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Santa Fe is such a unique destination that’s really like nowhere else in the United States. With orange pueblo buildings, tons of art galleries and relaxing spas, New Mexico’s capital city is the perfect place for a girls getaway or a relaxing long weekend. There’s a lot to do here, but 3 days in Santa Fe is just the right amount of time to cover everything.
While Santa Fe is a city, it feels very much like a small town. The downtown area is compact, so you can easily get around on foot. Founded in 1610 as a Spanish colony, the city has numerous historical attractions to see, including the traditional plaza and the Palace of the Governors.
It’s also pretty dog friendly with lots of outdoor patios and pet-friendly hotels, so I chose to fly there with my Pomeranian, Luna. Her snow white fur got absolutely covered in desert dust though, so be warned your pup might end up looking pretty grubby!
There are also tons of unique and cool things to do in Santa Fe, including Meow Wolf – a wacky immersive art experience – and the Sky Railway, a historic train that takes visitors on a ride through New Mexico’s landscape.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Santa Fe and would definitely recommend you visit! To help you plan your trip, I’ve put together this 3 day Santa Fe itinerary, which covers all the best sights and places to eat.
How to Get to Santa Fe, New Mexico
Santa Fe has its own airport, Santa Fe Regional Airport (SAF), however it’s fairly small and is mainly served by private aircraft and just a few airlines. Airlines that fly into Santa Fe include American, United, Delta and Alaska.
Flights to Santa Fe can be rather expensive, so most people fly into Albuquerque, which is what we did. Check out my guide to finding cheap flights, which is filled with tips for finding the cheapest airfares.
Albuquerque International Sunport (ABQ) is about 68 miles south west of Santa Fe and the driving time is roughly 1 hour.
We rented a car from Albuquerque airport and the experience was pretty seamless. I recommend using Rentalcars.com or Discover Cars to find the best deals. If you don’t want to rent a car, you can book a shuttle to/from the airport with a company called Groome Transportation.
Your other option is to take a train from downtown Albuquerque. If you’re coming from the airport, you could catch an Uber to Albuquerque train station. The New Mexico Rail Runner train operates between Albuquerque and Santa Fe seven days a week. You’ll get off at the Santa Fe Depot, which is close to the farmer’s market and numerous eateries.
Getting Around On Your 3 Days in Santa Fe
If you plan on sticking just to the downtown area on your weekend in Santa Fe then you could get around Santa Fe mainly by walking or taking Uber. Visiting Santa Fe is possible without a car, but you’ll want to make sure you’re staying at a downtown hotel and not one that’s on the edge of town.
Santa Fe has a bus service called the Santa Fe Trails bus, which operates various routes around town. You can see the schedules and routes here. You could also get around by renting a bike and cycling – check out Mellow Velo bike rental, which is located in the Historic Downtown area.
Personally I would recommend you rent a car for your 3 days in Santa Fe so you have the freedom to go wherever you want. Renting a car will allow you to visit other places in New Mexico, including Taos Pueblo and Jemez Springs. It’ll also make it much easier to get to places that are on the edge of Santa Fe too, such as Ten Thousand Waves, Ojo Santa Fe Spa and Meow Wolf.
Santa Fe Itinerary: 3 Days
Now that we’ve covered how to get around Santa Fe, let’s get straight into this Santa Fe itinerary! You’ll spend your first two days discovering the Historic Downtown area and places such as Canyon Road. Your last day will be spent having a nice relaxing spa day!
Day 1: Historic Downtown & Dinner
Start your first day of your Santa Fe itinerary by heading downtown and visiting two of the city’s best art museums – the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum and the New Mexico Museum of Art. Next, make your way to the plaza and stroll around the historic center. Most of Santa Fe’s attractions are located within a small radius, so everything is within walking distance.
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum and New Mexico Museum of Art
Located on Johnson St, the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum celebrates the life and works of artist Georgia O’Keeffe, who spent much of her time in the southwest. Many of her works were inspired by the landscape of New Mexico and she was known for paintings of flowers, leaves, rocks, shells, bones and landscapes.
The museum houses 3,000 pieces created by O’Keeffe, including 140 oil paintings, 700 drawings and hundreds of others created over the course of her career.
