Headed to New Mexico and looking for the best Santa Fe itinerary out there?! You’re in luck – this (super) comprehensive guide has everything you need to plan the perfect 3 days in Santa Fe!
Santa Fe (also known as “The City Different”), is the state capital of New Mexico. It’s known for its traditional adobe-style architecture (with earth-colored adobe walls), cultural diversity (a unique blend of Native American, Hispanic, and Anglo influences), and its thriving artistic community (honestly, there’s so many art galleries, museums, and studios here!). Plus, you can’t forget about the food – intoxifying Southwestern cuisine with loads of green and red chilies (and sweet sopapillas and spicy margaritas!).
It’s got laid-back historic adobe charm with a vibrant artistic energy, tons of traditional jewelry and crafts, and the famous Santa Fe Plaza. I had been wanting to check out New Mexico (and Santa Fe in particular) for oh so long, and was thrilled when I finally made it happen!
If you’ve never been to New Mexico, you’re in for a real treat. The perfect Santa Fe itinerary, coming right up!
Santa Fe Itinerary Logistics
Where is Santa Fe and How to Get There
Santa Fe is located in the high desert region of northern New Mexico. It sits at an elevation of about 7,000 feet (2,134 meters) above sea level, making it one of the highest capital cities in the United States (yes, even higher than Denver’s whopping 5,280 feet)!
The city is right off Interstate 25 (I-25), which makes it the perfect stop on a much-longer New Mexico road trip, like we did! It’s not far from Albuquerque, the largest city in New Mexico (at just over an hour away), so I highly recommend visiting both cities in one trip!
And there’s so much natural beauty here – Santa Fe is surrounded by the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the east and the Jemez Mountains to the west, plus the Rio Grande River flows to the west of the city! Don’t forget to look out the window if you’re flying in…
Flying to Santa Fe
Yes, you can fly direct to Santa Fe – I honestly didn’t even realize the city had its own airport until I started researching for my trip.
However, The Santa Fe Municipal Airport (SAF) primarily serves regional flights, and there’s a super limited number of direct flights available (only from Dallas, Denver, and Phoenix at this time). It’s a tiny airport, so to be expected.
Because of this, most visitors (including us!) fly into the Albuquerque International Sunport (ABQ), which is the largest and busiest airport in New Mexico. It’s only about 60 miles south of Santa Fe, and there’s loads more flight options. From there, you can rent a car, take a shuttle, or take the The Rail Runner Express commuter train to Santa Fe.
If you don’t mind driving a few hours (about 5!) and are planning to visit Southern New Mexico (like White Sands National Park and/or Truth or Consequences), you can also fly to El Paso International Airport (ELP). A great idea if you’re starting your New Mexico road trip in the southern part of the state.
Driving to Santa Fe
Already in New Mexico or the southwest? Santa Fe is easily accessible by car! Since the city is right along I-25 (a major north-south highway that runs through the central part of New Mexico), it’s super convenient if you’re coming from either north or south. And you can easily rent a car at ABQ airport.
We drove to Santa Fe after our weekend in Albuquerque and had no problems whatsoever.
Note that there are THREE different routes you can take between Albuquerque and Santa Fe:
- Interstate-25 is the quickest and most direct, right on the main highway
- The Turquoise Trail takes about 1 ½ hours, a 50-mile stretch through mining towns with gorgeous views along the way – make sure to fill up your gas tank before starting the drive!
- Driving through the Jemez Mountains takes about 3 hours, plus however long for stops (which goes through Bandelier National Monument and Jemez Springs)
Since we only had about 3 days in Santa Fe, we didn’t wanna waste any time so simply took I-25. And since we were on a week-long New Mexico road trip, we saw plenty of scenic views the other days!
Here’s driving distances from other popular spots nearby-ish:
- From Albuquerque, New Mexico: 65 miles (1 hour)
- From Taos, New Mexico: ~70 miles (1 ½ hours)
- From White Sands National Park, New Mexico: ~250 miles (4 hours)
- From Durango, Colorado: ~215 miles (4 hours)
- From Las Cruces, New Mexico: ~300 miles (4.5 hours)
- From El Paso, Texas: ~325 miles (5 hours)
- From Colorado Springs, Colorado: ~325 miles (5 hours)
- From Flagstaff, Arizona: ~400 miles (6 hours)
- From Phoenix, Arizona: ~500 miles (7 ½ hours)
Public Transport to Santa Fe
Don’t feel like driving? I get it – you’re on vacation! Thankfully there’s a few ways to get to Santa Fe by public transit.
Train: The New Mexico Rail Runner Express is a commuter train that connects Albuquerque and Santa Fe. It’s perfect if you’re spending a few days in Albuquerque first. Psst – The Santa Fe Depot is the train station in downtown Santa Fe. It’s in the Railyard District, where you can either walk or call an Uber to take you to your hotel.
Shuttle bus: There’s a few different shuttle services that operate between the Albuquerque airport and Santa Fe. Check out Sandia Shuttle, ABQ Express Shuttle, and Groome Transportation.
