Thinking of a vacation to New Mexico but can’t decide between Taos or Santa Fe?
Santa Fe is considered one of the art centers of the US and is the Capital of New Mexico.
Taos is located less than an hour and a half from Santa Fe and also has a thriving art community and lots of outdoor recreational activities such as skiing, hiking, fishing and mountain biking.
So which city is the better spot for a vacation?
We break it all down for you according to vibes, nightlife, history and culture, attractions and things to do in order to help you decide.
Let’s dive right in.
Taos Vs Sante Fe for a Vacation?
Table of Contents
What is the best time of the year to visit Taos?
Late May to early September is the best time of year to visit Taos because the weather is ideal, with perfect clear and sunny weather, not too hot, and fewer people than during peak season.
If you enjoy skiing, the best time to visit Taos is from late October to early February, when there are plenty of snow-covered runs for an unforgettable skiing experience.
What is the best time of the year to visit Santa Fe?
From September to November, the weather in Santa Fe is ideal for exploring the city and outdoor recreational activities, with temperatures ranging from the low 20s to the high 70s.
This is also the time when lodging options are the most affordable compared to peak season, when crowds from all over the country arrive.
Taos Vs Santa Fe for a family vacation?
Santa Fe, without a doubt, is a better family vacation destination than Taos. Santa Fe is larger and more spread out, with artsy aesthetics, Hispanic warmth, vibrant nightlife, outdoor activities, and Native American reverence for nature. Simply put, there is something in Santa Fe for everyone.
Taos, a small and laid-back town with a close-knit Native community, relies more on tourism than its more lively and larger counterpart Santa Fe, which has a population of over 70,000 people.
Because of its small size and reliance on tourism, hotel and food prices tend to be higher than in Santa Fe.
Being a typical resort town with a sizable population, Santa Fe makes it simple to find lodging options that suit every type of budget, from AirBnBs to ultra-luxurious suites.
Best accommodation options in Taos
Budget– Located conveniently within walking distance from the Taos Plaza, the El Pueblo Lodge is a pet-friendly lodging option that features a centrally-located swimming pool, hot tub, a well-equipped fitness center and friendly and efficient staff.
Mid-range– The Inn on La Loma Plaza is a 10 room B&B perfect for families on a budget vacation to Taos. The Inn features high adobe walls with an intimate and a semi-luxury amenities overlooking the spectacular Sangria de Cristo mountains.
Luxury– Located just a 1/2 mile from Taos Plaza in a splendid natural setting, the Palacio De Marquesa offers one of the best intimate and luxurious hospitality in Taos making it perfect for couples looking for an unforgettable romantic stay.
Best accommodation options in Santa Fe
Budget – The Sage Hotel is an excellent budget lodging option in downtown Santa Fe located just a few minutes from the historic Plaza and across the street from the Railyard park dining and shopping district.
They offer ‘Hot Breakfast’ every morning, well-equipped gym and shuttle services to the Plaza.
Mid-range – Featuring semi-luxurious and spacious rooms, well-equipped gymnasium, modern amenities and excellent staff, the Best Western Plus Inn is a great lodging option for families in Santa Fe.
Luxury – The Inn on the Alameda is an ideal downtown Santa Fe lodging location, nestled between the historic Plaza and the art-filled galleries of Canyon Road. Perfect for couples on a honeymoon.
Taos vs Santa Fe: Vibes 🙌🏼
Taos is a small resort town with a population of a little less than 6,000 residents. Taos is all about outdoor recreation.
Think skiing and snowshoeing in the winter and hiking, biking, fly fishing and white water rafting in the summer.
The main attraction is Wheeler Peak, which has an elevation of 13,161 feet and is the highest peak in New Mexico.
There are 4 ski areas in the Taos area; Taos Ski Valley, Red River Ski area, Sipapu Ski area and Angel Fire Ski area.
The overall vibe is laid back and life in Taos revolves mainly around outdoor activities.
The vibe in Santa Fe can be summed up in one word, artsy! 🎨
Think lots of art galleries and installations, adobe style buildings and Spanish culture influence.
The overall vibe of Santa Fe is similar to Taos in that it is pretty laid back, but the art community adds a somewhat stronger dimension of exclusivity. If you aren’t really into art, you may feel like an outsider when visiting.
