants in the country. Luminaria, like Restaurant Martin, serves upscale versions of New Mexican cuisine.
My favorite bite here with the pumpkin biscotti served with green chile goat cheese. New Mexicans put green chile on everything: eggs, steak, enchiladas, ice cream, toothaches, you name it. Yet this was the first time I had eaten green chile with goat cheese. The mild flavor of the goat cheese is probably the best possible pairing with the unmistakable pungency of New Mexican green hatch chile.
2) La Boca
New Mexico was a Spanish colony and it has always had an identity that was more overtly Spanish than Mexican. It makes sense that Spanish restaurants would thrive in The Land of Enchantment. Our Spanish stop on the tour was La Boca. The chef, James Campbell Caruso, has been nominated for a James Beard award eight times, which makes him the Susan Lucci of chefs. But there’s nothing second place about these spicy mussels, which tasted like they had just been hand delivered from the coast of Spain.
My aunt is always saying that you shouldn’t eat seafood in New Mexico because it is landlocked. She is from New Orleans and I’m sure when she moved to New Mexico just out of college that was good advice. But technology has definitely advanced to the point where you need not fear ordering the chicken of the sea even though Santa Fe is myriad miles away from any large body of water.
3) Honey Store
When you are a frequent traveler, and you enjoy both eating and shopping, you start to notice when certain trends become popular on a global scale. One of those current trends is definitely beekeeping.
Sometimes people think bees are just like giant colorful mosquitos because both can sting you. But nothing can be further from the truth. While mosquitos are vicious disease spreaders, bees are essential for pollination and the survivor of their planet. Also they make honey, which is one of nature’s most perfect foods. It’s sweet, it helps stave off disease, and it never goes bad. They’ve found honey in Egyptian tombs that is still good to eat today.
It was fun to take a light break on the food tour and do a little shopping. I bought some honey infused with red chile to take home and eat on my nightly yogurt snack. It’s a little taste of New Mexico I can take home with me!
4) The main event
Our final stop was the most food on the tour, a long sit down event. The restaurant has sadly just closed, so I can’t recommend you stop there, but I’m still showing what we ate, so you can get a sense of the amount of food on the tour. The main dish was a kind of New Mexican surf and turf with steak, shrimp covered with red chile jelly, and a fried mushroom with pesto. The shrimp was my favorite because I always love discovering new ways of trying chile when I am in New Mexico. Maybe I could figure out how to use my new red chile honey as a glaze for shrimp like this.
The food tour didn’t skimp on dessert either! We each got to try two: fresh apple tart and carrot cake. I was so excited to chow down that I forgot to take my picture until the carrot cake was basically eaten. Probably there’s no better advertisement for the food that I can give!
That’s 24 Hours in Santa Fe
What would you do with 24 hours in Santa Fe? Are you ready to start booking your hotel in Santa Fe? Has Freud completely messed with your ability to look at Georgia O’Keeffe’s work? And who would win in an epic battle to the death: bees or mosquitoes? Please leave your thoughts below!
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that just because this itinerary is for 24 hours in Santa Fe, that doesn’t mean you should only spend 24 hours in Santa Fe. If you have another 24 hours in Santa Fe, try this itinerary.