Santa Fe, New Mexico has a lot to offer. Here’s a perfect travel guide to help you plan the best vacation in the “The City Different” of the United States of America
Santa Fe is a city of superlatives. Sculpted on the foundation of Native American, Spanish and Anglo cultures, it is where the fine arts flourish, New Mexican Cuisine rules the dining table and Adobe are still the preferred building material. At 7,000 feet above sea level, Santa Fe offers visitors a culturally diverse experience served in the most authentic way. It’s over 300 days of the sunshine per year and above-average air quality has been attracting visitors for centuries. With walkable neighborhoods dominated by pueblo-style architecture and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains cradling the city, Santa Fe has preserved its warm, inviting, small-town feel. No matter what interest, season, food, culture and nature buff you are, Santa Fe will give you enough reasons to have a life-long affair with it. Here’s a Perfect Travel Guide for Santa Fe, New Mexico Points of Interest to help you navigate your way through “the City Different”.
Best Time to Go
Santa Fe is a destination for every season. Although it is a high mountain desert, its weather has four distinct but hospitable seasons. You can choose your visit depending on your interests. Summer is the peak season when the days are hot and ideal for long outings, but the shoulder seasons of fall and spring are pleasant too with some fantastic festivals. Winters is an ideal time for skiing, thanks to the generous amount of Powdery snow it gets.
Santa Fe has been attracting travelers for long, thanks to 325 days of glorious sunshine a year. December is the coldest month, with an average high temperature of 43°F (6°C), and July is the warmest month, with an average high temperature of 86°F (30°C). The city gets its share of monsoon in late summer, where it rains for about an hour most afternoons.
Fly direct to Santa Fe Municipal Airport from Phoenix and Dallas via American Airlines or from Denver via United Airlines.
Fly to Albuquerque, one hour South of Santa Fe, from 22 major cities of the US. New Mexico Railrunner provides daily comfortable train service to Santa Fe.
The best thing about Santa Fe is how convenient and cheap it is to navigate through the city. There are plenty of options and most are free. While the downtown and Canyon Road are walkable, you’ll need a car or Santa Fe Pickup (a free shuttle) to visit the rest of Santa Fe. The RTD Blue Bus is another very good free option. Uber is a reasonable too.
Santa has great stay options to suit any kind of budget. Either you can stay near downtown or out in the middle of the desert. Near the Santa Fe Plaza, you’ll find several gorgeous hotels—most built in the adobe-pueblo style—with Southwestern décor and contemporary art. Additionally, you can find destination resorts in Ojo Caliente, Ranchos de Albuquerque, and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, where amenities include horseback trail rides, fields of lavender, and a full Japanese onsen spa.
I stayed at Inn on The Alameda, nestled in the heart of the city, minutes away from the historic Santa Fe Plaza and the Canyon Road. The 72 rooms and suites hotel built in distinctive Pueblo-style architecture is spread across two acres and ten buildings.
I was booked in Santa Fe Suites, which combined the fine amenities of a boutique hotel with the peaceful and welcoming feeling of a private home. My bed was king-size, a separate living area equipped with a sofa, a wet bar with Keurig coffee maker and Newman’s Own organic coffee, a mini-refrigerator, an in-room safe, a Kiva fireplace and a fancy bathroom.
Staying at Inn on the Alameda, was like staying at a friend’s place having a fine taste. From hardwood floors to hand loomed rugs to distinctive regional artwork (which I was told is handpicked by the owners themselves from Mexico); everything reflected Santa Fe’s flair of its artistic heritage.
The daily lavish buffet breakfast and 4-5 pm complimentary wine-and-cheese hour were delightful. The front desk staff, the restaurant staff, and the housekeeping staff were all very friendly and helpful. It was nice being around so many smiling and friendly people. They were so helpful that they became my de facto travel guide, helping me explore places that I could have never explored myself. Their free shuttle was a great touch of customer service. All in all, it is a wonderful property, perfectly positioned to enjoy the downtown plaza and is staffed with great people. I highly recommend it.
Hotel Rates (depending on availability and season):
- Traditional Santa Fe rooms: with one or two queen beds start from $159 to $289 and with two queen beds or one king bed and a patio or balcony from $169 to $309
- Deluxe room: with one king bed ranges from $199 to $359 and with one king bed or two queen beds and a Kiva fireplace starts from $219 to $379
- Suites: from $259 to $629, depending on the season and the specific suite available
Other good places:
- La Fonda on the Plaza: A historical luxury hotel, which has become a city landmark. Doubles from $300.
- Four Seasons Rancho Encantado: A secluded resort with 65 casita-style guest rooms, each with its own fireplace and terrace. Doubles from $330.
- Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi: Just steps away from Santa Fe’s historic Plaza with 58-rooms, each incorporates local handcrafted textiles and paintings into its design. Doubles from $315.
- Sunrise Springs Spa Resort: A wellness resort having natural springs and 70 acres of gardens, walking trails, and undeveloped desert. Doubles from $280.
- Drury Plaza: Located in downtown Santa Fe having spacious 182-rooms. Doubles from $170.
