Choose ABQ or SAF airport — If flying in, look for flights into both airports. Tiny Santa Fe is certainly closer to town (and is one of the most charming airports in the U.S.A., imo) but its small runway and higher elevation = limited, and pricier, flights. Larger ABQ, about an hour a way, is better serviced and runs shuttles (for a fee) into town. Car rentals are also more plentiful—and affordable—at ABQ.
Consider renting a car — While Santa Fe itself is quite small and walkable, some of the best local sights and hikes lie outside the center of town. Even Museum Hill is a trek and Georgia O’Keeffe’s house in Abiquiú (a must for any visitor) doesn’t operate a shuttle, either. If you’ve flown in via ABQ, rent one there. You won’t regret having it.
Pack your hiking gear — First-timers often don’t realize that Santa Fe is much more than an artsy Southwest town with fab adobe architecture. Locals know the City Different is also an outdoors mecca, with incredible trails with stunning scenery accessed from trailheads all around town. Get out there.
Mind the elevation — Santa Fe sits at over 7,000 feet above sea-level, so don’t be surprised if you experience shortness of breath and headaches as you get used to the altitude. Drink lots of water and don’t push it.
Artisan markets — Santa Fe has a robust artisan makers calendar, especially in the summer. Highlights include: International Folk Art Market (early July); The Spanish Market (late July); and the Indian Market (August). Outside of these, look for artisans at the Saturday Farmer’s Market in the Railyard; Native American artists sell artwork and jewelry almost daily on the Plaza.
Opera season — The Santa Fe Opera season runs from July–August and is really worth attending, even just once. The opera house is 7 miles outside of town, in an open-air amphitheater with amazing night-sky views. It may also be the only place in the U.S. where folks tailgate before a cultural event. Pack a picnic and a Champagne split for an al fresco dinner in the parking lot; there are lots of picnic tables set up along side, with killer mountain views.
Vacation Rental Tips
Getting delivery — Market St & Sprout have the best-quality groceries (Sprout is all organic) on InstaCart; Dashing Delivery is the preferred local restaurant delivery service; a local app called Fetch will also “fetch” you other things (they can be slow, but do come in handy.) There’s no liquor delivery in NM (!!)
Local CSA — If you’re renting a place for a while, you can order a weekly bag of whatever’s fresh thru Squash Blossom, a local CSA subscription service.
Recycling — Glass bottles aren’t picked on recycling day for some reason (only plastic & paper go to the curb). Take your bottles to the Buckman Transfer Station; it’s free to use & accepts everything, including electronics.
Liquor stores — On the west side of town: Kelly’s Liquor (a couple of outlets) has a remarkable liquor selection; don’t be put off by how it looks from the outside. On the east side: Cliff’s Liquors is phenomenal; superlative wine and liquor selection and some bargain-bin prices on top bottles.
☞ Speaking of tips, if you’ve found these recommendations useful, you can support this project by buying me a beer.