Nearby you’ll also find the New Mexico Museum of Art, which is dedicated to New Mexico art and is filled with paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs and various mixed-media works.
The building was designed by architects Isaac Hamilton and William Morris Rapp and completed in 1917. Its ‘Pueblo Revival’ architectural style utilizes modern construction materials made to look like the historic adobe churches that can be found throughout New Mexico.
Santa Fe Plaza
At the heart of the city is Santa Fe Plaza, which is a major gathering place and National Historic Landmark. It has the look and feel of a traditional Spanish plaza and features grass, trees and benches to sit on. Red chile ristras hang from the trees and a 33 ft (10 m) stone cenotaph called “The Soldier’s Monument” stands in the center.
Palace of the Governors
To the north of the plaza is the Palace of the Governors, which is a large adobe structure that dates all the way back to 1610. Built by the Spanish as an administrative building, it served as the seat of the New Mexico government for centuries. Today, many local artisans sell their wares and handicrafts beneath the long walkway outside it.
Lunch at The Shed
Next up on your Santa Fe itinerary – lunch time! Walk to The Shed, which is a very famous family-run spot with a cute courtyard patio. The entrance is quite discreet but you can easily spot it from the colorful wooden sign hanging outside. The Shed serves New Mexican cuisine and is known for its red chile enchiladas and yummy margaritas.
Once you’ve filled your stomach with tasty Mexican food, walk on over to The Loretto Chapel, which was once a Roman Catholic church but now operates as a museum and wedding venue.
The chapel (commissioned in 1873) is famous for its staircase, which has two complete 360 degree turns with no center pole for structural support. The entire weight of the staircase rests on the bottom stair, which is pretty amazing when you think about it!
According to legend, the Sisters of Loretto prayed a nine day novena to St. Joseph, Patron Saint of Carpenters. The architect of the chapel had died before access to the choir loft was built and so they prayed to the saint to help them solve the problem.
Supposedly on the ninth day of prayer, a carpenter showed up with only a hammer and carpenter’s square. After he built the staircase he disappeared without a trace and so the sisters of the chapel tried looking for him but couldn’t find him. Some people believe he was Saint Joseph himself, while others believe he was sent by Saint Josef.
Originally the staircase didn’t have banisters, but these were added about 10 years later to make it easier to climb the stairs.
Margaritas at Coyote Rooftop or La Fonda on the Plaza
After a long day of sightseeing you’ll probably want to kick back and relax. I’d suggest you head to a rooftop so you can have something to drink and enjoy the views over Santa Fe.
The Bell Tower Bar at La Fonda on the Plaza is arguably the best rooftop in Santa Fe and is the perfect place to watch the sunset. Located on the 5th floor of the hotel, it offers panoramic views over the city.
Alternatively you could visit Coyote Rooftop & Cantina, which has a colorful mural-painted rooftop and serves tasty southwestern cuisine.
Dinner at Sazón
End your day with dinner at Sazón – one of the best restaurants in Santa Fe. Everything on the menu is amazing and the bar staff are very knowledgeable. This upscale restaurant serves Mexican dishes with a contemporary twist and offers a nine-course degustation menu with unique creations from the restaurant’s acclaimed chef, Chef Olea.
I didn’t try the degustation menu but I did try a few dishes from the menu, including the chef’s signature soup, pan seared tuna with red cabbage, and the Crepes de Cajeta. The dessert was seriously one of the best desserts I’ve ever tasted, and I don’t even have much of a sweet tooth.
Day 2: Museum Hill, Ten Thousand Waves, Canyon Road
Begin your day by visiting Museum Hill, which is located 2-miles southeast of Santa Fe’s historic center. I’m not usually much of a museum person so I wondered if this would be worth it, but it totally was!
Museum Hill is a cluster of museums that are perched on top of a hill, offering breathtaking views all over Santa Fe and beyond. Even if you don’t go inside any of the museums, definitely stop up here to have a drink outside Weldon’s Museum Hill Cafe and soak up the incredible panorama.
The hill is home to four museums:
- Museum of Spanish Colonial Art
- Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian
- Museum of Indian Arts & Culture
- Museum of International Folk Art
While I didn’t go inside the museums, I did visit Santa Fe Botanical Garden, which is a gorgeous garden filled with cacti and other flaura/fauna that are native to the New Mexico landscape. Dotted around the garden you’ll see various sculptures and works of art – it’s a super relaxing place that’s definitely worth your time.