Restaurants & Cafés
- il Piatto Farmhouse Kitchen for farm fresh Italian food with locally sourced produce and meat
- Bell Tower at La Fonda for the best sunset and legendary margaritas served with select free starters
- Café Pasqual for the renowned Mexican and New Mexican cuisine.
- Kakawa Chocolate House for its chocolate elixirs
- Shake Foundation for the green-chile cheeseburger
Must see places
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum
With more than 3,000 pieces dating from 1901 to 1984, it’s the largest permanent collection of O’Keeffe’s work in the world. Her collections offer a rare insight into her creative process including the light and landscape of Santa Fe which inspired her. It was the first museum in the United States dedicated to a female artist.
New Mexico History Museum / Palace of the Governors
This enormous world-class museum brings America’s West to life through interactive exhibits, photos, and displays. The Palace of the Governors, built in 1609, is the nation’s oldest continuously occupied government building.
The House of Eternal Return
This colorful, 22,000-square-foot, immersive multimedia art installation, created by the collective Meow Wolf, is the stuff of childhood imaginations. It is housed in an erstwhile bowling alley owned by Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin.
The mile-long second most iconic street in America is lined on both sides of the street with cutting-edge, conceptual and contemporary fine art galleries and studios.
The 50-acre neighborhood has a thriving art scene with vibrant art galleries, restaurants, Santa (one of the most widely recognized farmers’ markets in the United States), brewery, music venues and a movie theater.
Must visit for four distinct art institutions – the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, Museum of Spanish Colonial Art, Museum of International Folk Art and the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian.
Ten Thousand Waves Spa
Ten minutes from downtown, nestled on a cliff top in Santa Fe’s mountains, the secluded Japanese-inspired spa is the ideal place to relax and soak away the stress after a long day of exploration. The natural, mineral-rich waters ranging in temperature from 80 to 109 degrees Fahrenheit can do wonders to the body and soul.
Plaza and downtown for Native American jewelry and souvenirs. Canyon road to buy art, fine leather goods, chic home furnishings and avant-garde jewelry. Kowboyz at Railyard-Guadalupe District for fantastic selection of used cowboy hats, boots and western wear.
Day Trips from Santa Fe
After you are done exploring Santa Fe (which can take an entire lifetime), you can take day trips to any or all of these places –
- O’Keeffe Country: the painted Mesa village of Abiquiu just 50 miles Northwest of Santa Fe. This is where O’Keeffe used to stay.
- Native American Pueblos: north of Santa Fe lies eight native American Pueblos. Taos Pueblo is a must visit.
- Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks: the unique geological structures that lie southwest of Santa Fe.
- Los Alamos: the ancient native American cliff dwellings and petroglyphs, which are just twenty minutes away from Santa Fe.
If you have only ONE DAY in Santa Fe …
- Day 1: Start by taking a tour of the Palace of the Governors and the Loretto Chapel in the historical center of Santa Fe. Afterward, stroll up the Santa Fe River to Canyon Road, the artistic heart of the city. Then take a short drive toward the foothills to Museum Hill, where you can visit the museum of International Folk Art, Spanish Colonial Art, and other collections. End your day by at the Plaza by shopping and enjoying fantastic dinner at any of the highly rated restaurants.
If you have TWO DAYS in Santa Fe …
- Day 2: Begin your day on a healthy note by heading to the Santa Fe Farmer’s Market at Railyard District and view contemporary art at the world class art space SITE Santa Fe. If you feel tired after, head to Ten Thousand Waves Spa. In the evening, you can enjoy performing arts or take a cooking class or join a guided photography tour. And if you want to get a heady mix then you can’t miss the Margarita Trail.
If you have THREE DAYS in Santa Fe …
- Head out on a day trip to Taos Pueblo or any other day trip mentioned above. If you are an adventure lover then head out for a half-day, or full-day of outdoor fun of hiking, white-water river rafting, mountain biking, skiing or a hot-air balloon ride.
If you have FOUR to SEVEN DAYS in Santa Fe …
- Day 4-6: Take another day trip or indulge in more outdoor activities. And keep trying new and interesting restaurants in downtown, Canyon Road, Railyard or Museum Hill.
- Day 7: Wrap up your Santa Fe trip with a relaxed day. Just explore the city thoroughfares without any fixed agenda. Talk to locals, sample the gourmet coffees and teas. Don’t forget to try chocolate elixir at Kakawa Chocolate House and a green-chile cheeseburger at Shake Foundation. Don’t leave the city without enjoying your one last glorious sunset at Bell Tower, La Fonda on the plaza. End your day with the traditional authentic New Mexican meal at Café Pasqual. Fly back to your home with a bag full of memories next morning.
Hope this Perfect Travel Guide for Santa Fe, New Mexico helps you discover the timeless and earthy soul of the city.
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I was in Santa Fe on the invitation of Tourism Santa Fe. All views expressed above are mine and based on my experience and interactions during my stay at Santa Fe. All pictures are either taken by me or provided by Tourism Santa Fe
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