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Santa Fe Holiday Traditions: Beyond the Ordinary

Program Number: 6858RJ
Start and End Dates:
12/23/2013 - 12/29/2013; 12/23/2015 - 12/29/2015; 12/23/2016 - 12/29/2016;
Duration: 6 nights
Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico
Price starting at: $1,665.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: Holidays Activity Level: t (see description)
Meals: 17; 6 Breakfasts, 5 Lunches, 6 Dinners    
Meal Options: Vegetarian    

Santa Fe is a magical place during the winter holidays. The different cultures of northern New Mexico mark this time in their own fashion: colorful Pueblo Indian dances and feast days, Hispanic festivities such as the display of luminarias and farolitos (small paper lanterns), and more. Experience a mosaic of exciting traditions that mark Christmas and the beginning of winter.


• Enjoy a Christmas Eve concert presented by Performance Santa Fe and participate in the traditional "Farolito Walk" on Canyon Road.
• Experience the unique Christmas celebrations that blend the traditional beliefs of the Pueblo people and those of the Spanish colonists.
• Learn to prepare delicious Southwestern cuisine during a class at a local cooking school, then, as a group, enjoy the completed meal.

Activity Particulars

Walking up to two miles per day over uneven, unpaved surfaces. Some stairs. Standing for up to two hours during Native American dances. Elevations of 7,000 feet.

Coordinated by Road Scholar.

Santa Fe

A cosmopolitan city famous for its world-renowned opera, chamber and choral music and for its art and artists, Santa Fe is situated at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Nearby, eight historic, continuously occupied pueblos and small Hispanic villages divulge a heritage that is impeccably preserved in this multi-cultural state capital.

Full service hotel near historic downtown Plaza.

Road Scholar Instructors
These instructors are participating on at least one date of this program. Please note that changes may occur.
Ronald Roybal

Ronald Roybal is a professional musician who performs in the New Mexico area. A descendant of Spanish Colonial and Pueblo (Tewa) peoples, he has been nominated for four Native American Music Awards for his flute and Spanish guitar recordings. Ronald has been featured twice on NPR’s “Performance Today” program and has performed live at concert venues such as the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival and the Colorado Music Festival. He holds bachelor’s degrees in anthropology and psychology.
Meals and Lodgings
   Hilton Santa Fe Historic Plaza
  Santa Fe 6 nights
 Hilton Santa Fe Historic Plaza
Type: Full Service Hotel
  Description: This charming hotel is located one block from the historic downtown Plaza and is surrounded by Santa Fe restaurants and shops with convenient transportation nearby. 100% non-smoking facility.
  Contact info: 100 Sandoval Street
Santa Fe, NM 87507 USA
phone: 505-988-2811
  Room amenities: Southwest motif, Hilton Serenity Bed and Amenity Collections, coffee and tea service, ironing boards, robes, hair dryer and makeup mirror
  Facility amenities: Business Center, Complimentary printing service, fax, express mail, notary public, office rental, photo copying service, video conferencing available, video messaging, video phone, 24-hour Pavilion Pantry Market, laundry-valet service, ATM, baggage storage, bar area, concierge desk, elevators, gift shop, guest activity/recreation desk, lounge, multi-lingual staff, room service, fitness room, pool
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights prior: best seasonal rates Request additional nights directly from hotel prior to arrival by calling 505-988-2811.
  Check in time: 4:00 PM
  Additional nights after: best seasonal rates Request additional nights directly from hotel prior to arrival by calling 505-988-2811.
  Check out time: 12:00 PM

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
Hotel check-in from 3:00 PM to 5:30 PM. Register with the Road Scholar group leader between 4:00 and 5:30 PM. You will be staying at Hilton Santa Fe Historic Plaza that night.
  End of Program:
Program ends after buffet breakfast in hotel dining room between 6:30 & 9:30 AM; checkout by noon. You will be staying at Hilton Santa Fe Historic Plaza the night before.
  Required documents:
The Participant Information Form is required.
  Parking availability:
Parking is free at the hotel. Participants have access to their vehicles throughout the program.
To Start of Program
  Location:  Santa Fe
  Nearest city or town:  Albuquerque
  Nearest highway: I-25
  Nearest airport:  Albuquerque International Sunport and Santa Fe Municipal Airport (very small airport; commuter flights only)
  From End of Program
  Location: Santa Fe
    (Additional transportation information same as above)
Travel Details

Santa Fe


From Airport




Commercial Van/Shuttle
Sandia Shuttle Express
phone: 888-775-5696
Advanced Reservations Required


Per Person/One Way:


Prices are subject to change.


