A lot of Santa Fe is about the mystique that surrounds it. Georgia O’Keeffe. Canyon Road and the huge arts scene. The open-air opera. Chile peppers and turquoise. Adobe architecture. The interesting mix of Spanish, Native American and Anglo cultures. The incredible light and sweeping blue sky. I’ve worked in Santa Fe, New Mexico in the American Southwest for nine years now (I’m originally from Michigan), but I’m still always moved by the sense of something sacred and healing here in the high desert.
We opened the new Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado Santa Fe this past summer. The resort is on 57 acres, the site of the 1960s-era Betty Egan star-studded dude ranch. It’s a lovely place to vacation for families with teens. And though we’re in the country surrounded by the Sangre de Cristo mountains, we’re only 10 minutes from the downtown plaza.
In summer, you can swim, hike, mountain bike, horseback ride, fish and go white water rafting on the Rio Grande river. In winter, you can ski or snowshoe and celebrate Christmas New Mexico style. The whole town is adorned with shimmering farolitos lining the flat roofs and we have special candle-lit processions in the plaza. Any time of year you can see art, visit the galleries and museums, and go sightseeing.
Actually, you don’t have to go anywhere—you can stay at the resort and relax. All the rooms are casitas (65 total). It’s very peaceful and idyllic. In fact, people say we should have our own zip code! We’ve got a great swimming pool, hot tub and nice deck where the kids can work on their tans, order lunch and enjoy being outdoors.
There’s hiking on the property through the cedar and piñon trees. You might even spy a roadrunner or a coyote. Teens love our fitness center and the spa for manicures, pedicures and facials. There are free yoga classes on weekends. And we have an art gallery here. But if you do want to explore the area, our complimentary valet service—a Mercedes-Benz—will pick you up at the top of the hour and drive you to the downtown plaza.
Here’s my top 10 list of the best things to do with teens in Santa Fe:
1. See art: Despite its size, tiny Santa Fe (pop. 70,000), the New Mexico state capital, has the third-largest art market in the U.S. after New York and Los Angeles. Take the family on a walking tour of the Canyon Road art galleries. The gallerists are welcoming to kids and may even offer a spontaneous tour or art lesson. Lots of the galleries have whimsical sculpture gardens and many are set in historic adobe homes. Park on the street at the bottom just off Paseo de Peralta, then head up one side of the street to the top and back down the other. Bonus: you can do an informal tour of the celebrated adobe architecture.
Stop at The Teahouse, a trendy spot with a shaded garden, for a white sage-mint iced tea. We also love sitting on a wrought iron bench amidst the lavender, roses and graceful 160-year-old horse chestnut trees of the Victorian cottage garden at El Zaguán (545 Canyon Rd.), the mid-19th century home of Santa Fe Trail merchant James L. Johnson. Today it provides housing for artists and writers, operated by the Historic Santa Fe Foundation. The garden is open to the public with free tours and lectures in summer.
2. Watch art in action: In Tesuque near Four Seasons, the SHIDONI Foundry and Galleries does several bronze pours on Saturdays. You get to see how they pour the 2,000-degree molten bronze into ceramic molds to make the sculptures. Then you can walk through the sculpture gardens outside (eight acres), a former apple orchard, and see the beautiful artwork that’s been created right there. Next door, you can watch professionals blow glass at Tesuque Glassworks. (Purchase gifts there or have them shipped to your home.)
3. Climb into Anasazi cliff dwellings: In northern New Mexico about an hour’s drive north from Four Seasons is Bandelier National Monument. It’s in the spectacular Frijoles Canyon surrounded by pinkish-red mesas: the site of an ancient Anasazi village dating back 11,000 years. The really fun part is that you and the kids can climb up ladders into the cliff dwellings, sit inside and touch everything. You’ll see lots of petroglyphs carved into the cliff faces and masonry walls of kivas, circular subterranean pit dwellings. The self-guided tour skirts along the cliff wall and then loops back through the woods. It’s a great spot for budding photographers.
Another memorable side trip is the ancient ruins and petroglyphs of the Puye Cliff Dwellings on the Santa Clara Pueblo land near Española. There are various different guided tours. One takes you in a van to a high mesa overlooking everything.
