One of the most coveted perks at Travelzoo is the Travelzoo Experience, in which Deal Experts and other employees take advantage of the same travel, entertainment and local deals we publish to our subscribers and report back on their experience.
Santa Fe is one of those destinations that many people have on their list of places to visit, a crossroads of Native American, Spanish and American West cultures, architecture and history. That said, we probably wouldn’t have put the New Mexico capital on our travel list, except for the fact that my sister moved out there a few years ago and kept raving about the city and area. After making the trip, we’re happy we spent a few days in Santa Fe.
Because Santa Fe is world-renowned as an artistic and culinary destination, it’s also a relatively pricey city to visit, especially in peak season -- the spring and summer months. I’ve been researching hotel prices in Santa Fe for some time, hoping to make a trip out there, but deals can be hard to find. Hotel rooms near the Plaza, the center of town since its founding by Spanish conquistadores in 1610, can often fetch $250 or more per night. So we jumped on a deal that Travelzoo published in the Top 20 for The Eldorado, a 4-star hotel that was offering rooms as low as $99 per night in the late fall and early winter, the city’s off season.
With two young boys, we decided to upgrade to a one-bedroom suite to give everyone a little more space. Even with the upgrade, we were still able to book the suite for less than the regular rate of an average 4-star hotel room. We were very impressed by the suite -- it had plenty of space, a fireplace (which we put to good use) and a balcony that gave us a great view of Santa Fe’s historic district, the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. We enjoyed the hotel’s little touches, including a Santa Fe travel planner that arrived in the mail a few weeks ahead of our trip and a carrying case for the kids with a coloring book and crayons that was quickly put to use after check-in.
There were definite advantages to visiting Santa Fe in the offseason -- beyond the deal we got at the Eldorado. We found the downtown, with its shops, galleries, restaurants and museums, wasn’t crowded at all. We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast without a wait at one popular restaurant, Café Pasqual. During Santa Fe’s busy months, this eatery would normally have a line around the block. November weather was mild enough -- even with the season’s first snowstorm in the forecast.
We spent much of the first day exploring the very walkable downtown, from the Plaza to the Palace of Governors, which is now a history museum. While it may not have been the boys’ favorite, we found it interesting to learn about a town that played a key role in the growth of the American Southwest, from the time of Spanish settlement to New Mexico’s statehood. Outside the Palace of Governors is an open-air market in which Native Americans from the surrounding area sell art and other goods. There are numerous other museums and world-class art galleries downtown -- including the Georgia O’Keeffe museum and Chuck Jones Gallery, the artist behind Looney Tunes. (This could explain why the Roadrunner and Wily E. Coyote were always dueling amid the rock formations of the Southwest.) With our two boys, we didn’t go overboard on the museums, preferring to stop in for storytime at a local bookstore and walk around to see the adobe architecture prevalent throughout the historic district and stop in the Cathedral of St. Francis Assisi, which is still the tallest building in Santa Fe at about five stories tall.
Our trip gave us two full days in Santa Fe, so we spent the second day exploring the area around Santa Fe, including a hike in Tent Rocks, this amazing natural rock formation and slot canyon on the Chochiti Pueblo, between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. You’ll feel like you’re driving to the middle of nowhere, but there’s a payoff. The only cost was a $5 per car entrance fee and we spent a few hours hiking to the top of the canyon for an awesome view of the mesa and surrounding mountains. The ensuing photos ended up being our Christmas card, so it was worth the trip. For our boys, it was a challenging 1.5-mile hike with definite uphill climbs – make sure to bring plenty of water – but they were troopers, and with a little Halloween candy as motivation, they kept pace. (Mom and Dad may have needed that motivation too.) Living in the East and Midwest all of our lives, the slot canyon and rock formations were something out of this world. It was narrow enough in spots where you could reach both walls with your arms and you could see where years of wind and water erosion had sculpted the canyon.
A few more tips for planning a Santa Fe vacation:
Make sure you get to spend a few days in Santa Fe.