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Santa Fe and beyond in Dec-Jan

My husband and I have decided to take a trip to New Mexico, flying to Santa Fe just after Christmas, and departing from Santa Fe during the first weekend of the new year. We have visited NM once before, landing in Albuquerque, going to Santa Fe, traveling to Taos, then back to Albuquerque. We enjoyed Meow Wolf, staying in the Railyards and walking SF, going to the stairway church and the Georgia O'Keefe Museum, etc. We won't be going to Albuquerque.

We are thinking that we will stay in Santa Fe for four nights: to visit Canyon Road--which we missed last time; to visit other museums; to eat well, go to Madrid, etc. We know that there are many attractions to choose from. We have an airbnb that is centrally located, near the plaza.

After SF, we thought we might go to Abiquiu and stay in the area, to visit Ghost Ranch, Puye, maybe check out Hot Springs, etc. After that, we would head to Taos, renting a fairly secluded airbnb/vrbo for 3-4 nights. Then we would need to head back to SF to fly home.

We would welcome any suggestions for our trip, and any shared insights. Thank you!

Posted by
14241 posts

It might be helpful to know if you have experience driving in winter weather. Long ago and far away I visited Santa Fe in mid-Dec with plenty of snow, then a few years later did a ski trip to some Northern New Mexico resorts that may no longer be running. In any event, we did have to cope with wintry road conditions.

Posted by
877 posts

Ditto the others regarding the possibility of snow. We went in October, the week after the balloon festival in Albuquerque, so no snow for us. However, when we drove to Taos, we took the high road there and returned by ther low road, partly following the Rio Grande River (Fairly small at this point). You may not have any snow on the lower route. Of course, Taos may be snowed in (Or not. Who can predict any more?) One other place we did a day trip to was Los Alamos. Another higher elevation site, but the Bradbury Museum there was really interesting. We returned by way of Bandolier Natl. Monument. Lots of cliff dwellings there. All in all, a nice full, but not rushed, one day trip. (We had lunch in Los Alamos).
And the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, on Museum Hill is a must-see, along with the International Folk Museum. I see you have visited Loreto Chapel (stairway church). Very nice. A stop at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi is also a must.
Personally, I think 3-4 nights in Taos is too much, but if you like galleries, etc. it should be right up your alley.
I hope you have a great trip and don't have any snow problems (But seeing the Sangre de Ctristo mountains snow-topped should be beautiful!)
Buen Viaje!

Posted by
8 posts

We had taken a similar trip around the same dates in 2017, when there was no snow. I might have not duly weighed the probabilities in light of that experience. We have limited experience driving in snow. Since we have made our flight reservations, I am thinking that it would be wise to rent a car with four-wheel drive? We could drive to Taos the first day after the evening we arrive, instead of risking the extra days for it to snow, and end up in SF for four nights, where we will fly from on Saturday the 6th.

We had chosen as many nights in Taos, because we felt that we might want to take a day to enjoy not leaving our rental, reading our books, etc. We liked the idea of having a day to do "nothing." It seemed that Taos might be a good place for that. Maybe there's another city similar, that is farther south that we would want to consider. Maybe Abiquiu? In light of your comments, I have been searching some properties in Abiquiu, and it appears that that would be a wonderful place to stay in, enjoy a view and "down" time.

Your comments are very helpful; we welcome anymore that you might share!

Posted by
3621 posts

Check out the Millicent Rogers Museum while in Taos. It houses her great collection of Native American ceramics and jewelry.

Posted by
877 posts

A full down-time day sounds great, and Taos really lends itself to that endeavor. I don't know Abiquiu, but it sounds good also. New Mexico is truly the "Land of Enchantment".

Posted by
715 posts

robwbush, Santa Fe is at 7,000' in elevation, Taos is the same. Almost a given that you will encounter snow and/or icy roads in the middle of winter. You should spend some time reading about how to drive in these conditions, and make sure that any car you rent has good winter tires. Four wheel drive doesn't help with stopping, so you need to drive slower than on clear roads. And early mornings are the worst times for ice on the roads; black ice is a real thing but it is not easy to see.