Lunch at Ten Thousand Waves
After visiting Museum Hill, drive on over (or Uber) to Ten Thousand Waves, which is a Japanese-style spa located northeast of Santa Fe.
Arriving at Ten Thousand Waves I felt like I’d been teleported straight to Japan. The entire resort has been modeled in the style of a traditional Japanese mountain onsen and is incredibly peaceful.
We didn’t actually soak here (we chose to visit the Ojo Santa Fe Spa for that), we did have lunch in the resort’s izanami restaurant. This upscale izakaya serves authentic Japanese cuisine, including seafood that’s flown in directly from Tokyo.
Most of the restaurant’s pork, chicken and wagyu beef is organic or sustainably raised, and there are plenty of gluten-free, vegetarian or vegan items on the menu. All of the desserts are made in-house and there’s an extensive Japanese sake menu if you like sake!
Everything we ate at izanami was delicious and it was one of the best meals we had on the trip. We dined outside because I had my dog with me, but the restaurant has a number of seating options, including booths, table seating and traditional tatami floor seating.
Kakawa Chocolate House
Make sure you leave a little room for some dessert, since your next stop will be Kakawa Chocolate House, which is located near Canyon Road. This specialty chocolate company makes various historic drinking chocolates using recipes that date from the time period 1000 BC to the mid-1900s AD.
In addition to drinking elixirs, Kakawa also sells homemade ice creams, truffes, agave caramels and hard chocolates, which are made in small batches. The company uses fresh, seasonal ingredients and uses some unique flavors such as pomegranate, cherry-chili, prickly pear, and mezcal.
After sampling chocolates at Kakawa, head to Canyon Road, which is Santa Fe’s famous art street. Santa Fe is home to hundreds of galleries and has the second biggest art scene after New York City.
Canyon Road is lined with art galleries featuring fine art created by some of the best artists in the United States – and the world.
Spend your afternoon browsing the art and then stop by the Ahmyo Wine Garden, which serves wine and artisanal foods in a peaceful desert oasis garden setting. It’s the perfect place to rest your weary legs after a day of sightseeing!
If you don’t feel like drinking alcohol you could stop by The Teahouse, which offers an extensive menu of loose-leaf organic teas and unique botanicals. The teas are sustainably sourced and imported directly from the growers, then mixed in-house by master tea blenders.
Dinner at El Farol or Geronimo
For dinner there are a couple of great options on Canyon Road. El Farol is famous for its Flamenco Dinner Show, which takes place every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night. The show starts at 8pm and includes a Pre-Fixe dinner featuring entrees such as pan-seared salmon, beef medallions and Spanish paella.
Alternatively you could make a reservation for Geronimo, which is a fine dining restaurant housed in an adobe home built by Geronimo Lopez in 1756. The restaurant has won numerous awards and was voted one of the top restaurants in the US. On the menu you’ll find various a la carte dishes as well as a four-course vegetarian tasting menu, which costs $80 per head.
Day 3: Railyard, Ojo Santa Fe Spa Resort, Meow Wolf
Day 3 of your Santa Fe itinerary will be a bit more relaxed, with the opportunity to bathe in a hot spring and visit the weird and wonderful Meow Wolf.
Ikonik Coffee Roasters
Start your day with a coffee from Ikonik Coffee Roasters, which is one of Santa Fe’s best coffee shops. Housed in a former school building, the coffee shop boasts a large airy space with vintage chandeliers, comfy armchairs and long communal tables for working. If you didn’t have breakfast at your hotel then you’ll find a variety of breakfast items here, including breakfast tacos, croque madame waffles, benedicts and Egyptian dukkah.
Railyard Arts District
Next, check out the Railyard Arts District, which features seven contemporary art galleries housed in spacious warehouse style buildings. On Saturdays the railyard also hosts the Santa Fe Farmers Market, which is filled with hundreds of different vendors selling all sorts of agricultural produce.
