Three Days In Santa Fe – Itinerary Ideas

UPDATED: I have updated the blog articles, but Please contact the establishment directly to make sure of their latest offerings. For a list of all our recommendations, and hours of operation etc., please reference our categories at Travel Guide. Each listing contains contact info for you. Thank you for your understanding. 

With so many options of things to do, places to eat, stay and play in Santa Fe, travelers often ask me for some itinerary ideas to help them make the most of their often limited time here. Three days is a very popular vacation duration for many travelers.  I’ve put together a sample itinerary for three days in Santa Fe to help you get an idea of the broad scope of things to do here. This particular itinerary offers a variety of interests from history, food culture, and art to outdoor adventures. If your tastes vary, you can also reference Travel Guide for more ideas that will pique your specific interests.

First things first, you’ll want a FREE map to orient you to the area. Send me an email with your name and U.S mailing address to and I will send you the best one. The Santa Fe Selection Mini Guide Maps piece offers three easy reference maps with my top ideas on where to eat, shop, play and more. It can be mailed to you free of charge (in the U.S.) in advance of your arrival. Or you can pick one up at most hotels, b+b’s and visitor centers once you’re in Santa Fe.

St. Francis Basilica near the Historic Santa Fe Plaza.

When Is The Best Time To Visit Santa Fe? 

This is one of the most frequently asked questions.  Santa Fe is a wonderful year-round destination for individuals, groups, and families. Named as one of the “Top 5 Destinations in the United States” by Travel + Leisure Magazine, there is a wide variety of things to do indoors and outside anytime of year. From immersing yourself in the arts, history, food and culture to outdoor adventures, hiking, biking, skiing, fishing, and more, in a wild and varied terrain.

  1. For the time of year to visit that would best suit your preferences, check my Weather and What To Pack article, which shows temperature ranges and offers insight into how to be best prepared for the four seasons in the high desert climes of Northern New Mexico.
  2. Check our Annual Events Category, which shows you the top events that you can plan for or around.
  3. Last but not least, use our Lodging category to find the best accommodation that suits your needs and budget. Among the many options, you’ll also find our top hotel recommendations in the downtown Plaza area offer special promo code discounts for Santa Fe Selection users. You can book directly with the hotel, vacation rental, b+b, etc., using the links provided.

Three Days in Santa Fe Itinerary.

History, Food & Outdoor Adventures

This three-day itinerary is focusing on outdoor adventures with a dash of history and food culture. You can make adjustments according to your ability, preferences and energy level by checking out each complete listing provided with each referral link, and by going to Travel Guide.

Day 1. Arrival Day3pm – 5pm

Most lodging locations have a 3pm check in time.  Once you’ve checked in to your lodging, remember to get hydrated. Being in the high desert, you will need to drink a recommended two liters of water per day to stay hydrated. We are at an altitude of 7,000 feet. The air is some of the cleanest in the U.S., but a bit lighter in oxygen than at sea level. So take it easy and avoid drinking alcohol on your first night. It’s best to acclimatize before hitting the Margarita Trail.

Enjoy a relaxing dinner at one of our favorite restaurants. See our recommendations in our Restaurants Category. After dinner, take a light stroll around the neighborhood and stir your curiosity about all the stories behind this 400+ year-old City Different.

Day 2. Morning: Historic Walking Tour  9am – 10:30 /11am.

Santa Fe is the oldest capital in the U.S., and is steeped in culture from Native American, Spanish, and Anglo traditions.  After breakfast at your hotel, meet up with an expert historian guide for a fascinating walking tour of the historic Plaza area. I recommend Tom Gallegos and his True New Mexico Tours. You’ll take an easy walk through time, learn of the wild and woolly characters, architecture, art and folk tales that make this city the unique character that it is. You’ll also make note of such iconic locations as The Loretto Chapel, Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, The New Mexico History Museum, the Oldest Church, and more, so you can visit later in more depth, if you wish.

Duration: Tours are between 1.5 to 2 hours, or more, if customized to suit.

