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Walk, Bike & Eat Your Way Through Santa Fe

santa fe walking tour 1 smSanta Fe has been part of some of the greatest trails to ever cross the planet. The Camino Real de Tierra Adentro connected Spain and Mexico to Santa Fe and the San Juan Pueblo in the 1500s. The Santa Fe Trail connected New Mexico to Missouri and traders from the United States in the 1800s.

Trails continue to be an important aspect of living and visiting Santa Fe, and the New Mexico Rail Runner Express is now part of these historic connections. Whether you want to get your exercise on the Santa Fe Rail Trail, stroll through Santa Fe’s historic plaza, or eat your way across Santa Fe’s 10 major food districts, the Rail Runner’s Santa Fe Depot Station is the place to start.

The Depot is staffed by the City of Santa Fe’s Tourism Office (800-777-2489). Within that building, one also finds the EcoMotive Electric Bike Shop. Whether you want a train schedule, a map of the city’s trail system, or just a friendly face to talk to, this is where you should start your tour of the City Different. Be forewarned, however, you can’t do this place in one day, and there are 40 restaurants just in the Railyard/Guadalupe food district alone.

Maps and More

The Depot’s racks of publications cover practically every town in New Mexico that’s big enough to hire a publicist. There are vacation guides, the New Mexican’s award-winning “Pasatiempo,” and every Santa Fe visitor should pick up a copy of the Santa Fe Reporter’s “Santa Fe Manual.” The manual has 25 pages devoted to dining.

If you can’t find the map or magazine you want, employees like Frank Garnica are willing to help you benefit from their intimate knowledge of the city.

Garnica has lived in Santa Fe for 40 years, and in addition to knowing the streets and how to get around he can provide a rundown of the restaurants in the Railyard and Downtown food districts and their specials. If price is an issue, he recommends “a funky little place” in State Government’s Bataan Building called Fox’s Downtown. The Del Charro Saloon (101 W. Alameda) also gets high marks for affordable prices, good food and a real Santa Fe atmosphere. Of course, Second Street Brewery in the Railyard District is another favorite for anyone seeking New Mexico’s craft beers.

Pam Sawyer, owner of the EcoMotive (505-795-3782), has lived in Santa Fe for 42 years. Her pick of a Santa Fe Restaurant is the Pink Adobe, but she is biased by the fact she managed the place for 20 years and it’s still owned by a friend. The Pink Adobe (406 Old Santa Fe Trail) is in the Downtown Food District.

If you want to stick closer to the Depot, Pranzo Italian Grill, is just a few blocks from the Depot at 540 Montezuma Ave. Pranzo features Italian comfort food, and its awards from “Wine Spectator” are prominently displayed. Owner/Chef Steve Lemon says the restaurant has been in Santa Fe for 29 years and he’s happy people are discovering the Rail Runner can be used for more than commuting to work.

Ride On

santa fe walking tour 2 smAfter eating your way through a food district or two, you will probably need to spend some time on the Rail Trail or another trail through the city. The Rail Trail – which begins at the Santa Fe Depot but is also accessible off Rabbit Road on the south end of St. Francis – is a well-defined, easy to locate route popular with lots of walkers, bicyclists, and even horseback riders on the more remote stretches, who want to enjoy a few minutes of sunshine and fresh air. The trail goes as far as Eldorado, but riders will be bushwhacking if they try to reach Lamy.

“There are 60 miles of trails across Santa Fe,” says Dan Jeffrey, a veteran who works at the EcoMotive Bike Shop. Jeffery is predominately a mechanic who helps rent and sell the lightly motorized bikes that assist riders. He also issues the Rail Runner’s Freedom Pass at the shop. “I try to watch out for veterans,” he says, “because I am one.” The passes are free to those with a VA medical card, and with connecting bus routes, veterans can travel anywhere from Taos to Socorro.

Veteran or not, Jeffrey will help you find the “Santa Fe Bikeways and Trails Map.” Even if you have no intention of riding the trails and prefer shoe-leather express to the Plaza or the New Mexico History Museum, this map is an excellent resource. It lists nine bike shops in Santa Fe, plus websites for more trail information, cycling advocacy groups, and public safety agencies like the Santa Fe Police Department and the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Department.

The trails map has excellent graphics illustrating roads, train and bus stops and transit centers. Even the Pecos Wilderness and the off-limits Santa Fe Watershed are included. Get this map if you are planning a Santa Fe visit.

Of course, there are other maps you may find handy as well. The “Historic Santa Fe Visitors Map,” published by Tourism Santa Fe, is a full-color guide to the city including major museums and art galleries. Can’t find the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum? You will find this most popular venue on Johnson St. between Guadalupe and Grant (www.okeeffemuseum.org).

Want to visit Museum Hill? There is a detailed map of the botanical garden and four museums right off Old Santa Fe Trail. Want to see the oldest church in the U.S. of A.? It’s right on East De Vargas St., and Old Santa Fe Trail. The oldest house is just a few steps farther east on East De Vargas.

Consider picking up a copy of Santa Fe Selection’s Mini-Guide Maps, too. It has suggestions for shopping, spas, festivals, dining and more. Visit SantaFeSelection.com if you are interested.

Santa Fe Trails offers free downtown shuttle service that connects Rail Runner passengers to all of these museums, the Plaza, and more directly from the Depot. Visit www.takethetrails.com to find the schedule for the Santa Fe Pick-Up Shuttle when you have exhausted your legs biking or walking through historic, dynamic Santa Fe.

Story by Martin Frentzel

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