Car Free Journey: More on Albuquerque & Santa Fe

by Steve Atlas

Last month, we visited Albuquerque, New Mexico. As we saw then, there is so much to do there that we ran out of space. This month, we’ll share a few more tips about visiting Albuquerque, and then spend the rest of our trip exploring nearby Santa Fe.

Tips from ABQ Ride for Visiting Albuquerque without a Car

Rick De Reyes, Public Information Officer for ABQ Ride: Albuquerque’s public transit system, offers these tips:

Bicycling in Albuquerque:

“Albuquerque is one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the country, with more than 400 miles of bike paths and trails with more in the works. Bicyclists can also ride along the Rio Grande along a trail in the bosque, Spanish for forest. ABQ RIDE can also let you bike and bus, with racks on the front of the bus to accommodate your bicycle at no extra charge. Bike maps can be downloaded through the website To receive a hard copy of Albuquerque’s bike map, call 505-768-2680 to have the City mail you one.”

Shopping and Sports:
There are two major shopping malls in Albuquerque, Coronado Center in the city’s Northeast Heights and Cottonwood Mall on the city’s west side (with a third being refurbished); all of which are accessible using ABQ RIDE’s Rapid Rides.

“Sports includes Triple A baseball (one step below the Major Leagues) in the form of the Albuquerque Isotopes. They are the top affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers and play in Isotopes Park. Right across the street from the ballpark is University Stadium, where the University of New Mexico Lobos play football. UNM’s nationally-renowned basketball team plays its home games at The Pit, otherwise known as University Arena.”

Neighborhoods that are good choices for Walkers:

Old Town

Old Town

“The Old Town neighborhood is great for walking or strolling, with its various shops and cafes.

“The Country Club area, just southwest of Downtown, features stately old homes and the old Albuquerque Country Club. And on the edge of the Country Club area sits the Albuquerque Little Theater, which has been staging theatrical productions since 1930. It’s where Albuquerque native Vivian Vance got earned her theatrical chops, on the way to Broadway stardom and then to national stardom as Ethel on I Love Lucy. Other stars who’ve performed there include Don Knotts, Bill Daily, Ann B. Davis, Nancy Kulp, and Maureen O’Sullivan.

“The University of New Mexico-Nob Hill area is great for a walk taking in its myriad restaurants, cafes, pubs and funky shops.”

Favorite Places to Eat that are Easily Accessible by ABQ Ride:

“Some of the best places to eat and enjoy the city can be accessed using ABQ RIDE, especially along Central Ave (the longest stretch of urban Route 66 in the country).

“In Downtown, some restaurants accessible by walking include Tucano’s Brazilian Grill, Villa Di Capo Italian Restaurant and Pasión Latin Fusion at 7th and Lomas. The famous Cecilia’s Café on 6th St is open for weekday lunch.

“Just a long walk or quick ABQ RIDE trip away to the east (in the city’s EDo-East Downtown area) are the Artichoke Café, the upscale Standard Diner and the kitschy, 50’s-themed Route 66 Diner. And just to the west are restaurants such as Monroe’s (Mexican) Restaurant, La Hacienda in Old Town, the renowned Monte Carlo Steakhouse (and Package Store) and El Charritos Restaurant.

“To the south along 4th St is the Barelas Coffee House (New Mexican food only open weekdays). North 4th near Downtown features the famous Mary and Tito’s Café (also New Mexican food).

“Venture out from Downtown and you can find even more restaurants using ABQ RIDE. For instance, to the east past EDo is the University of New Mexico and Nob Hill area. It features restaurants like the late night-icon Frontier Restaurant, Kelly’s Brew Pub, O’Neill’s Pub, Flying Star Cafe, Il Vicino, Zinc Wine Bar and Bistro, Two Fools Tavern and the upscale Scalo.

“Via the #766-Rapid Ride/Red Line, restaurants in Albuquerque’s Uptown area includes Bravo! Italian Restaurant, The Elephant Bar and the upscale Marcello’s Chop House.

Route #790-Rapid Ride/Blue Line will also take visitors to Cottonwood Mall, where a number of national restaurant chains around the mall await visitors.”

Now, it’s time to leave Albuquerque and take the popular New Mexico Rail Runner Express (a commuter rail line that operates seven days a week) to Santa Fe.

Santa Fe, New Mexico: An Unforgettable Place to Visit

Getting Here

The most fun and affordable to get here from Albuquerque is on the New Mexico Rail Runner Express.

New Mexico Rail-Runner

New Mexico Rail-Runner

This commuter train line shares the Alvarado Transit Center with Greyhound, Amtrak, and local Albuquerque ABQ Ride buses. The one-way fare from Albuquerque to Santa Fe is $9 ($4 for seniors, students, and persons with disabilities), but consider a one-day excursion where a one-day pass is just $10 ($7 for seniors, students, and persons with disabilities). Save $1 on your fare by purchasing your tickets or passes online. For details about schedules and fares, visit, e-mail, or call toll-free (866) 795-7245 (RAIL).

