This location also makes the state capital relatively compact and very walkable, with a fleet of buses and a sprinkling of bike rental shops that makes exploring the city a breeze. Here’s our guide to getting around in Santa Fe.
The historic downtown Plaza District is the number one must-see on any Santa Fe visitor’s list. This area is best experienced on foot, where you can pop in and out of shops, restaurants, bars, and museums, with several parks and benches to rest in the shade as you wander.
Paseo de Peralta is a main road that loops the Plaza and Railyard District (a newly renovated area stocked with galleries, a cinema, local breweries, cafes and restaurants). All roads essentially lead back to the plaza. No matter what street you walk down in this picture-perfect area, you will find something of note to enjoy.
For an easy trek, start at the Basilica of Saint Francis and walk a loop down San Francisco Street past the historic La Fonda Hotel to Burro Alley. Hang a right at the donkey statue and another right on Palace Ave past the Palace of the Governors.
The historic Plaza District has limited metered street parking, and at peak season, it can be nearly impossible to find a place to park that an early riser hasn’t already snatched up. There are three parking garages around the Plaza District and two at the Railyard District, all ADA compliant.
If you’re visiting during the summer peak season and plan to spend the day in the Plaza and Railyard districts, your best bet is to opt for public transport (see below) and leave your vehicle whenever you are staying. When you’re ready to adventure further afield, to places like Museum Hill (home to four museums and the city’s botanical gardens) or the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, your car will be your best friend.
Santa Fe has very reliable public transportation through their city bus, the Santa Fe Trails, with ten routes through the city. One-way fare is $1, a day pass is $2, a three-day is $5, and a five-day pass is $7. Riders must have exact cash.
The bus runs every 15 minutes up and down Cerrillos Road; riders can access most of the city on this main vein. This service is handy if you are lodging away from the Downtown Plaza District, or during special events when the plaza is highly congested with limited parking. Once you make your way to the downtown transit center, located on Sheridan Avenue next to the plaza, you can easily hop the M Route to Canyon Road and Museum Hill.
Though Santa Fe is great for walking, the city’s altitude of 7000ft above sea level can make long strolls a little more taxing than usual. Should you run out of puff, you’ll find many bright yellow pedicabs pedling passengers around the historic Plaza District from 9am to 10pm, seven days a week from May through November.
Available for a quick peddle from point A to point B, or for a custom tour targeting a specific interest or event, pedicabs are the best way to get around the plaza if your feet have had enough, you’re traveling with little ones, or you’ve had a little too much to drink. The cost is $1 a minute and no ride, they claim, is too long or too short.
Santa Fe is an environmentally-conscious, bicycle-friendly city. There are a handful of bike shops that you can rent traditional bicycles and electric bikes from, with options in town including Mellow Velo and Bike N Sport, among others.
While many of the roads around the plaza are in historic areas where there isn’t space for formal bike lanes, drivers go slow and are courteous of cyclists. Elsewhere, bike lanes line most of the main streets that go through the city, such as Cerillos Road, Rufina and Old Santa Fe Trail, which can get you to the Railyard District, Canyon Road, or Meow Wolf – a popular interactive art gallery.
Additionally, there are many urban trails to explore that can maneuver you around the city while also giving you a reprieve from it. The Santa Fe River Trail is a 3-mile paved road that meanders alongside the Santa Fe River, providing scenic views and access to the river parks through historic Downtown.
Getting to Santa Fe from the airport
While Santa Fe does have a municipal airport with daily, direct flights to Denver, Dallas and Phoenix, most folks coming in for a visit will land at the Albuquerque International Airport, 45 minutes south of Santa Fe. Once your feet are on the ground you have a couple of options for the second leg of the journey.
Since New Mexico is a rural state with many attractions and sites spread out over many miles, renting a car is the way to go for anyone looking to do day trips outside city limits.
Alternatively, let someone else take the wheel. Groome Transportation makes 11 roundtrips daily from the airport to Santa Fe and runs about $36 for a one-way fare. Abq Express is a car service that is also available, with prices starting at $94.
For folks on a budget adventure, a bus ride from the airport to a Rail Runner Station, the state’s commuter train, will keep your cost around $10. Coming in on a weekday? Hop on the city bus – the ABQ Ride Route 250 – to the Downtown Albuquerque Rail Runner Station. Or, if you’re arriving on a Saturday, take bus Route 50. However, note that on Sundays the train doesn’t run.
Accessible transportation in Santa Fe
Corazon Concierge (tel: 1 800 762 7058) has an ADA compliant mobility van that can accommodate one wheelchair passenger and 3 additional passengers. The fee is $69 per hour, minimum of 2 hours, and $135 for van transportation between Santa Fe and the Albuquerque airport.
The Santa Fe Ride Buses provide curb to curb transportation service for persons with disabilities who cannot use the Santa Fe Trail bus service, or are seniors age 60 and older.
The Railrunner train has designated seating for senior citizens and individuals with disabilities on all rail cars, including for those using mobility devices. Individuals with disabilities may also board with electric Segways. Each train has cars that are equipped with ADA accessible restrooms and wheelchair locks, and service animals are permitted at stations and on trains.
For more information, download Lonely Planet’s free Accessible Travel guide.