Solo travel continues to be the fastest-growing segment of the travel industry.
With the pandemic tides seeming to ebb, the itch to explore and discover has returned. It was once again time to travel, solo style. New Mexico had opened her doors and Santa Fe, our nation’s oldest capital city, was calling.
For more than 100 years, Santa Fe has been called ‘the City Different’. For a comparatively young country, it can be hard to fathom a U.S. city with a 400-year history. The Pueblo-Spanish were its first known inhabitants in 1610, and in a short walk through one of its five historic districts, you’ll see Spanish, Mexican, and Native American influences. Architecture includes Italianate, New Mexico Vernacular, Colonial Revival, Bungalow and Hipped Roof, Romanesque, and Gothic Revival.
The wise old city of Santa Fe knows how to open her doors to travelers but the Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi, located steps away from the historic Plaza, galleries, and restaurants, takes the welcome up a notch. The small, luxury boutique hotel celebrates its Spanish heritage with handcrafted furnishings, wood ceilings, and kiva fireplaces throughout. With a full-service dining room and bar (including an opportunity to partake in a ‘Tequila Experience’ flight tasting), the vibe is intimate and friendly. With limited parking, be prepared to valet your vehicle but you’ll soon realize, you won’t need your car.
The City Different is an international destination for art collectors and enthusiasts and Canyon Road is arguably the heart of it all. More than 100 art galleries, cafes, restaurants, and shops are tucked into this half-mile area. Despite its popularity, the pace of life seems slower here as everyone meanders in and out of galleries and shops. A Museums and Historic Sites Pass can be purchased which provides easy access to four cultural institutions. The popular Georgia O’Keeffe Museum requires a separate ticket but you don’t want to miss seeing her inspiring artwork.
In addition to art galleries and the Saturday morning Farmers Market, the district also hosts a Saturday Art Market which affords the opportunity to meet and talk with the artists about their work. Stores and quaint shops are around every corner and for this solo traveler who has an affinity for cowboy boots, I was drawn to the numbers of stores showcasing the varied styles. If you’re ready to up your ‘boot game’, talk to Alex at Mavericks (you can tell her I sent you).
The culinary opportunities in Santa Fe are every bit as rich as the art and history. Perhaps the hardest decisions I had to make were narrowing down where and what to eat. I enjoyed a delightful, go-where-the-locals-go breakfast at Iconik Lupe. The high-ceiling, brick wall establishment with eclectic furnishings is a bit hard to find, but well worth the effort. The Santa Fe School of Cooking, is a short walk from Iconik Lupe and I spent a few hours there learning the nuances of cooking traditional southwestern meals including the state cookie, the bizcochito.
For a foodie, the dinner options alone qualify for a return trip. Solo travelers can decide to be social at the dinner hour, or tuck in a bit to enjoy a more intimate, solitary meal. I chose both. The Compound is a favorite of locals who know that Owner and Chef, Mark Kiffin, consistently creates masterpieces. The James Beard Best Chef of the Southwest in 2005, is now in his 22nd year of culinary excellence. Chef Kiffin’s lobster tail was the best I have eaten which says a lot given the fact I lived in Maine for two decades. The vibe feels like you’re surrounded by friends, because you are. I walked in alone but that didn’t last long. By the time desert was served, I was sitting with new friends.
My choice for a more intimate meal was equally rewarding. Sitting under a canopy of trees, climbing vines, and string lights, the Market Steer Steakhouse did not disappoint. Al fresco dining is always special and this European-inspired patio is one of the best in the city. Co-owner and Executive Chef, Kathleen Brook, could write the manual on preparing steaks and her impressive menu includes hand cut pork bacon and beef bacon that can be purchased to take home. The ala carte menu with sides meant to be shared may not seem well-suited for a solo diner, yet I had no trouble devouring my choices. After hearing my waiter describe Chef Brook’s signature bread pudding that requires three days to make, I had to go there. I’m glad I did.
Before leaving the City Different, I made one final stop at BODY Santa Fe. There is a reason regulars travel from out of state to spend time at this combination yoga studio, boutique, art gallery, award-winning spa. Owner, Lori Parish, founded the business 18 years ago and makes sure her clientele understands that integrated self-care includes authentic connections. I am looking forward to my return visit to this one-of-a-kind welcoming, wellness experience.
I had been excited to relaunch this exclusive solo-travel series and Santa Fe was an obvious choice. Little did I know, I would fall in love with this historic city filled with remarkable people and I just scratched the surface.
Cover Photo from Tourism Santa Fe
Haven Lindsey resides in Taos, NM. She is a freelance writer with more than 20 years of experience writing on topics including healthcare, addiction, public policy, education, travel, food and human interest stories. She was recognized by NPR for her solo travel series exclusive to Texas Lifestyle Magazine. Haven is working on her second book, a follow up to, ‘The Blue Dog and The White Horse Adventures on A Texas Ranch’, a children’s book about the friendship between her dog and a horse.