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Trip Report: 3 enchanting days in Santa Fe

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Trip Report: 3 enchanting days in Santa Fe

Flew into Sunport and the recording in the rental car shuttle welcomed us to New Mexico: Land of enchantment. I was skeptical at first, but was truly enchanted during our short stay here.

We drove into Santa Fe and checked into the Hyatt Place Santa Fe -- tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g60958-d1769… -- though we missed it because our GPS sent us to the opposite side of the street. Imagine that -- our GPS steered us wrong. No matter, we checked in and were on our way to the Santa Fe Plaza via Cerrillos Rd.

To be continued.

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1. Re: Trip Report: 3 enchanting days in Santa Fe

Day One:

First stop -- State Capitol building. Parking was easy as it was Sunday and Thanksgiving week and meters were free. From the seal, I deduced that New Mexico (the state) is exactly 100 years old. Nothing was open so we just walked around the building and got back in our car.

Second stop: O'Keefe museum. Glad to find out that our kids got in free. Interesting to find out the inspiration behind her work and her early history. Made a point to look for the Pedernal during our trip.

We walked back to our parked car, got our brown Bag lunch and strolled to a picnic table by the Santa Fe river. The river bed was dry so it wasn't as lovely as we anticipated. But we did enjoy our food.

After lunch, we explored the plaza, the gift shops and museums. Our minds were left wondering:

1. If a mysterious carpenter built the spiral staircase at Loretta chapel for free, why do we have to pay $3 to look at it?

2. Why didn't we bring our hats and caps? The glare was really bad in the afternoon.

3. We tried looking but why couldn't we find anything for a nickel at the Five and Dime store in the Plaza? Interesting to poke around anyway. Thought about ordering a Frito Pie but the hot dogs in the back looked like it had been sitting out all day and I gave it a pass.

4. At the big St Francis of Assisi church, why did the statue of Jesus with a cactus instead of thorns on his head?

5. Why did the museum of native arts and culture had exhibits about the Inuits in Alaska? I guess it features many different native cultures in the U.S. -- not just of the tribes in New Mexico.

6. Why is the Wiford Gallery is known mainly for the Whitaker wind sculptures and not for the Barry Thomas? We liked the sculptures but loved Thomas -- a former Razorback football player who was convinced by Coach Lou Holtz to follow his dream of becoming an artist. http://wifordgallery.com/barry-thomas/

7. What is Christmas Sauce? We found out by ordering a Hamburger with Christmas sauce for dinner and it was very good. The red and green chiles gave it a very yin-yang flavor. Yum Yum.

8. Why do restaurants in Santa Fe have free refills for drinks (including lime-aid) when many San Francisco restaurants charge you for every refill?

What an eventful and enchanting day. To be continued....

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2. Re: Trip Report: 3 enchanting days in Santa Fe

Day 2: Bandelier National Monument and Los Alamos

The drive to Bandelier NM was about 1 hour from Santa Fe. There's typically a required shuttle from the visitor center in White Rocks but the mandatory shuttle program ended mid Nov. But before we drove into Bandelier, we took a short detour to the Overlook Park in White Rock (aka White Rock Overlook). It was only a 5 minute drive away from the visitor center in White Rock where you pick up the shuttle and it is. Not. To. Be. Missed.

tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60730-d27…

Wow.

We went on our way to Bandelier NM, parked and went on the Main Trail. Very interesting climbing up the ladders to the mini-caves and wondering what it was like for the residents in mid-summer. Wished I had brought my hat -- did I mention that the afternoon glare?

Walked back to the visitor center, had lunch at the picnic area by the river, then went on another hike to the Alcove House. That required climbing ladders up 100+ feet so was scary for my DW who was afraid of heights. But my kids loved it.

Thought about the Puye Cliff dwellings but decided to choose Bandelier over Puye to avoid the $20-$35 per person charge. Plus we had our annual national park pass and saved us from paying the $12 entrance fee to Bandelier. I'm hoping I made the right decision -- not just the cheap decision.

