Nestled 7,000 feet high at the base of the Rocky Mountains, Santa Fe is known for its expansive turquoise sky, summer and winter mountain sports, art galleries, Pueblo-style architecture, and nationally recognized restaurants. Boasting the oldest church in the country (built by Spanish Conquistadors in the 1600s), this is also one of the earliest wine regions in the United States due to the import of European grapevines to make wine for Mass.
Nowadays, thirsty travelers can also enjoy the area’s recent explosion of surrounding craft breweries, cideries, and distilleries. This small town of about 80,000 people even celebrates imbibing with two annual festivals sandwiching the popular summer tourist season: NM Cocktails & Culture Culinary Festival returns May 31-June 2, and Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta is in September.Downtown
All visits to Santa Fe should start at the plaza. The best overlook to the city’s bustling heartbeat is the second-floor balcony of the Draft Station, which features local beers on tap (try the Marble Red) and order-in gourmet pies from Rooftop Pizzeria, where green chile is a must add-on ingredient.
From there, a short jaunt toward the majestic St. Francis Basilica delivers the Hotel La Fonda on the Plaza, a famed Fred Harvey hotel, and the swanky craft cocktail lobby bar Fiesta Lounge. Atop the hotel, Bell Tower offers a bird’s eye view of Santa Fe’s famous sunsets. While there, sip on a Daizy, made with the bar’s own barrel of Patron Añejo tequila (selected in Jalisco, Mexico, for La Fonda), mixed with orange and elderflower liqueurs.For more skyward bar-hopping, Drury Plaza Hotel’s rooftop Bar Alto bustles with libation-loving sunset-seekers, while Eloisa on that hotel’s ground floor boasts James Beard Award-winning Chef John Sedlar’s Georgia O’Keefe tasting menu, punctuated with wine pairing or classic cocktails. (Sedlar’s grandmother Eloisa was a personal cook for O’Keefe.)
Downtown Santa Fe is dotted with more fine restaurants than a small town has a right to. Sazon presents Mexican-born Chef Fernando Olea’s impeccable upscale south-of-the-border cuisine with sumptuous cocktail offerings such as the Diego Rivera (tequila, mezcal, coconut and lychee liqueur, passion fruit purée, and an edible orchid) from its cozy Santa-Fe style bar.Another celebrated Mexican transplant, Chef Martin Rios, boasts several James Beard nominations for his restaurant Martin, where the wine list ranges from exceptional to out-of-this-world. Agave-spirit lovers rejoice at the designated tequila table at Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi’s comfy lounge, where guests sample multiple types of the Mexican elixir, while filling their bellies with creative haute cuisine from Chef Peter O’Brien. If Happy Hour crosses your mind while in this corner of the Plaza, stop into Il Piatto for a generous portion of farm-to-table Italian delights and wine at appealing prices.
Spanish influence is everywhere in Santa Fe, so paella and sangria at El Meson’s bar on Washington Street go down easy while taking in a tableside flamenco show. Tapas at La Boca, on the opposite block, has a beautifully curated selection of sherries, Spanish wines, and live guitar, sometimes played by chef/owner James Caruso himself.
Visitors wanting a more immersive dinner-and-flamenco experience can drive five minutes down Canyon Road to rustic-yet-modern El Farol. Afterwards, pop into the atmospheric bar at Geronimo and ask barman Shaun Adams for his creation of the day. Oenophiles will regale at the wine list at yet another James Beard-honored chef, Mark Kiffin’s Compound, a few steps from there.A quick walk from the town’s epicenter is delightfully rewarded at the famed Coyote Café serving hands-down some of the best dining (elk tenderloin, anyone?) and cocktails in the Southwest, if not the country. In summertime, a more casual-cool crowd flocks upstairs to Coyote Cantina for frozen margarita-and-beer treats called lava lamps. Summer evenings call for an aromatic smoked sage Margarita at Secreto Lounge in Hotel St. Francis on the next block over. While there, pop into the charming Gruet tasting room, just off the hotel’s lobby, to try New Mexico’s premium sparkling wine. Late-night grub and pub is also found at uber-popular, come-as-you-are Del Charro tucked inside the Inn of the Governors at the end of the block.