Travel Time:


Approximately 70 minutes 




65 miles


Sandia Shuttle Express offers regular service between the Albuquerque Sunport (not the Santa Fe airport) and Santa Fe. Let shuttle service know, when you make reservations, the hotel at which you'd like to be dropped off in Santa Fe, and when you wish to return to Albuquerque. Reservations for the shuttles must be made at least 24 hours in advance of your travel date, or your place on the shuttle will not be guaranteed.


Santa Fe


From Airport




Commercial Van/Shuttle


Travel Time:


5 to 10 minutes 


The Santa Fe airport is serviced by a limited number of flights and airlines. If you choose to fly into/out of Santa Fe, please call your hotel before the program starts for their recommendation regarding shuttle transportation from/to the airport.

Driving Directions
  From Albuquerque International Airport Take Interstate I-25 North. Exit at St. Francis Drive. Continue to Cerrillos Road. Turn right on Cerrillos Road and veer left onto Sandoval Street. Continue for 1/2 mile. The Hilton Hotel is located at 100 Sandoval, which will be on the left-hand side of the street.
  From North and South on I-25 From I-25 (all directions) take the St. Francis/Santa Fe Plaza exit; continue to Cerrillos Road. Turn right on Cerrillos Road. Access the left lane, follow the left split which turns into Sandoval Street. Remain on Sandoval Street for 1/2 mile. The Hilton Santa Fe Historic Plaza is on the left hand side of Sandoval Street after crossing over West Alameda
Elevation Note: Santa Fe is at an elevation of 7,000'.

The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Daily Schedule

Day 1: Arrive in Santa Fe
(Monday, December 23)
 Arrive To: Arrive at the Hilton Santa Fe Historic Plaza Hotel between 3:00 and 5:30 PM for check-in and registration with the program's group leader.

You'll be charmed from the moment of your arrival by the ambience of this lovely hotel, which is a short walk from the historic downtown plaza.

 Dinner: Dinner at the hotel
 Evening: Orientation and introductions from 7:00 - 8:30 PM
Accommodations: Hilton Santa Fe Historic Plaza
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 2: Morning Classes/Walking Exploration of Santa Fe/Christmas Eve Concert at Lensic Performing Arts Center
(Tuesday, December 24)

Note: Walking up to one mile over uneven paved terrain over course of the day.

 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel
 Morning: Classes about Santa Fe's history and northern New Mexico multicultural holiday traditions.

Santa Fe is a cultural melting pot, and it's quite amazing how these many cultural groups have managed to coexist and blend some of their traditions while maintaining many very individualized ways of celebrating the holidays.

The class will help you understand how different peoples celebrate the season, and you'll have a greater appreciation for all that goes on in and around Santa Fe during the week that you'll be with us.

 Lunch: Lunch at the hotel
 Afternoon: Walking exploration of the downtown plaza, sacred spaces and places, and Santa Fe's historic east side, followed by some free time.

Walk to the Lensic Performing Arts Center at 4:30 PM for an early Christmas-eve concert provided by the Santa Fe Concert Association. This year's performance includes Beethoven's Concerto in D major, Op. 61, and features guest violinist Caroline Goulding.

 Dinner: Dinner at the hotel hotel following the concert
 Evening: Free evening to relax at the hotel or enjoy local activities on your own
Accommodations: Hilton Santa Fe Historic Plaza
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: Tesuque Pueblo Dances/Special Holiday Dinner//Videos in Hotel Meeting Room
(Wednesday, December 25)

Note: Walking up to one mile over the course of the day over uneven packed dirt and paved terrain; standing up to one hour during dances at the pueblo

 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel
 Morning: Happy Holidays!!