Day 2: Lunch. Noon – 1pm.

After you are oriented and acquainted with downtown, you’ll want a spot of lunch, and La Choza offers a great, down-home, authentic Norteño New Mexican lunch just on the far side of the Railyard, about 7 blocks from the plaza. See our Restaurants category for more options of conveniently located favorite restaurants.

Day 2: Afternoon Activity.

Foodie Culture Afternoon.

Option #1: New Mexico is the Chile Capital of the World. After tasting some at lunch, take a fun hands-on chile (we spell it with an “e” not an “i”) workshop with Santa Fe School of Cooking. Learn about the history and techniques of the amazing food culture of New Mexico. Chile is more than an ingredient for New Mexicans; it is the embodiment of a diverse and rich cultural heritage and a distinct Southwestern lifestyle. You’ll learn the history of chiles and prepare flour tortillas, and a variety of unique southwestern sauces to spice up your kitchen when you get home. Click this link for their calendar of classes.

Duration: 2 hours.

Option #2:  Another fun option would be to skip lunch and take Santa Fe’s #1 Food Tour with Food Tour New Mexico. Taste the delicious creations of foods with wines or spirits of a small group of top local Chefs. Eat and drink your way through the creative Railyard District, or Plaza area, or Canyon Road. Use the promo code mentioned in this link to get a special discount off your tour. 

Duration: Approximately 2.5hrs.

Day 2 Art World Afternoon.

Option #1: If delving deeper into the art world is more to your liking, then you’ll want to take a tour up the famous Canyon Road with Santa Fe Art Tours. More than an art tour, it’s an immersive experience. You’ll explore a variety of art, and meet some of the gallery owners and artists that help make Santa Fe one of the top arts destinations in the U.S.

Duration: Approximately 2 hours.


Elaine brings art to life with her Santa Fe Art Tours.

Option #2:  And for some more creative fun take a pottery class with a professional artist.

Play in the mud, throwing pots, or hand-molding clay with Paseo Pottery  Professional ceramics artist volunteers help you learn and create with clay. You’ll take home your hand-made mementos of your creative experience in Santa Fe. Keep in mind no prior experience is required for hands-on classes. Simply come with a curious mind and be prepared to have lots of fun ​making a​ mess!

Duration: Approximately 2 hours.

Take home hand-made mementos of your creative time in Santa Fe.

That should be enough to leave you feeling welcome and acquainted, and ready for a nap before dinner.

Day 2. Dinner & Entertainment.

For a memorable dining and entertainment experience, I recommend you be sure to have booked a table in advance of your arrival in Santa Fe at El Farol for their Flamenco Dinner Show. Located at the top of historic Canyon Road, you’ll enjoy a light meal of authentic Spanish tapas or your choice of full entrees, followed by a world-class, passionate Flamenco performance in an intimate setting. Reminiscent of the original caves of Old Spain’s Granada. Olé!! You’ll arrive between 6.30pm and 7pm for your dinner service, and if you’re full from your afternoon, don’t worry, there are plenty of light tapas plates to choose from. The dinner service is followed by the Flamenco performance.

A passionate Flamenco performance in the intimate setting of El Farol.

If you prefer to go more casual, relax at any one of our favorite dining joints, such as The Cowgirl, where there is usually a live band in the evenings, or Del Charro Saloon,  or The Teahouse, 

Check more recommendations in our Restaurants Category for a style that suits your cravings.

Day 3. Get into Nature.

You will have adjusted to the 7,000 feet altitude by now, and be ready to get physical.

Ranked #1 for Outdoor Activities by USA Today, and #1 for air quality by the American Lung Association — it’s time to get out into nature. Give yourself the day to devote to an adventure. Choose from any of the following activities for a half or full day’s fun.

Approximate timing: 8am – 4pm: Full Day

8am – Noon: Half Day.

Your outfitter will advise you on the timing for your particular outing.

A nice catch with Jarrett of High Desert Angler.

