Destination of the Week: Santa Fe, New Mexico

May 25, 2012

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For today’s Destination of the Week, we head to the Old Southwest and visit one of the first European settlements in North America that today boasts one of America’s most vibrant arts scenes, an up-and-coming cadre of restaurants, and an outdoor opera house that’s the darling of the music world. We’re headed to Santa Fe, New Mexico.


The Plaza is at the heart of historic Santa Fe.

Santa Fe is actually the oldest state capital in the US, and was founded over 400 years ago back in 1610. At the city’s historic heart is The Plaza, which is in Santa Fe’s old town and around which you’ll find many of the city’s museums, buildings of note, hotels and restaurants. Nearby you’ll also find Museum Hill, with some of the town’s most insightful collections including the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, the Museum of Spanish Colonial Arts and the Museum of International Folk Art, which houses over 100,000 objects and artifacts from over 100 countries around the world. It is a comprehensive, well-curated and thoroughly researched collection that should delight folk-art aficionados.

Santa Fe is a huge arts destination (some rate it second only to New York in the US), not only because you can visit places like the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, which displays over 1,000 of the artist’s works, but also because of the hundreds of galleries displaying both international and local artists scattered throughout the city. One of the best places to survey the contemporary arts scene is in the old, peaceful Canyon Road neighborhood which runs from the central city east toward the nearby mountains of the Santa Fe National Forest.

At El Rancho de las Golondrinas, visitors can get a taste of colonial life.

If you want to buy some Native American mementos, one of the best places to get them is from the artists who sell their wares at the Palace of the Governors (one of the oldest buildings in the country) since the quality of what is on sale and the artists allowed to sell there is highly regulated, so you know you’re getting authentic pieces.

Make a day trip outside of town to visit Bandelier National Monument about 45 minutes from the city, where you’ll find the ruins of a pre-Pueblo civilization that lived in the area’s cliffs in the centuries before Columbus landed in the New World.

For a look at colonial life in New Mexico, stop by El Rancho de Las Golondrinas about 30 minutes south of the city in the town of La Cienega. It is a 200-acre preserve that has brought together colonial buildings from all over the Southwest and restores them with the help of local artisans. There are craft and trade demonstrations from time to time as well as guides in period costume to tell you about various aspects of colonial life.

Come to La Plazuela for a romantic meal of gourmet Southwest cuisine while in town.

Santa Fe is also an interesting food destination—beyond the iconic green chiles that make an appearance in dishes in the late summer and fall. We hear the guacamole at Gabriel’s is worth the 20-minute drive from the city center, while we hear the place to hit for the first meal of the day is actually Pasqual’s for hearty Mexican dishes. Other restaurant recs we got were for La Plazuela at the La Fonda Hotel for upscale Southwestern cuisine and Coyote Café for gourmet Mexican. Be sure to stop by Blue Corn Café and Brewery for some of its award-winning beers and ales as well, and if you want to try the stylings of a well-known local chef, make reservations for dinner at Restaurant Martin.

People come from far and wide every summer to the Santa Fe Opera.

Of course, one of the most popular reasons to visit Santa Fe is the annual summer season at the Santa Fe Opera, a spectacular outdoor theater north of the city, surrounded by the scenic wild beauty of the plateau. Some of the world’s best-known voices come here to sing both classic and new operas. This year’s season runs June 29-August 25 and includes productions of Tosca, The Pearl Fishers and Arabella among others.

Destination of the Week pieces are not meant to be comprehensive guides to destinations since we don’t have the time or funds to visit all these places in person and report back to you. Nor are they endorsements of all the hotels we mention. They are simply roundups of top destinations that we have specifically pinpointed for the opportunity they present to use your miles and points to get to and stay there. As always, we welcome your comments to help enrich the content here, provide opinions and first-hand experiences of these destinations.

The Santa Fe Airport is located about nine miles from downtown Santa Fe. It is only serviced by American Eagle, which operates non-stop service to Los Angeles and Dallas-Fort Worth. Since American is the only airline serving Santa Fe, flights tend to be more expensive. Be sure to take look at American’s award travel. American offers their MileSAAver Off-Peak award for 12,500 miles each way as well as their MileSAAver Peak Awards for 17,500 miles each way. Since this is a short haul segment, a roundtrip from DFW-SAF using British Airways Avios would only require 9,000 Avios.

Another option would be to fly into Albuquerque, which is about 65 miles southwest of Santa Fe. Since Southwest Airlines is the largest carrier serving Albuquerque, flights tend to be more reasonable. All the main airlines such as American, Delta, United, and U.S. Airways service Albuquerque as well.


The Hilton Santa Fe Golf Resort & Spa.

Hilton Santa Fe Golf Resort & Spa at Buffalo Thunder: This is the largest casino resort in New Mexico and has 395 guest rooms and suites. The guest rooms incorporate Native American-style décor and have Hilton’s Serenity Bed’s, 37-inch flatscreen televisions, and high-speed internet access. There is the 16,000 square foot Wo’ P’in Spa. The hotel has a fitness center, indoor and outdoor swimming pools and whirlpool. The hotel has several dining options including Red Sage Restaurant, Turquoise Trail Bar and Grille, and the Painted Parrot Buffet. Rates in June start at $85 or 35,000 HHonors points since this is a Category 5 property.

