A Snowy Trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico

Genie Davis January 5, 2012 No Comments


A short time after Thanksgiving, the city of Santa Fe, New Mexico brings planned holiday activities to  wonderful, New Mexico style life. The plaza lights up with holiday lights, luminarias line the sidewalk, carols fill the air, many in Spanish, and Santa arrives in a horse drawn sleigh. There’s spiced apple cider, hot chocolate and cookies. When my daughter was five, and my son just one, bundled up in parkas purchased by a California-weather-centric mom, they delighted in the music, the wonderful Spanish architecture of the plaza, and the even more wonderful green corn tamales for sale. Best of all was the unplanned festivity: snow falling on the picture-perfect plaza.

Santa Fe New Mexico

Luminarias say Christmas-time in Santa Fe

Santa Fee in Winter

The Christmas season festivities include secular and religious songs in the historic churches, re- enactments of the Christmas story in the plaza, and holiday parties at world-class galleries friendly to small children. But the pricing in Santa Fe this time of year can be less than festive. If you have a little bit of flexibility with your winter vacation time, wait until just after New Years. You’ll still have some snow, some cold but clear star filled nights, and bright sunny days to stroll the plaza, too.

We stayed at the pleasant Santa Fe Motel and Inn, a comfortable twenty minute stroll from the plaza that’s downtown’s heart. Southwestern decor and spacious rooms and casitas combined with low prices, make the walk well worth doing. When we were there a full, hot southwest breakfast was included in the price.

Things to do and Places to Eat

Arriving after the holidays meant more space in town, and free Friday nights at two wonderful museums the whole family will enjoy: Georgia O’Keeffe’s museum right on the plaza, and the New Mexico Museum of Art nearby. We loved the local slant on art at the New Mexico Museum, and what child won’t find accessible Ms. O’Keeffe’s flowers and brilliant colors.

More bargains abound at restaurants such as the Blue Corn Café where tamales are sweet, and meat eaters will enjoy the burgers and chili – all moderately priced.

Bargains, treats, and great post-New Year’s gifts for the folks at home are all yours at the Santa Fe Farmers Market. Located about fifteen minutes outside the plaza in what’s called the revitalized Railyard District, we found the usual fresh produce and juices, but so much more, too – Mexican wedding cookies, hand crafted soap products, pottery, rugs, and necklaces. The kids loved strolling and sampling; live music ranges from country to classical. Fortified with a breakfast burrito – warning, be sure to ask for it sans-chile’s for the small fry – we were ready for some more of the visually arresting art Santa Fe is known for.

Near the farmer’s market location is a fun collection of contemporary art in a nicely open space: SITE Santa Fe. If you catch it in the morning, you may get in free of charge; regardless, interesting, large scale works, mostly three dimensional, with draw adult eyes and keep the kids amused.

If you’d rather stay outside, check out the art work and crafts created by local Native Americans, sold along the Palace of the Governors which abuts the plaza’s north end. My daughter received her first pair of pierced earrings there – silver, with a feather motif.

The kids will love the intricate spiral stairs and delicate art work inside the Loretto Chapel, near by. My kids were fascinated by the fact that the stair case appears to be suspended in mid-air, with apparently no means of support. It looks like something out of a fairy tale.

San Miguel Mission Old Church

Snowy season in Santa Fe - the beautiful old church with a little sparkling white.

Another wonderful historic site with a religious bent is San Miguel Mission, a lovely adobe church located on Old Santa Fe Trail. It has a beautiful altar screen, made from solid pine, with nine stunning painted panels that soar almost two stories above the altar. Combined with the staircase in Loretto, my kids truly felt these churches were inspired by angels. San Miguel was built in the early 1600′s, and it’s one of the oldest churches in the U.S.

Snowing or sunny, if you’re equipped with boots and parkas, check out the Randall Davey Audubon Center off Upper Canyon Road. Here you’ll find an easy and lovely half mile loop trail, interesting bird watching, and a great location to secure lunch, roam the Canyon Road galleries, and enjoy some of sugar coated almond cookies we found on offer – holiday cookies regarded as “New Year’s treats” just after the fact. If you’re toes are still warm and fingers still cozy inside mittens, you can see outdoor art aplenty on Canyon Road. Take a fun walking tour of Canyon Road’s outdoor sculptures. The kids loved the giant red steel rectangles, and the stone carved chairs. Wind sculptures are fascinating for kids of all ages: spinning copper and steel pinwheels and helixes that rise over twenty feet.

We stood and watched them spin until the bright blue skied-afternoon gave way to clouds, and yes – snow flurries. And then we stood some more, letting the kids revel in the drifting fuzzy white, before we scurried off for some hot chocolate back in the plaza again. We thought we could still hear Santa saying “ho ho ho.” Santa Fe is a great place to extend that holiday spirit.

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Genie Davis is a multi-published fiction author, screen and TV writer, and travel writer. If it was possible, she'd like to spend every day traveling. www.geniedavis.com

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