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Seasonal Santa Fe: New Mexico city has a different vibe (and fewer tourists) in winter

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Kids FreeFest Spring Break

Throughout March and the middle of April, kids 12 and under with a paying adult will be given complimentary lodging, meals, spa and culturally immersive activities in “The City Different.” Santa Fe’s Kids FreeFestSpring Break 2017 includes a variety of lodging offers, treasure hunts, spa treatments and sport and outdoor adventures. There also are free art classes, museum exhibits, Flamenco classes, an Easter egg hunt and more. For information, visit


For more suggestions and a list of upcoming festivals, go to

SANTA FE, New Mexico — Visiting Santa Fe during the late-winter months brings an entirely different dimension to the beautiful northern New Mexican town founded in 1610.

Now through March is the best time to go if you're looking to avoid crowds. Elizabeth Tolman lives in Santa Fe and works at Natalie, one of the city's many art galleries, and appreciates the break the winter months give the town.

"It's nice because, as a local, you get your town back. But it does get a little lonely," she admits.

So to keep loneliness at bay for Santa Fe residents, here are some suggestions on places to eat, things to see and and a few good places to rest your weary body after a full day of play around the city.


The many layers of artistic culture make Santa Fe one of the most museum-dense cities in America, third only to Boston and New York, according to the U.S. Travel Association. That makes it ideal for adding a little education and polish to your Santa Fe holiday.

- Museum of Indian Arts and Culture — Artifacts from prehistoric times in the Southwest to modern times detailing the future of area tribes. Also on exhibit through Oct. 25: "Oblique Views: Archaeology, Photography and Time," a then-and-now exhibition of large prints by photographer Adriel Heisey taken between 2007 and 2008 and paired directly with photographs Charles and Anne Lindbergh took while flying over New Mexico's archeological sites in 1929.

- Museum of International Folk Art — More than 130,000 examples of folk and traditional arts from around the world, including the award-winning "Flamenco: From Spain to New Mexico" (through Sept. 10), an in-depth examination of the history and culture of flamenco dance and music. Not to be missed is the stunning collection of more than 10,000 pieces of folk art, toys, miniatures and textiles from the collection of architect Alexander Girard.

- Georgia O'Keeffe Museum — The New Mexican landscape was the inspiration for much of the 20th-century artist's works, but also on exhibit are examples of her early works while living in upstate New York, as well as several selections created while she was a student at University of Virginia, the latter of which is on exhibit through September.

- New Mexico History Museum and Palace of the Governors — Learn about New Mexico's journey from its prehistoric past to present day. Current exhibitions include the "Fred Harvey Company and Its Legacy" with artifacts from days of the Harvey Girls and items from the Harvey, the father of chain restaurants. Also, through March 5 take a ride into the re-imaginings of American steel at the exhibit "Lowriders, Hoppers and Hot Rods: Car Culture of Northern New Mexico." Tickets include a tour of the Palace of the Governors, constructed in the 1600s as Spain's main seat of government in what is now America's Southwest. It was in use until 1912, when New Mexico became a state; the palace is now a museum with period rooms and exhibitions. Admission: $12, free for children under 17.

- Meow Wolf — A newly reopened immersive art experience in storytelling that combines art and entertainment, giving audiences fictional worlds to explore. It's House of Eternal Return exhibit gives children a world of play and adults an artistic venture through the house of the Selig family, discovering secret passageways along the way through the 20,000-square-foot exhibition. Admission: $18 adults, $16 seniors, $12 children.

- Museum of Contemporary Native Arts — Showcasing the progressive work of contemporary Native artists, the museum's current exhibition, "New Impressions," features experiments in contemporary Native American printmaking with 40 prints by 12 artists. Admission: $10 adults; $5 seniors; free for Native Americans, veterans and their families, and kids under 16.


With more than 400 restaurants in town, you could spend months in Santa Fe and never eat the same thing twice. So what's the best way to find out which are the best? Winter is the time of year when the locals know they can come out and find a table without having to wait in line, so just look for the places with all the cars parked in front.

- La Plazuela (100 East San Francisco St.) — You cannot leave Santa Fe without trying a green chile cheeseburger at the restaurant inside the La Fonda Hotel. Green chiles are a hallmark of New Mexican cuisine, and they're piled on the burgers at La Plazuela. The restaurant is open breakfast through dinner. Enjoy the artwork in the hotel's lobby that takes you back to its days as a Harvey Hotel with Harvey Girls serving tables in this restaurant.

