Santa Fe, New Mexico is a perfect destination for a 4-day trip. It combines incredible historic sights with an abundance of outdoor activities and a vibrant art and culinary scene! Today I’m sharing all the best things to do in Santa Fe, along with the perfect 4-day itinerary.
This post may contain affiliate links. These links provide a means for sites like NattyGal.com to earn a small commission when a reader clicks through and makes a purchase at no additional cost to the reader. See full affiliate disclosure in Privacy & Disclosures.
Over Memorial Day weekend, we took a short trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Both of us agreed that 4 days was the perfect length of time to get a feel for the city. Today I’m sharing our itinerary and all of the best things to do while visiting Santa Fe!
Note that this 4-day, 5-night Itinerary assumes arrival late in the day before starting this tour on Day 1.
Pick up a car in Albuquerque and make the hour drive to Santa Fe. Check-in then stop at a bar or restaurant for sunset. The view from the La Fonda rooftop is lovely! You will drive back to Albuquerque and depart early on Day 5.
NOTE: While it was not running while we were in Santa Fe, the Stargazer Train outing makes for a fun evening event. There is so little ambient light in this area that if the weather is clear, you are sure to see an incredible number of stars!
Spend this first day getting to know historic Santa Fe! Fun Fact: It is the oldest capital city in the United States of America. Via either a live walking tour or by using the GPSmyCity app, make your way around the highlights of Old Santa Fe, stopping wherever you desire.
- Santa Fe Plaza
- Palace of the Governors/New Mexico History Museum
- New Mexico Museum of Art
- Georgia O’Keefe Museum – allow about 1 hour to visit this small but beautifully curated museum
- Santuario de Guadalupe
- New Mexico State Capitol
- San Miguel Mission
- Oldest House Museum – right next door to the mission, free and only takes about 5 minutes to see
- Loretto Chapel – the highlight is the circular “miraculous” staircase which makes two 360-degree turns and has no visible means of support, admission charge
- Basilica of St. Francis
Reserve well in advance for tonight’s dinner at Sazon. Chef Fernando Olea is a James Beard Award winner and is very visible to diners at the restaurant. Let the excellent wait staff guide you toward the very best of his incredibly inventive new-world Mexican cuisine.
Depart early today taking the High Road to Taos (2-2.5 hours without stops). Notable attractions along the way include:
- The Four Seasons Santa Fe Resort, shortly outside of town with some extraordinary views
- El Santuario de Chimayó – a lovely adobe-style church renowned for its healing miracles
- Las Trampas Historical District – an 18th-century Spanish colonial village
- The scenic and wooded Carson National Forest
Once in Taos, grab some lunch (we liked Azteca Mexcian Grill) and head to Taos Plaza to see the cozy Hotel La Fonda de Taos, and spend some time popping in and out of the amazing shops and galleries. Bent Street is an especially scenic street to walk!
Next, head towards the 1000-year-old Taos Pueblo. Take a guided tour and learn more about the indigenous citizens that call this area home. After touring Taos Pueblo, drive to the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge for some very windy but spectacular views. NOTE: Not for those with a fear of heights.
Drive back to Santa Fe via the low road (1.5 hours without stops) which follows the Rio Grande and will take you by the St. Francis de Asis Mission Church in Ranchos de Taos as well as some wineries. You’ll recognize the church as the one immortalized by Georgia O’Keefe. Ask to view their mystery painting, while you’re there.
Take a quick rest if you can and then head out for a casual evening at the Santa Fe Railyard. Try one of the local brews at Second Street Brewery.
Today is all about art! Start things off with a visit to the utterly mind-bending Meow Wolf. Meow Wolf: House of Eternal Return is an immersive art experience that incorporates non-linear storytelling through a variety of interactive displays. They open at 10 am and I recommend starting as close to that time as you can. We spent about 2 hours exploring but you could easily want to do more. This is a DO NOT-MISS attraction!
After Meow Wolf, head toward the Canyon Road area and grab some lunch or some hot chocolate at Kakawa Chocolate House then wander the Canyon Road art district. The galleries here are much more authentic than those surrounding Plaza Santa Fe and we enjoyed them infinitely more.
For dinner tonight, head back to Canyon Road to Geronimo, another one of Santa Fe’s most highly-rated restaurants.
Our last full day is all about adventure! Pick from one of the following activities:
- Bandolier National Monument and/or the Los Alamos History Museum
- Pecos National Historic Park and/or Los Cerrillos & Madrid
- Abiquiú Ghost Ranch – location of Georgia O’Keefe’s home and studio
We visited Bandolier and loved being able to climb into the various cliff dwellings and view the petroglyphs in this spectacular canyon. Los Alamos is nearby and would make a great stop if you are interested in learning mor about the Manhattan Project and the development of the atomic bomb.
In Pecos, you can hike or take a guided tour of the ancestral sites of the Pecos Pueblo. Los Cerrillos and Madrid are two former coal mining ghost towns that remain open as tourist sights. Los Cerrillos has a more authentic feel whereas Madrid had a much more extensive array of shops, restaurants, and galleries.
Tonight enjoy dinner near Santa Fe Plaza at the amazing tapas restaurant, La Boca. They had quite a few very original tapas offerings and live music playing the night we were there.
Lodging in Santa Fe
When traveling, we typically like to locate ourselves in the heart of a town’s historic district or central activity area. There is a huge convenience factor in being able to walk out your door and right into the heart of the city. In Santa Fe, that means being in proximity to Santa Fe Plaza.
Hotel St. Francis is extremely well-located and beautifully decorated in a historic style. Rooms, while not huge, are certainly spacious enough for a couple and feature some charming details like an in-room washbasin and authentic, New Mexican armoires. They also offer complimentary on-site parking – always a plus.
There are a few things to be aware of prior to booking.
- There is a $30/night amenity fee that includes the coffee/snacks (below), parking, and wifi. It seemed a bit steep for what is delivered and I think they’d be better off just calling it the parking charge.
- The bathroom/wash basin situation can be a bit cramped for 2 people. I thought it was OK, Natty Guy was less pleased.
- Many places are short-staffed right now, I realize that. But, almost across the board, the staff we interacted with seemed a bit inattentive/apathetic and unconcerned with customer satisfaction.
Hotel St. Francis has an on-site bar/lounge and restaurant as well as a Gruet branded wine-tasting room. Breakfast is NOT included (although they put out coffee, granola bars, and some yogurt) but there are several great options within walking distance including The Pantry Rio, Cafe Pasqual’s, and Mille.
3 Day/4 Night Alternative
To do this trip in three days instead of four, start early on day 1 touring historic Santa Fe in the morning then visit one of the Day 4 adventure sights in the afternoon. Easily do-able, just a bit faster paced!
Have you visited any southwestern states of the US? If you’re planning a trip, be sure to save this post and check out my travel tips for Salt Lake/Park City, Utah. As always, thanks so much for your likes, shares and comments! Until next time…