How to Get Around Santa Fe
Driving in Santa Fe: Since public transit is a bit lacking in Santa Fe, it’s recommended to get a car for your Santa Fe itinerary. Especially if you wanna visit a few bars and restaurants a little off the main drag, plus take day trips to Bandelier National Monument and/or a day spa!
Since we were taking a New Mexico road trip throughout much of the state, we had our rental car with us. Note that most hotels charge for parking, and it’s kinda difficult (although not impossible) to find parking in the downtown Plaza – just something to keep in mind. There’s a fairly large parking garage directly across the street from the Rosewood Hotel if you wanna plot that on your map.
Walking in Santa Fe: Yes, walk! Santa Fe is super pedestrian friendly, especially the downtown areas! There’s also plenty of bike paths if it’s warm out. If you’re staying right in Old Town (highly recommended), you’ll be able to walk to dozens of restaurants, bars, and shops.
Public transit in Santa Fe: The city doesn’t have its own extensive public transit system like many big cities do. You’ll find Santa Fe Trails, the city’s public bus service with several routes within the city. We didn’t take it so can’t comment on how reliable the bus is unfortunately.
Rideshare: If all else fails, there’s always taxis and rideshare services like Uber and Lyft!
When to Plan your Long Weekend in Santa Fe Itinerary
Santa Fe experiences a semiarid climate with four distinct seasons. And just like Albuquerque, tons of bright blue skies and over 320 days of sunshine! Bet you had no idea!
TL;DR — The city has cold winters with occasional snowfall and warm, wet summers. High elevation keeps temperatures moderate, ranging from about 85° F in July to lows near 20° F in January.
Spring (March to May)
Spring is a glorious time to visit Santa Fe – the temps are mild (50s to 70s °F), crowds are fewer, and there’s tons of blooming flowers! The aspens and cottonwoods start leafing, and the cactus flowers start blooming.
Note that nights can still be quite cool (bring layers) and it’s possible for a late spring snowstorm or two to happen! Be prepared for all weather conditions.
Summer (June to August)
Summer heats up, with daytime highs in the 80s to low 90s°F. The city is exceptionally busy, so expect to pay higher prices for hotels and airfare, and to wait a while at popular restaurants. However, the days are super long, meaning you can squeeze in oh so much into your 3 day Santa Fe itinerary.
Take note of the dramatic summer thunderstorms that can happen – it’s monsoon season in this part of the country (bring a raincoat)! Thankfully, the storms never last too long (usually happening in the afternoon – plan your outdoor activities in the morning) and, well, rainbows!
If you do find yourself with some rain, don’t fret – just pop into a museum or art gallery, there’s lots to choose from.
Plus, the Santa Fe Opera season runs during this time (!!!), and the Santa Fe Indian Market (one of the largest and most prestigious Native American art markets) is held annually in August.
Fall (September to November)
Near perfect weather (with daytime highs in the 60s and 70s °F – perfect for playing tourist) and stunning fall foliage. Plus, the Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta is held in September, which is exactly as it sounds – celebrating the region’s wine and culinary offerings!
October is when the famous Balloon Fiesta takes place in Albuquerque, and plenty of visitors make the short drive up to Santa Fe for a day or so. Meaning, it’ll be exceptionally busy. Plan your long weekend in Santa Fe another time if you aren’t planning on attending the balloon festival (still on my USA bucket list!).
For reference, we visited Santa Fe at the end of November, and while there were still some fall colors left, locals told me it was beginning to shift to winter. And it was WAY colder than I expected it to be, so make sure you wear your layers!
We had crisp blue skies almost the entire time we were there, and heard that it snowed the day after we left!
Winter (December to February)
Winter is chilly, with daytime highs in the 40s and 50s°F, and lows in the 20s. Nights can be extremely cold, often dipping below freezing. Come prepared with true winter gear – it definitely gets cold here!
And there’s snow, typically from sometime in late November through March, although most of it is up in the ski area and not tons in town.
This is considered low season, so it’ll be less crowded, but some attractions have reduced hours (and the La Fonda on the Plaza Bell Tower rooftop is sadly closed for the season).
Where to Stay in Santa Fe
If it’s your first time in Santa Fe, I highly recommend staying in either the Historic District (Old Town) or the nearby Railyard District (up-and-coming trendy area).
Since we ended up staying 4 nights in Santa Fe (we left early our last morning to head south to Truth or Consequences), we actually stayed in both areas!
Historic District (Old Town)
This is iconic Santa Fe.
Here you’ll find the Santa Fe Plaza, a charming and authentic Southwestern atmosphere with adobe architecture, and tons of cultural attractions. Plus Native American markets and even some art galleries.
We stayed at the Rosewood Inn Of the Anasazi and were blown away by the gorgeous sitting area/library, authentic furnishings, and the in-room fireplace. Didn’t hurt that we were given free margarita coupons for the bar, plus chocolate chip cookies before bed every night. The true key to my heart, haha.
Our hotel was literally right in the middle of everything (literally less than 5 minutes away), meaning we could walk to coffee shops, restaurants, and trendy bars every day/night. That’s one huge benefit of staying right in Old Town – it doesn’t get more convenient than that.