- The Shed (113 East Palace Ave.) — This is where the locals go for some of the best Southwestern fare in the city. Right off the town plaza, it serves the best red chile burrito this side of Mexico City. But loosen your belt for the carne adovada plate — slow-roasted pork in red chiles alongside a rolled blue corn enchilada filled with cheddar cheese and onion then covered with red or green chiles, of course.

- Andiamo's (322 Garfield St.) — Italy comes to New Mexico with the classics — pizza, spaghetti bolognese, veal scallopini and more. But sea bass over creamy saffron risotto and penne with housemade New Mexican lamb sausage show the restaurant's buzzy side.

- TerraCotta Wine Bistro (304 Johnson St.) — Trendy takes on comfort food such as pork schnitzel with capers and roasted tomato, red cabbage Yukon Golds or smoked beef brisket with moonshine barbecue sauce, collard greens and cheese grits. Also great wine list.

- The Teahouse (821 Canyon Road) — Take a walk up Canyon Road and stop for tea — there are dozens of blends from which to choose — paired with a scone and clotted cream. Salads, soups and sandwiches are served through dinner.

Where to stay

Here are some of the best inns to stay in downtown, all within walking distance of the San Miguel Mission, the oldest church in America; the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, built in the early 1700s; Loretto Chapel, home to the miraculous winding staircase; and the historic downtown plaza with its many shops and the Palace of the Governors.

- Inn on the Alameda (303 East Alameda St.) is joining the new bed-and-breakfast trend, rebooting a classic American vacation. Included in your stay is a hot breakfast served buffet-style in front of a warm fire on cold winter mornings. In the afternoon, there's a wine and cheese hour — unpretentious, but very welcoming at the end of the day. Also included in the daily rate are free parking and a shuttle that will take you anywhere within a three-mile radius of the hotel and also pick you up.

- La Fonda on the Plaza (100 East San Francisco St.) There's been an inn on the property for 400 years, but this incarnation was built in 1922 and eventually became part of legendary hotelier and restaurateur Fred Harvey's empire until 1968 when it was sold and remains in private hands today. The hotel features guest rooms with decor reminiscent of the hotel's Southwestern history and range from simple guest rooms to elegant suites.

- The Drury Plaza Hotel (828 Paseo de Peralta) is Santa Fe's newest full-service hotel located within walking distance of the city's historic downtown. The hotel is LEED-certified with an on-site restaurant, Eloisa, that was named a 2016 James Beard Award semifinalist for Best New Restaurant.


From famous Canyon Road's 80-plus high-end art galleries to stores found along downtown avenues selling stunning hand-made turquoise jewelry, leather goods, pottery and more, Santa Fe is a mecca for shopping and finding some outstanding works of art. Little wonder, then, that in 2005 the city became the first-ever in the country to be designated a Creative City by UNESCO.

Shopping in the galleries and stores can bust your budget, though. So if you're looking for a better deal, shop the Native American Vendor's Program. It works on a lottery system as Indians from the state's 19 pueblos vie for a chance to sell their wares. Every day, you'll find a dozen or more artists stationed along the portal of the historic Palace of the Governors. The program gives you a good chance to meet the artists and find out more about what you're buying, and there's usually a deal to be found.

Another good place to find local art at a decent price is at Santa Fe Farmers Market's Railyard Artisan Market (1607 Paseo de Peralta) located in an enclosed pavilion and open every Sunday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. You'll find works from a number of New Mexico's artists and other craftspeople selling pottery, paintings, jewelry, sculpture, fiber arts and more. Enjoy a lunch of tamales or burritos and make a day of it.

And another bonus: In the state-owned museums, of which there are several in town, you won't pay sales tax on items purchased in the gift shops.

After a full day of shopping you may be in need of a little pick-me-up. So head on over to Kakawa Chocolate House (1050 Paseo de Peralta) where hot chocolate is an art in itself. The chocolate cafe serves chocolate elixirs _ eight different varieties of them ranging from the dark Zapoteca blend with 100 percent chocolate and coconut sugar to the somewhat sweeter, lighter Jeffersonian blend that's 72 percent chocolate with almond milk and nutmeg.

Some say these elixirs will have you bouncing off the walls, but owner Tony Bennett says "they'll just make you happy."