Perfect 3 Day Santa Fe Itinerary – 72 Hours In Santa Fe

Melanie Haiken

The minute you experience Santa Fe the idea of a day trip is clearly not enough. This city, nestled 7,000 feet above sea level under the shadow of the Sangre De Cristo Mountains.

Barely a day here scratches the surface. You have tried the unique flavors of New Mexican cuisine, whether that means spicy green chile enchiladas or a nice refreshing margarita and sweet sopapillas.

After two full days, you’ve still only just dipped your toe in the waters of adobe-and-art-filled Santa Fe.

Three days will let you get immersed in it entirely. After soaking up the local culture, sipping tea at Ojo and attending an overpass event or two you’re ready to take that day trip into Northern New Mexico’s back country.

Here is the perfect itinerary for 3 days in Santa Fe to explore all that New Mexico’s capital has to offer.

Day One: Exploring Santa Fe

9:30 AM – Downtown Santa Fe

The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi comes into view as I walk along E San Francisco St. The sidewalk alternates between brick and concrete, narrowing and widening as I go. The street has a slight slope, but Santa Fe’s iconic church remains visible.

Sunlight filters through the two towers – one just a single brick layer taller than the other. The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi is grand, paler than the surrounding low buildings, and imposing.

I see my breath in the cold air as I climb a small flight of stairs toward the church. A few others and I wait for Ana Pacheco. Her family arrived in Santa Fe in 1692, almost two centuries before the Cathedral was built. She’s spent most of her life in Santa Fe (with a brief stint in New York) and now works as a local historian.

For over a decade, she ran a quarterly magazine on New Mexican history, recorded oral histories of Santa Fe locals, and authored several books on the region. When I saw an available spot for her historic tour, I knew I had to join (this is the tour I booked, and it sells out quickly, so I recommend reserving early).

At 9:50 AM, Pacheco arrives with a large black binder. She speaks with the confidence of someone who has deeply explored her connection to Santa Fe, understanding its contradictions and presenting The City Different through the lens of its past struggles and triumphs. The binder contains photos from her books, showing Santa Fe then and now.

As we follow her around downtown Santa Fe, she highlights Moorish influences in the architecture. She points out a bustling chocolate shop that, in the mid-20th century, served as a checkpoint for the Manhattan Project. She explains why New Mexico remained a U.S. territory for over sixty years before achieving statehood and delves into the significance of the Zia Pueblo sun symbol on the New Mexican flag.

Pacheco’s tour is personal. Santa Fe’s historic sites are significant to her; they are where she went to school, spent time after school, and attended church. Santa Fe is her city, and she warmly shares it with us.

If you can’t join Pacheco’s tour, I still suggest dedicating the first few hours of your Santa Fe visit to a downtown walk.

1:00 pm Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

Walking from the Old Santa Fe Trail and roaming in every direction within The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, I feel like this is the heart of downtown Santa Fe. Chile ristras turning red in the afternoon sun The doors of the restaurants swing open, and delicious scents begin to waft through. The sweet smell of warm tortillas mingled with spiced meats was intoxicating…it make me want food even more! Weather-beaten storefronts, self-appointed art galleries, and boutique shops are passed by throngs of day-trippers.

I walk until I spot the image of one of the most photographed women in 20th century- a fierce creature with a sweet smile and sunken eyes resting against an adobe. Georgia O’Keeffe.

The museum is full of people and there’s a line outside. It can be difficult to get tickets on the spot and an entrance in the exhibitions may take several hours. Prebooking tickets is a must (this the official reservation site). Entrance is staggered every fifteen minutes

However, once you are through the doors they can keep you as long as they deem fit – so I’m gonna enjoy that part. I decide to put on my headphones and listen to an audio tour. So even as a few of O’Keeffe’s iconic, unfurling petals hang there drawing my gaze am stalled by the landscapes. Mostly teased out over years of somber peeling moments, are her rich, slow-roll pieces inspired by New Mexico &the Southwest.

The museum is minimalist and blank, with white walls that bring out the pastel ink paintings on paper. Start with [Making A Life] (on view through 2025), which gives a glimpse into O’Keeffe’s creative process. Then visit her now on the current show of themed collection.

4:00 PM – Tumbleroot Pottery

Santa Fe slow to a cobalt blue Spring and Summer sky The sun does not hurry to sink behind the mountaintops: an encouraging reminder that I can drop things from my Santa Fe itinerary.

I am usually at my most ambitious in Santa Fe, but this is not a city that demands great ambitions. So should you on this two-day trip: start with breakfast and a museum, shop until lunchtime, have something good to eat before hitting the sidewalk.

Thus, I sling myself upon a barstool at Tumbleroot Pottery by the skin of my teeth – alongside strangers who rest their elbows on our shared table. I push my fingers into a pound of clay, and begin…what do I do with this? Knees meet a metal countertop as I tilt an earthen grey mass onto the wheel. I use my hands at first then a spatula to press it down.