  • Fly fishing: With High Desert Angler’s expert guides you’ll have top-notch fishing any time of year, and private river access. It’s fun for novices and experts, families with kids, and friends. Whatever your skill level, you’ll enjoy this wonderful journey to Northern New Mexico’s beauty and serenity.
  • Take a day or half day trip with Great Southwest Adventures. They’ll whisk you away to the beautiful spots in the mountains, valleys and gorges and introduce you to wild terrain and glorious vistas, historic villages, and ancient ruins and educate you on the history and culture of the area.  Mention Santa Fe Selection when you book.

Great Southwest Adventures’ expert guides take you to amazing places you wouldn’t find on your own.

  • Horseback riding along the foot of the Ortiz Mountain Range is reminiscent of those old spaghetti westerns. It conjures up visions of The Duke, John Wayne, trekking on horseback over plains and buttes with amazing mountain ranges in the background. You can do all that with Santa Fe Western Adventures. And your guide is likely someone you may recognize from their appearances on such television shows as Breaking Bad, Longmire and Manhattan. Mention Santa Fe Selection when you call or book.
  • Ride the River: From March to late September, New Mexico River Adventures offers a variety of fun tours for all ages and ability levels. (Use promo code: santafeselection for 10% off your booking). Floats, whitewater rafting, paddle-boarding, and specialty gourmet dining and musical excursions too! Discover the beauty and nature of the Rio Grande, or the Rio Chama. Enjoy a half-day ride followed by a picnic and then relax into a fun wine tour to nearby boutique wineries. Be sure to mention Santa Fe Selection.

Rafting on the Chama River with New Mexico River Adventures

  • Take to the skies with a scenic adventure by air with Southwest Safaris Scenic AirVentures. Since 1974, Bruce and Anna Adams have been whisking folks skyward over the dramatic, majestic landscapes of the Great Southwest in their extremely safe high-wing, omni-view, Cessna aircraft. Enjoy half-day or full-day ventures for sightseeing, photography, hiking(optional), or four-wheeling at amazing locations. Have a picnic lunch on the Rim of the Grand Canyon, or Monument Valley, or choose from many other stunning locations such as; Canyon de Chelly; Mesa Verde; Arches/Canyonlands; Painted Desert; Chaco Canyon; Bisti Badlands; Carlsbad Caverns, Capulin Volcano, Oak Creek Canyon, Lake Powell and remote Indian country.

Mention Santa Fe Selection when you call. Advance bookings required. (505)988-4246.

Southwest Safaris AirVentures on the Rim of the Grand Canyon enjoying a picnic lunch!

Day 3 Afternoon: Relax or Shop the Plaza and Railyard.

If you’re on any of the half-day outings you’ll likely set off by 8:30 or 9 am and be back at your lodging by noon – 1 pm, which gives you time to grab a nice lunch at one of our favorite restaurants  then take some time to shop for gifts on or around the plaza, and railyard areas. Our Unique Shopping category and Mini Guide Map will help you plot your shopping spree.

Chile Ristras galore, plus panamas, souvenirs, home decor and chile sauces at The Chile House.

Remember the Chiles? If you’d like to take a ristra home for beautiful home décor, or grab a selection of chile sauces, visit The Chile House, on Old Santa Fe Trail. They have an extensive selection of chiles and sauces, and other unique hand-made items for gifts and souvenirs.

If you took a full day excursion, you’ll likely be back by 4 or 5 pm, which gives you time to freshen up before dinner.

Day 3 Dinner.

For a finale for your last night in Santa Fe, book in at one of the top restaurants boasting award winning chefs. I highly recommend Palace Prime close to the Plaza.  Joseph’s Culinary Pub near the Railyard and close to the Plaza, or Blue Heron, which is about 20 minutes drive on the original El Camino Real. Reservations are strongly recommended at all locations.

Enjoy steaks, seafood and delicious Desserts at Palace Prime.