It is the most expensive area to stay in Santa Fe (understandably), but hey, location, location, location!
The Railyard District is a vibrant and evolving area that’s undergone a huge revitalization lately. It’s got a way more contemporary and urban feel compared to Old Town, and feels kinda trendy in a sense. You’ll still find a mix of shops, galleries, and restaurants here, but more modern and eclectic.
The area’s well-within walking distance to the Plaza (only 15 minutes away or so), but it doesn’t have the same historic ambiance as Old Town. That’s not to say that’s a bad thing though, just different!
Plus, staying in the Railyard District is way easier on the wallet, so if you wanna save a few bucks for some extra margaritas, I won’t fault you!
Our stay at Pueblo Bonito Santa Fe was phenomenal – much more basic than the Rosewood Inn Of the Anasazi of course, but still very design-focused (especially the common area) and way less expensive. The owners kept the historic feel of the 1800s building while giving it a sleek southwestern vibe. We just loved it!
Other hotels we were considering in Santa Fe were El Rey Court (I was obsessed with those cool western vibes, OMG – at least come for a cocktail one night), Hotel Santa Fe Hacienda & Spa (right in the Railyard District), and La Fonda on the Plaza (with its popular rooftop bar).
Other Important FAQs for your a Santa Fe Itinerary
Is 3 days in Santa Fe really enough?! I think yes, a long weekend in Santa Fe is the perfect amount of time! Personally, I felt pretty satisfied with our 3 days in Santa Fe, although you could easily add on an extra day or two and not get bored (especially if you wanna do a day trip or two). Any more and it’d be overkill in my opinion.
What to eat in Santa Fe? I swear New Mexican food is my new favorite food group, haha. It’s wildly underrated in my book, and the flavors are just so, so good.
I’ll give lots of restaurant recommendations at the end of the itinerary, but here’s a few foods you shouldn’t miss:
- Chiles Rellenos: Green chiles stuffed with cheese, meat, or other fillings, coated in egg batter and fried
- Posole: traditional hominy-based soup with pork or chicken, red or green chile, and various toppings
- Biscochitos: spiced shortbread cookies often flavored with cinnamon and anise, yum! New Mexico’s official state cookie!
- Sopapillas with Honey: Fluffy, deep-fried pastries served with honey – my new favorite!
- Blue Corn Pancakes: pancakes made with blue cornmeal and topped with local honey or syrup (a regional specialty!)
- Fry Bread Tacos: A dish influenced by Native American cuisine, with fry bread loaded with taco ingredients.
- Margaritas: I mean, you are in Santa Fe! And the cities even got their own Margarita Trail.. So it just makes sense to participate!
Where should I go after Santa Fe? Ohh – good question!
We spent a weekend in Albuquerque before heading north for 3 days in Santa Fe and Bandelier National Monument, then made our way south to Truth or Consequences, Las Cruces, and White Sands National Park!
I highly encourage you to explore more of New Mexico – it’s such a fascinating, underrated state!
Can I take a day trip to Santa Fe from Albuquerque? Sure, why not?! The two popular cities are only about an hour away, and thankfully, the Rail Runner Express commuter train makes it super easy. The train takes just over an hour and a half, so if you leave early enough, you’ll have time for shopping at The Plaza, checking out the art galleries on Canyon Road, and plenty of mezcal margaritas and frito pie, haha!
BUT I really think you’d be better off with at least a night and two full days in Santa Fe to really get a feel for the town.
On that note, I think you can easily do a day trip to Albuquerque from Santa Fe and see oh so much! Although you’re probably flying into ABQ, so that’d just be silly!
Why is Santa Fe called “The City Different”? Because Santa Fe is just different, in so many different aspects! Some people compare visiting NM to a different country, and I can totally see why. It’s got its own unique and distinctive character – a rich blend of cultures, artistic vibrancy, and historic charm. There’s really nowhere else like it!
Finally, what you came here for – the perfect 3 days in Santa Fe itinerary! Let’s get to it!
3 Days in Santa Fe Itinerary
Santa Fe Itinerary Day 1: Old Town Santa Fe
On the first day of this 3-day Santa Fe itinerary, you’ll be hanging around Old Town and the plaza! This is Santa Fe’s famous historic district, a culturally rich neighborhood with distinctive adobe-style architecture, art-filled streets, and a vibrant plaza! You can easily spend all day here, and that’s exactly what we did!
It’s super chill but there’s actually quite a bit to see. If you wanna have a leisurely day and still see everything on this list and eat, I’d stick to one museum visit.
NOTE – I typically provide a specific order of activities on my itineraries, but no need for that today! Everything in Old Town is super close to each other, and you can kinda go with the flow and pick and choose (except for the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum – but more on that in a bit).
Also – there’s TONS of amazing restaurants here in Old Town. I’ve included a whole long list of all our favorites at the end of this post, but here’s what I recommend for Day 1:
- Breakfast: Cafe Pasquals or Tia Sophias
- Lunch: The Shed (gets busy so put your name down before you’re absolutely starving, haha)
- Dinner: Coyote Cafe or La Boca
Here’s all my recommended things to do in Old Town:
Wander through Santa Fe Plaza
This is the central hub of Old Town, and a must on any Santa Fe itinerary! You’ll see tons of people out and about, enjoying the park with their families and children. Throughout the year there’s plenty of events, markets, and cultural festivities over here – if you’re lucky, you may just catch one.