Late at night, a husband laughs to his wife: “See honey? I created a snake”. He raises a clay snake, made from scraps. She smiles, and goes back to that Southwestern pot. Across from me, an elderly lady meticulously carves the twisted trunk reminiscent of O’Keeffe IKONs. There are also clay chiles, and progress on the return of a bowl for each cross. We have all been here for hours doing something that resembles Santa Fe.

We all have tools (one large set for each table). The mallets, stamps and brushes from desk to desk. Mostly, We are laughing at the bumbles and missteps we create in quiet. If stranger walks in, they ask if we are locals. We shake our heads.

Tumbleroot Pottery (photo submitted) – in New Mexico is a tourist attraction. It is centrally located on a busy pedestrian downtown street. There’s a bar counter. Specifically, the beer is served in delightful pots that are fired locally (you can work with clay and drink at same time). There’s the Mezcal cups and glaze-poured bowls by Santa Fe Artists Gallery as well.

The clay self-dries. You get a £ to start and how-to kick sheet It includes all the tools you could ever ask for-wires to cut slabs of clay, fettling knives for fine sculpting, even a spritz bottle full of water to keep your walls smooth, and primary color tempera paints when we fire!……and a box (just ask) gets it home. If they neglect to return a tool to the communal pot, you have some cause use notifications and ask for your property back from their bin on those rare instances when neighbors get lulled into living alone together by social mechanisms. We are all six feet deep in our clay works (so am I) and carving out little mementos of Santa Fe bookends; and jewelry dishes.

Artist’s Track, Day Two: Santa Fe Guide

10:00 AM – The Railyard

The Railyard reminds me of Santa Fe’s big skies Through buildings that stand an equal distance from one another for the passage of a train to ride between them.

The arrival of the first train in Santa Fe by rail as wagons rumbled into The City Different. The nation was opened up Santa Fe seduced and attracted vacationers, which stimulated communities to advance clear of the stations. The line was to create local employment and activities. Yet with the rise of auto. travel on the Interstate Highway, Santa Fe’s once busy rail stop ebbed.

The Railyard was renovated in 2008 to serve as an entertainment district The Rail RunnerNow resides on tracks outside the renovated Santa Fe Depot. As you wait, the familiar sound of Rio Metro’s transit ($10 from Santa Fe to Albuquerque) arrives well before it shows itself — wheels groaning like a laundry machine preparing for its click-clack cycle.

I sip a cappuccino outside at Sky Coffee. The air is biting my ears, but the drink keeps me shooting up. Complete with scurrying figures against the rail tracks, cars moving along Alcadesa Street. Havensite My last visit to The Railyard was eight years ago, and the only thing that still attracts your eye is Violet Crown, an all-smooth dark brown facade — like a piece of unpackaged chocolate. While the interior may have already been in rough shape at that time (allegedly not due to Elevate Entertainment Group’s buyout of Violet Crown, analysts stress), locals love its indie screenings.

Having sipped down that drink, I wander into the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market (Saturday: a bevy of bubbling caulis and carrots so comic-book enormous they appear pointy. There is the heady mixture of garlic and butter yeast scenting the air as I rip into a piece of warm flatbread, its seams stained from green chile.

Travel Tip: Most vendors are cash-only (vendors list on their website) including The Intergalactic Bread Company & Space Sauce. Plan on bringing $10, but there are money machines outside the Farmers’ Market if you need more.

By late spring, the Farmers’ Market grows so immense that indoor vendors encroach outdoors onto a platform by the rails. There is also a Tuesday Farmers Market from May through December. Each Sunday the space turns into an Artisan Market featuring artists from NM.

On the other side of this is SITE Santa Fe, a revolving series of galleries. All new exhibits so interiors walls are rebuilt to provide exact dimensions. SITE Santa Fe wants to keep new artists genesising and less-immediate abstract works hanging.

This guy is obsessed with Disney. Look at it long enough, and you might notice an influence,” a docent tells me as I pick up the brochure on Arturo Herrera. A hand full of Mickey Mousees and the other packed with splatter paints; It’s Disney that feels oddly alien here.

SITE Santa Fereschews the narratives you understand. The show is an exhibition of work by Carmen Herrera where you might think about talent, ageism and double standards when the 100-year-old artist got her lines straight. Shirreff: Erin Shirreff’s Folded Stone unsettles the tradition of art perception.

There is zero pretension at SITE Santa Fe. At each of the galleries, helpful guides earnestly answered our questions to help us parse out what was going on.

1:00 PM – Canyon Road

A modern museum-style approach to Canyon Road by Elaine Ritchel The next art tour emanates from the eye of record-keeper extraordinaire Ritchel and Santa Fe Art Tours, a startup that ensures Canyon Road galleries are more accessible than before.