Ojo Santa Fe Spa Resort
One of the best spas in Santa Fe, Ojo Santa Fe Spa Resort boasts several spring-fed thermal pools and 77 acres of lush gardens. It’s the perfect place to soothe your body, heart and mind.
The resort’s communal bathing areas overlook a small lake and are surrounded by cottonwood trees and lounge chairs. It’s a really beautiful setting and I felt so relaxed here! Spend your afternoon soaking in the mineral-rich waters, then enjoy lunch in the resort’s Blue Heron Restaurant.
The restaurant serves farm-to-table dishes made with ingredients from the Ojo Caliente Farm and local Southwest region. We ordered the The Butcher The Baker & The Farmer grazing platter – it was amazing!
To get to Ojo Santa Fe you really need a car, since it’s located about 15 miles southwest of downtown Santa Fe so you’ll need to drive to get there. Uber is sometimes available, but it can be difficult to snag one.
Meow Wolf is an immersive art experience that started in Santa Fe but has since expanded to Las Vegas and Denver. Santa Fe’s experience is called The House of Eternal Return and features over 70 rooms of immersive art that are suitable for adults and children of all ages. It was constructed on the site of a former bowling alley and has since become a very popular Santa Fe attraction.
I had absolutely no idea what to expect when we lined up for it, but I’m so glad I went! It’s so difficult to explain, but it was sort of like stepping into a Tim Burton movie. Think Alice in Wonderland meets Charlie and the Chocolate Factory meets…Japanese Kawaii Monster Cafe?
It basically starts in a house, except it’s not your normal house. Open the refrigerator door and you’ll discover a tunnel that leads to another dimension. Crawl through the fireplace and you’ll find yourself in a room filled with weird and wonderful art. It’s very interactive and there are all sorts of secret passageways and things to climb.
Expect to spend about 2 hours at Meow Wolf and try to go in the late afternoon when it’s less busy. That’s why I’d suggest visiting the spa first and then you can do this in the afternoon.
The experience is open till 8pm on Sundays, Mondays, and Thursdays, and 10pm on Fridays and Saturdays. It’s closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays, so don’t attempt to go then!
Dinner at Radish and Rye or Restaurant Martin
My favorite restaurant in Santa Fe was Restaurant Martin – it was so good we ate there twice! Another great restaurant we tried was Radish and Rye, which serves farm-to-table cuisine.
Things to Do Near Santa Fe
If you have more than 3 days in Santa Fe, rent a car so you can see more of New Mexico. I LOVED the scenery and driving on empty open roads. Some top day trips to include on your Santa Fe itinerary include:
Bandelier National Monument
This national monument protects over 33,000 acres of land that features evidence of the Ancestral Pueblo people that dates back thousands of years.
Most of Bandelier is just wilderness, but it does contain various petroglyphs, masonry pueblos and dwellings carved into the cliffs. If you want to learn more about the monument, start at the Visitor Center, which features a museum, bookstore, 14-minute movie, giftshop, snack bar, and picnic area.
From the Visitor Center you can take the Main Loop Trail, which is a short 1.2 mile loop that leads through excavated archeological sites in Frijoles Canyon. Another popular hike is the The Tsankawi section of the park, which features a 1.5 mile mesa-top trail with 4 ladders. You’ll get to see petroglyphs, an unexcavated Ancestral Pueblo village, and beautiful vistas along the way.
Jemez Springs/ Spence Springs
Another popular day trip from Santa Fe is a trip to Jemez Springs, which is known for its healing mineral springs and mountain scenery. The village is located on the Jemez Mountain Trail Scenic Byway, which is close to Valles Caldera National Park.
Sights here include the Jemez State Monument (Jemez Historic Site), which dates back hundreds of years, and the 16th century San José de Guisewa (Jemez) Church) – one of the largest missions in the United States.
If you want to soak in a natural hot spring with incredible views, I’d suggest visiting Spence Springs, which is accessible via a short hiking trail. The hot spring is located off NM State Highway 4 and has a small parking area that fits about seven vehicles. The spring features a small pool with water that sits around body temperature, so it’s best to visit during the warmer summer months when it’s not too cold.
In the town of Jemez Springs there are a number of commercial hot springs and bathhouses where you can soak and enjoy various spa treatments. Check out Jemez Hot Springs, Jemez Springs Bath House, Canon del Rio Retreat & Spa, and Adobe Morning Day Spa.
