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Two days in Santa Fe, New Mexico

Sunburst at Santa Fe Plaza

When I imagined moving to the Pacific Northwest from Washington, D.C., I always imagined taking a northern route across the U.S. and into Canada, visiting Banff, Jasper and more before dipping back down to Seattle. But when we found out we’d be moving in November, that idea went out the window. Instead, we opted to take a southern route to avoid as much potential bad weather as possible, and I saw it as the perfect opportunity to add two days in Santa Fe to the itinerary.

Santa Fe shops
Santa Fe buildings at sunrise
Santa Fe Plaza buildings at sunrise

Santa Fe, New Mexico
November, 2018

GETTING TO SANTA FE

We drove to Santa Fe from Kansas City, which took 11:45. We did it all in one excruciatingly long day, which wasn’t ideal, but there was no logical stopping point in between that wouldn’t require staying overnight in the middle of nowhere. If you find yourself in the same position, I recommend breaking for lunch at Dodge City Brewing. The food wasn’t spectacular, but it was much better than I was expecting, if that tells you anything. 

SANTA FE ACCOMODATIONS

We stayed two nights in Santa Fe, and we wound up at a different hotel each night (more on that below). The first was the Hilton Santa Fe Historic Plaza, which was perfectly nice and very easy walking distance from the center of town. 

Hilton Santa Fe Historic Plaza exterior

Hilton Santa Fe Historic Plaza green doors
Hilton Santa Fe Historic Plaza hallway

But while I definitely don’t mean to slight the Hilton in any way, La Posada de Santa Fe, part of Starwood’s—now Marriott’s—Tribute Portfolio, totally overshadowed it. I hate the word “cozy,” but there is really no other way to describe the room we had. The room was mostly white with Southwestern touches and a fireplace that we kept going all afternoon while falling snow blanketed the entire property. The grounds could not have been more picturesque and I can only imagine how beautiful they’d be with plants and foliage abounding. This hotel easily made my all-time favorites list and I can’t wait to return. 

La Posada de Santa Fe exterior

La Posada de Santa Fe flowers
La Posada de Santa Fe flowers

La Posada de Santa Fe room

La Posada de Santa Fe fireplace
La Posada de Santa Fe bathroom sink
Carly at snowy La Posada de Santa Fe
Carly walking through snowy La Posada de Santa Fe

SANTA FE FOOD

MUST-DOS

I’m going to cut to the chase here—the enchiladas at Cafe Pasqual’s may be the best food I’ve ever had. And if they’re not the best, they’re certainly what I’d choose if I had to only ever eat one thing again for the rest of my life. 

This place had a line out the door both days we went—and yes, we went two days in a row. So be prepared to wait, but know that it is so, so worth it.

On the total opposite end of the fine-dining spectrum, we also had a great dinner at Geronimo, which is a white tablecloth restaurant but one that couldn’t be less stuffy. The staff there was phenomenal and really cared that you had a great experience, and the food was excellent, too. You’ll definitely want to make a reservation in advance, as it fills up.

If anyone ever doubts that I have an internal radar system for froofy, overpriced-yet-adorable shops and cafes, just know that I spotted Modern General out of the corner of my eye and yelled to Jake to pull over the car as we were on our way out of Santa Fe bound for Las Vegas. We had just had our second lunch at Pasqual’s and were beyond stuffed, and I hadn’t read a thing about Modern General in my extensive Santa Fe research, but I had a good feeling about it. And after stepping foot in inside, I knew I couldn’t leave empty-handed. I did what any normal person would do, which was get a to-go order of teff cakes with lemon curd, blueberry compote and labneh buttercream, and HOLY SHIT, you guys. You have to check this place out. 

SKIP?

The only Santa Fe dining experience we had that I wasn’t totally in love with was Sazon. We waited for 45 minutes (after driving for nearly 12 hours), so I was expecting big things, but in my opinion dinner was kind of blah. 

