Where to stay in Santa Fe?
July 29, 2013 11:55 AM   Subscribe

How walkable is downtown Santa Fe? We'll be there for 3 days and are trying to decide whether we should restrict our hotel search near the Plaza or consider the cluster on Cerillos about 15 minutes away.

Downtown wins if it's the kind of place where we can wake up and head out for the day on foot. If we're going to have to get in the car regardless, though, then it seems silly not to look for more competitively priced places elsewhere.
posted by elizeh to Travel & Transportation around Santa Fe, NM (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Did a day visit this spring, driving a rental car from Albuquerque. After an hour or two in downtown, we actually found ourselves hanging out at the glass blowing and pottery and sundry down on Baca Street for the rest of the day.

I think I remember sidewalks, though it wasn't screaming "walk me" like the downtown of a big city, but based on what we found interesting I'd be tempted to head down closer to Ashbaugh Park.

Your mileage will vary and hopefully others will pipe up with a more "we walk everywhere" based experience.
posted by straw at 12:03 PM on July 29, 2013

Downtown Santa Fe is very, very walkable. You can also stay on the Cerillos places and take the bus up Cerillos to downtown. It runs every 15 minutes, weekdays, less often on the weekends. However, many of the scenic pleasures of the area, ten thousand waves hot springs spa, Hyde Memorial Park, Tesuque Flea Market, the Santa Fe Opera, do require a car. Even walking all the galleries of Canyon Road can be a hike trying to do it all on foot. The first part of Canyon Road is near downtown, but taking on the whole winding road on foot can get exhausting. The elevation in the city is around 7,500 feet, much higher than Denver or Albuquerque, so be aware of elevation sickness. Avoid alcohol and carbs like the plague. Drinks lots and lots of water.
posted by caveatz at 12:03 PM on July 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

Downtown Santa Fe is extremely walkable, but not everything you'll want to do in Santa Fe for three days is within walking distance.
posted by scody at 12:13 PM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Downtown itself is 100% walkable, including the rail yard and the canyon road galleries, though you might want to head different directions on different days. When we go we normally park in the city garage (the one on San Francisco, which is like a block off the plaza) for the day and don't go back to the car again. It would be crazy to drive from place to place anywhere near downtown - it's generally congested, slow (narrow roads) and very difficult to park. The big question would be what you want to see - if you are interested in the museums up on the museum hill (NOT downtown), then you definitely will want a car to get there. Same for going to the opera house or Tesuque. The city garage is not super expensive either, like maybe $10/day, or the city bus also goes down Cerillos straight to downtown. I personally would save the money on the hotel and plan to see other things in the area, parking and walking downtown for the first day and then decide how much more time I wanted to spend there. There are too many beautiful/interesting things in the area to be limited to downtown and the plaza.
posted by pekala at 12:14 PM on July 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

I live in Santa Fe! It's fantastic! I live near the Railyard and while the weather is nice (aka NOW), we walk everywhere.

For a good budget hotel, I'd recommend Sage Inn, which should run about $60 per night. It's near the Railyard, and while walkable to the Plaza also has a shuttle that runs fairly frequently.

I wouldn't stay on Cerrillos if you're visiting for the first time, but there are generally shuttles, etc. that will take you where you want to go.

Also, don't avoid all carbs and alcohol. Maria's has great enchiladas and margaritas.
posted by Flamingo at 12:14 PM on July 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

I was going to recommend the Sage Inn also - that's where I tell all my friends to stay!

And sopapillas - let's just pretend they are low carb, k?
posted by dawkins_7 at 12:22 PM on July 29, 2013

Downtown is very walkable, but unless you want to spend more than a day downtown it's easier to park in one of the pay lots at the edge of downtown and walk from there. For driving to check out other areas, it's going to be easier to get to them if you don't have to escape downtown first.
posted by yohko at 12:41 PM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

I live in Albuquerque and have spent quite a few days taking the Rail Runner up to Santa Fe to get out of the heat and hanging out/walking around, but that's just for a day trip, not for spending several days. So it really depends on where you're planning on going.
posted by NoraReed at 1:33 PM on July 29, 2013

Downtown Santa Fe is very walkable, but I'm gonna tell you that downtown accommodations are astronomically priced. What do you want to do while you're here in Santa Fe? Focus on art? Galleries are centrally located i.e. the Plaza, so downtown might be a good for a hotel. If it's scenery you're looking for e.g. Hyde Park, Tesuque, maybe even taking a ride to Abiquiu, then I personally would stay at a more modest hotel and save your money for gas.

Like caveatz mentioned, 7500 ft. elevation is a big change for many people. Drink tons of water and give yourself some down time when you first get here to adjust. You don't have to avoid alcohol completely, but definitely go light. Booze will affect you faster at this altitude and it will also dry you out so fast it will make your head spin. Santa Fe is high desert and especially at this time of year, it is challenging just to stay adequately hydrated even when you're not drinking alcohol. You can't drink too much water around here.

I would also be remiss if I didn't mention high SPF sunscreen. The sun is VERY strong here in New Mexico. Red or green? You'll find out what I'm talking about when you get here.

Lots of fun things to do here, some of which are walkable, some of which you'll need a car for. I personally would recommend having a car, because I bet you'll find out about all kinds of cool stuff once you get to Santa Fe that you'll have to go outside of Santa Fe to check out. Have fun!
posted by strelitzia at 1:48 PM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

I stayed in Santa Fe for a week, for a conference held at a number of places on the plaza, without a car and had a lovely time. If you don't mind buses, I found the system very easy to use and rode it up to museum hill (and to visit St. John's College, which besides being awesome gives you access to hike the Sangre de Cristo Mountains). There are also stops near a lot of the galleries, if you get tired of walking. I would recommend the Sage Inn over the Hilton where I stayed, although the Hilton pool really is lovely if you'll be there in the summer.
posted by hydropsyche at 2:39 PM on July 29, 2013

If you have a car anyway, it's not a terrible idea to stay on Cerillos (although be prepared for it not to be pretty -- it's a commercial strip like you'd find anywhere, with the exception of the adobe facade on the McDonald's). It's not that big a deal to drive into the center, and I'd only plan on one day to see the Plaza, etc. There's not too much there.

My wife, who grew up in and around Santa Fe, suggests hiking in the Hyde Memorial State Park -- about 20 minutes from downtown. Also, I thought the Museum of International Folk Art was weird enough to warrant a visit.
posted by MarkAnd at 6:20 AM on July 30, 2013

If you decide to stay on Cerillos, the Sage Inn is a good suggestion. Also, check out the El Rey Inn, which has a certain charm that other hotels/motels along Cerillos lack. The Sage Inn is walkable to the Plaza, but it will take a drive or a bus ride from the El Rey.
posted by backwords at 3:42 PM on July 30, 2013

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