Make sure that any "fairly secluded rental" in Taos does not require a four wheel drive vehicle to get to. Especially in the middle of winter!

Posted by
3350 posts

We were in NM this summer, but did the south area (White Sands NP and Carlsbad Caverns NP). I would love to go to the Georgia O’Keefe museum in Santa Fe.

Posted by
8 posts

I'm listening to the hive and I'm going to research driving in snow. We, now, plan to stay four nights in Santa Fe. We will leave early the next morning for Los Alamos, to stay there one night, and leave the next morning to visit Bandelier. We have reserved a pueblo house in El Rito, where we'll venture from our Bandelier day trip, for four nights(Ghost Ranch, hiking, isolation). We plan to pick up groceries in Espanola. We will return to Santa Fe after, to return home at noon on the second day there. We probably will not make it to Taos this time, since we've "re-centered" our travel to the west a bit.

Thank you all for your thoughtful comments. I am duly aware of needing to prepare to drive in snow/ice, and to keep an open mind if we have to change plans because of snow/ice. Also, we welcome any more comments that anyone might have about any aspect of our itinerary.

I am going to research: hippest/least commercial (if extant) galleries on Canyon Road; best restaurants(and is Pasqual's still great?) best hiking and tours/events around Ghost Ranch; best bakeries along our route; history of Bandelier, best itinerary for the history, etc, in addition to driving in snow.

Thank you, again......

Posted by
41 posts

Hi, I've travelled extensively all throughout NM. If you want a few days to "do nothing", I can suggest staying at Ojo Caliente hot springs. It's a fabulous place to simply unwind and relax. There are multiple types of hot springs at the property and you can get massages and other treatments. The property has several types of accommodations as well as a restaurant. You could potentially drive into Taos for the day from Ojo Caliente.

Taos is pretty much one main thoroughfare with shops and restaurants and some interesting galleries and museums. It can get congested going anywhere along that main thoroughfare though. Overall, I was underwhelmed with the town.

Posted by
41 posts

Hi again. I was underwhelmed with the Georgia O'Keefe museum in Santa Fe but I loved a tour of the actual George O'Keefe house in Abiquiu. Her painting supplies are on display in the house and the tour guide pointed out various objects and landscapes around the house that were in her paintings. I believe you can still get tours there, but you have to buy tickets ahead of time (there's a website for this).

I also suggest stopping by the Santa Fe Botanical Garden--beautiful!

Bandalier National Monument is a favorite spot and the town of Los Alamos is also worth seeing.

Posted by
8 posts

Thank you, both. I am paying attention to every suggestion as I plan.

Much appreciated!

Posted by
908 posts

I have encountered heavy wet snow a couple of times in late fall and early spring trips to New Mexico. One thing I found was that rental cars did not come with a windshield scraper/brush! Either tuck one into your suitcase or be prepared for an early stop at the nearest Walmart or equivalent! While highway travel is usually straight forward, side roads, particularly if they are dirt roads, will require caution.

New Mexico in the snow is gorgeous….

Posted by
465 posts

For our first New Mexico trip (1999), we spent most of the time in Santa Fe, with side trips to Taos (along low road), Taos Pueblo, Ojo Caliente, Santuario de Chimayo, Los Alamos, and Bandelier National Monument. Second Santa Fe trip (2010) was just Santa Fe and Taos by the low road and coming back the high national forest road. One trip was April and the other was October.

Posted by
16085 posts

Coming in late here...
Regarding Madrid, we were there the fall before last, during the week, and found a fair amount of galleries closed. During the winter, there may be even more of them closed so your visit may be a short one.