Directly north of the Plaza you’ll find vendors selling tons of handcrafted items at the Palace of the Governors. This is the Native American Artisans Program, and the artists sell and showcase pottery, textiles, and jewelry made of traditional materials like turquoise, coral, and silver.
And the program is regulated – meaning the artisans only sell the highest quality merchandise, handmade themselves (never mass-produced or imported).
I really love this initiative, and highly encourage you to speak to some of the vendors about their pieces. By buying from them, you’re directly supporting the family who made them.
You can also try a Famous Frito Pie at the Five & Dime General Store less than a block away – literally a sliced open corn chip bag piled high with cheese, chilis, and meat. Mmm… delicious in the best kinda way.
IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts (MoCNA)
If you’re interested in learning about Native American contemporary art plus history and culture, make your way over to the Museum of Contemporary Native Art, or MoCNA for short!
It’s the only museum in the entire country dedicated to the progressive work of contemporary Native artists (and there’s lots here – over 10,000 Contemporary Indigenous artworks, created from 1962 to the present on rotation).
The museum is honestly kinda small, but the collection is downright excellent – with tons of sculpture installations, digital media, murals, and paintings.
The colorful pillars outside are what really caught my eye! Such a fun place for photos, and you know we took a lot, haha. I thought it’d be packed with people, but we found it relatively empty most times we strolled past.
Wanna get into the museum for free? Come the first Friday of every month when there’s free admission from 5-7pm (although some of the exhibits are closed).
There’s also the New Mexico Museum of Art if you haven’t had your art fix yet!
Go Shopping at The Plaza
Shopping at The Plaza is an absolute must – you’ll find plenty of Native American jewelry, clothing, boots, pottery, and more. Like in Albuquerque, there’s of course some tacky souvenir shops, but I promise you there’s tons of beautiful handmade stuff as well. Talk to the shop owners and vendors and you can easily tell what’s authentic.
There’s *so* many cool spots to check out and explore (honestly, Santa Fe really surprised me), but these were my favorites:
- O’Farrell Hat Company (truly custom hats with outstanding quality; prepare to drop some money)
- The Rainbow Man (a super eclectic main courtyard with multiple indoor spaces, with everything from Mexican pottery to arts and crafts)
- Parts Unknown (upscale Western clothing store with lots of unique designs)
- chocolate + cashmere (chocolate and cashmere, what more could you want?!)
- Shiprock Santa Fe (GORGEOUS Navajo rugs, jewelry, woven baskets, and accessories)
- Back at The Ranch (the most beautiful exotic cowboy boots you’ll ever see – too bad they were way outta my price range)
- Original Trading Post (lots of unique gifts and souvenirs with that New Mexico touch – green or red chiles, chiminea wood burners, and fine regional pottery)
I so wish I left some room in my suitcase for a handwoven rug – they were all so gorgeous and I just loved the traditional colors.
Admire the Santa Fe Churches
Santa Fe is home to several historic and architecturally significant churches, and I highly encourage you to check them out. Just remember to be respectful and quiet – these are places of worship and mass still occurs.
- Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi: Located right off the Plaza, this Roman Catholic cathedral is full of Romanesque Revival architecture and a beautiful interior. You can go inside if you’d like to see the religious artifacts and statues, but I simply admired the cathedral from the outside.
- San Miguel Chapel: A few blocks away you’ll find what is believed to be the oldest church in the United States, built around 1610 (very fitting that it’s directly across from the Oldest House Museum, haha).
- Loretto Chapel: Finally there’s the Loretto Chapel with its famous spiral staircase, known as the “Miraculous Stairs”. This elegant, wooden staircase has no visible means of support (really, there’s no poles and no nails!), and people just love it! Especially those into architecture! You’ll need to grab a ticket, but the admission fee is just a few bucks.
Explore the Oldest House Museum
Also known as the De Vargas Street House, the Oldest House Museum was apparently built in the early 1600s – yes, making it one of the oldest homes in the United States! It’s made of thick adobe walls which help regulate temps and give us clues into the architecture back then.
It’s not so much a museum, but a few rooms with some signage, pictures, and artifacts (and a large gift shop… of course haha). It only took us a few minutes to walk through, but worth the short visit to imagine life back then. Plus, it’s free!
Take Photos at the Inn & Spa at Loretto
I have to admit I came here solely for the iconic Santa Fe photo opp! The adobe architecture really is stunning, with its earthy-orangey color and soft curves.
Note that anyone can take photos here, as this is literally the entrance to the hotel. Bring your patience if you want a clear shot though – people were coming and going with their suitcases and the valet was doing his job bringing cars to the entrance. We came mid-morning and the sun was super harsh, so I recommend either going just after sunrise or right before sunset.
