In Santa Fe, there’s a saying for visitors: “If you want a hotel experience, stay at a hotel. If you want a life experience, stay at The Inn of The Five Graces.” It’s not a wild expression. The luxury-drenched and intimate Relais & Chateaux property is rooted in place, with guest/staff interaction that feels natural, an enviable location (on the oldest continuously inhabited street in America, no less), thoughtful service and, best of all, local soul.
Nobody knows the hotel better than Joshua Merriman, one of the friendly faces guests will see upon check in. Having been involved in the hospitality industry for a decade, Joshua found his home in guest services at the Inn, a hybrid role of concierge, front desk, and personal relations. “It is hard to believe something so magical could come out of a property that is 400-plus years old, and that I am part of this family,” says Josh. “There is something particularly gratifying about planning the perfect itinerary for a guest and it being executed flawlessly. I have the opportunity to really get to know our guests because the Inn is more on the intimate size.”
Having worked at The Inn of the Five Graces (150 E. De Vargas St., Tel: 505-9920957. www.fivegraces.com) for five years, it doesn’t hurt that he’s a native Santa Fean who knows the gay-friendly city like the back of his hand. He has also fostered relationships with local business owners for guests to feel like VIPs when exploring under his referral. We caught up with Josh to discover all the best Santa Fe has to offer.
Where are the coolest places to go for cocktails?
If it were a nice night out on the town, I would have to go with Coyote Rooftop Cantina (132 West Water Street, Tel: 505983-1615. www.coyotecafe.com) (seasonal in summer). You will certainly love one of the cocktails infused with lemon and maple syrup or our regional green chile. Or, perhaps, a margarita with the rim lined in lime foam? One drink has real gold flakes, while another has “rose pearls” that “dance” in your glass. Their creations are endless, and also a delight!
During the winter, and all year round for that matter, the bar Secreto Lounge (210 Don Gaspar Avenue, Tel: 505-983-5700. www.secretolounge.com) has also become a haven with local mixologists creating cocktails infused with sage smoke and rare bitters. For a sunset cocktail in the heart of downtown, The Bell Tower (La Plauela at La Fonda, 100 East San Francisco Street, Tel: 505-982-5511. www.lafondasantafe.com) offers views of the area and some of the best sunsets.
What are the best restaurants for a romantic dinner in the city?
An absolute personal favorite is Executive Chef Martin Rios’ restaurant, Restaurant Martin (526 Galisteo Street, Tel: 505-8200919. www.restaurantmartin.com). He and his energetic wife Jennifer, along with their daughters, are all there nightly, and it is such a great feeling to have the family welcoming you in their James Beard-nominated restaurant. All of his greens/veggies come from the garden in their verdant courtyard where dining is also permitted (seasonally, of course). As the menu does in fact change seasonally, it is too hard to favor one dish alone. While Martin is clearly known for his amazingly prepared salmon and tuna, a personal favorite of mine is the truffled orzo mac and cheese. Even though it is a side, it has been on the menu for some time and the rich decadent flavor is not just a favorite of mine, but many Santa Feans. Dining by candlelight in their courtyard under the stars truly is the way to go.
Who serves the greatest weekend brunch in town?
On Sundays, Café Pasqual’s (121 Don Gaspar Avenue, Tel: 505-983-9340. www.pasquals.com) offers a unique brunch. Named after the folk saint of the kitchen, San Pasqual, Café Pasqual’s has an organic and seasonal dining menu, which the restaurant describes as “Equatorial.” Rooted in Southwest and South American cuisine, you may have to wait up to an hour to be seated, as reservations are not taken. It is a smaller restaurant with only 45-50 seats and can fill up quickly, which only adds to its ambience, but also makes it truly worthwhile. Light floods the colorful space through all of its windows. With a colorful backdrop of traditional strung party flags, the large colorful mural taking up the entire length of the restaurant is not to be missed. A favorite of mine would be their dishes with the mole chile, only available during Sunday brunch. Another incredible dish is their BLT—it is one of the best (if not the best, sorry mom!) I have ever had. They also make fresh corn bread, and it is to die for. Definitely where I like to start off a nice casual Sunday.
What are the hottest shows in town, and how do I get tickets?
Shows here are seasonal, so make sure to find out what shows are offered during your stay. During the summer, opera is huge here; we have one of the most beautifully designed opera houses, with five world-class productions every year. The Santa Fe Opera (301 Opera Drive, Tel: 505-986-5900. www.santafeopera.org) is an open-air venue, but there is also a spectacular roof not only to keep you dry, but designed for moving sound to all levels. The views of the landscape from its location as well as the location itself are quite unparalleled. For a unique experience, plan to “tailgate” at the Opera for dinner or a glass of wine. We’ll help to arrange a “tailgate” dinner to take along with you. Usually, guests will take a wonderful charcuterie spread accompanied by a nicely paired wine. However, I have seen lobster cakes and crab legs be taken and enjoyed.
For something year round, with a local flavor, I would recommend a show by the Juan Siddi Flamenco Company (www.facebook.com/juansiddiflamenco). Juan Siddi is a fabulous performer and his contemporary flamenco shows at various locations can be a great way to spend an evening. As these performances always sell out, it’s best to get tickets as early as possible. We have quirky ways of securing the best seats so simply let us know what it is that is needed.