While a bit out of the way, I would recommend a look at Santuario de Chimayo en route to Los Alamos, While not the least bit 'religious', I have a thing for old New Mexican churches, be they adobe or just interesting. This is a pilgrimage shrine, and the separate Chapel of the Holy Child of Atocha is sweet, with many, many pairs of little children's shoes given for the Holy Child's travels. Anyway, lots of traditional folk-art santos - both retablos and bultos - here: devotional images that figure into part of the colorful New Mexican culture. I'm including a nice PBS film about the art form:

https://www.holychimayo.us/chimayo
https://www.holychimayo.us/santo-nino-chapel
https://www.newmexicopbs.org/productions/colores/devoted-to-the-saints-new-mexicos-santos/

Lunch: Rancho de Chimayo. Check the hours closer to your trip:
http://www.ranchodechimayo.com

Along the way: very large Sacred Heart/Sagrado Corazón de Jesus adobe church in Nambé (on HWY 503). While we've never found it open, it's plenty photogenic, and the adjoining cemetery is a cheerful, interesting clutter of mementos; look for the burial monument that's a miniature replica of the church.
https://www.alamy.com/stock-photo/church-at-nambe.html?sortBy=relevant
https://www.loc.gov/item/2020742600/
https://www.nmmarketplace.com/articles/churches-on-the-high-road/article_dc19d542-c417-11e7-901f-cf0077647072.html

Speaking of folk art, yes, the Museum of Internation Folk Art in Santa Fe is a gotta-do: the largest collection of its type in the world. As well on Museum Hill, the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture is also top of list: "Here, Now and Always" exhibit is very good. Heck, all 4 of the hill's museums are well worth the visit. As well, visit the Palace of the Governors/New Mexico History Museum on the plaza.

Canyon Road: just walk and pop in and out of what draws your eyes...which will be a LOT! Near the far east end of the road is Cristo Rey Catholic church: one of the largest adobe churches in the world. WHY it's so big involves an amusing story around its enormous stone reredos:
https://www.santafe.org/listing/cristo-rey-church/330/

Other don't-miss S.F. churches are the cathedral, of course, Santuario de Guadalupe and San Miguel.
https://sanmiguelchapel.org
https://www.santafe.org/blog/post/guadalupe/

In for an uphill walk through history? This path zigzags up to (controversial) Cross of the Martyrs and a bit onwards the top of a hill overlooking the city: a popular spot for taking in sunsets (we usually stay nearby). This was once the location of Fort Marcy (1846). Along the way are timeline plaques outlining the long history of this oldest capital city in the US. The walk starts on Paseo de Peralta, just east of Otero St. Interested only in sunset? Drive up to Cross of the Martyrs parking lot in Prince Park, just off Kearney/Prince Aves. Reference a SF map and it'll all make sense. :O)

Why I said that the cross is understandably a controversial monument for the indigenous communities involves the Pueblo Revolt: "the only successful Native uprising against a colonizing power in the history of North America." This is a really important piece of NM history so well worth taking the time to read up on if you haven't already. Here's a good start:

https://santafelibrary.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/18/2022/04/Cross-of-the-Martyrs.pdf

Del Charro at Inn of the Governors is our favorite kick-back watering hole. Margaritas come in a generous shaker, and the food is inexpensive, non-fussy and good, or has been for us, anyway. Fave order? NM Green Chile Chicken Chowder. Yum! https://delcharro.com

Posted by
877 posts

robwbush,
I echo the recommendsation of Del Charro at Inn of the Governors. We stayed at the inn (I highly recommend it!) and enjoyed the margaritas and food and camaraderie at the pub each night of our stay in Santa Fe. Popular with the locals as well!

Posted by
8 posts

Wow, and thank you! Thank you so much for taking the time to provide these details!! And for the emphasis. Namaste, both of you.

Posted by
16085 posts

Namaste right back 'attcha. :O)
LOL, apologies for the length of my post! It's just such a fascinating part of the country that it was tough to curb the enthusiasm. Obviously. HA!
Come back to us if you have more questions? K.
PS: Doggone those old NM churches anyway, Love 'em all.