If you've spent more than a couple of minutes in Santa Fe, you know the people here love dogs—for many of us, our furry companions are not only our best friends, but our family. Visitors want this too, so it makes sense that Santa Fe recently earned high ranks as a dog-friendly travel destination.
"I've always heard that it was a dog-friendly environment," says Santa Fe resident Ben Ellingson, who visited the Frank S Ortiz dog park on a recent afternoon. He moved here five years ago but previously visited friends several times.
The City Different ranked 14 on a list of the 100 "Best Places to Visit with Your Dog" by consumer advocacy organization Reviews.com, with a "dog friendliness score" of 55.75. Reviews analyzed 567 cities considered tourist destinations, and scored them based on a criteria that included number of dog parks, availability of dog trails and options for dog-friendly lodging.
A quick Google search of "pet-friendly hotels" in Santa Fe returns nearly 50 results, including the Santa Fe Sage Inn and Suites (725 Cerrillos Road). Director of sales and marketing Starla Gomez tells SFR that, as a dog parent herself, she knows that accommodating dogs is a big plus for a tourist draw like Santa Fe.
"Santa Fe is just a very popular destination, so people are going to come [here], and if they know that they can travel with their pet, that's a nice perk," she says. "Here, as long as your pet's well-behaved, they can stay in the room while you get to go out and enjoy your dinner or whatever."
Larry and Chris Wesneski travel to Santa Fe from Texas every August with their dog, Rudy. They say that the city's welcoming attitude towards their furry child is one of the big draws that keeps them coming back.
"It's a very relaxed atmosphere, not extremely formal, and the people are just very laid back and dog-accepting," Chris tells SFR.
The Wesneskis cited dog-friendly accommodations and climate as the main criteria they take into consideration when traveling, because Rudy doesn't tolerate heat. They said the City Different meets those requirements and more.
"Many restaurants like dogs, and allow dogs to come in," Larry says. Dog-friendly dining also played into Santa Fe's dog-friendliness score; a number of restaurants in the city, including Sage Inn's Social Kitchen + Bar, allow dogs on their patios, which enables traveling dog parents to enjoy a meal without the need to leave their dogs behind. A 2011 amendment to the New Mexico Food Sanitation Act made it legal for people to bring their furry companions with them when they grab a bite on the patio at the discretion of individual restaurants.
The Wesneskis say Rudy "absolutely loves" their trips to Santa Fe and anticipates them as much as they do.
"He definitely knows when we're coming," Chris says.
Rudy and his family especially love the Plaza, Larry tells SFR. "It's nice to come to the square like this, and you see a lot of dog lovers here. They come by, and visit, and so you get to meet some new people."
Perhaps one of the City Different's biggest draws for dog families is Frank S Ortiz Park (160 Camino de las Crucitas). The sprawling 135-acre park features trails and open areas where dogs can run and play off-leash, and it attracts travelers who visit with their four-legged babies.
"I'm [originally] from Minnesota, and this is by far the biggest dog park I've ever been to," says Ellingson, who visits the park regularly with his dog, Roo. Other outdoor activities, such as hiking, are another big attraction for people with dogs, he says.
Santa Fe resident Steve Boyle and his border collie mix, Flip, also visit the park, which he says offers "the best view of Santa Fe." He says he regularly meets travelers there.
"There was a couple [at the park] this week with Ohio tags, and they come every year, and they brought their dogs," he says. "They said they come for the art and the food, but they also bring their dogs because [Santa Fe is] dog-friendly."
Boyle rescued Flip from the Santa Fe Animal Shelter, where he was taken after being rescued in Amarillo, Texas because of the shelter's no-kill policy. Boyle says that policy has been a large draw for numerous traveling dog lovers that he's met at the dog park.
"It's just the culture," he offers.
Besides, for a town with so much to offer, traveling with a dog to Santa Fe just makes sense.
"It's like the mountain-town vibe. You've gotta have a four-legged friend to tag along with you on your adventures," Ellingson says.