Santa Fe, N.M., has many charms: its historic downtown plaza, Native American crafts and jewelry, centuries-old churches, the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum and the Canyon Road arts district. My husband and I visited those spots but also spent a fair amount of time exploring the Railyard District, Santa Fe’s hippest neighborhood, repurposed and expanded into an invigorating mix of art galleries, restaurants, brewpubs, movie theater and more. The adjacent Railyard Park is an ideal place to picnic, enjoy public art and catch one of many free events offered throughout the year. The tab: We spent $200 for a night at the Santa Fe Motel & Inn and $230 for two nights at the Sage Inn & Suites, about $250 for meals and drinks, and $26 for museum admission.
We played a game of musical motels on a three-day weekend. Both were adjacent to the Railyard District. The first night, we splurged at the lovely Santa Fe Motel & Inn. Our Southwestern-style casita was nicely furnished and had a gas fireplace, full kitchen, washer and dryer, front yard and a private patio. To balance the splurge, we said goodbye to our spacious hacienda and hello to a small but nicely decorated room at the Sage Inn & Suites for two nights. It delivered great value; the lobby, bar and breakfast room had been recently renovated, and it offered a free buffet breakfast and free hourly shuttle to downtown Santa Fe.
Santa Fe has several fine restaurants serving tasty New Mexican cuisine, but we had a hankering for ribs and Cowgirl BBQ was calling. Cowgirl, at the tip of the Railyard District and a short walk from the Santa Fe Motel, serves music nightly along with good and messy barbecue chicken, brisket and ribs with baked beans, potato salad and coleslaw. For purists, the eclectic menu has Southwestern favorites as well. Second Street Brewery at the Railyard, near the Sage Inn, was a great find for a late dinner after a full day of sightseeing. We had refreshing brews (kolsch, pale ale) and split fish and chips and homemade sausages with house-made mustard and sauerkraut from a specials menu. We ate there again, this time for lunch, ordering the Original Alien Burger, a green chile cheeseburger that packed a punch.
The goal: Sample some margaritas using the Margarita Trail list of specialty margaritas around town as a guide. The one that rang the bell for me was the Bell Ringer Margarita (jalapeño tequila) at the Bell Tower, a rooftop bar with city and mountain views at La Fonda on the Plaza hotel. But I thought the simple tequila flights at Cowgirl BBQ were the best way to drink tequila. On the non-drinking trail, there’s a great Saturday farmers market in the Railyard District where you’ll find farm-fresh produce, meat, eggs, honey, bakery goodies, handmade crafts and fresh-cut flowers.
THE LESSON LEARNED
You don’t need to rent a car unless you want to. You can fly into Albuquerque and take the New Mexico Rail Runner Express commuter train to Santa Fe, which will drop you off in the heart of the Railyard District.