romantic, outdoorsy, 7 day trip to Santa Fe/New Mexico, ideas?
March 25, 2014 10:56 AM   Subscribe

Wife and I are planning to visit Albuquerque, NM this May. We will rent a car, and be there for one week. Where should we go? We've never been to the region.

Things we're looking for:

National Parks
Day hikes (2-4 hour hikes, no camping, no serious gear)
Historical sights
Small towns to explore for a afternoon or two
Good day trips, so we can drive somewhere in the morning, do stuff, then either stay overnight or come back to base camp.
Great local restaurants (food trucks, beloved holes in the wall, up to fine dining)

I'm assuming we'll be based in Santa Fe. I'd like to stay below $200/night, but would be willing to splurge for a night or two if there is something really great.

Thoughts? Ideas? Is May the right time of year to go to Santa Fe?
posted by skewed to Travel & Transportation around Santa Fe, NM (21 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You have to go to Kakawa Chocolate House in Santa Fe.

You should hike at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument.

You should visit the Los Alamos Historical Society museum - it is small, but awesome. I hear the science museum in Los Alamos is also excellent, but we spent so long at the history museum that we didn't have time to go to the science one. And then you should go to the Overlook park in nearby White Rock - it's a small park with an astonishing view.

For an overnight, you could head to Chaco Culture National Historical Park, which is just mind-blowing.
posted by rtha at 11:05 AM on March 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I believe Bandelier will do you right.
posted by fingers_of_fire at 11:10 AM on March 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I love that area and have been many times. Some suggestions:
posted by Lescha at 11:12 AM on March 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

We went to New Mexico when I was a sullen 17 year old. As a kid who had gone on lots of family road trips and had seen a lot of national parks already, I have to say, I was completely blown away by Carlsbad Caverns. I've seen a lot of really cool things and been a lot of really cool places, but Carlsbad is my favorite national park.

I also recall that I really liked Taos, but honestly that might just be because I ate a really good sandwich there. I remember that sandwich. I don't remember anything about the city.
posted by phunniemee at 11:14 AM on March 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Eat at The Shed in Santa Fe.
posted by mudpuppie at 11:28 AM on March 25, 2014

Best answer: You'll be about 4 1/2 hours from Mesa Verde or Canyon de Chelly. From Mesa Verde, it's only another two hours to Monument Valley. If you're going all the way to Carlsbad Caverns, visit White Sands as well.
posted by cnc at 11:48 AM on March 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Abiqui Inn and the nearby Chimney Rock Trail. You'll have views of the Cerro Pedernal which Georgia O'Keeffe famously painted while staying at Ghost Ranch.

Beautiful beautiful part of the world.
posted by alms at 11:49 AM on March 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You're just a short drive from Acoma Pueblo. The views are spectacular. The history (and prehistory) presented is amazing. You'll have a chance to directly support Native artists. When you're finished, the Pueblo Tacos at the visitor's center (fry bread covered in green or red chile deliciousness) are the best I've ever had.
posted by TungstenChef at 12:01 PM on March 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: After one of your outdoorsy excursions, go to the Ten Thousand Waves spa, which is relaxing, enchanting, and romantic.
posted by willbaude at 12:08 PM on March 25, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Heh. Do check out this comment of mine from last week.

If you're in Santa Fe, the drive up the High Road and back down the Low Road is not to be missed.
posted by RedOrGreen at 12:08 PM on March 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

There's a certain romance to Tinkertown just outside of Albuquerque.

And I second the Ten Thousand Waves recommendation!
posted by vespabelle at 12:42 PM on March 25, 2014

Best answer: If you do end up going up to the Los Alamos area (It's a bit over 2 hours from Albuquerque if I remember) you definitely want to visit Bandelier national monument - it has all the ancient ruins and rock carvings of the cliff-dwelling people that lived in that area and it's really pretty neat. The shuttle to the park leaves from the park and ride in the town of Whiterock, which is basically a suburb of Los Alamos. I'd actually recommend checking out the Tsankawi trail, even though it's not part of the main Bandelier area. It winds up a mesa (using a few ladders) and through another settlement in the cliffs, I actually like it better, and the view from the top of the mesa there is pretty great. Though I'd suggest going to the main park first if possible just to maybe get a tour and a background on the history of the area.
posted by Zalzidrax at 12:52 PM on March 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yes, Bandelier.
Yes, Tent Rocks.

Yes, Ten Thousand Waves — the Waterfall private bath also has its own sauna and cold plunge and is the prettiest, outdoorsiest, woodsiest tub.

Try the Dale Ball trail system, on the east side of town (map here 5 Mb PDF). Atalaya may kick your butt (especially if you live at sea level), but the view is awesome. There are also lots of trails in the Santa Fe National Forest. A good resource for hikes in the area is Day Hikes in the Santa Fe Area from the local Sierra Club.

