Once a year, my girlfriends and I spend a long weekend away catching up and having fun. Whenever I tell other women about our trips they always say something like, “I’d love to do something like that with my friends, but it’s just so hard,” and I completely understand that. Vacations require time and money, and with so many other demands competing for those resources, a girls’ trip falls to the bottom of the list. But that doesn’t change the fact that you really do need a girls’ trip, and you won’t regret making it a priority.
I’ve already shared the details of exactly how we go about planning and coordinating our trips. Now, I’m giving you our actual itinerary from our trip to Santa Fe. All you have to do is pick a date, book your flights, plan your outfits, and handle the minor detail of making sure someone is watching your kids.
I will say that we jam-packed our weekend with fun things to do. You can easily take away one or two activities to maximize your downtime.
Check out our high-level itinerary and keep scrolling for all the details on our Santa Fe experience.
Arrive — We came from all over the country, so inbound flight times varied. Albuquerque airport (ABQ) is about 1 hour 15 minutes from Santa Fe. The Santa Fe airport (SFE) is about 20 minutes from downtown.
Lunch — The Shed, Downtown Santa Fe — The early arrivals hung out here and browsed around town while waiting to check-in.
Crew splits — some go straight to the rental house, some go to the grocery store to pick up supplies (food requests emailed in advance)
5:00 PM —Welcome toast at the house, hand out surprise souvenirs (more on that below), hang out, get ready for dinner.
8:00 PM — Dinner at The Pink Adobe
Post-Dinner Drinks — The Boxcar
Breakfast at house
10:20 AM — Meow Wolf Immersive Experience (reserved ticket time in advance)
12:30 PM — Bike the Margarita Trail, check-in at Mellow Velo Bikes
1:00 PM — Lunch at Coyote Cafe & Cantina
9:00 PM — Dinner at Radish & Rye
Breakfast at the house
10:00 AM–12:30 PM – Horseback Riding at Broken Saddle Riding Company.
Travel to Ten Thousand Waves Spa
1:30 PM – Lunch at Izanami, the restaurant at the spa (make reservations in advance)
3:30–4:30 PM – Private pool reservation at the spa
4:30–6:30 – Spa treatments
8:00 PM – Dinner at Home with Personal Chef Christina Snow
Post-Dinner laughs at home
Breakfast at home
Departures — If you’re looking to kill time in Albuquerque, try Bow & Arrow Brewing Co.
About Santa Fe
Santa Fe is the capital of New Mexico, but it’s actually a relatively small city of about 83,000 people. The downtown is very charming—full of historic, pueblo-style architecture, good restaurants, and shops selling artisan and handcrafted goods. The town sits at about 7,000 feet above sea level, which means your body will need to adjust to the higher altitude. For comparison, San Francisco is about 50 feet above sea level, so remember to drinks a lot of water.
We visited in late September and the weather was absolutely perfect, in the mid- to high-70s and sunny everyday. The mornings were in the high 40s, so pack some layers.
Everyone we met here was as nice as can be and no one was in a rush for anything. Santa Fe operates on its own time and closes up early. Our Uber driver from the Albuquerque airport drove at a snail’s pace, doing 62 MPH on a highway with a speed limit of 75. I thought he was an anomaly but we quickly learned that everyone drives slowly here. Life is quiet, laid-back, and casual.
This has its benefits. During our bike excursion around town, cars patiently trailed behind us as we slowly moved into a single file line on the right side of the road—no honking horns or revving engines liked you’d get in San Francisco.
Where We Stayed
We were a large group, 11 women, so renting a house made more sense than booking hotel rooms. Casas de Santa Fe managed the house we rented, Casa Grande. The house was set in the hills about 10 minutes from downtown. It was huge and gorgeous, and it almost felt like we were in a movie about being on girls’ trip because the indoor and outdoor decor was picture-perfect. Ironically, the actual pictures of the house on the website don’t even do it justice, especially the peaceful backyard.
The folks at Casas de Santa Fe were very nice. We were able to ship some packages to the office before we arrived, and when part of our group arrived early, they were able to leave their suitcases at the office while they waited to check-in. The best part was at check-out. We didn’t have to take out the garbage, strip the sheets, or empty the refrigerator like you sometimes do in rentals. We just gathered our things and left, which was such a treat.
We decided to use Ubers and Lyfts to get around rather than renting cars. This worked out for the most part but it did come with a learning curve. We figured out that we needed to request cars about 15 minutes before we needed them to leave. With fewer Ubers and Lyfts on the road, it takes longer for a car to get to you. There are also very few Uber XLs, so we often had to call for three smaller cars to fit us all.