Winner: If art and culture is your thing, then the vibes of Santa Fe are for you. If you appreciate art yet also enjoy recreational activities like skiing, then the vibes of Taos are more up your alley.
Taos vs Santa Fe: Nightlife 🍺
For being a small resort town, Taos has a lively nightlife, especially if you enjoy live music.
The Adobe Bar in the Taos Inn has a wide variety of patrons with everyone from multi-millionaires to ski bums and is the place to see and be seen in Taos.
Another trendy spot is the Anaconda Bar in the El Monte Sagrado hotel. The KTAOS Solar Restaurant and Bar is the premier music venue in Taos with a 400 person capacity.
Being a much larger city, Santa Fe has a wide variety of nightlife for just about every walk of life.
There are several places to try your luck with gambling, as well as numerous bars, breweries and restaurants.
If you are into nightclubs and Latin American dancing, Santa Fe is your place. With tons of venues for live music, the nightlife in Santa Fe is off the hook.
Winner: Hands down without a doubt, Santa Fe.
Taos vs Santa Fe: History and Culture🗿
Both Taos and Santa Fe have similar rich histories.
Taos began with the Taos Pueblo which was a trade center between the Pueblo and Plains Native Americans which spanned almost 1,000 years.
Spanish conquistadors arrived in 1540 and revolts began in the mid 1600’s. After the Mexican-American War in 1848, New Mexico became a US Territory and eventually a state in 1912.
The Taos Society of Arts was established in 1915, paving the way for the arts in Taos.
Santa Fe has an equally fascinating history, The San Miguel Church is the oldest church in the US dating back to 1610.
Santa Fe is the oldest capital city in the US and the second-oldest surviving city founded by European colonists.
Winner: This one is a draw. With almost identical histories and cultural influences from both the indigenous Native American and the Spanish, both cities are equally fascinating in their history and culture.
Being the larger of the 2 cities, Santa Fe has more historical sites, but both are interesting studies for the traveling history buff.
Taos vs Santa Fe: Popular Attractions🗽
Taos has several amazing attractions starting with the UNESCO World Heritage Site and National Historic Landmark: Taos Pueblo.
With a 9,500 acre community and 4,500 people, Taos Pueblo is the attraction to see near Taos and the Taos Small-Group Driving Tour is a must see when visiting.
Stops on the tour include the Taos Plaza, the historic State Francis de Assisi Catholic Church, the Rio Grande Gorge, and of course the Taos Pueblo village.
Santa Fe has a plethora of tourist attractions including museums, churches, ranches and historic plazas.
When visiting Santa Fe, be sure to stop by the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe Plaza, Canyon Road, the Santa Fe Opera House, Meow Wolf Santa Fe, the State Capital Building and Loretto Chapel. You won’t be disappointed.
Winner: Santa Fe. Again, a larger city, Santa Fe has several more attractions than Taos, although Taos Pueblo is pretty fantastic.
Taos vs Santa Fe: Best Things to Do⛷
Take the High Road to Taos
Getting to Taos is an experience as rewarding as the charming little town itself.
The High Road to Taos is a 90-kilometer stretch through the scenic Sangre de Cristo Mountains that connects Santa Fe and Taos.
The High Road is a beautiful way to see the vast valleys, mighty mountains, verdant forests, and high deserts, and it is dotted with many cultural and historical sites, including many Spanish colonial towns and Pueblo Indian villages.
Enjoy skiing at the Taos ski valley
Taos is a skier’s paradise, with 25 feet of fluffy snow falling each year.
Taos Ski Valley, located just 30 minutes from town, is one of the best ski resorts in this quaint little town.
This amazing ski resort, which was once only popular among locals, now attracts thousands of tourists each year.
The resort covers 1294 acres and has 14 lifts and 110 runs where you can find your own patch of quiet snow-covered slopes and untracked routes.
In the summer, there is also white water rafting for those who enjoy adventure.
The list of the “Best Things to Do in Taos” would be incomplete without mentioning Taos’ main attraction, the Taos Pueblo.
Taos Pueblo, a UNESCO World Heritage site and National Historic Landmark, transports you hundreds of years back into the desert lives of the early Native American settlers, with multi-story adobe styled buildings set against the backdrop of snow-capped mountains.
