Last thing first: definitely get a rental car. You'll want one for the day trips, as public transportation is limited to nonexistent depending on where you go. Additionally, it opens up the possibility of instead flying into Albuquerque and spending the first night there, which is desirable for several reasons. You'll probably save big bucks on air fare, may also save on car-rental rates and that first night's lodging, and certainly will have more options as regard flight times, etc. It will also help with acclimatization to altitude, ABQ being about 2000 feet lower than Santa Fe. That's useful in any conditions, and if anyone in your family has respiratory impairments, it may be important
As regards day trips: Taos is an excellent day trip from Santa Fe -- as long as you have a car. Go there on the famous "High Road to Taos" through mountain villages and return via the "low road" along the Rio Grande. If you do fly into Santa Fe, Albuquerque is a feasible day trip by car or via the Rail Runner light rail system, about the only mass transit that will help you on this trip. Rail Runner is also fairly interesting from a scenic point of view. However, Rail Runner terminals are relatively few in Albuquerque and will limit what you can do on your day trip there. Other day trips include a visit to Los Alamos and vicinity (nearby Bandelier National Monument is a must-see, and there are several small but interesting museums, etc., in town); an outing to Abiquiu and Ghost Ranch if you're artistically inclined (Ghost Ranch was Georgia O'Keeffe's home) and/or interested in red-rock scenery; visits to Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument and Pecos National Historical Park. Pretty much all of these require a rental car.Edited: 01 February 2018, 06:10
Thanks, canbelto! My plan now looks like this: fly to Santa Fe airport, rent a car, stay 4 nights in either la Fonda or inn at the alameda, then 1 night in Taos then fly home from Santa Fe. Feel free to comment on this tentative plan. From my location flights to Albuquerque or Santa Fe are the same cost.
This would work, although I'm surprised that flying to SAF and to ABQ cost the same from where you are. As it happens, we are doing something close to a "reverse trip" to your area next month, and using ABQ as a departure airport is definitely cheaper for us -- but air fares are a strange thing.
Can you give us more information on the ages and interests of your family? There's a great deal more to do here than you'll have time for on this short trip, so it will be necessary to pick and choose. Weather will also affect what you decide to do; it's highly variable in March and can't be predicted with any confidence this far ahead of time. However, your overall plan is sensible. An overnight in Taos will combine well with a side trip to Abiquiu and Ghost Ranch for red-rock scenery and O'Keeffe appreciation, but the other out-of-town attractions will be best done from a Santa Fe base.
Have you looked at Southwest.com for flights into Abq? Free bags and usually much cheaper. I have flown out of Santa Fe for cheaper than Abq with only carry on baggage, extra bags cost more. 4 nights in SF and 1 in Taos is good. Plenty to see and do. Do keep in mind that it can be winter weather at that time. We have had a very mild winter, but who knows!!! Check www.santafe.org for ideas
Hmm, how cold is it in late March. We don’t Love freezing weather because we have plenty of that where we live.
Impossible to tell. This has been a mild winter so far with temps in 50"s often. But it can snow and be cold in March. Santa Fe is at 7000'. So far this winter I've only had to wear a heavy coat a couple of times, mostly at night, it has been a fleece jacket winter so far.
See the weather FAQ on the New Mexico forum page. Weather is a complicated subject in mountainous areas, and you can get substantial temperature differences simply by moving five miles. Altitude makes a huge difference, as does whether you get upslope or downslope winds if you're in the foothills of the mountains, as Santa Fe is. This caution given, here are highs and lows in Santa Fe on March 20 for the last few years, from Weather Underground (https://www.wunderground.com/history/airport/KSAF/2017/3/1/MonthlyCalendar.html?req_city=&req_state=&req_statename=&reqdb.zip=&reqdb.magic=&reqdb.wmo= ); I recommend you do some browsing there, as their (and NWS') information is more factual and less anecdotal than what we can give.
