Greetings Internet Stranger and welcome to this one day in Santa Fe itinerary. I’ve been spending the last few posts writing about cities in New Mexico that aren’t as widely visited. Albuquerque? It’s the biggest city in the state, but some say its biggest tourist attraction is the home of fictional meth dealer Walter White.
Los Alamos is famous for super spies and nuclear weapons, not as a vacation destination. Well, today’s the day I’m hitting New Mexico’s big tourist guns. (I might have scrambled that metaphor a bit.) It will be like taking candy from the Easter Bunny to convince you to enjoy a one day in Santa Fe itinerary.
Santa Fe, New Mexico is the state’s capital and one of the oldest cities in the country. It ranks third in the country in terms of the amount of money that is spent on art. George R. R. Martin lives in Santa Fe, running a movie theater and doing everything but writing Game of Thrones books. With one day here, we will delve into American history, dine on the finest of regional cuisines, and fall into a coma of relaxation.
One Day in Santa Fe Itinerary
Where to Stay?
There are many lovely historic hotels in Santa Fe. But my personal favorite for a One Day in Santa Fe Itinerary 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.
One Day in Santa Fe Itinerary
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!
One Day in Santa Fe Itinerary
Morning: Ten Thousand Waves
It would be difficult for me to list my top ten favorite places in the world. I’ve seen and loved it all. It would be easier for me to list my least favorite places in the world because that would just be the Greyhound Bus Station in Richmond, Virginia.
But one thing I am sure of is that Ten Thousand Waves would make my top ten. Ten Thousand Waves is a Japanese spa set in the mountains surrounding Santa Fe. It manages to pull of that rarest of feats and be simultaneously minimalist and luxurious. It is tempting to spend a whole weekend at Ten Thousand Waves, but we don’t have time for that. We only have a one day in Santa Fe itinerary. So I would recommend spending the night before and getting your spa treatments in the morning.
It’s quite easy to get to Ten Thousand Waves from Downtown Santa Fe. You can take a car or call a rideshare. You can also walk if you are completely insane like me, but be aware it will take about an hour and a half. Once you arrive, turn off your brain and get ready to indulge in…
Approximately top 5: ten thousand waves edition
1) Private Tub
Obviously I can’t really go around photographing things in a private spa, so I’m just going to be sprinkling in rando photos of the haunting trees surrounding Ten Thousand Waves. My favorite way to do Ten Thousand Waves is to get a spa package. You get a good discount on all services and you can experience three or four treatments together. This blog is all about bargain luxury. As for which package to choose, the Nippon Nirvana is the one for me. It starts with an outdoor soak in a private tub.
The private tub is basically a giant wooden basin placed in the ground. Then the basin is filled with warm, soothing water that is pure enough to drink.You’ll feel just like a human teabag. If that’s not enough glamour, you can press a button and turn the tub into a sexy jacuzzi if your heart so desires. If you book a private tub, the basin will be surrounded by high wooden fences. This way you can look up into the trees, but nobody can see you, unless there are any pervy squirrels lurking in the trees of New Mexico.
For solo travelers, I suggest taking a book to aid in your rest and relaxation. I also suggest not thinking about the fact that the private tubs are sometimes rented out to couples. But I know Ten Thousand Waves cleans the tubs assiduously after every use, so germaphobes need not fear!
After your soak, you’ll get to really indulge with two kinds of massages. Another reason I always choose the Nippon Nirvana is because I despise having strangers touch me. Yet I should get massages done more often because my job is so stressful and I hold freakish amount of tension in my shoulders. Instead of an odious full-body massage, the Nippon Nirvana combines a head and neck massage with a foot massage. That way you get two times the tension release with one quarter of the stranger danger.
Both massages use traditional Japanese massage techniques and natural oils. My favorite is the Yasuragi head and neck massage. The Yasuragi oil, consisting of seven types of natural oil, is deeply worked into your head, leaving your hair incredibly smooth and fragrant, like an heiress’s Hermes scarf.