This morning is free to sleep late, walk around the beautiful downtown area, attend church services at St. Francis Cathedral or another church of your choice if you wish.......the morning is yours to enjoy!

The hotel lobby is beautifully decorated for the holidays and just sitting in one of their comfortable lounge chairs and reading a special book is a great way to relax and celebrate.

 Lunch: A special holiday luncheon will be provided at one of Santa Fe's hotels from 12:00 to 1:30 PM.
 Afternoon: Bus departs at 1:30 PM to see the holiday dances at Tesuque Pueblo.

Almost all of the local pueblos have holiday dances, but Tesuque Pueblo is close to Santa Fe and their December 25 celebration offers various dances, including deer and buffalo dances.

Tesuque Pueblo is situated along the banks of the Tesuque River. The two- and three-story adobe room blocks surround a small plaza and Catholic church.

The traditional character of this pueblo is so well maintained that Tesuque is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Tesuque Valley has long been a favored locale for human habitation. Archeological sites in the valley date back to at least A.D. 850, and may have been settled by immigrants from Chaco Canyon.

By A.D. 1200, as many as a dozen small pueblos and hundreds of individual homes dotted the valley. When the Spanish arrived in 1541, they found the population had consolidated into six villages, including the ancestral Tesuque, located about three miles east of the present village.

Tesuque residents played an important role in the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. Diseases introduced by the Spanish, loss of water rights and choice farmland, and other factors eroded the pueblo over the next few centuries, and by 1910 only seventy-seven inhabitants remained in Tesuque.

Since then, the pueblo's population has grown to about four hundred, and the residents have strengthened their culture and social customs.

The tribal government owns a popular flea market close to Santa Fe and a casino. Income is being used to build a new health facility and community center, to operate the tribe's Head Start and day school programs, and for restoration of homes surrounding the village plaza.

Tesuque maintains an organic commercial farm enterprise. Most tribal residents work off the reservation in Santa Fe and elsewhere.

 Dinner: Dinner at the hotel
 Evening: Optional video
Accommodations: Hilton Santa Fe Historic Plaza
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Santa Fe School of Cooking Class/Santa Fe School of Cooking/Free Afternoon/Dinner on Your Own/Free Evening
(Thursday, December 26)

Note: Walking up to one mile over paved terrain over the course of the day

 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel
 Morning: Enjoy a class about New Mexico's culture and traditions from 8:30-9:30 AM, then walk to the Santa Fe School of Cooking for a New Mexican cooking class.

Well-known throughtout the travel industry and by the local population of Santa Fe, the Cooking School will show you how various chili peppers are utilized in preparation of Southwestern cuisine; you'll learn how to prepare a very traditional northern New Mexican meal with an excellent chef who is also a great instructor.

The Cooking School has a fabulous gift shop, where they stock the spices and chili used in their food preparation, as well as wonderful kitchen equipment, cookbooks, lots of New Mexican items, and lots more. They'll ship your purchases home for you if you desire.

 Lunch: Enjoy the foods you've seen prepared with lunch at the School of Cooking.
 Afternoon: Free afternoon to enjoy Santa Fe on your own
 Dinner: Dinner is on your own this evening. Your group leader can give you some suggestions for some great restaurants in the downtown area.
 Evening: Free evening
Accommodations: Hilton Santa Fe Historic Plaza
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Santo Domingo Pueblo Dances/Museum of Indian Arts and Culture/Museum of International Folk Art
(Friday, December 27)

Note: Walking up to one mile over packed dirt and paved terrain over course of the day. Standing up to one hour during pueblo dances. More standing at museums, but there are opportunities to sit as needed.

 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel
 Morning: Learn about Pueblo dances in class, then leave at 9:30 AM for the Corn Dance at Santo Domingo Pueblo.

Santo Domingo is one of the most populous yet least open of all NM pueblos. It is home to many talented artists who rely on contact with outside markets for their livelihood and are happy to see visitors.

The pueblo has an especially lovely Catholic church and some fine arts and crafts shops.

