5 Comparisons of Santa Fe vs Taos, New Mexico

If you’ve done much research, then you know that New Mexico has a lot to offer. From national parks and state parks to historic cities, it’s easy to stay busy. It’s also easy to get overwhelmed when trying to figure out where to visit.

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We just took a great vacation down to New Mexico and visited tons of places, so I’m happy to draw the comparison of Santa Fe vs Taos for those trying to decide between these two great cities.

Both offer fun, history, art, and plenty of culture, so which should you visit? Santa Fe or Taos?

Pinnable image of "Which Town to visit, Santa Fe vs Taos". Image is of a plaza area with short cement walls acting as garden borders for trees and grass throughout the plaza
evergreens lining a ski run with a chairlift running up the mountain

Taos Valley

Skiing in Santa Fe vs Taos

Taos is considered a high end resort while Santa Fe is a bit smaller. Either way, know that neither resort are gifted as much snow as resorts to the north. But if New Mexico is your destination and you want to get some skiing in, here’s what you need to know about skiing in New Mexico at Ski Santa Fe vs Taos Valley.

Taos Valley

Overall, Taos is the better resort due to better ski conditions. The resort is a little farther north and at a higher peak elevation, the snow lasts a little longer here.

On average, Taos Valley receives around 300 inches of snow each year, and at just under 1,300 skiable acres, there’s plenty of space.

The wide acreage covers 110 ski runs. Half of those are advanced trails while the other half is pretty evenly split between beginner and advanced.

As a bonus, you’ll be able to ski on your IKON pass at Taos Valley.

Peak Elevation: 1,294

Base elevation- 9,350

Ski Santa Fe

Ski Santa Fe is a much smaller ski resort, but plenty of fun for families and locals.

This resort only has 660 skiable acres with 86 ski runs. Under 20 of those runs are beginner while the rest are split between intermediate and advanced.

Ski Santa Fe sees an average of 176 inches of snow per year, putting it at almost half of what Taos gets.

Ski Santa Fe is not part of the IKON pass. As far as lift tickets go, it’s comparable to Taos Valley during the weekdays, but on the weekends you’ll save a lot of money by skiing in Santa Fe.

Peak Elevation- 12,075 feet

Base Elevation- 10,350 feet

multi story adobe building in the distance, blue skies above

Taos Pueblo

Family Activities in Santa Fe vs Taos

While both cities have plenty to do, Santa Fe has more activities when it comes to family attractions and modern day fun.

Santa Fe Activities

Santa Fe has tons of things to do for families. From the famous Meow Wolf to taking a walk around the old historic center, you can discover both the modern and times of the past in Santa Fe.

Visit a living history museum, tour the capitol building, or walk through the Botanic Gardens. Santa Fe has a great mix of educational, historical, and pure fun activities for the family.

Taos Activities

Taos is a sacred place of the past, being the home burial ground to Kit Carson and the Mexican-American war, there is something to learn about history everywhere you go.

Taos is also home to the Taos Pueblo, a living Native American community that still exists today. Taos is filled with cultural and educational experiences. It’s also a great stop for discovering the arts and artisans.

When choosing Santa Fe or Taos, you’ll find both history and modern day fun in Santa Fe. Taos will offer more rich cultural experiences.

Not to say Taos is only history and culture. You’ll also get the beautiful Rio Grande del Norte National Monument and a Children’s Museum that is worth the time.

Walkability of Santa Fe and Taos

This is a tricky comparison to make as it depends what you want to see within each city. Both have public transportation that make it easy to get around.

But if you’d like to walk, then Santa Fe has more places you can walk to. The town center is a little bigger, therefore allowing you access to more places by walking. Taos has plenty of walking opportunities as well, but you’ll notice it’s much smaller in regards to its central area.

multi-story hotel from the outside, adobe style with tan colored exterior. Foreground is a road with artisans selling goods on the right

La Fonda in Santa Fe

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Places to Stay in Santa Fe vs Taos

Both cities have beautiful places to stay, rent, or camp.

Hotels

In Santa Fe, you’ll enjoy staying downtown at La Fonda. It’s a beautiful, large hotel in the center of Old Town Santa Fe. While it blends in with its beautiful, historic exterior, it is fresh and updated inside.

The best place to stay in Taos is at the Inn on La Loma Plaza. This beautiful hotel also blends in with its adobe style architecture on the exterior and rooms that are each uniquely designed.

Being the bigger city, Santa Fe has a lot more options for accommodations. Either city offers lodging from budget to luxurious.

Rentals

Likewise, Santa Fe has many more rental options. Though not as many, Taos still offers plenty of options as well, ranging from budget apartments to luxurious, poolside mansions.

Campgrounds

As far as campgrounds go, you’ll find plenty in either city.

Santa Fe’s most popular and highest rated campground is the well known KOA campground. It’s located about 20 minutes from Santa Fe Plaza, but in a great location. And of course, it has plenty of space to play, playgrounds, game room, and more activities for the family.

The highest rated campground in Taos is the Taos Valley RV Park. Unlike its name, it’s located in Taos (not the ski area) and offers both RV camping and tent camping.

two pictures side by side of Santa Fe vs Taos, one of Taos Plaza with empty paths and a few trees, the other of Santa Fe plaza with benches, trees, dead grass. both have buildings around the perimeter in the distance

Taos was pretty empty while Santa Fe had people on benches, cars going through, and people along the sidewalks at the buildings

Overall Feel of Santa Fe vs Taos

Overall, Santa Fe felt more comfortable as a tourist. It was busier and had more to do.

We did our own little walking tour around Santa Fe and found plenty of places to stop and enjoy even in a small radius. But we could have gone out farther and still found a variety of activities.

Santa Fe has a lot of history, huge and small notable churches, the capitol, and more all within walking distance of each other. The plaza area was large and bustling, making it feel like we were part of the town, just hanging out with everyone else.

Not to say that Taos wasn’t great. The walkable area of Taos is much smaller. The historic center is just a few streets wide, and there weren’t as many walkable places to get to. Plus, Taos wasn’t nearly as busy and bustling as Santa Fe was. We were just one of a few people walking around the plaza area, which seemed a little eerie at the time.

We did enjoy going into a few shops around the plaza and seeing locally made goods.

Taos is rich on cultural front. Having the Taos Pueblo as the main attraction is a great way to spend the day with the kids and both learn and be entertained.

I would say that Taos makes a great stop or overnight stop, while Santa Fe makes a great destination. But you can have both. As getting from Santa Fe to Taos is fairly simple, it would be convenient to stay in Santa Fe and take a day trip to Taos.

Comparing Santa Fe vs Taos

Whether you are heading to New Mexico for skiing or for enjoying the towns, this breakdown of Santa Fe vs Taos will help you decide which town to spend more time in. Like I mentioned above, it’s totally doable to stay in Santa Fe and make a day trip of going to Taos. While Santa Fe may have more to do, Taos is still worth a stop for its cultural heritage and education.

Pinnable image of "Which Town to visit, Santa Fe vs Taos".  Image is of a plaza area with short cement walls acting as garden borders for trees and grass throughout the plaza

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