A double guest room at the Hilton Santa Fe Historic Plaza.

Hilton Santa Fe Historic Plaza: This hotel has 158 guest rooms and is located two blocks from the historic Santa Fe Plaza. The guest rooms feature Hilton’s Serenity Bed, flat-screen televisions and high speed internet access. The hotel has four restaurants and bars including Pinon Grill and El Canon. There is also a fully equipped fitness center, outdoor swimming pool, and hot tub with kiva fireplace. Rates in June start at $160 or 40,000 HHonors points since this is a Category 6 property.

There is also the DoubleTree Santa Fe which has 130 guest rooms that recently transitioned from a Holiday Inn.  Rates in June start at $87 or 30,000 HHonors points since this is a Category 4 property.

The Hyatt Place Santa Fe costs just 8,000 points, though you’d be better off paying the $109 room rate.

Hyatt Place Santa Fe: The guestrooms feature the Hyatt Grand Bed, 42-inch flat-panel HDTV’s, sofa-sleepers, mini-refrigerators, as well as granite countertops in the bathrooms. The hotel has a 24-hour Stay Fit fitness center and an indoor swimming pool. There is also complimentary Wi-Fi Internet access as well as a complimentary continental breakfast buffet.  The lowest rate we could find in June was $109. This is a Category 2 hotel, so free night redemptions start at 8,000 Gold Passport points.

A cheery-colored guest room at the Courtyard Santa Fe.

Courtyard Santa Fe: This hotel has 209 guest rooms with pillow top mattresses and 32-inch flatscreen televisions as well as free high-speed internet access. The hotel also has in indoor swimming pool and whirlpool as well as fitness room. Rates in June start at $109 a night. This is a Category 4 property, so 20,000 points for a free night redemption, or 15,000 PointSavers.

The Residence Inn’s lobby area.

Residence Inn Santa Fe: This hotel has 120 guest suites which are located in two story pueblo style buildings. They come with fully equipped kitchens, wood burning fireplaces, and complimentary high-speed internet access. The hotel has a fitness center, outdoor pool, and an outdoor grill that guest may use. The hotel provides a complimentary daily hot breakfast buffet as well as complimentary on-site parking. Rates in June start at $169 a night. This is a Category 5 property, so 25,000 points for a free night redemption, or 20,000 PointSavers.

Priority Club
Holiday Inn Express Santa Fe Cerrillos: Located about 15 minutes outside of the heart of Santa Fe, this hotel has 76 guest rooms and serves complimentary buffet breakfast. Rates in June start at $90 a night or 20,000 Priority Club points per night.

Fine Hotels
Encantado, An Auberge Resort: Located in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, this resort has 65 exclusive casitas. They feature wood-burning fireplaces, outdoor terraces, flatscreen televisions, and the bathrooms have a soaking tub with separate shower. The hotel has a heated pool, Jacuzzi and fitness center. There is complimentary wireless high-speed internet access through out the resort. There is also the Spa at Encantado, which has over 10,000 square feet for treatments and relaxation, including outdoor soaking tubs and steam rooms. The hotel’s dining includes Terra, which offers mountain views, serves American cuisine using both local and organic ingredients, as well as The Bar at Encantado, which has an outdoor dining terrace.

Encantado at night.

Rates in June start at $475 for a patio Casita. While there are no point-redeeming options here, this hotel is part of the Fine Hotels and Resorts exclusive for American Express Platinum Card members, where cardholders are eligible for a room upgrade, inclusive continental breakfast, 4pm late check out and a $100 resort credit.

The pool area at La Posada del Santa Fe.

La Posada de Santa Fe Resort & Spa: Situated on six acres in the Santa Fe desert, this resort features adobe-style accommodations with Southwestern-style furnishings. There is an heated outdoor swimming pool and business center. The hotel is also home to the 4,500 square foot Spa and Salon at La Posada that features a state of the art fitness center, eucalyptus steam room and relaxation room. Dining options include Fuego, Staab House, and The Patio, all featuring innovative cuisine. This hotel was formerly a Rock Resort but is now run independently. Rates in June start at $215 per night. This hotel is also part of the Fine Hotels and Resorts exclusive for American Express Platinum Card members, where cardholders are eligible for a room upgrade, inclusive continental breakfast, 4pm late check out and a $100 resort credit to be used during your stay.

Rustic Southwest style at the Inn of the Anasazi.

Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi: This 58-room inn is located a half block away from the Plaza, in the heart of Santa Fe. Guest rooms feature flatscreen televisions and DVD Players as well as complimentary wireless internet access. The hotel’s fine dining restaurant, The Anasazi, features American cuisine infused with seasonal ingredients and serves dishes such as Achiote Grilled Salmon and Grilled Elk Tenderloin. Other dining options include The Patio and The Wine Cellar This hotel is also dog-friendly. Rates in June start at $252 per night. This hotel is also part of the Fine Hotels and Resorts exclusive for American Express Platinum Card members, where cardholders are eligible for a room upgrade, inclusive continental breakfast, 4pm late check out and a complimentary lunch or dinner for two.

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