Santa Fe is the sleepy little southwestern town that could. It is super quaint and the perfect getaway for great food, a southwestern vibe, and Native American culture. Even being there for a few days wasn’t enough time and we need to go back. Here are some insights for planning a trip to Santa Fe.
Getting There and Getting Around
Getting to Santa Fe is relatively easy. After flying into Albuquerque, Santa Fe is only about a 45-minute drive into the town. Renting a car is easy, but if you don’t want to be bothered with driving, there are a couple of shuttles that will transfer you back and forth (Road Runner Shuttles and Sandia Shuttle Xpress). I will note that when you are driving back into town, there are no (I repeat NO) gas stations near the airport, so it would behoove you to fill up before you are in the vicinity of the airport or you will be riding around for quite a while on a search for gas.
You can also fly directly into Santa Fe, and that may be a good option if the price is right.
Santa Fe is a pretty small city. Once we got into the city, we didn’t really need to drive anywhere once we were near the Plaza. We did drive to places like convenience stores and to the spa, but otherwise, we parked the car for much of the trip.
Please don’t think that just because Santa Fe is in the desert means that it is warm in the winter. Quite the contrary, it snows in the winter. However, it does get warmer quicker than most other snowy parts of the country. In March and April, the weather can already be hitting the 50s and 60s. By June, it is in the high 70s and low 80s, which is really the perfect temperature. By the summer it is full-fledged 80s and 90s.
Where to Stay
There are a number of what appear to be really nice boutique hotels in the city. We stayed at La Fonda On The Plaza, a cute little boutique hotel that is the only hotel right on the Plaza. It was the perfect location right in the middle of the action and a close walk to everything. La Fonda is actually a city landmark and its adobe style is the perfect place to go when you want a southwestern and Native American architectural feel.
Other places that have reputations for great stays are The Inn and Spa at Loretto, La Posada, and The Inn of the Five Graces.
There is so much to do in Santa Fe that we honestly didn’t even have enough time with three whole days.
Trinket Shopping Along the Plaza
The Plaza in Santa Fe is lined with little shops and street vendors selling everything from jewelry to clothes to art to southwestern wares. It is the perfect afternoon activity to stroll in and out of stores. You can find some unique pieces there, especially art and jewelry.
And the Plaza is a grassy area perfect for relaxing, having a picnic, or people watching while enjoying ice cream.
Artist Walk and Museums
Everyday the local artists set up their art along the artist walk just off the plaza. Here you can buy wall art and more along this strip.
Santa Fe is home a number of museums that you must visit while in town, as that is one of the main draws that the town is known for. Some recommendations are the Allan Houser Museum, the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, the Museum of International Folk Art (which is great for both kids and adults), and the numerous museums focusing on Native American art, culture, and history.
Ten Thousand Waves is the premier spa in the area. Everyone who I spoke with who was familiar with the town consistently mentioned Ten Thousand Waves as the must-visit spa in the area. So I had to schedule an appointment. It was for my birthday, after all.
The spa is about 10 minutes outside of the town in a secluded area near the forests. Be advised that the stairs are absolutely and ridiculously brutal to get up to the spa. I was not advised of this and I was thoroughly unprepared. Ready yourself.
Once you arrive, you are in a Japanese oasis with running waters, waterfalls, koi ponds and more. In fact, most everything is outside so that you are in the elements. To get you in the mood to relax, they have soaking tubs for your feet along with the waterfalls to calm you. The spa also features rooms with headphone and mats on the floor for meditation.
I had a complimentary tub soak along with the Deep Stone Massage and it was heavenly. The massage was in a private villa away from the main area and surrounding by nature. It was extremely peaceful during the spa.
But I will advise that Ten Thousand Waves is insanely popular. And it is outdoor. Therefore, it isn’t a “quiet” spa. People are chatting, especially in the main areas and by the foot tubs. If you are looking for the silent-esque spa experience, then Ten Thousand Waves doesn’t fit the bill. But the service I received was impeccable and the grounds were absolutely beautiful.
This was one of the most renowned—and rightfully so—activities in Santa Fe. The Santa Fe School of Cooking is one of the best activities that we participated in while in Santa Fe. I wrote a full review here, but we were able to do a Spanish tapas cooking class while there and it was excellent. The food was perfect, the information provided was top notch, and we left full. They also host restaurant walks and various other cooking classes to enjoy. This is a must-do activity.
This is one of the main activities to do in Santa Fe. Santa Fe is known the New Mexico green chiles. And let me just say they are magical.
The southwestern food in Santa Fe is fantastic. For breakfast, we enjoyed another Santa Fe delicacy, sopapillas, at Tia Sophia’s. The food was excellent and the sopapillas, which are like he southwestern equivalent of a beignet, are quite tasty both with honey for the sweet version or with chiles and cheese for the savory.
Another of our favorite spots was the happy hour at the Dragon Room Lounge. It was so good we went two days in a row. Can you guess the draw? Well, it’s no secret that I love cheese…the queso was some of the best I have had. In fact, the whole trio of queso, guacamole, and salsa was our main dish and we enjoyed a lot of it.
We didn’t even have time to try all of the spots that were recommended in Santa Fe, like Chef Pasqual’s, which is a local fave and has been featured repeatedly in the media. I don’t think you will go wrong for food in Santa Fe, as even the breakfast we had at La Fonda was top notch.
If you are looking to party into the wee hours of the morning, you are in the wrong city. Santa Fe is a sleepy little city that shuts down early. When we were walking back from a live show around 11 pm, the streets were completely empty. Even the life music ended before 11 LOL. The restaurants close early and the town shuts down even on weekends. It is much more of a sleepy town for happy hour and culture than a nightlife spot that is for sure.
Other Nearby Areas to Visit
If you are in the area and have extra time, Taos was a recommended area to visit. It is apparently a great place to visit in the winter for skiing and snowboarding.
Also, if you happen to be in the area during Native American Feast Days, you may be permitted to visit the local Tribes’ pueblos. Check with the individual Tribes for details, and remember most of the Tribes operate under strict no photography rules.
Lastly, you can’t forget Albuquerque. If we had more time we would have spent at least a little time in Albuquerque as well. And if you are a Breaking Bad fan, well you already know.
Planning a Trip to Santa Fe
So there you have it. A Santa Fe city guide including amazing places to stay, eat, and relax. It is an easy city to navigate and a great place to unwind in the southwest. I highly recommend and will be visiting again.