Taos Pueblo is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, located about 73 miles (a 1 hour 40 minute drive) from Santa Fe. The village is set at the base of the beautiful Sangre de Cristo Mountain range and consists of many multi-storied adobe buildings that have been continuously inhabited for over 1000 years.
It’s still a living Native American community with a population of around 4,500 people, so it’s important to be respectful of their privacy and rules when you visit.
Entry to the pueblo costs $16 for adults and $14 for seniors or students. Children under 10 go free. The pueblo is closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays, so don’t try to visit on these days. Check the Taos Pueblo website for up-to-date opening times.
Madrid and the Turquoise Trail
If you’re driving from Santa Fe back to Albuquerque in your rental car, you can drive along the Turquoise Trail Scenic Byway, which extends for approximately 50 miles along Highway 14. This scenic drive will take you past old mining towns of Golden, Madrid and Cerillos.
I’d suggest making a stop in Madrid, which is a quirky artist’s community that was once a coal mining town and ghost town. This small town is full of colorful buildings, art galleries, cafes and shops, so it’s the perfect spot to stop off for a coffee on the way to Albuquerque.
Where to Stay For Your 3 Days in Santa Fe
For this Santa Fe itinerary I’d suggest staying as close to downtown as possible. There are much cheaper hotels on the outskirts of town but you’ll then have to spend money on Ubers if you want to drink, or you’ll be looking for parking downtown.
There are tons of cute boutique hotels in downtown Santa Fe, but these are some of the best ones:
The Parador Santa Fe
I stayed at The Parador Santa Fe, which is a cute boutique hotel that’s about a 10 minute walk from the plaza. The hotel has its own parking lot and there’s a delicious a la carte breakfast served every day in the breakfast room. You can read all about the hotel in my Parador review.
Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi
I always find Rosewood hotels to be very luxurious and this one is no exception. The hotel is situated just a stone’s throw from the main plaza and its interiors pay homage to the area’s native Anasazi tribe. Rooms feature handcrafted furnishings, local art work, traditional wooden ceilings, and either double or king beds.
Inn & Spa at Loretto
The Inn & Spa at Loretto offers 136 well-appointed suites and guest rooms, an award-winning spa, a year-round heated garden pool, and several on-site galleries and boutiques. Lots of people visit the hotel’s restaurant, Luminaria, which has a romantic outdoor patio serving southwestern fare. The hotel is located adjacent to the Loretto Chapel and is housed in a large adobe building that’s reminiscent of Taos Pueblo.
The Inn of the Five Graces
Housed in a traditional adobe and stone structure, The Inn of the Five Graces is a high-end boutique hotel with beautiful courtyards, round-the-clock concierge and a Tibetan-inspired spa. Guest suites are decorated in vibrant colors with handcrafted pieces and one-of-a-kind treasures from the Silk Road that once linked Europe and Asia. They all have kiva wood-burning fireplaces and some of them have their own private balconies.
Hotel St. Francis
Located in the center of town, Hotel St. Francis is the oldest hotel in Santa Fe. This historic hotel has a gorgeous lobby and a steakhouse with outdoor patio called Market Steer. If you fancy a drink after a day of sightseeing, head to the Secreto Lounge, which serves “Garden-To-Glass” cocktails using fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs.
Located not far from the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Las Palomas is a boutique hotel with artfully decorated rooms and a bistro serving delicious breakfast burritos. The hotel has a cozy, Southwestern ambience and each room is different. Some feature rustic wooden décor and hand-woven rugs, while others boast mid-century furnishings and spacious living areas.
A Final Word…
I hope you enjoy this Santa Fe itinerary! A weekend in Santa Fe is definitely something you should consider if you like art, delicious Mexican food and relaxing spas. The scenery in New Mexico is incredible and I loved just driving around the state!
3 days in Santa Fe will allow you to see all the major attractions, although I would spend maybe 4 to 5 days here if you want to visit places like Taos Pueblo, Bandelier National Monument and the natural hot springs.
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Travel on a budget: Staying in hostels is a great way to meet people and is best if you’re on a budget. You can find plenty of awesome hostels with Hostelworld.
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