4. Tour Santa Fe: Santa Fe is a UNESCO “cultural city” and the history of our 400-year-old town is fascinating. See the bell at San Miguel Mission, a Catholic church from the 1600s, and Santa Fe’s oldest house—near the State Capitol and Canyon Road. The Loretto Chapel and its Miraculous Staircase, a spiral staircase with no nails, is a must-see. The chapel also has a gift shop with interesting souvenirs and religious artifacts. Peruse the wares of local Native American artists at the open air market on the plaza in front of the Palace of the Governors: silver jewelry, lots of turquoise, earrings, headbands, hair combs, bracelets and crafts, all moderately priced. Downtown has eclectic shopping: clothing, cosmetics, leather goods, cowboy apparel, Southwestern art.
5. Eat New Mexican: Have lunch near the plaza at The Shed, a Santa Fe institution famed for its chile, spicy sauce that tops many New Mexican dishes. (Note: chile is spelled with an E here.) Order the chicken enchiladas with “red,” “green” or “Christmas” (both). In summer, the Coyote Café has a delightful rooftop cantina (through October) overlooking downtown. Teen favorites: the fish tacos and quesadillas with a fruity mocktail. Breakfast at vibrantly decked out Café Pasqual’s is de rigeur, though line up early to get a seat.
Teens Allie Campbell, 17, and Simone Jaramillo, 18, at Cafe Pasqual’s.
Photographs by Kitty Leaken, Courtesy of Cafe Pasqual’s.
6. Get to know Georgia O’Keeffe: Go downtown to one of the great museums. The famous Georgia O’Keeffe Museum is a favorite because she is an icon here. At the gift shop, teens like to buy note cards and little gifts. There are several museums downtown; plus four at Museum Hill, about five minutes from the plaza by car, including Alexander Girard’s massive collection of colorful textiles, figures and dolls at the Museum of International Folk Art.
7. Hike, bike, horseback ride: From here, Tesuque Creek is a short drive for a loop hike. Rio en Medio is another hike not too far from the resort. Hiking is nearly year-round since we get 320 days of sunshine annually. Mellow Velo Bicycles rents bicycles. You can go on your own or sign up for a group bike tour. There’s horseback riding: nearby at Bishop’s Lodge Resort or through the Cerrillos Hills past abandoned silver mines with Broken Saddle Riding Company.
8. Raft the Rio Grande: White water rafting is a fun way to cool off in summer. It’s not a far drive to the Rio Grande and we can set you up with a company to guide you. There’s a great half-day “race course”—some rapids, but nothing a beginner can’t handle.
9. Ski Santa Fe: In winter, you can ski the Santa Fe ski basin. It’s an easy, low-key hill, so ideal for novices; about 45 minutes away. Or in fall, when the colors are just starting to change, go up on the chairlift to look at the aspens turning red, yellow and gold. You can picnic, hike or bike in spring, summer or fall. On the way back down, stop for a private sunset family hot tub soak at Ten Thousand Waves, an outdoor Japanese hot spring-style spa set in the trees on the side of the mountain.
10. Visit Taos Pueblo: Taos is about a two-hour drive north from Santa Fe. Historic Taos Pueblo, a Native American multi-story mud dwelling, is a favorite because of its architecture. The 30-minute docent tour explains how life was lived on pueblo, including baking bread in the outside horno (mud oven). If you visit on a Feast Day, you will really enjoy the native dances, drumming and festivities!
Then go into Taos and explore the town. A good place to have lunch is at the historic Taos Inn: the hotel’s Doc Martin’s for New Mexican cuisine. Or try Graham’s Grille for a varied selection sandwiches and burger options, plus New Mexican dishes. Bent Street Café & Deli near downtown is a wonderful little deli known for its to-die-for key lime pie and baked goods.
Read more on Santa Fe in Four Seasons Magazine.
Read our “6 Red-hot Restaurants in Santa Fe” recommendations in Four Seasons Magazine.
Antoinette Eugenio is a concierge at Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado Santa Fe. She is a member of Les Clefs d’Or USA. Antoinette has lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico for the past nine years. Before that, she lived on the island of Maui, Hawaii for 21 years, working as concierge at the Renaissance Wailea Beach Resort and the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua. In her spare time, Antoinette enjoys reading, fine dining, theatre and photography. She loves being a concierge—especially meeting new people every day.
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