What museums are a must-see for visitors?
I am not a museum person at all. Period. Just don’t do them. However, when it comes to The International Folk Art Museum (706 Camino Lejo, Tel: 505-4761200. www.internationalfolkart.org), I could live there. This museum showcases Alexander Girard’s collection, along with rotating exhibitions of folk creations from around the world. The pieces that these amazing artists have made are beyond alluring. The color, the life within each work, the stories, the collection—it is simply stunning. Santa Fe also houses the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum (217 Johnson Street, Tel: 505946-1000. www.okeeffemuseum.org), dedicated to her life and work.
Which guided tours do you recommend most often to your guests?
On Saturdays, we offer our guests a complimentary guided tour of the historic downtown area. It ranges from an hour to two hours and is one of the best ways to learn about the history of the city. When I first went on the tour I was more than shocked by how much I learned from our certified historian/guide. This tour will open up the downtown area to your imagination. Custom tours are also available for hiking and exploring some of the mountainous areas of Santa Fe or the red rock cliffs of O’Keeffe country near the small city of Abiquiu.
Where can you go to get the best views of the city?
One of my favorite spots, and a place I always go is The Cross of the Martyrs. I prefer to go in the morning, as there is nothing like watching the sun slowly climb to the mountaintop and cast its warmth over the city. I would also go in the evenings to experience a true southwest sunset. The setting colors we have here are unlike anywhere I’ve ever seen, especially because our air is so clear. The color radiates like a fresh rainbow after a new rainfall. For higher altitude views, I would suggest traveling up the road toward our ski area, which at its peak reaches over 12,000 ft. Along the way, you’ll find Aspen Vista, which was an old forest access road turned high mountain trail, with expansive views of the city and surrounding mountain ranges. During the right time in fall, this trail turns bright yellow and orange from the aspen forests and over the years it has become a kind of pilgrimage to walk it.
Where are the best places to workout?
For a private gym experience, the gym at the Five Graces offers our guests state-of- the-art-cardio and cable-weight equipment. Adobe mud walls lined with custom- trim and hand-spun Suzani silk adorn the space. With iPods built into the wall and individualized listening zones, a workout here is also it’s own experience. We can also arrange for a private trainer if a guest is looking for a new routine or simply someone to be there during their regular routine. If you are looking for a larger gym, Santa Fe Spa (786 Calle Mejia, Tel: 505-984-8727. www.santafespa.info) offers a great facility with all the equipment you may ever need.
If someone is looking for a full-service spa, where do you send them?
I would suggest Ten Thousand Waves (3451 Hyde Park Road, Tel: 505-982-9304. www.tenthousandwaves.com). It is one of the country’s only true functioning Japanesestyle spas and is nestled in the foothills of Santa Fe among the pine trees and forest.
What are the best LGBT bars in the city?
Generally, the nightlife in Santa Fe is limited. Throughout the years, we’ve always had at least one great gay/lesbian bar and the best bar in the city is called The Blue Rooster (101 West Marcy Street, Tel: 5052318. www.blueroosterbar.com). It has two bars. The upstairs offers a stylish lounge area if you’re looking for something a little more casual. The downstairs offers a club atmosphere with dancing and DJs. You can find some of the city’s best energy and music here! Every night the music is different, but I find Friday and Saturday are the best times to go. The diverse crowd is always lively and fun, never any drama, and the space is intimate so you are forced to engage and interact but not uncomfortably.
Where can someone go at 3 A.M. for a good meal?
Options are few and far between in Santa Fe, if you’re up late. The Palace Restaurant and Saloon (142 West Palace Avenue, Tel: 505-428-0690. www.palacesantafe.com) is an institution with crimson lighting and velvet-upholstered booths, offering a “saloon” menu until 1 A.M. It can become a lively place after midnight.
What is the iconic tourist souvenir, and where will we find it?
Turquoise! And Turquoise infused jewelry. We recommend buying directly from the artists showcasing their work on the plaza, under the Portal of the Palace of the Governors. It is one of the longest-standing trading posts in the US and will ensure the jewelry is authentic, and the turquoise is good quality.
Please finish this sentence: Don’t leave Santa Fe without…
A walk along Canyon Road, one of the largest art districts in the country. Getting out and experiencing the outdoors and landscape of the southwest. Either a horseback ride with Broken Saddle Ranch (26 Vicksville Road, Tel: 505-424-7774. www.brokensaddle.com) or hot air balloon ride over the desert landscape with Johnny Lewis at Santa Fe Balloons (505699-7555. www.santafeballoons.com), one of the world’s best balloon pilots and an experience in himself. Its even been rumored he may soon appear in his own reality show. Attending one of the annual events or festivals in Santa Fe. During the summer, Santa Fe offers a range of festivals, productions, and art markets. Our favorites are the International Folk Art Market, Indian (Art) Market, and the Santa Fe Opera. If you’re visiting over the holidays, do not miss the farolito walk on Christmas Eve when the roads of the historic east side are lined with farolitos (candle lit bags) and bonfires.