They say you should leave the oil in your hair for overnight, but we can’t do that because going about with oil in your hair for the entire 24 hours in Santa Fe is too much even for Santa Fe. Even a couple of hours with the oil will leave your hair like a Vidal Sassoon commercial, and you can always buy a bottle to take home with you.
So first off, this picture above is of me with no makeup just after a facial at Ten Thousand Waves, which I think is proof enough that it works. Also the extractions are almost painless, and if you’ve ever had a facial before, you know that is saying something. Your facialist will give you a kit afterwards with a list of the products used and two free facial sponges, but there’s never any hard sell to buy anything. Mostly I was just thrilled that I could spend the rest of the day going around without any makeup on. I felt like a true Santa Fe local!
4) Lunch at izanami
Since we’ve spent the last three hours luxuriating in the wonders of Japanese massage, let’s keep that feeling going as long as possible with lunch at Ten Thousand Waves’s restaurant, Izanami. It’s an upscale izakaya style restaurant, which means the food and decor resemble that of a fancy Japanese bar. But instead of salarymen sipping sake, you get decompressed New Mexicans sipping tea. Only you can decide which is better!
As I say all the time, I love variety and I hate making decisions. So any time there’s a set menu on offer, I snatch it up. At a Japanese lunch place, that’s going to mean getting a bento box. I feasted on house-made gyoza, which are Japanese pork dumplings, a salad, three plump spicy shrimp, salmon pate, seaweed salad, and an assortment of root vegetables like burdock and Japanese sweet potatoes. That’s seven dishes for the price of one! And notice how each dish has a completely different texture from crispy and clean to smooth to fried to mushy. Once again, Around the World in 24 Hours delivers bargain luxury!
One Day in Santa Fe Itinerary
Afternoon: Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian
Because we spent the morning and the early part of the afternoon spa-ing up in the mountains of Japan-New Mexico, we’re going to want to hit up a smaller museum in the afternoon of our One Day in Santa Fe Itinerary. For a smallish city, Santa Fe has more museums than you can shake a turquoise-encrusted stick at. However, one of my favorite small museums in Santa Fe is the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian.
Like Ten Thousand Waves, the Wheelwright has incredible shopping opportunities. Unlike Ten Thousand Waves, large parts of the museum are dedicated to Native American jewelry. Also there are no facials or hot tubs, no koi fish or burdock root…basically it’s nothing like Ten Thousand Waves. If you can’t wait for more knowledge bombs to be dropped on you, marvel at my
Three fun facts about the wheelwright museum
1) Navajo Silver
Unfortunately photos are not allowed inside the Wheelwright Museum so I’ll have to make do with Public Domain. Each Native American group or nation has its own traditional types of craft and jewelry. The Navajo are historically famous for their silver belts. These are sometimes called concha belts.
The Navajo began making them in the 1800s by hammering Mexican silver pesos until they were able to turn them into smooth belt buckle designs. I’m impressed with anyone who can think of such a clever use of money you can’t spend. I only wish I could turn my jar full of spare Euros and yen into beautiful jewelry.
2) Hopi Silver Jewelry
The Hopi jewelry was perhaps the most unique in style. This is because the Hopi were the most geographically isolated of the New Mexican nations and so there were fewer influences on their designs. You can tell just by looking at the unique silver overlay design on this bolo tie that it is Hopi. People say things like jewelry and fashion are shallow, but look at how much history you can find in just one bolo tie! I say the history of personal adornment is just as important as military history or political history. And not just because it justifies my shopping addiction!
3) Thunderbird jewelry
This picture of Thunderbird Jewelry is actually mine, but I took it at a different museum in Virginia where photography is allowed. Thunderbird Jewelry is one of my favorite types of jewelry. Is it made with turquoise and amber? Diamond and sapphire? Orichalcum and Adamantium? No, my Internet Strangers. It is made with plastic.
Pueblo Indians wanted to continue making jewelry during the Great Depression. Unfortunately few average Americans roadtripping through New Mexico had the money to buy big pieces of turquoise. That’s why the Pueblo starting melting down colorful plastic items like forks, combs, and car batteries, and turning them into these stunning pieces you see above.
