Get in touch with Mother Nature this summer on a different kind of vacation: a road trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico. The journey is just as important as the destination, so hop in your car and hit the open road. If you’re traveling from Texas, the trip will take anywhere from five to fifteen hours depending on where you’re coming from. For the quickest drive, start early and stay on the major highways. But the longer scenic routes are worth the extra time if you can spare it. Some of New Mexico’s most beautiful views and unique small towns can be found along the Turquoise Trail Scenic Byway, which follows Highway 14 for a fifty-mile stretch. Make a pit stop or two at Golden, Madrid, or Cerrillos before heading on to Santa Fe.

Santa Fe and the surrounding landscape provide endless possibilities for the outdoor explorer. Warm days and cool nights make the area perfect for camping, so pitch up your tent in the Santa Fe National Forest, where 1.6 million acres of forest, desert, and mountains make it easy to find a secluded spot to enjoy the scenic wilderness around you. During the day, take to the hiking trails. Follow the Battleship Rock trailhead two miles to McCauley Hot Springs, where you can stop to dip your toes into the warm waters, then four more miles to Jemez Falls, the highest waterfalls in the Jemez Mountains. This trail offers more than just a beautiful hike if you bring along your fishing pole—take a break on the banks of the East Fork Jemez River and cast a line out to catch a trout or two. Looking to get out on the water? Head to the Rio Grande River, where the entire family can partake in canoeing, kayaking, and whitewater rafting through White Rock Canyon.

Not far from the Rio Grande, the Bandelier National Monument covers 33,000 acres of striking mesas and canyons. Start on the Main Loop Trail through the Frijoles Canyon, where you’ll find excavated archeological sites dating back to 1150, when the Ancestral Pueblo people first settled the area. Take in stunning views from the highest point in the park, Cerro Grande Peak. During the summertime, the trail up to this peak is dotted with blooming wildflowers like the purple lupines and mariposa lilies. Further south, only twenty miles outside Santa Fe, the Allan Houser Sculpture Garden brings New Mexico’s renowned art scene outdoors, where you can view more than seventy modern sculptures crafted by one of the most celebrated Native American artists of the 20th century, Allan Houser.

Santa Fe is home to hundreds of amazing restaurants, many of which are opening their doors again for patio or rooftop dining. Stop by the Cowgirl for a bite of barbecue or a green chile cheeseburger out on their large outdoor patio in Santa Fe’s historic Guadalupe district. The patio is a favorite for locals and visitors alike, especially in the summertime when you can soak up the sun along with a Cowgirl Margarita on the rocks. The patio at The Bull Ring is also open in the evenings, and their portions are large so make sure to bring the entire family. Savor a juicy prime streak coupled with family-style sides outside in an open courtyard only a block from the Santa Fe Plaza, which has been the city’s cultural center since its founding in 1610. Also located near the Plaza, The Shed serves up classic New Mexican dishes like red chile enchiladas and blue corn burritos. Sit inside the restaurant or out on Prince Patio while you sample the artfully flavorful menu and soak in the colorful atmosphere of this historic adobe hacienda, which has been The Shed’s home since 1960.

Enjoy a light afternoon of sipping suds at Second Street Brewery, located at Rufina Taproom, the Railyard District, and, of course, Second Street. Rufina Taproom’s large outdoor deck, lined with picnic tables and twinkling lights, offers space to spread out and taste the numerous beers featured on the Brewery’s rotating menu. Pair the Winsor Trail Pale Ale with the Taproom’s specialty Fish N Chips, a customer favorite. You can find an incredible array of local flavors at the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market, held year-round at Santa Fe Railyard Park on Saturdays, and on Tuesdays from May 5 to November 24. Vendors sell an assortment of fresh produce, meat, dairy, eggs, honey, and baked goods, with the addition of handcrafted clothing, jewelry, and art at the Railyard Artisan Market every Sunday. The Market serves more than 150 farmers and producers, all of whom call Northern New Mexico home, and promotes community centered around fresh eating and living.

So hit the road this summer and uncover all the things that make The City Different. Visit SantaFe.org to learn more about the city and plan your road trip today.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Make sure to check company and park websites for hours and any modifications made for the safety of visitors in response to Covid-19.