Even if you're not yet ready to retire, San Miguel de Allende is perfect for a vacation or long weekend getaway.
United and American airlines offer connecting flights (via Texas) to San Miguel's two closest airports, Leon/Guanajuato (BJX), 90 minutes away, and Queretaro (QRO), one hour away. Round-trip airfares start around $600. Multiple airlines offer flights to Mexico City, which is three hours from San Miguel.
When to go
January may be the sole inclement month to travel, and even then it's nothing compared to a typical Baltimore winter. By March, you're nearly guaranteed perfect weather for the rest of the year. The week before Easter Sunday is Semana Santa, or Holy Week; visitors are treated to special processions and street displays while this Catholic nation prepares for its holiest day. Summers are mild and green; expect temperatures in the low 80s. Fall is fiesta time; celebrations include Dia de Independencia on Sept. 16 (commemorating Mexico's declaration of independence from the Spanish in 1810), and a large street party honoring the town's patron saint, Miguel, at the beginning of October.
With the opening of two new luxury hotels, the five-star Rosewood Resort (rosewoodhotels.com) and Hotel Matilda (hotelmatilda.com), San Miguel has lodging options for all budgets. Many of its colonial homes have been converted into chic B&Bs: Casa Calderoni is a charming, inexpensive pick with nine individual rooms in the historic center (casacalderoni.com), while Antigua Capilla has extraordinary views from its eight rooms overlooking town (antiguacapillasanmiguel.com).
San Miguel street food may be the most delicious, authentic cuisine you'll find in Mexico. There are stands that specialize in morning tacos with fillings of eggs and beans, stewed chicken and onion, or pulled pork, always served with fresh cilantro, onion and salsa. Others open only at night and offer grilled meats. For a more upscale experience, try one of these new restaurants that cater to an international palate:
La Parada, Recreo 94, tel. 415-152 0473, http://www.laparadasma.com. Housed in an exquisite garden and interior dining room with wood-burning fireplace, the beautifully styled setting only matches the creative cuisine coming from the Peruvian kitchen. Don't miss the appetizer of mashed potatoes, octopus and black olive, or white fish ceviche with grilled mango and coconut.
Bhaji, Cuadrante 34, tel. 415-152-6349. Ever since this tiny, well-designed nook opened in December in the center of town, it's been filled with loyal customers who crave its authentic curries, naan and mulligatawny soup. It only seats 14 at a time, so make a reservation.
Cafe Firenze, Plaza de San Antonio #2 on Callejón de San Antonio 1, tel. 415-121-0763, http://www.cafefirenzesanmiguel.com. It's hard to travel anywhere and not crave a good Italian meal. Happily, this charming second-story restaurant serves up fantastic, freshly made cuisine.
Mixta (Pila Seca 3, 415-152-7343, http://www.mixtasanmiguel.com) is the place to go for unusual crafts and jewelry, all reasonably priced. You'll find textiles from southern Mexico and Guatemala, a large selection of scarves and decorative pillows, scented candles, Indian kaftans, and cotton blankets and wraps.
Casa Catalina (Jesus 26, 415-150-0061) offers a large selection in a tiny shop of mercury glass dishes, trays, picture frames, candleholders, and chunky jewelry. You'll also find beautiful barware with raised silver saints on the sides.
Agua de Coco (Sollano 31, 415-154-9132) raises the bar for high-end clothing and accessories. It features airy linens, leather sandals, vintage sunglasses, and stylish Bohemian frocks, much of it hand-sourced in Mexico City.