The Santa Fe railroad helped shape the American West. Today, after years of being relatively undeveloped, the neighborhood surrounding the historic train stop has sprung to life with gastropubs, shopping, second-hand stores, and theaters. The decades-old, once-shuttered, single-screen Jean Cocteau Cinema is open again thanks to new owner, author George R.R. Martin. Before taking in an indie flick, enjoy a drink from the adorable, closet-sized bar (maybe try a cocktail honoring his Game of Thrones characters, or buy an autographed book).Grab dinner around the corner on Guadalupe Street at Paloma, a vibrant eatery with a fresh take on Mexican specialties in both the kitchen and mezcal-focused bar. If pool is your game, walk two blocks to the Cowgirl Hall of Fame, where a room full of tables and live music will have you kicking up your boots over local beer and whiskey. There’s even a back patio with a slide for little cowpokes.
A short diagonal walk brings you to Agua Fria Street and Joseph’s Culinary Pub, a homey spot with an emphasis on locally sourced dishes and a robust selection of interesting wines, beers, and house-made kombucha.
If cider tickles your fancy, New Mexico Hard Cider is a hop-skip-and-jump across Paseo de Peralta Street on lower Cerrillos Road. Owner Craig Moya is a former firefighter whose family’s apple orchard in nearby Española inspired his brewing. Get the $10 Pint & Dog special (the sour cherry cider with red chile dog is highly recommended). Not far on, Social at the Sage Inn pours generous cocktails and fresh fare from the Farmer’s Market just across the street, in the core of the Railyard district.
Welcome to hipsterville! A 10-minute drive south on Agua Fria drops you at Tumbleroot Brewery and Distillery. Not only are its craft beers and spirits made just a few miles away from the multi-purpose taproom (dance space, large patio, indoor bar), but the food comes from the creator of the immensely popular Bang Bite food truck.Saunter your skinny jeans about a mile east, and you’ll land at the “cool kid” castle known as El Rey Court. New owners spiffed up a rundown motel with (many) coats of white paint and a driftwood-and-succulents/Joshua-tree vibe, and added a bar called La Reina where—you guessed it—tequila is the spirit of choice. A couple of miles south is the alternate universe known as Meow Wolf, a world-famous, interactive art space that added its own Float Café & Bar to tantalize visitors with whimsical cocktail ingredients such as marshmallows, flavored foam, and a variety of absinthes.
If you’d rather skip the razzle-dazzle of on-trend hotspots, settle on to a barstool or dog-friendly patio at Rowley Farmhouse Ales. This down-to-earth brewery and gastropub focuses on national award-winning farmhouse and sour ales with comfort food such as poutine and chicken and waffles. (Bonus: These guys raise money for various dog rescues.)
This area of Santa Fe doesn’t get much love from tourists—and the locals kind of like it that way.Since 1997, Blue Corn Brewery & Café has served up New Mexican fare and earned acclaim for its brown ale and oatmeal stout. Keep driving another 15 minutes or so, down the Turquoise Trail, and Santa Fe Brewing Company invites visitors to discover the beer-making process it’s employed since debuting the first Santa Fe Pale Ale in 1988. The space includes a 13,000-square-foot brewery and event space for concerts. Finally, out toward Santa Fe’s two-room airport, book a tour and taste the wares at Santa Fe Spirits distillery (where the apple brandy and piñon liqueur will be unique additions to your home bar).
Tesuque is its own village located just outside Santa Fe city limits, but the tree-lined, two-lane Bishop’s Lodge backroad beckons. Start out early, because brunch at Tesuque Village Market (inside a ramshackle, wooden house) fills up quickly—but pastries, provisions, and booze bottles are sold to go.
El Nido is another old-made-new-again restaurant that was popular in the 1980s with then-resident celebrities such as Sam Shepard, Jessica Lange, and Shirley MacLaine. After its own facelift and revamped menu, El Nido offers Italian country fare and full bar.Finally, no visit to Santa Fe is complete without an excursion to the gorgeous Terra at the Four Season’s Resort & Spa. Speckled with world-class art, expansive mountain views, and Chef Kai Autenrieth’s elegant cuisine, the wrap-around outdoor patio and outdoor fire pit draw the pre-opera crowd for martinis and belly laughs with longtime barman, Larry, who exemplifies Santa Fe hospitality at its best.