When I visit Santa Fe, it’s worth visiting Canyon Road. I have found outdoor sculptures frosted with snow and spring birds perched over adobe roofs. I have walked here in the heat of a summer day, unshaded and sweating profusely whilst secretly sneaking peeks at turquoise doors longingly enough to hold me entwined with grooved wooden entrances bending forward after pressure that could burst under signs; fine art gallery.

After New York and San Francisco, Santa Fe (is the third largest art market in US) Canyon Road is case in point, filled with more than eighty tightly spaced galleries like so much adobe brick.

Gallery clusters, within those gallery sub-clusters. It is all so walkable, in a neatly compartmentalized kind of way – charming and overwhelming at the same time. Ritchel then chooses a few places she wants to go. With only thirty-six hours in Santa Fe, Marisa comes to Canyon Road with a guide from Santa Fe Art Tours.

You will explore moods and tales. Ritchel, in a classic Midwestern way makes you comfortable and then subtly convinces you to become an art enthusiast.

You can visit Canyon Road on your in addition! Let yourself meander and wander. Get lost!

Travel Tip: A stone’s throw away from Canyon Road is Kakawa, a chocolate house par excellence especially when it comes to their Mesoamerican elixirs. My favorite is the hot chocolate flight (you can try four flavors!)

4:00 PM — House Of Eternal Return

I think nothing can ready anyone for the House of Eternal Return. Indeed, this interactive art installation is kind of your worst childhood nightmare fantasy realised. Crawling through a laundry machine, squeezing past an eerie fireplace disguised as (but not being) the front entrance of your home, entering refrigerator and hiding behind ice boxes to avoid police patrol or assault teams in doorways overlooking you laying motionless on floor under staircase with pumpkin decorations scattered all around — strange details emerge;

It comes as thrills and trips: visually evolving into a chaotic explosion of colour upon colours, painted by more than hundred local artists; delving deeper in psychedelic haziness sans naked bodies against PG landscape.

Open all the doors. With more than seventy rooms (! Stroll under fluorescent trees as the twanging noise of an electric guitar collapses onto a drone, scuttle into a hall filled with mirrors and step over bottle caps pressed firmly into the ground beneath. It is a maximalist fever dream that sizzles with excitement but is just too baroque and intricate for an in-and-out, two-hour visit – it needs three hours or more.

This article has been updated on April 15th to note recent lay-offs by Meow Wolf (the art production corporation behind the House of Eternal Return) with over a hundred employees being released. I was lucky to visit the House of Eternal Return before the layoffs, so I do not know if Meow Wolf’s restructuring will have any affect on that experience. Just a heads up!

Day 3 of Santa Fe Itinerary: Escape Day

7:00 AM Bandelier National Monument

I arrived at Bandelier National Monument for the first time before 7 AM on a spring Sunday eight years ago. A boob tube with red maps to lend in a box minuscule reboxing I picked one up and drove out to Main Pueblo Loop Trail The first part of the path, snappable twigs and brushed leaves. Over rocks, and the creek gliding, that voice of water saw; Frijoles Creek.

Sunlight fragmented, falling golden on tufts of grass carpeting tuffs of rock. One million years ago, a volcanic explosion heaped ash onto this ground. The ash cooled and compacted into porous, igneous rocks (tuffs), later carved by Ancestral Puebloans. Wind eroded the tuffs, piercing little holes like Swiss Cheese.

Cavates: Eight hundred or so years ago, Ancestral Puebloans converted these gaps into housing. Rock apartments rising stories high

Wooden ladders can be scaled, cavates entered, and darkness is enveloped around. I only made it up one! After all, my acrophobia induced a panic attack so I opted to sit out the short climb further up Alcove House 140 feet above Frijoles Canyon (I hope you will forgive me).

Bandelier is too far to walk, but you should drive there: its human history stretches back 10,000 years – ancient expanses of parched rock cracked into slots and slits; folds bruised the earth.

Getting There: From May to October (between these dates) a mandatory shuttle bus whisks you away from all around the park entrance (boards at White Rock Visitor Center). The following is trip taking the (free) bus service, run every twenty(ish) minutes 9am-3pm. An entrance ticket is still required for all visitors. Accepts America The Beautiful Pass For more information about the shuttle bus, click here.

Fast forward nearly ten years to me, on the same street. Next stop: Pojoaque, home of the Pueblo Tuity Museum and The Thinking Place-random town acts indecent in 3,2,…

This striking complex reaches up into the sky with adobe brick and mud pit head gear.- J.M. Nah Poeh Meng is in fact the first exhibit. Over Six different immersive rooms of art, history and storytelling tell the story of Pueblo people travers[ing] Time across the seasons.

A tale of rooms beyond her Nah Poeh Meng Tales are shared through Tewa pots, set up in four corners glistening on levels of shelves. No pot hides behind another. ImageThey have been silent for too long to come back and speak now.

For Tewa leaders it took them years to try and or bring back these pots from The Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. The deal was made of long-length loan. The pots now have returned to Northern New Mexico and 5800 feet above sea level, basking in the bright lights of Poeh Cultural Center. They’ve come home.

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