If you’re with very young children, I recommend keeping it casual at La Choza, Del Charro, The Shed,  or Cowgirl. At Cowgirl the kids can play on the jungle gym outside, while the grown-ups taste the favorites from the Margarita Trail, or choose from a menu of 24 craft beers at the bar.

Departure Day: If your flight doesn’t leave Albuquerque airport until 3pm or later, or Santa Fe airport until 2pm or later, you’ll have time to enjoy a brunch or lunch before you go.  Midtown Bistro offers delicious lunch and weekend brunch. It’s off the beaten path in the Midtown Innovation District, only 1.7 miles from the historic plaza. It’s a local fave for daily lunch, weekend brunch and dinner.

That’s just a starter for ideas for your three days in Santa Fe. There’s so much more to explore! Three days isn’t enough time to get the full experience of this area.

If you’re thinking of coming to Santa Fe, I would recommend trying to schedule in at least four or five days so that you can enjoy an easy pace and have a wider variety of experiences. But if needs must and three days is all you have, you can still gather a portfolio of fantastic memories. But I’m pretty certain you’ll want to come back again to get the full range and true authentic flavor of this unique destination.

Check out the complete travel guide for more information:

For your free Mini Guide Map, send me a note with your complete name & U.S mailing address to

Thank you for reading my blog!

Enjoy your stay in Santa Fe!!




14 thoughts on “Three Days In Santa Fe – Itinerary Ideas

  1. Hi, we are planning a girls trip this spring end April or first of may. We live the outdoors. Thinking of renting a car. What driving trips would you recommend?

  2. Any thoughts on golf in the Santa Fe Area for mid-July? Three girlfriends and I are thinking of getting out of Phoenix for a couple days of golf and sight seeing. Thanks!

    • Sorry, but not at this time. But you can call the City Transit number at 505 955-2001 and if you want to go to Museum Hill from the downtown area, you tell them you want the M bus, and they’ll arrange to pick you up from your location downtown, drop you at Museum Hill, and then you’ll have to do the same for your return.
      I recommend making the plan ahead of time.
      Good luck!

  3. Do you have any recommendations on boutique lodging or small hotels near city center for a couple to celebrate their anniversary? Southwest decor. Thank you.

    • Dear Bonnie, Please reference all my curated suggestions in my Lodging category at Inn on the Alameda, Inn of the Governors, and Pueblo Bonito are just a few of the options. If you have any further questions or would like our free Mini Guide map mailed to you within the U.S., with 3 maps and suggestions on where to eat, shop, play etc., please contact me directly at
      Thank you! Happy Anniversary!

  4. We are coming to Santa Fe for the opera in August. Can you please send us a map and whatever else you think we can use. We are old, so will do the museums, downtown, take a look at Taos – no physical activities. Recommendations for early, not too fancy restaurants. Is it easy to rent a car at the Sandra fe airport? Do you have a map of the trip to Taos? Appreciate any information you can give us. Thanks.

    • Dear Linda,
      I’m happy to send you a map, but I’d need your U.S mailing address. For all your other questions, please reference my complete curated list of recommendations on my Travel Guide Yes, you can book a car rental in advance of your arrival through Hertz or Avis for pick up at Santa Fe Airport.

  5. Hello, thanks for all the great information . In late march we are flying into Albuquerque , and then immediately heading to SantaFe, mostly interested in the art and food. We have a cute place to say near Canyon Road. We will have 3 full days of exploring. We are wondering if we even a need a car, or would shuttles, and busses suffice? Thank you!!!!

    • HI Mary,
      It all depends on what you want to do while here. If you send me an email with your full US mailing address, I can mail you a free Mini Guide map, and you’ll see that there are many fascinating places to visit that are an easy drive, but would require a car. Chimayo, Bandelier, Pecos, Taos, and more. Of course you can also walk around the Canyon Road area, and downtown, and not need a vehicle for that. The bus system is not something I would rely on if you’re looking to explore further afield than the immediate historic/Canyon Rd district. Please email me at if you want the free Mini Guide. Or use the contact form on
      Enjoy your visit!

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