Instead of The Shed (which can be really touristy, and therefore hard to get a table at), try La Choza. Sister restaurant to The Shed, same owners, same delicious food, cheaper prices, in the Railyard, where the locals go.

If you like interesting booze, go to Secreto Lounge at the Hotel St. Francis on (I think) Wednesday, Friday, or Saturday nights, sit at the bar and Chris Milligan will mix up something awesome for you. He's really entertaining and knowledgeable about spirits/mixology.

Even if you don't want a drink there, it's worth going up to the Bell Tower Bar at La Fonda to check out the view. (Also, nicest public bathrooms near the Plaza are at La Fonda.)

Check out this year's Santa Fe Reporter restaurant guide.

If you're interested in history, the New Mexico History Museum campus incorporates the Palace of the Governors. Actually, it seems like just about everything in/around Santa Fe is historic in one way or another. Manhattan Project. Barrio Analco (PDF). Pueblo Revolt. St. Francis Cathedral. The Eight Northern Pueblos (and Eleven Southern). A Spy's Guide to Santa Fe and Albuquerque.

Actually, we have a whole typed-up list of Santa Fe things to do/eat/see/shop that we send to friends/family/friends-of-family. Memail me if you're interested.
posted by mon-ma-tron at 12:58 PM on March 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

And if you don't know it RedOrGreen's username is a reference to New Mexico's official state question, which you will certainly be asked when you order food. I prefer green, and only tourists ask for "Christmas".
posted by ellenaim at 2:01 PM on March 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Correction (in case anyone cares): Chris Milligan is at Secreto Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights.
posted by mon-ma-tron at 3:35 PM on March 25, 2014

Seconding Chaco Canyon. Ideally you'd camp/car camp, but a full day trip there would also be worthwhile. Sunset viewed from Casa Rinconada veers on the magical.
On May 13, they're having a (reservation required) full moon walk, which I would absolutely recommend. There's also a Night Sky program. I'm envious just thinking about it.

Ghost Ranch itself has rustic accommodations (with meals) if you're interested in hiking around the area.
posted by notquitemaryann at 7:43 PM on March 25, 2014

Two newer things to do in SF: Bang Bite food truck and Santa Fe Spirits Tasting Room. Both highly recommended and a great value.

Other recommended restaurants:
Maria's - New Mexican
Vinaigrette- Salads (extremely good salads)
Jambo - African/Caribbean/delicious
Castro Cafe- New Mexican, great prices, big portions

This book is the best guide we've found for local hiking, but if you don't want to buy a book I'd recommend the hikes around the Ski Basin area. All fairly easy to moderate, beautiful scenery.
posted by Flamingo at 8:37 AM on March 26, 2014

The tram to the top of the Sandia mountains is a fun way to start and end a day hike along the ridge of the mountains.

I'm not sure if the snow will be gone in May, so check on that before you plan a hike. Expect cold and wind, and check before leaving the tram area if there might be any weather closures.

You can also drive to the top of the Sandias off the turquoise trail, and dayhike from there.
posted by yohko at 3:59 PM on March 26, 2014

Just noticed you mentioned 'romantic' in your headline. Drive up to the top of the Sandias and have a picnic while watching the sunset.
posted by yohko at 4:01 PM on March 26, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for all the suggestions! My wife and I will be going over everything this weekend to make our plans. One thing I hadn't really thought of, will it still be snowy at higher altitudes in early May (10-17th?) I checked average high/lo temps and it seems like it'll be pretty cold at night, high 60's during the day.
posted by skewed at 7:50 AM on March 27, 2014

Best answer: There may be snow at the higher elevations in May, but probably not a lot — it was a pretty dry winter. Spring in Santa Fe is WINDY, though.

Not sure where you're traveling from, so you may already know this, but:

Temperature: It will get chilly at night. Temperature changes of 10-30 degrees between day and night are common — even though it's the desert, Santa Fe is 7000 feet above sea level. Sunny days and lack of moisture will make it more pleasant, but bring layers.

Water: Drink lots of it. It's sometimes hard to tell, but you are getting dehydrated, and that's going to take a toll on you. You should pretty much have a bottle of water in your hands at all times. Seriously. It's not an exaggeration.

Altitude: If you're coming from sea level, remember that even Albuquerque will be high altitude (about 5500 feet above sea level). Everything is going to hit you harder. Exertion. Alcohol. Drinking lots of water will help, but take it easy.

Sun: Sunscreen and/or hats. If you're prone to sunburn, you'll need them. The sun really is stronger here. If it's a sunny day and you're spending even part of it outside you should wear a hat!
posted by mon-ma-tron at 9:46 AM on March 27, 2014

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