Renting cars would have been more convenient for grocery store runs and also for the day we went horseback riding and to the spa. Cell phone service was spotty outside of town and it was much harder to get cars.
Drinks & Dining
I actually didn’t visit The Shed because I was on a later flight into town, but from what my girlfriends said, this is a great casual spot in downtown to sit outside, drink margaritas, and eat delicious Southwestern food.
This is a well-known restaurant in Santa Fe that has outdoor seating under twinkling lights, private seating for larger groups like us, and a bar area. The margaritas are delicious, and the menu has a mix of traditional New Mexican favorites like smothered enchiladas plus a variety of other appetizers and entrees.
This restaurant has a huge indoor space, but the place to be on a beautiful Santa Fe day (which is pretty much every day) is on the rooftop patio. We rolled in with 12 people at the heart of lunch hour on a Friday and had to wait about 30 minutes for a table. We ordered margaritas (are you sensing a trend here?) from the bar while we waited for a table and chatted with other guests. The colorful wigs we were all wearing made us lots of friends and we were warmly welcomed at this restaurant. Many of us ordered tacos, which were delicious, and a few had generously-sized salads full of fresh ingredients.
We took a break from tortilla-based cuisine on Friday night at Radish & Rye. The restaurant serves farm-inspired cuisine sourced locally. We took off our colored wigs for this restaurant; it definitely has a more upscale vibe. We had a late reservation at 9:00 PM so it was quiet by the time we arrived, but I heard from some locals that it’s quite lively earlier in the night.
Located at Ten Thousand Waves Spa, Izanami is an upscale Japanese restaurant. We did not make reservations in advance and had to wait quite a while to be seated. The issue seemed to be less about table space and more about a backup in the kitchen. Either way, plan ahead and call for reservations.
The restaurant has a mix of counter seating, chair-height tables, and the low tables tables you think of in Japan. Sitting at the low tables made our dining experience extra special, and the hot stone bibimbap that I ordered was delicious.
Since we were on the go for most of our trip, it was such a treat to stay in on our last night and have a personal chef cook for us. Christina Snow spoiled us with a ton of appetizers, a delicious salmon entree, and chocolate mousse for dessert. The menu was planned in advance, so once she arrived, we didn’t have to think about anything. She brought all of the groceries and cleaned up the kitchen once dinner was done.
Christina was very thoughtful about accommodating different dietary needs and everything she prepared was delicious!
We ended up here quite by accident on our first night. It’s a very casual, local spot on the outskirts of downtown. It offers live music on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Don’t expect fancy cocktails or elevated appetizer options here. This is the spot to order a beer (Santa Fe Brewing Company is on tap everywhere) and hang out.
During our bike tour, we stopped here for a rooftop cocktail. There were lots of creative drinks on the menu and the beautiful views of Santa Fe and the mountains beyond made for a perfect afternoon break.
Before heading back to the bike shop to return our bikes, we stopped at El Farol for a final drink. It’s known as one of Santa Fe’s most iconic bars and restaurants serving Spanish tapa-style food. Indeed, it was packed on a Friday afternoon. The staff accommodated us by opening up the back patio, where we sat privately to enjoy our round of cocktails. If you’re ready to try something besides margaritas at this point in the trip, the Spanish gin & tonics and sangria are yummy.
We grabbed a picnic table outside at this Western-themed bar and restaurant after dinner on our second night and listened to the end of the live band’s set. We didn’t try the food here but it’s supposed to be a great BBQ spot. Somehow, we managed not to take a single photo, so the pictures you see here are from the next spot.
Truth be told, we were trying to get into CrowBar across the street, but it was at capacity when we arrived, so we crossed the street to check out Evangelo’s. “At capacity” in Santa Fe basically means everyone inside has a seat and people standing have plenty of elbow room. They are not interested in jam-packing people into a room, which is great if you’re already inside, but not so great if you’re waiting outside.
So we checked out Evangelo’s and we’re happy we did. The bar was full of colorful characters like the guys pictured here. They had a live R&B band on stage upstairs and downstairs offered a low key spot to hang out and play pool. The crowd seemed to be made up mainly of visitors since this bar is in the historic downtown section of Santa Fe.
Another nearby spot that a few of my friends hopped over to checkout was Matador, a basement dive bar. By midnight, it seemed to be pretty quiet, so they headed back to Evangelo’s.
Things to Do & People to Meet
There’s really no way to describe Meow Wolf to someone who hasn’t been. It’s an immersive experience, kind of like an escape room, but multiplied times 1,000 and the exits are clearly marked. It’s trippy, confusing, amazing, and really fun. Reserve your ticket time in advance to avoid waiting in line.