What makes this tiny Pueblo even more remarkable is that it has been continuously inhabited for over a thousand years, making it one of the oldest communities in the United States.
Kit Carson Home & Museum
Kit Carson Home & Museum, located just a short distance from Taos Plaza, houses fascinating age-old artefacts and period pieces.
This National Historic Landmark features magnificent Spanish Colonial Architecture and provides an interesting glimpse into the state’s frontier life.
Taos Plaza is the ‘heart’ of this charming little town, conveniently located in the centre.
The Taos Plaza is dotted with beautiful old brown buildings and is home to many of the town’s thriving businesses.
Taos Plaza is bustling with tourists exploring the magnificent architecture and shopping for souvenirs in a town known for its tranquil and serene vibes.
Taos Plaza’s main attractions are its enticing art galleries and boutique shops, where you can explore and support local artists by purchasing souvenirs.
Rio Grande Gorge Bridge
Fans of the Terminator will adore this location.
The Rio Grande Gorge Bridge is one of the world’s most spectacular engineering feats.
The Rio Grande bridge, located just 15 minutes from northwest Taos, spans 388 metres and provides breathtaking views of the Gorge and the raging Rio Grande river below.
The dizzying drop and stunning vistas make it a must-see when visiting Taos, as well as an excellent location for some Insta-worthy photos.
Explore fascinating art at the Canyon Road
Santa Fe is all about art.
The Canyon Road Arts District, known as Santa Fe’s cultural centre, features exhibits from artists all over the world, as well as boutiques, restaurants, and historic adobe homes.
Take a leisurely stroll down the winding road to see some of the finest works, ranging from southwestern Pueblo pottery and traditional Western art to contemporary and modern digital art.
Canyon Road’s most well-known stops include Medicine Man Gallery, Blue Rain Gallery, and Gerald Peters.
Explore Santa Fe’s rich history at Museum of New Mexico
The Museum of New Mexico houses four museums that educate visitors about New Mexico’s history from the 16th century onward, from Native American life to the Spanish Inquisition to recent economic and social reforms that shaped New Mexico into what it is today.
The Palace of the Governors, the former seat of the Spanish government in the 17th century and now a National Historic Landmark, houses these four incredible museums.
The incredible artworks, decorations, and furniture set in adobe-styled architecture transport you directly to 16th century Santa Fe and provide a glimpse into Native Americans’ early lives and colonisation.
Visit the Santa Fe Botanical Gardens
Looking for a quiet place to relax?
The Santa Fe Botanical Gardens are an ideal place to spend some quiet time exploring a diverse range of vibrant Native and other plant species from across the United States.
The Santa Fe Botanical Gardens is a non-profit organisation dedicated to educating the public about the importance of water conservation, global warming, and the conservation of various plant species.
Relax under the shady ramadas and connect with nature, marvel at the diverse plant life, and explore the captivating Art Trail.
Go hiking in the Santa Fe National Forest
If you enjoy getting out in nature, the Santa Fe National Forest has over 1,000 miles of hiking trails.
There are plenty of hiking trails with year-round access for hiking enthusiasts due to its diverse life zones, habitat types, and many elevations.
This amazing forest has a trail for everyone, whether you are a beginner looking for a short and easy trail, an intermediate looking for a bit more adventure, or an expert looking to push your limits.
Visit the San Miguel Mission Chapel
The San Miguel Chapel is one of the most photographed churches in the United States, as well as one of the oldest.
This adobe-styled church was originally built in 1636 and was burned and rebuilt at the beginning of the 18th century. It contains a number of fine statues and a high altar from 1798.
Museum of Indian Arts and Culture
Your visit to Santa Fe would be incomplete if you did not learn about the fascinating Native American culture and history, and the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture is the best place to do so.
With the assistance of the region’s Native communities, this incredible museum is dedicated to preserving and exhibiting culturally sensitive southwestern Native American cultures.
Winner: Another draw. Both Taos and Santa Fe have lots of things to do that include art and nature.
The Final Verdict
This is a hard one. Both are equally amazing towns. Why not plan the perfect New Mexico vacation by spending a few days in Santa Fe and then take the High Road to Taos and decide for yourself. We guarantee you won’t regret it!
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