Explore on foot
Santa Fe is a very walkable city, for the most part. Nearly all of the main sights are in the downtown district or only a few blocks beyond it. The only time we used the car, apart from a day trip out of the city, was when we went to the Railyard and from there on to Canyon Road as we thought we might want to explore much of the latter’s length (in practice though we found more than enough to interest us in just the first few galleries that we investigated). Apart from that we spent most of our time walking the streets around the Plaza or venturing just a little south to the Santurio de Guadalupe and to the San Miguel Mission, both just a few blocks beyond the confines of downtown.
It’s hard to get lost here. The streets in the centre follow the familiar US grid pattern, though here they all have names not numbers. And there are signposts on every corner in downtown, pointing you towards all the main sights. If you need one you can pick up a good free map – we were given ours when we checked in to the Chapelle Street Casitas, and I noticed them too in the lobby of La Fonda Hotel.
Leaving on a jet plane
The best way to get to Santa Fe is to fly into the Albuquerque airport, rent a car and drive one hour north to Santa Fe. Car rentals are inexpensive - we got a full size car for about $20/day.
Our flight from San Francisco to Albuquerque was on a tiny Canadair jet. You hit any amount of turbulence and you get thrown around like bagful of pinons. I've flown on the same kind of jet when I've gone to tiny towns with tiny airports in the South, except there I feel like a bag of black-eyed peas.
- Historical Travel
Parking in Santa Fe
If you are not staying in Santa Fe but are there for the day, parking can be a hassle. I like to park at the visitors center and walk north towards the square. The Santa Fe Visitors Center located in the Lamy Building at the corner of Paseo de Peralta and Old Santa Fe Trail across the street from the state capitol. If you have just had a long drive from another city they have clean bathrooms here and helpful brochures. On the way, stop by the Oldest Church in Santa Fe and the Loretto Chapel. The chapel is only a buck or two and worth the time listening to the tourist tape.http://www.theoutlaws.com/unexplained4.htm
The Santa Fe Pick-up
While downtown Santa Fe is compact, there's more to see in a day than you'd like to walk to. So, they've added a free shuttle service to the core of the city. In the off-season, it's a direct run between the Santa Fe Depot and the Plaza. In the summer, it does a loop around town, covering the main attractions.
The route is a one-way circle, so you can get on and off as much as you want and still see the highlights of town. The routes start at the Santa Fe Depot (A), in front of the New Mexico Film Museum (the former Jean Cocteau Cinema) on Montezuma Avenue.
(B) The Capitol/PERA building
(C) Two stops on Canyon Road
(D) One stop at Alameda and Paseo de Peralta
(E) The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi
(F) The Main Library
(G) City Hall
(H) The Santa Fe Community Convention Center / Santa Fe Plaza
(I) Eldorado / Hilton hotels
The Service is run by the Parking Division.
- Family Travel
Getting there is half the fun! Who knew?
We took a winter trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico by Amtrak train to re-state our wedding vows We have been married 20 years) and take a small vacation. I admit I was a tad nervous but I made accommodations in the sleeper car for a private room outbound and inbound. They promised to bring our meals to or room so I wouldn't have to try and balance myself and my fork and my dignity at the same time. True to their word our meals were brought to our room in a beautiful white bag and each meal was delicious and included in the price of our ticket.
We boarded the train in our hometown and took it down to Los Angeles Union Station, we were whisked off the platform by a very nice lady and taken to the new 1st class lounge Amtrak has constructed, there we could freshen up and have a nice complimentary snack before the cart came to help us board our train, The Southwest Chief. Excellent service, we did not know we qualified for first class but if you hold a sleeper car reservation it is considered first class. Who knew?
Outbound we had a roomette, that is the smallest space you will ever fold your body in comfortably. Don't take much luggage if you are reserving a Viewliner roomette, (the Superliner roomette has more overhead storage) The roomette is almost the size of 3 telephone booths (If you remember what those were like.) Efficient and easily survivable.
On our return we booked a bedroom whichis much larger as it had its own toilet and shower (the latter which my husband LOVED...me thinks it was more the novelty of it). Excellent cabin service by Rene our attendant. He took care of us and here in the states it is customary to tip him when you leave but you should do whatever is best for you.
In one station stop they came out to clean all the windows for picture takers like me. Who knew?
We arrived in Lamy, New Mexico and took the shuttle van right to our hotel and they picked us up on the return. This too was included in the price of our ticket.
I am heading to Sedona this summer and be assured Amtrak is a part of those plans
- Family Travel
New Mexico Rail Runner
The New Mexico Rail Runner is a train service which runs from Belen in the south, through Albuquerque, to Santa Fe as it's terminus in the north.
The Rail Runner offers a great opportunity to non-drivers who are staying in the area to access Santa Fe at low cost. The service is not frequent, providing mainly for commuters, however, there are a number of services which run part routes and a select few which run the full route from Belen to Santa Fe or reverse.
Tickets are very reasonably priced, especially if you take a day pass option; Albuquerque to Santa is US$7 whilst the day pass costs only an additional US$1 at US$8.
The trains run along Amtrak rails and are comfortable and spacious.
- Budget Travel
There is a small, open air tourist bus called the Loretto Line that you can pick up by the old town central Plaza, takes you up Canyon past the art galleries, then up past the celebrity homes, up to the Museum Hill, then back around old town. Takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes and gives you a good overall look at what is available in Santa Fe, plus some history. Our guide was a local born.