It is a Keres-speaking pueblo established in the 15th century by immigrants from villages atop the nearby Pajarito Plateau. Santo Domingo was the site in 1598 of the first gathering of thirty-eight pueblo governors when Don Juan de Onate called on the Pueblo peoples to pledge allegiance to the Spanish Crown.

Today, the All-Indian Pueblo Council assembles here for its first meeting of the year, continuing this oldest of America's political gatherings.

Currently, the tribe has a population of more than 4,500 people, two-thirds of whom live on the reservation, which encompasses 81,000 acres, including upland mesas, grasslands, a portion of the Galisteo Creek drainage, and astretch of the Rio Grande.

Santo Domingo artisans are known for beadwork and other jewelry and pottery.

Depart for Santa Fe at noon.

 Lunch: Lunch at Museum Hill Cafe
 Afternoon: This afternoon you'll visit the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture and the Museum of International Folk Art.

These two museums are part of the New Mexico State Museums in Santa Fe.

The MIAC features an incredible collection of pottery, rugs, basketry, jewelry, artifacts, and more from Native American tribes - they also have a lovely gift shop.

The Museum of International Folk Art offers the enormous folk art collections of Alexander Girard, beautifully displayed and most accessible for viewing.

The museum also features the Neutrogena Collection, an incredible exhibit of fiber arts from around the world. You'll want to spend lots of time at these two extraordinary facilities!

Bus departs at 5:00 pm for return to the hotel.

 Dinner: Dinner at the hotel
 Evening: Optional video
Accommodations: Hilton Santa Fe Historic Plaza
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: Santa Clara Pueblo/Rancho de Chimayó/Music of the Southwest Performance and Presentation
(Saturday, December 28)

Note: Walking up to one mile over packed dirt and paved terrain; standing at pottery studio

 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel
 Morning: Bus departs at 9:30 AM for a trip to Santa Clara Pueblo, one of the most popular pueblos for visitors.

Its tribal members are among the most artistically active of all the pueblos. Santa Claran ancestors most likely migrated south from the Four Corners region to the Chama River Valley between A.D. 1100 and 1300.

These Tewa-speaking people established several pueblos, including Puye. By 1400, as many as 1500 people occupied up to one thousand rooms.

A major drought forced them to abandon Puye in the 16th century and move down the canyon near the Rio Grande.

In 1598, Spanish colonists brought missionaries to Santa Clara, and a Catholic church was erected circa 1622. The pueblo residents participated in the Pueblo Revolt of 1680.

The Spanish returned in 1692, and the pueblo was temporarily abandoned until the 18th century.

Today, Santa Clara is home to about 2,600 people. Many work in Los Alamos, Espanola or Santa Fe, but many are artists or craftspeople.

The tribe's 47,000 acres supports some farming along the valley floor.

The pueblo is best known for magnificent pottery; one in four residents is a potter.

You'll visit the shop of Paul and Rosalda Speckled Rock, who come from families of famous Santa Clara potters. Mr. Speckled Rock will talk to you about the special production methods for making pottery at his pueblo.

After visiting the pottery studio, you'll see some of the Holy Innocent's Day dances.

At 12:30, the bus will depart for the Hispanic village of Chimayó.

 Lunch: Lunch from 1:15 until 2:15 at Rancho de Chimayó.

Rancho de Chimayó has been owned and operated for many years by a family from Chimayó, and is one of the best-known restaurants in the northern New Mexico area.

The food is tradtional northern New Mexican style, but there are menu items that are not spicy and all chili can be ordered "on the side."

You can also be brave and order "Christmas style" chili - which simply means you'd like to have both red and green varieties on your food.

Vegetarian cuisine is also offered as a menu choice. You'll especially enjoy the traditional holiday decor in this charming old family home turned "famous restaurant!"

 Afternoon: Depart at 1:45 from Rancho de Chimayó for return trip to Santa Fe. Bus will drive you around the little town, showing you El Santuario de Chimayó, the "Lourdes of Northern New Mexico."

If the church is open to visitors, we'll make a brief stop there so you can see the stations of the cross, the retablo, bultos, and the room at the back that has what many consider "healing earth" and simple testimonies of many people to the healing properties they feel are here at the church.