Sip some Bubbles at the Gruet Winery
This isn’t an absolute must, but if you’re in the mood for some bubbly, make a quick pit stop at Gruet Winery for some New Mexico made champagne! I tried the New Mexican sunrise and it was *chefs kiss* – perfect for a quick pick me up before my visit to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum.
If it’s warm, definitely sit on the back patio with a flight of sparkling wine. You’ll probably wanna make a reservation in advance (I was able to walk in for a quick glass, but not so sure a full-on tasting would have been available for me).
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum
You can’t visit Santa Fe and not visit this museum. If you’re not familiar, Georgia O’Keeffe was one of the most significant American artists of the 20th century. New Mexico is the place that inspired her work, so it makes sense to view it here!
I honestly didn’t know too much about her before visiting, and still loved the museum – all her works are downright fascinating and I loved learning about her life. The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum houses the largest collection of her artworks, including paintings, drawings, and sculptures spanning her entire career. I loved her famous flower paintings and New Mexican landscapes the most (she had a deep connection to the state).
When I was visiting, there was a temporary exhibition showcasing her time in Maine, where she went back and forth for a few years. Felt pretty fitting since I collected shells when I was younger as well, and still do!
The museum is a tad smaller than I expected, but done really well and was a great way to spend an hour or so.
Note that you need to purchase a timed ticket in advance on the website. This is one of the most popular things to do in the entire city, so if you desperately wanna make it here on your Santa Fe itinerary, plan for it beforehand! A few of my friends missed out because they didn’t book their tickets enough in advance… buy your ticket here (a few weeks prior in busy season).
I chose one of the last time slots and loved slowly strolling throughout the gallery after running around all day.
Psst – If you’ve got an extra day in Santa Fe (and a car!), you can also head north to Ghost Ranch, one of O’Keeffe’s first homes. On my list for next time!
Watch Sunset at Cross of the Martyrs
I love watching the sunset, especially when I travel, so was thrilled when I learned Cross of the Martyrs is the best place to do so! From up here you get sweeping panoramic views of Santa Fe; you can really see the whole city from here!
Getting here is easy peasy – you can either walk up (an easy but kinda steep 10 minute up-hill walk) or drive to the parking lot and walk down to the cross. There’s also some history of Santa Fe on the plaques on the way up too.
We actually came here twice – I walked here after browsing the O’Keeffe Museum one night, and then took my husband back a few nights later. Sunsets just hit different in the desert. Of course you can visit any time of day, but I found it exceptionally gorgeous at sunset.
Santa Fe Itinerary Day 2: Railway District and Canyon Road
Day two of your three days in Santa Fe has you exploring two other areas of the city – the Railyard District and Canyon Road. They’re not as overly iconic as Old Town, but still very much worthy on any Santa Fe itinerary. And since they’re pretty small, you can totally explore both in the same day.
Again, so many great restaurants/cafes/bars in these areas as well. Here’s my recommendations for Day 2:
- Breakfast: CrashMurderBusiness or Iconik Coffee Roasters
- Lunch: El Chile Toreado (definitely get the pork Adobada burrito) and Whoo’s Donuts
- Dinner: La Choza, Paloma, or Paper Dosa
Morning: Santa Fe Railyard Arts District
Start the day strolling around The Santa Fe Railyard District! It’s experienced a significant revitalization the last few years, and hence has a vibrant, chill vibe. Perfect for hanging out for a few hours. You can even walk here from the Plaza if you’re staying in Old Town.
Stop 1: Fuel up with some caffeine
Before the day really gets going, pop into one of the coffee shops nearby. I chose CrashMurderBusiness, a cozy spot that specializes in craft coffees and elixirs (what a fun name, right?). Everything on the menu sounded downright delicious (and super creative), but we chose the Race of Roadrunners (with hints of cacao, red chile, and smoked sea salt) and the Parliament of Owls (an earl gray tea with cardamom and orange blossom honey).
There’s also Iconik Coffee Roasters if you’re looking for something more substantial (they’ve got a full breakfast menu as well as plenty of coffee options).
Stop 2: Santa Fe Farmers Market or Artisan Market
If you’re visiting on a Tuesday, Saturday, or Sunday, you’re in luck (and I highly recommend rearranging your days to make this happen)! You’ll be able to check out either the Santa Fe Farmers Market or the Artisan Market – both perfect for a morning stroll.
Note that the Tuesday Market is not open year round, and the markets have different opening hours:
- Saturday Farmer’s Market
- OPEN ALL YEAR LONG
- 8am – 1pm
- Tuesday Market
- May 7th – December 24th
- 8am – 1pm
- Railyard Artisan Market
- Sundays 10am to 3pm
The Santa Fe Farmers Market is the King of them all. It’s packed with vendors beyond vendors!
If you can get to the Railyard on a Saturday, you’re in for a real treat. Expect tons of fresh produce, handmade goods, locally grown spices, eggs, dried beans, honey, and much more. The Saturday Market has the largest variety of vendors and products by far. I so wish we were in Santa Fe on a Saturday so I could’ve bought and tried a whole bunch of things.
At the market 100% of the veggies, fruits, and plants are grown right in Northern New Mexico – no imports here! And you’re guaranteed everything is super, super fresh. And remember, buying here means you’re directly supporting the farmers of NM!
