When Santa Fe kicked off its 400th anniversary celebration in September with a Labor Day weekend party at Fort Marcy Park, its citizens opted out of going the predictable route. Instead of banal cook-offs or windy speeches, the country?s oldest capital city saluted itself with an explosion of group activities, from flamenco dancing and stilt-walking to basket weaving, retablo making, and the painting of low-rider bikes. The arts and crafts frenzy was true to the city?s uniquely all-American blend of Native American, Hispanic, and Southwestern roots, as well its abiding reputation as a creative playpen -- the gay-friendly home to bohemians, artists, and anyone who wants to live a dreamy life wreathed in the perfume of pi?on (pine). And once they come it?s hard to leave. Maybe the only city where a retirement home -- RainbowVision, famous for its cabarets, drag shows, and tea dances -- is the hub of gay social life, Santa Fe can seem ageless too. But you don?t get to be 400 without updating yourself, and the latest landmarks include the New Mexico History Museum, recently added to the Palace of the Governors, and the sprawling Encantado resort complex. Locals, though, are most excited by the redeveloped Santa Fe Railyard, where everyone at the Saturday morning farmer?s market is scanning the chipotle salsa, goat cheese, and the sweetest cowboys-cum??jewelry designers west of, well, anywhere.
The Cowgirl BBQ
319 S. Guadalupe St.
Not just for cowgirls, this restaurant and bar in the historic Guadalupe District sounds shtick-y but comes through with an authentic hoedown. The fully stocked frontier toy box includes a billiard parlor, specialty margaritas, and nightly musical events ranging from blues guitar and rock to cowgirl karaoke.
The Inn of the Five Graces
150 E. DeVargas St.
Two blocks from the Plaza, the 23 guest rooms of this Relais & Ch?teaux splurge feature carved wood Indian panels, river stone fireplaces, and mosaic tile bathrooms. The small spa is a bonus.
Inn on the Alameda
303 E. Alameda St.
This adobe inn near the base of Canyon Road offers large rooms (spring for the slightly pricier suites and you?ll get a private patio and scene-setting kiva fireplace), complimentary breakfast, and afternoon wine and cheese.
121 Don Gaspar; 505-983-9340
A Santa Fe classic, Pasqual?s draws constant crowds for its mural of a round-faced moon throwing her own fiesta and its chicken enchilada robed in the duskiest mole sauce.
724 Canyon Rd.
Situated in a circa-1756 adobe house on Canyon Road, this serious kitchen sheds cooks faster than Top Chef (the latest to leave is local favorite son Martin Rios) but may have found stability with the returning Eric DiStefano.
If the museum-worthy folk art at Pachamama (223 Canyon Rd.; 505-983-4020) seems too pricey, settle for the gilded chocolate saints and chocolate milagros at Todos Santos (125 E. Palace Ave.; 505-982-3855).
THE MORNING AFTER
The city?s promenade starts in front of the Palace of Governors, where Native American artists sell jewelry, then proceeds past the galleries of Canyon Road, and ends at the exuberant Georgia O?Keeffe Museum (217 Johnson St.; 505-946-1000). But reserve time for a drive to Ten Thousand Waves, a mountain spa where you can spend a fully exposed afternoon indulging in hot baths, a four-hands massage, and an organic Japanese facial (3451 Hyde Park Rd.; 505-982-9304).