We left Bandelier, continued on our loop west of Rt 4 and made a right at Rt 501 to Los Alamos. I read the map wrong and thought we would be passing the Valles Caldera but never saw it. That was because the Caldera was further along on Rt 4. By the time I realized the mistake, we were already at the security gate by Los Alamos and it was too late to turn back.

The Bradbury Science Museum is free and educational. The history of Los Alamos was very creepy and fascinating at the same time. Kinda interesting finding out also that Los Alamos was built on a mesa so there are bridges connecting it to the "mainland". We ended up with lots of questions after our trip. Why the security stop when all they do is to wave you on? Is it our federal $$ at work? Why the poster encouraging 2 minutes for safety -- wouldn't we want to have more than 2 minutes for safety at a nuclear lab? So many questions, so little time.

By the time we were done, the sun had set and we didn't have time for the Tsankawi section to look at the petroglyphs as recommended on the forums. Oh well. We should have done it on the way in.

Back to Santa Fe for dinner. No more red chile hamburger this time. Ashamed to say we went to Souper! Salad!. We Californians miss our greens.

Another enchanting day in New Mexico.

Edited: 1:01 pm, November 25, 2012
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3. Re: Trip Report: 3 enchanting days in Santa Fe

Thanks for your report! A few comments:

1. How did you like Hyatt Place? Its rather far from the Plaza - was that OK for you?

2.Sorry about the "Staircase". I guess the chapel wants to stay in good shape! Next time, drive up to Chimayo, which is free and an NM icon.

3. Not only are Inuits celebrated, but also Native Hawaiians. Diversity within diversity! But the local pueblos of Northern NM are of course the most representative. Next time drive out to Institute for American Indian Art, a college right outside of SF which has Native art students from all over the USA.

4. next time you crave your veggies, order Calabacitas

adobenido.com/blog/…

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4. Re: Trip Report: 3 enchanting days in Santa Fe

Glad you had a good trip. Chiles and pinto beans are our state vegetables, lol! Most places serve good salads too!

1. Loretta Chapel needs money to keep the place maintained.

2. Hats and caps are sold all over Santa Fe for a reason, yes it is very sunny here. Sunscreen is another must have as are sunglasses.

3. The Five and Dime store used to be a Woolworth's back in the day and they had a great lunch counter and items for a nickel and a dime. Cheapest thing I've found there are 25 cent postcards, lol.

8. SF is not SF, lol! No idea why, but thanks for the heads up we will be in your SF in 2 weeks!

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5. Re: Trip Report: 3 enchanting days in Santa Fe

The Hyatt Place was a little far from Santa Fe but bearable because it was on the way from Albuquerque and they do have a free shuttle into town. Because it was right on Cerrillos, it was close to popular dining places like the Blue Corn Cafe and Los Potrillos. But the neighborhood is definitely not as nice as if we were staying by the Plaza.

My dear wife really liked the Five and Dime and the store had a lot of history in the back on what it looked like back in the day.

I had jicama in my cole slaw and my daughter had the calabacitas. We've had Baja-mex, Cal-mex, Tex-mex and it was good to have New-mex food to fill out our experience.

As a Dad, nothing worse than thinking refills are free and ending up with a $25 horchata bill. So I was glad that many New-mex places offer free refills. There are places in SF that do offer free drink refills -- but they are not the norm.

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6. Re: Trip Report: 3 enchanting days in Santa Fe

Day 3: Santa Fe to Tesuque pueblo to Taos

My wife loves glass sculpture so we stopped by Tesuque glass works and enjoyed looking at the pieces on display. The cast glass technique was very interesting as we have not seen that before. http://www.tesuqueglass.com/Cast-Glass.html

Then it was off to look at the Camel Rock (it was fenced off so couldn't go up close) and cheap gas at the entrance ramp to I-25. We decided to take the "low road" to Taos up and it was a very pleasant drive.

