Long known for the annual Indian Market, Santa Fe attracts crowds of up to 150,000 each year. By almost any measure, this Native American artist show features the best of the best, with over a thousand artists from all over North America exhibiting and selling their art. It is so easy to get caught up in the intense emotion, the visual feast of pottery, paintings, jewelry, textiles, and other incredible art forms, and the harmonious buzzing of intermingling cultures, that one sometimes forgets that Santa Fe has so many other gems that wait to be discovered by tourists and locals alike.
We often start our mornings with a great cup of coffee from Capitol Coffee Company, a marvelous eclectic coffee shop just south of the Plaza area. It reminds me of the original Starbucks concept, where people come to hang out and chat, meeting old friends and making new ones, all while sipping on a large cup of an expertly prepared coffee and munching a small pastry. Or, if you want something with a wider selection of breakfast items, you can try Clafoutis, which has a French patisserie atmosphere and lip-smacking morsels of heaven. The crepes are light, and the quiche is packed with flavor.
Another hidden gem is the Santa Fe Antiques and Flea Market, a locally owned consignment shop where people bring their furniture, clothing, jewelry, and all sorts of items. John and Everett are the guys who run the shop, and I love standing and chatting with them whenever I stop by – they always have big smiles and warm hugs waiting. The selection is quite broad, ranging from common, kitschy items to strikingly unusual to absolutely elegant. One never knows what one will see, but it is such fun to wander about and see the variety.
If you are in Santa Fe during the week, stop by the School for Advanced Research (SAR) and check out their Indian Arts Research Center. It is a hybrid of a world class museum containing over 12,000 outstanding examples of Native American artistry and a research center with active exploration of the Native American culture, symposiums, educational classes, and more. They have guided tours on Wednesdays and Fridays at 2 p.m., well worth the time.
If you just want to get out of the throngs of people during Indian Market week, you can always take a quick drive up to the Santa Fe Ski Basin north of town. It is an easy drive, and there are nice turnouts where you can stop, have a picnic lunch at the parking areas, and even meditate for a bit among the massive stands of aspens.
We always love to stop at La Casa Sena for dinner. They have a marvelous outdoor courtyard with sparkling lights in the trees, as well as a comfortable seating area inside. They are open for lunch and dinner, and offer some amazing adult beverages to complement their colorful and delicious entrees. You might even hear the waitstaff break out in song from time to time, making this a romantic and relaxing respite from the frenetic Santa Fe Indian Market pace. And if you happen to be looking for a downtown wine or spirits shop, La Casa Sena has the only one available.
Finally, Kakawa Chocolate House brings a mix of traditional (Mayan and Aztec) chocolate mixes and contemporary (European and American) chocolates together. Bold patrons might explore the pomegranate or acai flavors, while those more timid might enjoy some of their rich dark chocolates or ice creams. Yes, they ship, but nothing beats the experience of sitting in their small dining area (or the larger one outside) and sipping a delicious cup of hot chocolate and nibbling on a delectable morsel. They have vegan and dairy-free options, and are strongly committed to organic farming and fair trade suppliers, making us feel good in the heart as well as the tummy.
For such a small town, Santa Fe has quite a few hidden treasures that the locals know, but don’t often share with tourists. Get out and explore, possibly checking with sources like TripAdvisor, or maybe just wandering about and trusting in serendipity. It is one of the best ways to find those hidden treasures of your own, that will pull you back to Santa Fe year after year.