- Historical Travel
Santa Fe Southern Railway (SFSR)
In spite of the stories and the name of the historic Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, the railroad, never actually went "through" Santa Fe. The Santa Fe stop was Lamy, about an hour south of town. From there a linking railroad was added to bring travelors into town. These smaller passenger lines became defunct years ago. We'll you can once again ride that historic link on the preservation railroad, called the Santa fe Southern Railway (SFSR). They run excursion trains to and from the Santa Fe Depot to Lamy, stop for a meal and then return. In winter, they're on a short schedule, but they do operate during the holidays.
In the summer, there is a regular schedule and the opportunity to make the 'golden triangle'. From either Santa Fe or Albuquerque, you can:
from Santa Fe
- Get the SFSR to Lamy
- Connect with the west bound Southwestern Chief (Amtrak) to Albuquerque
- link up with the Railrunner and return to Santa Fe.
- Take the Railrunner and to Santa Fe.
- Get the SFSR to Lamy
- Connect with the west bound Southwestern Chief (Amtrak) back to Albuquerque.
If you like train travel, you'll have a day of it.
- Family Travel
I happened to be on the Plaza one time when a motorcycle convention roared (literally) into town. The Plaza went from zero motorcycles to hundred's in just a few minutes. After a couple of speeches, they headed for the restaurants.
- Road Trip
Getting your kicks
The quickest way to get to Santa Fe is to fly to Albuquerque and pick up a rental car for the hour’s drive to New Mexico’s state capital. The city lies on the famous Route 66, so roll down your window, stick your elbow out and start getting your kicks. Admire the mountains and the adobe houses as you roll into Santa Fe. But leave the margaritas until you’ve parked the car for the night!
- Road Trip
Gas prices in Santa Fe
Gas prices in Santa Fe were, for many years, notoriously high. With the advent of a discount gas station at Sam's Club on Rodeo Road (members only), this has changed: prices are still high in some areas (e.g., the "motel row" on Cerrillos Road), but other stations that cater to locals have lowered their prices in an effort to compete. Usually Fina stations are a few cents cheaper than the rest, but I've also had good luck at Conoco/Phillips 66 (check the station on the east side of Cerrillos Road between Cordova Road and St. Francis, and the two on Airport Road) and some Shell stations (e.g., the one at Guadalupe and Cerrillos).
N.B., if your car is equipped for biodiesel, the Conoco station at Cerrillos and Baca St. carries it at about the same price as regular unleaded.
Fly to Albuquerque -- Santa Fe Airport is very small and has few commercial flights; also, it's out on the edge of town, and, unless your hotel provides transportation, getting downtown can be expensive.
There are a couple of shuttle bus services that run from the Albuquerque airport to Santa Fe. It's a REALLY good idea to reserve your seat in advance: the buses can fill up rapidly at popular travel times. Also, if you're not staying near a regular shuttle stop, you need to arrange in advance for the bus to drop you off or pick you up at your motel.
If you intend to rent a car, it's almost always cheaper to get it at the Albuquerque airport and drive up than to take the shuttle and rent a car in Santa Fe. (But if you just want a car for a day or two during a longer trip, Santa Fe's prices are comparable to most other cities': I recommend Enterprise.) It pays to shop around before you arrive.
There's a bus system that covers many popular tourist areas, so I advise using this if you don't want to fool with parking (which is frustrating at best). However, the buses tend to be few and far between on Sundays.
Bus schedules are posted at the main terminal area on Sheridan Street, which runs just west of the Fine Arts Museum off the Plaza; you can also pick up printed schedules at the main library, or (during the summer) at the tourist information window next to the bank on the west side of the Plaza, and some hotels and motels have them too.
Recently (mostly because of construction) the city has begun offering free or inexpensive shuttle buses during major events where downtown parking is an issue -- e.g., Spanish Market. Schedules and pickup points are announced in the papers just before and during the event.
If you arrive in town by bus, there's a small Greyhound station, but it's open only at irregular hours (i.e., whenever a bus is due to arrive or depart). If you get there two hours early, you may have to wait outside. In inclement weather, it's a good idea to walk a couple of blocks east to the Smith's shopping center, where there are several restaurants.
Fly into Albuquerque, and...
Fly into Albuquerque, and drive via Tijeras Canyon (across the Sandia Mountains), through Golden and Madrid, up Highway 14. It takes about 20 minutes longer than going straight up I-25, but you see more scenery.
As you drive, remember that much of New Mexico's rural economy is based on livestock ranching. You'll pass through moutainous terrrain, but note how dry it is -- with drought tolerant trees such as Pinyon Pine and Juniper (a kind of cedar).
Walk, Motorcycle, Car, Bicycle; NO LARGE VEHICLES downtown! Much of what you'll do in town is within a few miles of the downtown plaza -- so bring your walking shoes. In the spring, don't forget a windbreaker and something to keep dirt out of your eyes. The bus station is downtown too and one route takes you up to some of the museums. The views from there are nice. If you have the opportunity, a motorcycle is best, no helmet preferable (more sunshine and scenery). There are no bicycle lanes, and roads are narrow; act like a car (stop at all lights, don't skirt past traffic to get in front at a stop) and people will respect your space. However, there are lots of tourists, gazing around and not watching the road, so don't ever expect a driver to see you -- make eye-contact. Downtown is small and crowded, leave your motorhome in a parking lot on Cerillos, and take a bus (run after 6 am until after 8 most nights) to downtown.
By car or plane.
Walking, bicycle or this little tour bus.
Santa Fe Express, open air bus (in cold weather, regular tour bus). Corner of Lincoln and Palace Avenues, at the northwest corner of the downtown plaza. (505) 983-1570. 75 minute tour, $7 for adults/$4 for children.
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