The best part of the drive was stopping at the Rio Grande Gorge Visitor Center where they have clean bathrooms and picnic tables overlooking the river. There's also a short half-mile Las Minas Trail for better views of the Rio Grande Gorge. We ended up driving across the street to the Orilla Verde BLM campgrounds on Rt 570 (all along the Rio Grande) for a nice picnic by the river. We thought about taking one of the rickety looking, single lane bridges crossing the river but were too scared. It was a fun picnic but and we were able to look at the gorge from the bottom up. Highly recommend stopping either at the visitor center or Orilla Verde for lunch.

We could have driven up all the way up Rt 570, crossed the Taos Junction Bridge and taken the West Rim Road to Rio Grande Gorge Bridge and then to Taos. But decided to play it safe and backtrack to Rt 68 and continued on to Taos.

Taos Plaza was interesting and my daughter found very cute finger puppets. Interesting stores -- My son was happy with his choc truffle purchase. We skipped the Taos Pueblo and went straight to the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. I've never been to the Grand Canyon and this was amazing. Nothing for miles around besides the plateau, the gorge and the road/bridge.

Then it was back to Santa Fe on the high road. Managed to play in some snow in the higher elevations before heading back down to the little towns. Afternoon glare was bad and we decided next time that we should take the high road in the morning when the glare is not as bad. Even with the glare, we enjoyed the views of the mountains and foothills.

Truchas was very idyllic and we could see why Redford used it as a set for The Milaro Beanfield War. We also liked the Santuario de Chimayó and wondered how many prayers have been answered.

It's interesting how the "High Road" is marketed as a scenic byway and tourist destination. There's also also two main routes to Yosemite from SF: The "higher" elevation Rt 120 and the "lower" elevation Rt 140 road to Yosemite. There are also some cute, small, historic towns along the way on Rt 120. But no-one has marketed the route as "The scenic High Road" yet. Maybe some day.

Then back to the Hyatt Place for a good nights rest. Tomorrow: Santa Ana Pueblo, Tent Rocks and the Hyatt Tamaya Resort.

Edited: 7:49 pm, November 25, 2012
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7. Re: Trip Report: 3 enchanting days in Santa Fe

Day 4: Tent Rocks and Santa Ana Pueblo

We saved the most enchanting day for last. Checked out of our hotel, hopped on I-25 and drove 45 minutes to Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument on advice of TAs on this forum. Boy -- we were NOT disappointed. Had never seen rocks like this before. We also missed hiking a slot canyon last time we were in Utah (because of flood concerns) and really enjoyed the hike through the slot canyon and up to the top where we had marvelous views.

Wow.

And Wow. Would do it again in a heartbeat.

Then it was back on the road to Santa Ana Pueblo and they Hyatt Tamaya Resort to cash in our free night.

Biking by the Rio Grande against the backdrop of the Sandia Mountains. Native American stories by a crackling fire and s'mores afterwards...Relaxing in the steam room and the spa...marveling at the spectacular sunset and the stars afterwards. The resort even had a Alice Waters 3-course meal for $16.95 -- much less than the $75 I would spend at her Berkeley restaurant.

What a nice way to end an enchanting visit to Mexico. Many thanks to everyone who helped provide feedback. Wow.

Edited: 4:35 pm, November 27, 2012
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8. Re: Trip Report: 3 enchanting days in Santa Fe

Really enjoyed your trip report!

I had to laugh since when we come down to town from our high road cabin after eating lots of beans & chile, we often also choose SuperSalad for all the fresh greens LOL.

Sounds like you really squeezed a lot of adventure into 3 days! Thanks for the trip report.

Edited: 9:41 am, November 28, 2012
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9. Re: Trip Report: 3 enchanting days in Santa Fe

Just cooked up a batch of chili but substituted our Lowry generic chili powder with the good/premium NM ground chile powder we bought from Albertson's in Santa Fe.

YUM. YUM. It makes so much difference.

I'm a convert now.

just outside NYC
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10. Re: Trip Report: 3 enchanting days in Santa Fe

Thanks for so much detail, am making notes on your trip. blm.gov/nm/…kasha_katuwe_tent_rocks.html

Did not realize there were rock formations like this in the US -- very similar to Goreme Turkey -- google it and you'll see what I mean!