When I order a margarita in other cities, I always ask bartenders if they make theirs using fresh lime. In Santa Fe, this would be considered an insult. Everyone uses only the freshest ingredients, and the idea of using a mix is sacrilegious. There are plenty of places serving great margaritas, but one of my all-time favorites is the Dragon Room Lounge at the Pink Adobe restaurant. The atmosphere is relaxed and the menu offers only six different margaritas. Do we really need to choose from 50?
Explore the Art Scene
If you know Santa Fe, then you know about Canyon Road. This stretch is the city's art district, with more than 100 galleries and shops featuring Native American, abstract, contemporary and 20th-century art. The best time to visit is on a Friday, when many galleries have art openings — and where there's an opening, there's wine … as in free wine! I'm not advocating getting sauced, but it's a refreshing perk. And maybe a glass of pinot grigio will give you the courage to ask someone if he can help explain the difference between contemporary and 20th-century art.
You can't toss a healing crystal in the air without hitting at least two people in the therapeutic arts. This city is an epicenter of enlightened spirituality, and there are thousands of people whose job it is to promote mind/body rest and rejuvenation — sometimes in ways you could never imagine. (Color therapy?)
While in Santa Fe, you should definitely take advantage of being among some of the best massage therapists in the world. My go-to spa is 10,000 Waves, which is designed like a Japaneseonsen, or bathhouse, and the spa itself disappears into the nature surrounding it. The locker rooms are cramped, and for the shy, a heads-up: The ladies' pool is bathing suit optional (I can't speak for the men's). But the massages here are unparalleled. Try the Masters Massage: Your therapist will have 30 to 40 years of experience.
A History Lesson
New Mexico (and the area surrounding Santa Fe) is especially rich in Native American culture, history and arts, and the best place to experience this is at one of the Eight Northern Pueblos, which are an easy day trip from the city. The most popular are Santa Clara Pueblo for the Puye cliff dwellings and the Taos Pueblo, a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its multistory adobe buildings. Most of the Northern Pueblos are about 30 miles from Santa Fe, with Taos the farthest, at about 90 miles.
Samantha Brown, a TV host and blogger, has visited 220 cities in 49 countries. She is AARP's travel ambassador.