Marriage, Hiking, and Culture: Three Days in Santa Fe

 In Travel

Back in May, Laura and I took a trip to the southwest, somewhere we don’t visit nearly enough, but love so much we decided to make it the destination of one of the most important trips we’d take.

We invited our families to join us in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where we said, “I do” after being together for thirteen years. After a ton of research and planning (about 90% of which, I’d say, was done by Laura), it all came together perfectly. And even if it went totally wrong, I don’t see how such a beautiful place could be home to anything less than an amazing wedding.

Inn of the Turquoise Bear

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The ceremony was held at the Inn of the Turquoise Bear, a bed and breakfast within walking distance of the town’s central plaza. We chose this venue because it’s absolutely beautiful, but also because it’s very rich in artistic history. Our suite, the Witter Bynner room, was named after the inn’s one-time owner. The poet often held what photographer Ansel Adams called “Bynner bashes,” where the secluded lodge would come alive with creativity and fun well into the night.

Each room at the inn is named after somebody who slept in it. People like Adams, D. H. Lawrence, Georgia O’Keeffe and Igor Stravinsky. Because some of the rooms were added on as time went by, each one is unique and incredibly cozy. And the landscaping is beautiful. Tucked away behind an adobe wall, the grounds are filled with lush trees, vibrant gardens, and lots of birds.


The innkeepers, Dan and Alex, were incredible, too. They were super accommodating with everything and even took my vegan diet into consideration when preparing their delicious daily breakfasts and sweets (their vegan Rice Krispies treats nearly did me in!). At breakfast, in addition to the usual fruits and grains, I was given a quinoa porridge and tofu strata as my entrée.

Dan also officiated our wedding. This is part of the elopement package the inn offers. It was perfect. There couldn’t have been a better place for us to tie the knot.

If you’re looking to visit Santa Fe, I highly recommend checking out the Inn of the Turquoise Bear. Their rates are super reasonable and the atmosphere is fantastic.

Rio Chama

Joni Bilderback Photography (

Joni Bilderback Photography (

After our wedding, the reception was held at a nearby restaurant called Rio Chama. It’s known as a steakhouse, but they did a great job accommodating my vegan diet and the couple of vegetarians in our party. That’s a testament to how great the staff was. They were all really friendly, really helpful, and helped to make our evening one we’ll never forget.

The food was equally amazing. My stuffed poblano pepper was made perfectly and several people in our party told me how much they’d loved their meals as well. On top of that, the patio at Rio Chama where we held our reception was gorgeous under the clear Santa Fe starlight.

Around Santa Fe

A few blocks uptown in the plaza, there’s a lot to see. From artists selling their work and souvenir stands to historic churches, you can spend a whole day engrossed in local culture.

Wares from local artists

Wares from local artists

Cow skulls at a plaza shop

Cow skulls at a plaza shop

Rosary tree at Loretto chapel

Rosary tree at Loretto chapel

We took a Loretto Tour, and our guide explained a lot of Santa Fe culture. He drove us through the town, up to the art district on Canyon Road, and then through the outskirts of town where we learned about the history (and some gossip) of the surrounding mountains. The tour inspired our wedding party to take a pre-ceremony hike the next day.

We climbed the trail that goes up Atalaya Mountain. It’s about six miles from bottom (the trailhead is at St. John’s College) to top and 1,700 feet above Santa Fe’s already higher-than-Denver altitude (If you visit, be sure to drink a lot of water and protect the skin on your face; my lips were unbearably chapped for the whole trip and I spent more time applying balm than doing anything else). The view from the top of the mountain is breathtaking, as you look down over the town and all the desert and mountains that surround it. In reading comments from people online who’ve taken this trail, I’ve learned that it’s not as difficult in general as I found it to be. I’d thought I was in good shape, but apparently I’m not!

View from the top of Atalaya Mountain

View from the top of Atalaya Mountain

Our photographer, Joni Bilderback, has a few shots from our wedding on her blog here.

STILL TO COME: Ghost Ranch > Mesa Verde > The Grand Canyon > Sedona > Palm Springs > Joshua Tree > Big Bear Lake > Los Angeles

*Feature photo by Joni Bilderback Photography.

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