Geronimo fish dish
Cafe Pasqual's enchiladas
Modern General interior

SANTA FE DRINKS

There’s only one thing to do if it snows in New Mexico (aside from holing up in your hotel room at La Posada), and that’s head to Kakawa Chocolate House for a cup of their drinking chocolate. It’s basically melted chocolate in a cup topped with whipped cream, and a small cup is all you need. Make sure to take some truffles to-go, though, and eat them later on!

For coffee, I loved Iconik Coffee Roasters both for the coffee and the homey vibe. It’s attached to a bookstore so you can browse while you sip, and if you’re there on a weekend morning like we were, you might just catch a featured speaker giving a talk, too!

Kakawa drinking chocolate
Collected Works sitting area

THINGS TO DO IN SANTA FE

No matter how short your visit, make sure to save time for the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. You’ll learn so much not just about this trailblazing artist and her bold work, but about New Mexico, too. Her relationship with the state spanned decades and New Mexico’s desert landscapes provided inspiration for some of her best-known paintings. 

We also spent time exploring Santa Fe by foot, including Santa Fe Plaza and the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. There are plenty of shops to peruse (including Collected Works, the bookstore attached to Iconik), and if your trip is anything like ours, you’ll get plenty of time to browse while you’re waiting for a table at Cafe Pasqual’s!

If you can spend time in the area surrounding Santa Fe, I’d definitely recommend doing that, too. The views on our way out of the city were stunning, especially with the snow. 

Santa Fe Plaza obelisk
Mountains near Santa Fe
Santa Fe sunrise and church
T-shirts in a Santa Fe shop
Georgia O'Keeffe painting
Snow-covered desert landscape

NEXT TIME

There were so many things we didn’t get a chance to do with just two days in Santa Fe that we were plotting our next trip back before we even left. For one, the city is home to a thriving gallery scene that we didn’t get to so much as walk by. The Roundhouse, New Mexico’s state capitol, is also home to a large local art collection, but the building wasn’t open while we were there. 

Secreto Lounge was on my list for cocktails, and Joseph’s was on it for dinner. 

I would also love to spend more time outside the city, maybe even venturing to Georgia O’Keeffe’s home and studio in Abiquiú, located about an hour away. 

Snow-covered mountain landscape

MILES MATH

SANTA FE HOTELS

When I was looking to book hotels, each of the properties I ended up with had one night where it was priced pretty low—less than $200 including taxes and fees—but the prices in Hilton Honors points and Marriott Rewards points were still high. For that reason, I opted to book both of them through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, which charges you at a rate that’s tied to the room’s price in dollars. I spent 12,280 on a Hilton room that would have set me back $184.20 and 11,382 on a room at La Posada that was going for $170.73. Under normal circumstances, I would have liked to have paid cash for these rooms with rates that low, but the whole moving-across-the-country thing made me want to conserve as much money as possible!

One downside of booking through the Chase portal is that you generally won’t earn points for your stays, although elites are eligible for their benefits (free breakfast, upgrades where available, etc.) if you provide your account number at check-in. In the past, I’ve been able to earn points for hotels stays booked through Chase, but Chase recently made some changes such that Expedia now operates the portal. In an effort to get people to book direct, hotels usually do not award points for bookings made through Expedia and other online travel agents, so I don’t expect to get lucky in the way of points-earnings on Chase portal reservations in the future. 

MUSEUM TICKETS

I used my Citi ThankYou Premier card to earn a 2x bonus on entertainment purchases for admission to the O’Keeffe museum. 

For more on earning and using points and miles to travel for free, visit the 52 Cities free resource library or register to join me on my next live masterclass. And or more on my cross-country road trip, check out this post, which has links to posts from every stop!

Hope you enjoyed this guide to two days in Santa Fe! Have you been to Santa Fe? What did I miss? Let me know in the comments! >>

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"When I got to New Mexico, that was mine. As soon as I saw it, that was my country." Two perfect days in Santa Fe "When I got to New Mexico, that was mine, As soon as I saw it, that was my country."

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Carly

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