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Blue skies online

David Zaitz The Compound Restaurant.
A couple clicks their way to a romantic weekend

Tour Santa Fe

August in San Francisco is a peculiar brand of summer: foggy, windy, and cold. Eager for a sunny escape, my husband, Steve, and I surfed websites like Travelocity and Travelzoo to find weekend deals.

There they were: cheap flights to Albuquerque, only an hour's drive from the culture and chile-spiked cuisine of Santa Fe. Its 82° August average fit our needs―and the price was right.

Santa Fe, an old Spanish outpost town in the high desert, is like a richly lit Georgia O'Keeffe canvas: Earth-toned buildings blur with baked soil, and a crystalline blue sky is dotted with steppingstone clouds. Rather than join the Plaza's souvenir-seeking throngs or rush through all of the dozen-plus museums in just two days, we select two must-sees― the O'Keeffe and the Awakening Museum―and hit them early, then head off the beaten path, free map in hand and sun on our shoulders.

Romantic side streets lead to tucked-away home and import stores and a less-traveled route to the Old Santa Fe Trail, where we get our history and architecture fix. Continuing on foot to Canyon Road, the epicenter of the high-end gallery scene, we find the galleries uncrowded. We linger, ogling artwork … and price tags.

Relaxed and recharged, we make one last stop before heading home: a roadside roaster, tumbling fresh green chiles. With 10 pounds of smoky chiles in our carry-on, we take Santa Fe's flavor with us.

Going at the last minute

Rooms are scarce during the popular Santa Fe Indian Market (Aug 20-21).

Stay within walking distance of the Plaza and Canyon Road.

Explore the Web for tips: Try www.collectorsguide.com and http://www.santafe.com