Arrive back in Santa Fe by about 4:30 PM.

From 5:00 PM until 6:00 PM, enjoy a presentation exploring and listening to Native American music with musician Ron Roybal.

Mr. Roybal has won many awards for his original and traditional renditions of Native American music. He's dedicated to maintaining the integrity of this musical heritage, and is a fine singer, guitarist and player of the Native American flute.

He's one of our Road Scholar teaching treasures, and we know you'll enjoy your time with him.

 Dinner: Dinner at the hotel
 Evening: Program closing
Accommodations: Hilton Santa Fe Historic Plaza
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 7: Breakfast and Departure
(Sunday, December 29)
 Depart From: Independent departures from Hilton Santa Fe Historic Plaza. Checkout time is by 12:00 noon.
 Breakfast: Breakfast is served from 7:00 AM until 8:00 AM; you may depart at any time in the morning.
Meals Included: Breakfast
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Suggested Reading List

Christmas in Old Santa Fe

Author: Pedro Ribera Ortega

Description: Delightful book about holiday customs in Santa Fe

Cooking With the Santa Fe Opera

Author: Santa Fe Opera Guild

Dogs of God: Columbus, the Inquisition, and the Defeat of the Moors

Author: Reston, James Jr.

Georgia O'Keeffe and New Mexico: A Sense of Place

Author: Buhler Lynes/Poling-Kempes/Turner

Heaven's Window: A Journey Through Northern New Mexico

Author: Wallis, Michael & Parsons, Jack

Description: Photographer Jack Parson's stunning images reveal the magical qualities of the upper Rio Grande region. this compelling spot in the Southwest, which includes Santa Fe, Taos and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, has long been a magnetic crossroads. travel with parsons to bustling Indian marketplaces, charming historic churches, ancient petroglyphs, lively fiestas, and haunting old ranchos. Award-winning storyteller, Michael Wallis explores the rich history of this remarkable region. Peeling back the layers of time, Wallis gets at the enchantment, turbulence, and mystery of this very special place and the people - native American, Hispanic, Anglo and others - who inhabit it.

Indian Arts of the Southwest

Author: Page, Susanne & Jake

Pueblos of the Rio Grande: A Visitor's Guide

Author: Daniel Gibson

Description: One of the best and most definitive books on the Pueblos along the Rio Grande in New Mexico. Information about pueblo events including feast days and special dances included, as well as a page or two of information about the origination and history of each pueblo. An excellent book for anyone interested in New Mexico's pueblos and the people who keep the traditions alive.

The Essence of Santa Fe: From a Way of Life to a Style

Author: Hammett, Jerilou & Kingsley

The Pink Adobe Cookbook

Author: Rosalea Murphy

Description: From the long-time owner and creator of one of Santa Fe's most famous restaurants, The Pink Adobe, this cookbook features many of the unique and delicious recipes created by Rosalea Murphy and some of her top chefs.

The Santa Fe Opera: An American Pioneer

Author: Huscher, Phillip

The Santa Fe School of Cooking Cookbook

Author: Susan D. Curtis

Description: Contains some of the very best recipes from Santa Fe School of Cooking and features glorious photography.

The Spell of New Mexico

Author: Hillerman, Tony (Editor)

Description: A gathering of essays that evoke the unique and mysterious appeal New Mexico has had for some of the twentieth century's best-known writers. included are selections by Mary Austin, Oliver La Farge, Conrad Richter, D.H. Lawrence, C.G. Jung, Winfield Townley Scott, John DeWitt McKee, Ernie Pyle, Harvey Fergusson, and Lawrence Clark Powell. Hillerman's preface and introduction are choice specimens of his incisive humor and his own deep love of the state.

The Wines of New Mexico

Author: Sandersier, Andy

Through the Eye of the Deer: An Anthology of Native American Women Writers

Author: Dunn, Carolyn, & Comfort, Carol

Tierra: Contemporary Short Fiction of New Mexico

Author: Anaya, Rudolfo

Walking the Twilight: Women Writers of the Southwest

Author: Wilder, Kathryn

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