2017: high 78 F (record high, btw), low 39
2016: high 57, low 23
2015: high 64, low 24
2014: high 66, low 24
2013: high 59, low 27
2012: high 50, low 21
2011: high 66, low 30
In general but with frequent exceptions, the mountain attractions (Valles Caldera, Taos Ski Valley) are considerably cooler than this; Taos just a bit cooler; Los Alamos proper very comparable; Bandelier, Tent Rocks and Abiquiu/Ghost Ranch slightly warmer; and Albuquerque definitely warmer. Note also that the lows are generally reached not just in the middle of the night but in the wee small hours before dawn, and are not generally experienced by visitors unless they go out looking for them. (Hard to do; this area isn't much for night life. Unless you want night-time pictures of clear skies, nocturnal wildlife, and so on.) However, it'll be colder in the morning when you first get up than you might think; it takes a while for the solar heating to kick in. :-)
You're odds-on to have delightful, shirtsleeve or light-jacket weather during daytime activities at most of these places, and to need a somewhat heavier but not expedition-quality coat to go out at night or into the mountains. Layering is even more strongly recommended here than in most places because of the elevation changes as you go from site to site. And bring rainwear; odds are you won't need it on any given day (or even a week), but it does rain in March, or snow in the high country.Edited: 01 February 2018, 22:57
I would prepare to dress in layers and expect to still enjoy Santa Fe and Taos...it is so different from anywhere else in the States. Its adobe architecture, an arts scene second only to NTC, and its high desert landscape. Here is a link to March temperatures in Santa Fe...https://www.accuweather.com/en/us/santa-fe-nm/87501/march-weather/329558
Just to get you started: Consider which of the following might be of interest to you when you are here.
A. In Santa Fe, there are 6 basic areas to explore.
1. The Plaza area for blocks around...shopping, fabulous dining, historic architecture and several museums.
2. Museum Hill with its 4 world class museums, nice cafe and botanic gardens across the road. http://www.museumhill.net
4...Canyon Road. One mile up and back, the oldest street in SF. It, and the side streets and alleyways off of it, are lined with galleries of all different kinds, outdoor sculpture gardens and cafes/2 famous restaurants. The Compound and Geronimo's. http://www.visitcanyonroad.com
5...The Cerrillos Road: For less expensive hotels, the Congeries great Consignment emporium, several antique shops, The Jackalope Shops, many other restaurants, the Santa Fe Place mall and newer big box stores. Pharmacies and gas stations and the Outlet Shops at the very southern most end of it.
6...the Baca Area mid-way down and just off of Cerrillos Road to the west. It includes a glass blowing studio, other small shops and art galleries. Its nearby the eclectic Meow Wolf installation. Be sure to check into that and see if it appeals to you. It is not for everyone. You decide.
B...The High Road/Low Road to Taos and back. It can be done in a day from SF but its better to overnight in Taos.
Drive up to Taos via the High Road and return via the Low Road. There is so much to see out there. The Taos Pueblo is an International Heritage Site and is a must-do. So is Rancho de Taos Plaza south of town.
Taos Pueblo - http://taospueblo.com
The High Road is a designated scenic byway. You take beautiful, fully paved back roads, through the scenic countryside, past the Santuario de Chimayo (a must see), and small galleries (often in a family's home). It eventually climbs up to the village of Truchas which is perched along a narrow ridge. Then you pass through forest to Taos. Its a lovely drive.
The Low Road is really the #68 that follows the Rio Grande River but it too is quite scenic. On the low road just south of Taos is Ranchos de Taos Plaza, with its famous adobe church made so famous by Ansel Adams in his photos and Georgia O'Keefe in her paintings. The combo is one of our favorite drives and we take it very often.
C...The out door highlights near Santa Fe.
2...Tent Rocks National Monument for geologic wonders and a small slot canyon. https://www.blm.gov/visit/kktr
3...Pecos Ruins National Historic Site. https://www.nps.gov/peco/index.htm
4...Jemez Springs and Jemez Ruins.
D. Other highlights near Taos: Rio Grande Bridge, the drum factory, Ojo Caliente historic spa and the Enchanted Circle day-drive.
*Please ask more questions if you think we can clarify something for you.