As the oldest state capital in the country, Santa Fe, New Mexico has managed to hold on to its unique identity, as if unchanged by time. The traditional adobe buildings and narrow streets are constant reminders of the city’s 400-year-old history and continue to stamp out any inkling of Santa Fe’s modern growth into a bustling city. The strong influences and appreciation of the region’s rich history and cultural complexities embody the state’s pseudonym as the Land of Enchantment.
The allure and mystique of Santa Fe is only intensified by the community’s distinctive holiday traditions. The juxtaposition of the late year’s low desert sun and the area’s propensity for plentiful snowfall only heightens the holiday magic as shades of orange and white dance throughout the season. In addition to the city’s close proximity to the Oklahoma City metro, here are five reasons why Santa Fe makes a fun family holiday travel destination.
1. Ski Santa Fe
The Rocky Mountains and its sub-ranges are popular destinations for winter sport enthusiasts. Nestled in the most southern tip of the Rockies in the Sangre De Cristo Mountains and just an eight-hour drive from Oklahoma City, Santa Fe’s peaks and dry climate combine to offer visitors a yearly average of nearly 300 inches of perfect powder on abundant trails. There are 79 trails in fact, ranging from easy to expert including The Bone Yard, a freestyle terrain park that amps up the action with rails, log-slides and tree-rides.
Atop the Santa Fe National Forest, Ski Santa Fe is a quick and picturesque 16-mile drive outside the heart of the city, allowing travelers to enjoy skiing as just one part of their vacation. There is a shuttle service that will take visitors from the city up into the mountains right to the ski park. The resort’s all-inclusive approach has something for everyone in the family from traditional lessons to the Burton Learn to Ride Center and an adaptive ski program, as well as Chipmunk Corner for young skiers. While parents and older siblings enjoy the slopes, kids as young as 3 years old get to learn the ropes with instruction and exploration on a kids-only slope complete with a conveyor lift. Chipmunk Corner’s full service learning complex includes a lesson, rentals and lunch, with half-day and full-day options. They also offer a Snow Play option for those not quite ready to ski and day care option for kids under 3.
Ski Santa Fe also has two lodges. The La Casa Lodge Complex houses the rental and sports shop, a food court and more, providing a starting point with easy access to all you need to enjoy a day on the slopes. Totemoff’s Bar & Grill sits mid-way up the mountain offering guests a cozy place to warm up with hot food, beverages and on occasion, live entertainment, all while enjoying a beautiful view of the upper mountain. Open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., skiing typically starts in late fall and continues until early spring. During peak times, Ski Santa Fe, especially Chipmunk Corner, fills up fast so make reservations early. And if possible, beat the rush by securing your lift tickets and rentals the day before you are scheduled to ski. Lift tickets start at just $38 and multi-day tickets also are available. To learn more about Ski Santa Fe, visit www.skisantafe.com or call 580- 982-4429.
2. The Canyon Road Farolito Walk
Canyon Road’s Farolito Walk is nothing short of magical. Santa Fe’s rich Spanish heritage, quite literally, glows brightly each holiday season with a beloved and one-of-a-kind holiday tradition. Unlike a typical Christmas light experience, Santa Fe lines its buildings, streets and walkways with small paper lanterns called farolitos that, as the sun sets, cast a magical glow on the warm adobe cityscape. Starting around dusk on Christmas Eve, roving musicians and carolers gather around small bonfires called luminaries to sing seasonal music as thousands of festival attendees mill about the promenade along the famous half-mile path. The procession becomes a true community experience while the culture of Santa Fe is on full display. Merchants and galleries of this old-world-meets-new district stay open late, serving hot drinks
3. Kakawa Chocolate House
Well known for its artisanal chocolates, there is no better way to experience the unique history of Santa Fe than through a glass of hot chocolate, or better known as elixirs at the Kakawa Chocolate House. The perfect finish to a day of skiing or a chilly, winter walk down Canyon Road is a decadent cup of hot cocoa. Kakawa’s elixirs and chocolate creations draw on the long history of the cacao bean, using inspirations from Mesoamerican, European and Colonial recipes to create unique flavors you are likely to have not experienced before. Infused with spicy chili, citrus, lavender or a variety of other herbs, your drink or treat becomes an experience of its own. Expand your chocolate horizon with Visit Santa Fe’s Chocolate Trail, which leads you on a seven stop adventure to some of the top chocolatiers in the city, including Kakawa Chocolate House. For all the trail details, visit www.santafe.org.
4. GLOW Winter Lights at Santa Fe Botanical Garden at Museum Hill
The Santa Fe Botanical Garden at Museum Hill is a relatively new venue. Open since 2013 to showcase the biodiversity of the region, the garden transforms into a twinkling winter wonderland each December. Among the Welcome Ramada, the Orchard Garden and the garden’s mixes of hardscape and landscaping, soft lights, glowing orbs and illuminated geodesic domes become the enchanting backdrop for festive food, drinks and music. The lighting is designed in such a way to highlight the plants, landscaping and artwork in the garden, creating a fantasy feel. The solar-powered, lit igloos and laser lighting emphasizes nature’s beauty while allowing the experience to change organically throughout the season. Even the smoke from the luminaries play a part in the experience, creating lighted clouds framing the garden. Kids can wander the illuminated pathways, enjoy fun activities and even visit with Santa. With the completion of a new area of the garden, GLOW will be twice as big as past years. The festival is open on Friday & Saturday nights from early December to early January. For information on performances and special activities, visit www.santafebotanicalgarden.org.
5. Unique shopping
The city takes great pride in the area’s fame as both muse and hub for modern and traditional artists. The town itself reflects this as the quaint city streets are lined with boutiques and specialty markets offering contemporary and traditional art, home décor, weavings, pottery, jewelry, clothing, trinkets, books, gourmet food, wines and more. It’s like looking for treasure as you wind your way through the beautiful adobe lined streets lit with the farolitos. There are a multitude of parks and town squares along the way to stop and enjoy some time together in the bustling city center. The Palace of the Governors hosts an outdoor market, inviting local native artisans to sell their authentic handmade goods just outside the historic building.
Off-The-Beaten-Path Activity: Complete your families’ winter fun experience at the Genoveva Chavez Community Center’s indoor ice rink during their open skate sessions. Or for an unexpected way to burn off some energy, take a dip in the center’s indoor leisure pool or drop in for a kayaking class! The city’s largest recreation facility offers affordable day rates and drop-in fees for many of their activities.