I recommend coming early as the market does get quite busy. Stop by right after breakfast for an hour or two.
The Tuesday Market is similar to the market on Saturday, although much smaller. When I visited in late November, it was mostly confined inside – although I’ve seen photos where it spills outside. Must be time of year! It seemed like a mixture of a farmers market and an artisan market – there were a bunch of both.
The Railyard Artisan Market (on Sundays) is dedicated to local artisans and small creative businesses, and is actually one of New Mexico’s oldest markets!
Here you can purchase original works straight from the artisans, including lots of fine art (like paintings, printmaking, and even sculptures), wooden and ceramic crafts, Native American jewelry, and even lotions and potions and health remedies, oh my.
Stop 3: Browsing/shopping on Guadalupe Street
End the morning with some shopping on Guadalupe Street, where most of the shops and cafes are. It was pretty quiet when I visited on a Tuesday morning, but can see it being really busy on the weekend.
These were my favorites on/near Guadalupe:
- form & concept: An art gallery in a sleek, airy space showcasing the works of eclectic artists, both established and up-and-coming. Some really colorful and interesting pieces here.
- Double Take: Everything is so eclectic in this vintage/thrift store. There’s two sides to it – a low end with lots of thrift pieces and a higher end, selling designer and vintage pieces. I spent so much time in here, whoops!
- Rio Bravo Trading Co: What a gem! There’s tons of vintage rugs, hats, and jewelry. Plus, the owner’s dog is the cutest. I must’ve spent over 20 minutes listening to his stories there.
- Array: The cutest gift shop with tons of things to browse. You never know what you’ll find.
- Kowboyz: A western store with the coolest vintage boots at actually affordable prices. Plus loads of cowboy hats.
If you’re looking for a pre-afternoon cocktail/beer, check out As Above, So Below Distillery (female owned and distilled!) or Second Street Brewery at The Railyard. Or both, because, ya know, you’re on vacation and there’s no rules.
Note that As Above, So Below is currently closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, so plan around that if you’re craving some time in the cocktail lounge.
Afternoon: Canyon Road and Kakawa Chocolates
Any Santa Fe itinerary isn’t complete without a wander down Canyon Road – it is quintessentially Santa Fe afterall!
Here you’ll find an eclectic assortment of art galleries in historic adobe homes and sidewalks lined with coyote fences and plenty of trees. The whole area is undeniably charming, with hidden sculpture gardens and patios serving up wine and margaritas.
Plus tons of art everyone! Where else can you see classic black-on-black pottery, contemporary mixed-media, exquisite Navajo weavings, and vibrant lithographs all on the same block?! An absolute *must-see* for art lovers spending a long weekend in Santa Fe!
It’s said that there’s about 80 art galleries on Canyon Road alone, and while it’s impossible to visit them all, I promise you’ll make your way into so many good ones.
We popped into about 6 or 7 and found each gallery showcased wildly different things – all so varied and I promise you’ll never get bored! Plus, the gallery staff were all so friendly and chatty. Note that some galleries are closed on Sundays, so double check if there’s anywhere specific you wanna visit.
Here’s a few galleries we popped into that I especially loved:
- Gerald Peters Contemporary
- Luca Decor
- Prescott Sculpture Gallery
- Freeman Gallery
- Adobe Gallery
Kakawa Chocolate House: But before you start your walk, pop into Kakawa Chocolate House for some chocolate elixirs and truffles! There’s a reason it’s super famous afterall. And yes, that means it can get *extremely* busy, so prepare to wait in line a bit.
What’s so special about this place? Most of their menu features traditional historic recipes from Mesoamerica, Mayan, Aztec, and Colonial Mexico (way back from 1000 BC to the mid-1900s AD).
There’s lots to choose from (and thankfully they give samples). We blended the Zapoteca and Aztec Warrior (both Mesoamerican), and found it to be the perfect combo, not too sweet and with a hint of spice. Plus loads of whipped cream on top.
A lot of the chocolates are made with a very high percentage of cacao – meaning the truffles are the perfect balance of sweet and rich. So, so delicious, although I don’t think anything will ever beat those chocolate truffles we loved in Bruges, Belgium.
What’s an elixir you ask?! I wasn’t sure myself either. An elixir is essentially a beverage that contains ingredients meant to support the body and its functions, like herbs and superfoods. Now that is something I can get behind! Chocolate drinks that are good for you? Sign me up!
The Tea House: If you walk all the way to the end of Canyon Road, you’ll eventually get to The Tea House. This is an easy local favorite, with over 150 different types of tea and plenty of scones (plus a full menu if you’re feeling famished). We didn’t make it here (I was too full of chocolates), but it’s on the list for next time for me!
Santa Fe Itinerary Day 3: Bandelier National Monument and Hot Springs Soak
The last day of this long weekend in Santa Fe brings us on some day trips outta the city. Hiking in Bandelier National Monument and/or a soak at Ojo Santa Fe Spa Resort – two of our favorite things we did on our New Mexico road trip!