I’d much rather have something like a Thunderbird necklace or a Navajo concha belt made from Mexican pesos and ingenuity than a generic diamond necklace from some mall chain store. They sell Thunderbird jewelry at the Wheelwright Museum Store and once I figure out what my least useful internal organ is and sell it, I plan on getting my greasy mitts on one of those pieces.
One Day in Santa Fe Itinerary
Evening: Restaurant Martin
As I’ve said, the theme for this 24 hours in Santa Fe is bargain luxury. Any meal in Santa Fe is a bargain compared to what you’d pay for a meal of similar quality in NYC. So let’s do dinner right with a night at three-time James Beard nominee, Restaurant Martin. The chef and owner Martin Rios is a Mexican-American, CIA-trained chef. (I’m always proud of myself when I can write short sentences with multiple hyphens in them. I was once told I use too many hyphens, and I responded is-that-even-possible?)
Chef Rios immigrated to Santa Fe as a teenager. He started as a dishwasher and worked his way up to owning his own restaurant and winning all kinds of awards. Also he donates money to a shelter for abused horses. And all that aside, his food is amazing! So I don’t think you need any more reasons to visit Restaurant Martin during your 24 hours in Santa Fe. Let’s get down to chowing down.
24 hour treat: texas grapefruit
My appetizer was a coffee-roasted beet and Texas grapefruit salad. I’m a total sucker for things I have never eaten before and coffee-roasted root vegetables were certainly a brand new experience. The slight bitter taste of the coffee and the sweetness of the beets was deliciously surprising. After all, coffee and chocolate taste great together and as Doug Funny would say, beets are nature’s chocolate.
For you sad folk out there who have never eaten Texas grapefruit, I don’t know how you even face yourself in the mirror in the morning. It is the sweetest and best grapefruit ever imaginable. Texans love it so they made it the state fruit, which is easily the best decision Texas has ever made.
24 hour treat: green chile grits
I’ve mentioned multiple times in my posts on New Mexico that New Mexicans love their green hatch chile. The green chile is both smoky and spicy in a way that no other chile can quite match. Because my aunt lives in New Mexico, I’ve grown enamored of the taste, and I hate that it’s one of the few foods it’s hard to find in my hometown of New York. When I’m in New Mexico, I turn into the Sherlock Holmes of green chiles, constantly investigating new ways to try them.
This dish, a mouthwatering pork tenderloin, was accompanied by perhaps my favorite way to try green chile, with the humble grit. Because green chile has so much heat, it is a perfect fit with starch and nothing outstarches grits! I think green chile grits should start catching on as a breakfast dish in New Mexico just the same way cheese grits are a big thing in the South.
There are some who may consider dinner complete without dessert and people like this are not allowed to read my blog. Away vile Puritans! There is no place for you among sugar-lovin’ folk. I chose the most famous dessert at the restaurant, the molten bittersweet chocolate cake. I always choose the most famous dish at every menu I go to. You never know when you’ll be back at a restaurant! Do you want to live the rest of your life without eating the most famous chocolate cake in Santa Fe? I didn’t think so.
It’s easy to see why this dish is so popular. There’s something so sophisticated about bittersweet chocolate cake. After I sell my spleen and buy that Thunderbird necklace, I’m coming back here, ordering this cake, and sneering at people who just order boring desserts like ice cream. After all, that’s what travel is really about: looking down on people who don’t have your taste level.
All sarcasm aside, this cake is amazing. Eat all you want because you just cleaned your face of impurities at the spa this morning. I planned my 24 hours in Santa Fe to allow maximum indulgence.
That’s a One Day in Santa Fe Itinerary
What would you do with a One Day in Santa Fe Itinerary? Are you ready to start booking your hotel in Santa Fe? What’s the longest you’ve ever spent with hair oil soaking on your head? And what is the least useless internal organ that will still get me enough money to buy a Thunderbird necklace? Please leave your thoughts below!
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Remember just because this article is for a one day in Santa Fe itinerary, that doesn’t mean you should only enjoy a ONE day in Santa Fe itinerary. If you have another one day in Santa Fe itinerary, try this itinerary.