It's easy to love Santa Fe during the holidays. Visit the historic Plaza on any chilly, clear evening from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day, and I defy you not to be entranced by the silvery lights strung on every tree, sparkling against the dusk. In the last glow of the sunset, the adobe buildings lining the Plaza blush like schoolgirls.
The farolitos, those luminous little bags of candles and sand that are lit by hand each night, flicker. If the ongoing drought isn't playing killjoy, confectionery snow will dust the tree branches and grass. The city has a hushed, reverent quality at this time of year, despite the hordes of tourists that show up for the festivities.Santa Fe holiday
For more information about holiday events, consult the Santa Fe Convention and Visitors Bureau (800/777-2489). To get to the Railyard District, follow Paseo de Peralta to its intersection with South Guadalupe Street.
What to do
Farolito walk: Santa Fe's signature seasonal event is always on Christmas Eve. Start at the base of Canyon Rd. at dusk, follow the crowds, sip cider, and ooh at the farolitos.
Las Posadas: In the historic Plaza, a solemn, joyous reenactment of the journey of Mary and Joseph. 5 p.m. Dec 17; free; www.museumsofnewmexico.org or 505/476-5100.
Santa Fe Pro Musica at Loretto Chapel: Baroque music and Old English carols by Santa Fe Pro Musica fill the sanctuary and swell the heart at Loretto Chapel. 8 p.m. Dec 19-24, 6 p.m. Dec 21, 22, and 24; from $15; 207 Santa Fe Trail; 800/960-6680.
Santa Fe Southern Railway: Four-hour round-trips, including a stop for lunch in Lamy (from $37, $23 ages 3-13) or 2½-hour "Hot Shots" without the Lamy layover (from $33, $19 ages 3-13). Santa and caroling on trips before Christmas. 888/989-8600.
Art: Nedra Matteucci Galleries is strong in Western artists (1075 Paseo de Peralta; 505/982-4631). See www.canyonroadarts.com for Canyon Road listings, including gallery specialties. In the Railyard District is Site Santa Fe ($10, but free on Fridays; 1606 Paseo de Peralta; 505/989-1199).
Where to shop
Boots: Cowboy wannabes wait months and spend thousands for bespoken, handmade boots from Back at the Ranch Cowboy Boots (209 E. Marcy St.; 888/962-6687), a small, cheery shop near the Plaza.
Jewelry: The Native American Artisan Program's marketplace is in the portal of the Palace of the Governors on the Plaza (505/476-5112). And check out Cruz Gallery (616 Canyon Rd.; 505/986-0644).
Stocking stuffers: Jackalope features imports from China, India, and Mexico, as well as Southwestern items with a sense of humor. 2820 Cerrillos Rd.; 505/471-8539.
Where to eat
Harry's Roadhouse: A locals' favorite, with the best huevos rancheros in town: $; 96-B Old Las Vegas Hwy.; 505/989-4629.
Tomasita's: The dining room overlooks pavement and the wait is often long, but the blue-corn chicken enchiladas with "Christmas chile" (meaning, in the local patois, red and green) are quintessential Santa Fe. $; 500 S. Guadalupe St.; 505/983-5721.