If you want a really chill last day, you can just do one. BUT I honestly think you have time for both; maybe it’s being a tad ambitious, but it’s less than 2 ½ hours of driving total… and they’re both excellent experiences. I recommend heading to Bandelier in the AM, and then driving straight to Ojo Santa Fe for a soak!
Morning: Bandelier National Monument
Time to get your hike on! Bandelier is one of the best places near Santa Fe to get yourself out into nature. Imagine well-preserved ancestral cliff dwellings, stunning scenery (full of canyons, mesas, and the Frijoles Creek), and even ancient petroglyphs. Plus ladders to climb, cavates to explore, and tarantulas to watch out for – yes, we saw one!
Bandelier is a must-visit if you’re interested in soaking up the stories and rich heritage of the American Southwest, plus lots of natural beauty. And getting some cool pictures too!
I recommend waking up early, grabbing a quick breakfast, and making your way to Bandelier (it’s only about an hour from Santa Fe, so really not that bad). The park does get busy though (understandably!), so the earlier you arrive, the better.
Plus, if you’re visiting in summer you’ll wanna ensure you get a spot in the parking lot so you aren’t forced to take the shuttle (mandatory after 9am from mid-June to mid-October).
With only a few hours in the park, you should prioritize the Main Pueblo Loop Trail. This is the most popular hike in the park, and in only 1.4 miles (roundtrip), you’ll see multiple archeological sites within the canyon and even use the ladders to crawl into a few cliff dwellings.
Don’t leave without stuffing your face with some fry bread (covered in sugar) from the park’s semi-famous restaurant, Sirphey. The perfect after-hiking treat!
Psst – since you’ll basically be passing Santa Fe on your way to the hot springs, this is the perfect time for some lunch! Unless you wanna eat at the Blue Heron Restaurant overlooking the springs like we did – they’ve got an all-day brunch! Mmm – that breakfast burrito smothered in chiles really hit the spot.
Afternoon: Ojo Santa Fe Spa Resort
After a morning full of hiking (or a long, leisurely brunch… no judging!), it’s time to finally hit the spa! Santa Fe (and New Mexico in general) are known for their hot springs, and what better way to soothe those aching muscles by soaking in a tub of steamy 100°F water. Okay, fine, the hikes in Bandelier really aren’t *too* strenuous, but hey, you deserve some R & R.
Once you arrive, you’ll need to purchase a day pass (good for as many hours as you wish – they don’t take reservations), and optional robe and slippers. It’s a tad expensive (at $45 during the week and $65 on weekends and holidays), but if you stay a few hours, I feel it’s more than worth it.
The whole resort is gorgeous – with multiple soaking areas, plenty of spring-fed thermal pools, comfy hammocks, a duck pond, a full-service spa, a bunch of walking trails, and even a first class restaurant on-site. You can also book yourself a private pool ahead of time if you want more privacy.
It looks especially beautiful in the fall when all the leaves change color (we visited in late fall/early winter and most of the leaves had sadly already fallen off). And once you’re done soaking, it’s only a 20-minute drive back to Santa Fe! Unless you wanna stay (for $$$), but I honestly don’t recommend it since it’s kinda isolated from the rest of the city.
Note: There’s also Ten Thousand Waves (a Japanese-style spa hotel with views of the mountains) about 10 minutes north of Santa Fe. BUT you can’t just walk on in, so prepare to make a reservation for one of their public communal pools or private soaking tubs a few weeks in advance.
We also visited Riverbend Hot Springs a few hours south in quirky Truth or Consequences, and had great experiences at both. If you’re embarking on a NM road trip like we were, I highly recommend both – never too many hot springs in my book!
Where to Eat in Santa Fe
This wouldn’t be a very complete Santa Fe travel blog without a whole slew of restaurant recommendations. I had NO clue just how much of a foodie spot this diverse city is, and boy am I glad we had a full 3 days in Santa Fe to eat as much as we could.
Honestly, New Mexican food is oh so flavorful and full of spice – it may be my new favorite food group (although, mild for me, please)! You can really taste the rich cultural heritage of the region just by its food – a unique blend of Native American, Hispanic, and Anglo!
Whatever you do, don’t miss all the red and green chile sauces, blue corn anything and everything, fry bread tacos, posole (which I discovered I loved), and sopapillas (best drizzled with honey).
Margarita Trail: Before I get into the actual restaurants and bars we loved, I need to mention the Margarita Trail. Yes, Santa Fe has its very own established Margarita Trail, with over 50 signature margaritas at various locations throughout the city! There’s even an app for it or a paper passport – yup.
It seems a little gimmicky (if I’m being honest here)… with prizes available and the need to purchase the app or a paper passport for tiny discounts. No visitor in their right mind is gonna try more than a dozen in a weekend, so I feel it’s best suited for locals or those living in New Mexico who visit Santa Fe quite frequently.
BUT margaritas! Passport or not, the city boasts tons of creative margaritas, which you should totally try. My husband tried silver coin margaritas at the Rosewood (where we stayed), a frozen strawberry marg at Maria’s New Mexican Kitchen, something fun at El Rey Court (I honestly forgot what, haha), and a prickly pear marg at La Choza. And surprise, surprise, he didn’t complain about any of them, haha.