Santa Fe by Bike
We rented bikes on Friday afternoon from Mellow Velo Bikes with plans to ride around town and hit up a few bars on Santa Fe’s self-proclaimed Margarita Trail. David Bell, who owns Mellow Velo, and all of the guys who worked there gave us lots of suggestions on where to go and patiently walked some of us through a bike tutorial—very helpful if it’s been a while since you’ve been on two wheels. David even called ahead at Coyote Cafe to check on the wait time for lunch before escorting us over.
We were ready to hit the road on our own after lunch, but we lucked out and ended up getting a personal tour guide for our ride. David Heber, who was tooling around town on a jitney bike stopped by the bike shop and offered to lead us around Santa Fe. We learned some history, discovered the rooftop bar at Drury Plaza Hotel, and visited the hotel La Posada de Santa Fe, which is supposedly haunted by the ghost of Julia Staab, a wealthy socialite from the 1880s.
In the winter, David is a tour and mountain guide and snow sports instructor, so even if you’re planning a winter visit, he’s a good person to know: 425-891-5783.
Driver Extradorinaire and Ecstatic Dance Facilitator
I’m kicking myself for not getting a picture with Ana, so I’m using this photo of us that posted to Facebook. We met Ana by chance. She was one of our Uber drivers from Meow Wolf to Mellow Velo Bikes and turned out to be very helpful for the duration of the trip. Ana’s originally from Santa Fe, so she’s a great resource to get a handle on the area and culture.
After our first ride with her, she handed me her card, and I noticed it said “Ecstatic Dance Facilitator” on it. When I called her to coordinate a pick up for later that day, I asked more about ecstatic dance. In short, ecstatic dance is freeform movement in a non-judgmental space. The music is curated and ordered to take participants on an emotional journey. There’s no talking but you can laugh, yell, etc. We didn’t end up trying it, but she shared some of her Spotify playlists for us to use in the future. If you’re curious about what it is, get in touch with Ana: [email protected]
We went to Broken Saddle Riding Company, which was in Cerrillos, about 40 minutes from our rental house. Our guides, Harold and Bob, were everything you could want in cowboys. They were knowledgable and friendly and clearly loved the horses that were in their care.
We took a 1 hour and 15 minute ride through Los Cerrillos State Park, and I have to admit that it was more beautiful than I expected. Desert landscapes aren’t my favorite—I prefer blues and greens to the brown tones of the desert—but being immersed in the landscape was much different than viewing it from afar. The wild desert flowers bring so much color to the land. We followed a trail that took us to a beautiful vista as well as into a quiet canyon.
After all of our adventures, we were ready for some massages at Ten Thousand Waves. This spa was about 45 minutes away from horseback riding but was only a 10-minute ride back to our house.
This is a Japanese-style spa so expect it to be heavy on the peaceful, zen vibe but light on luxurious touches. There are only a few soft, lounging chairs, the locker room doesn’t have samples of lotions and other products, and the massage therapists use small towels during treatment rather than cozy blanekts.
It was very crowded on the Saturday we visited and was a relatively small space for the number of people they were accommodating. We were happy to have reserved a private pool in advance so that we had an hour to relax altogether before our appointments began. I got the therapeutic massage and it was amazing. I was so relaxed that I think I fell asleep on the table! The other girls all raved about their treatments, too.
You might have noticed from some of the above pictures that we are sporting some fun accessories. Here’s more about what we bought and why. (This section contains Amazon affiliate links.)
Besides making for great pictures, these wigs were the perfect way to meet new people. We received lots of smiles as we tooled around on our bikes. Santa Fe is definitely the kind of city that welcomes a gang of women in multicolored wigs. This was another easy item to ship from Amazon directly to the rental office.
Only a couple of girls in our group have real tattoos, so we thought it would be fun to don matching temporary ones for the weekend. Inkbox has thousands of designs and you can even have a custom image created. We chose a design called Malin, a Swedish symbol that acknowledges setbacks are often a natural part of moving forward. The tattoo was to remind us that our group of friends is here to empower and support one another whenever life takes an unexpected turn.
Follow the directions exactly when applying. The ink lasts for two weeks, so you don’t want to mess up. Take our word for it.
The Grand Total
Each of us spent around $1,100 on this trip, not including our flights. Needless to say, this was not a cheap weekend, but you can easily make it more budget-friendly by choosing to do fewer activities (we had very little downtime, so I don’t think you’d feel like you were missing out by cutting out a few events) and eating more meals at home.
However and wherever you choose to go on your next girls’ trip, I hope you use this itinerary as inspiration to actually make the trip happen!