Christmas-Style Chile: Another thing to note – you’ll undoubtedly get asked red or green whenever you order a New Mexican dish. They’re asking if you want red or green chile, and I recommend always asking for Christmas-style, meaning you get both!
Where to Eat in Old Town
- Cafe Pasquals: Super popular and busy, busy, busy for breakfast, so put your name down and wander Old Town. It’s a colorful, eclectic restaurant with lots of art on the walls and flags hanging from the ceiling. We tried the pancakes with chiles, mole, and maple syrup (said to be amazing but I think we missed something…).
- The Shed: Located right in the plaza, this is probably one of the most popular spots in Santa Fe serving traditional New Mexican cuisine – famous for their green chile stew, enchiladas, and fresh tacos. Either make a reservation for dinner, or come for lunch (no reservations needed, but expect a long wait time). Sit outside in the courtyard if it’s nice out!
- Tia Sophias: A no frills, authentic spot filled with plenty of locals. Great for breakfast – promise me you’ll order a Christmas style breakfast burrito (huge!) and sopapillas. Plus, it’s where the term “Christmas” style was invented, so you know it’s good.
- Coyote Cafe: Everyone recommended this place to us, and I can totally see why! We actually had Thanksgiving Dinner here, and wow, just wow. All the flavors were on point, and I’d love to come back to try their regular menu. I’m still dreaming about that banana cream pie. Head up to the Rooftop Cantina for views of downtown.
- La Boca: Here you’ll find Spanish tapas and small plates. We unfortunately missed this place (didn’t have enough time!), but I heard so many great things about it. It’s a bit fancy, so perfect if you wanna dress up a little. Surprisingly, the artichokes are one of their most popular dishes – try them and report back to me!
- Frito Pie from Five & Dime General Store: You should totally eat a frito pie at least once during your 3 days in Santa Fe. I mean, even Anthony Bourdain ate here, so that’s good enough for me!
- Cocktails at Los Poblanos Bar Norte: A super cute shop curated with bar accessories, snacks, and other home goods. The tiny bar in the back is super cute – and right down the block from our hotel! We went to the restaurant location in Albuquerque and had a great meal, so I had a feeling the bar in Santa Fe would be just as great.
- Drinks at The Bell Tower Bar at La Fonda: The perfect spot for happy hour with sweeping 360° views of the mountains and city below. Plus amazing cocktails (margaritas!) and small bites. Come for sunset! Closed for winter unfortunately!
Restaurants in the Railyard District
- La Choza: This was easily one of our favorite meals during our 3 days in Santa Fe. It’s admittedly got a very similar menu to their sister restaurant, The Shed, so perfect if you couldn’t get in there. Expect truly authentic New Mexican food, like green chile stew, blue corn soft tacos, spicy enchiladas, and carne adovada. Don’t miss the sopapillas – and drizzle on as much of that honey as you want! My new guilty pleasure. Usually very long wait times, so come for an early dinner.
- El Chile Toreado: There’s a reason the chef earned a James Beard nomination in 2023. Don’t miss the pork adobada burrito (marinated pork in adobo sauce cooked with onions) – so, so, so good. I desperately wanted to go back for another one but we ran out of time. Perfect for a chill, casual lunch. Just note it’s a food truck and there’s nowhere to eat, so if you’re visiting in late fall/winter like we were, you’ll probably wanna eat elsewhere, haha. Way too cold to stand around and eat outside.
- Whoo’s Donuts: A quick stop for some blue corn donuts (standouts being the blue corn blueberry lavender and blue corn maple pecan). And boy were they good. Just make sure you specify you want blue corn as there’s also regular donuts as well.
- Paloma: Upmarket Mexican cuisine (with creative cocktails) in a rustic-chic colorful space. YOU GUYS – I was beyond obsessed. Literally everything we got was perfect – tuna tostaditos, carnitas quesadillas (with oaxaca cheese!), guac, short rib barbacoa… it was all beyond perfection. Make a reservation; you won’t regret it. Plus, the best mezcal selection I’ve ever seen.
- Crash Murder Business: Coffee and tea drinks with a quirky twist inside such a cozy space; perfect for your morning caffeine before hitting up the shops.
- Paper Dosa: Genuine, authentic Indian cuisine right here in Santa Fe! It’s a bit south of the Railyard District, but super, super popular, and extremely busy. FOR A REASON – I couldn’t stop talking about my dosa for days, haha. They don’t take reservations, but I highly recommend coming for an early dinner. We got there just a little after opening and already had a 45 minute wait or something like that.
- El Rey Court: You definitely can’t walk here (regardless if you’re staying in Old Town or closer to the Railyard), but I promise it’s worth the short drive. The perfect after-dinner stop for some mezcal margaritas in a super chic space. The bar inside the hotel is cute and modern, and super cozy in the winter with the fireplace going! I loved the design so much we came back the next day to take some photos!
So there ya have it – my personal recommendations on the perfect 3 days in Santa Fe! Are you headed to New Mexico soon?!