A special bonus for Rail Runner passengers: Ride any ABQ RIDE, Santa Fe Trails or Rio Metro bus for FREE when you show the driver your valid Rail Runner Express printed ticket!

From Albuquerque International Sunport (the local airport), the easiest way to get to Santa Fe is to use Sandia Shuttle Express (, or call (505) 474-5696 or toll-free (888) 775-5896). Sandia provides hourly shuttle service between the Airport and downtown Santa Fe, every day. The one-way fare is $28 per person, the round-trip fare costs just $48 (a best choice for weekend visitors). The trip takes 70 minutes each way.

Enjoying Santa Fe After You Arrive

Steve Lewis, from Santa Fe’s Convention and Visitors’ Bureau is our guide for this visit to Santa Fe. Here are Steve’s suggestions:

“The historic neighborhoods of Santa Fe define the old city with their adobe architecture, many attractions and welcoming businesses. Santa Fe’s five, adjacent downtown historic districts hold much to see and do and are easy to navigate on foot. In fact, walking is the best way to see all of this old (404 years) city’s many nooks and crannies and a good way to navigate the winding and, sometimes, confusing streets.

“There are two stops when riding the New Mexico Rail Runner Express into Santa Fe. The South Capital stop is mostly for government workers commuting to their jobs. Leisure travelers should ride the train to its termination point in the Santa Fe Depot, in the Santa Fe Railyard. All trains are met by the Santa Fe Pickup, a free shuttle around town with stops at a number of points of interest. Visit for more information.

Santa Fe Farmers Market

Santa Fe Farmers Market

“The first thing that’s apparent when arriving in the Railyard on a Saturday morning is the Santa Fe Farmer’s Market, held year ’round on Saturday mornings-inside the Farmer’s Market building during the winter. The Market is a wonderful introduction to the local population and the amazing farmers of Northern New Mexico, not to mention good place to grab a coffee, pastry or breakfast burrito.

“The Railyard itself is anchored by SITE Santa Fe, the city’s most contemporary museum, just across the street from the market. SITE is surrounded by a 10-acre park, covered in native plants, that offers many shaded places to sit and a designated play area for kids.

“Heading north on Guadalupe Street the Rail Yard is also home to a contemporary gallery district, many shops and stores, a number of restaurants and the cozy Sanbusco Market Center mall. Farther along Guadalupe are the historic Santuario de Guadalupe church, a new skate park and a newly developed River Walk leading towards the Plaza area.

“It’s easy to walk from the Rail Yard to the social and spiritual center of town, The Plaza, about a 10-15 minute stroll from the train terminal. The Plaza is surrounded by restaurants, shops and museums making it a destination unto itself.

“History buffs will find the New Mexico History Museum a must with its detailed and interactive displays about the state’s fascinating past.

“Foodies will be tempted by dozens of restaurants, many serving the region’s signature, chile-based cuisine. There are also two cooking schools, the Santa Fe School of Cooking and the Santa Fe Culinary Academy, offering classes on most days.

Santa Fe Museum

Santa Fe Museum

“Art lovers will want to stop at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum and the New Mexico Museum of art in addition to browsing all of the many Plaza-area galleries. Shoppers will find hundreds of small, independently owned stores to investigate. All of this is within several square blocks which visitors on foot will appreciate as they won’t have to search for parking.

“From the Plaza some folks, especially shoppers and art lovers, will want to head over to Canyon Road, the country’s most significant art district. Here there are close to 100 galleries all within several blocks. There are also restaurants, gardens and places to rest and watch the street scene. Santa Fe has more than 250 art galleries, making it the country’s third largest art market, and Canyon Road holds the most of them. The street is lined with public art and the galleries hold works of all kinds and prices. Even for those not interested in purchasing art, Canyon Road is a visual feast and a one of a kind experience.

“A simple route back to the Plaza from Canyon is to follow Alameda Street, which intersects Canyon at the top of the gallery district. Walking down Alameda along the Santa Fe River-which flows on and off throughout the year-is a shady path that can lead all the way back to Guadalupe and the Railyard. If you are tired of walking, you can catch the Santa Fe Pickup for a quick ride.

If you want to enjoy attractions away from the downtown, the local bus system, Santa Fe Trails covers all of Santa Fe. A one-day unlimited-ride pass costs just $2 ($1 for seniors age 60 and older, and persons with disabilities) and you can buy the pass on any bus with cash. For more information, visit, (call 505) 955-2001 weekdays: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mountain Time.)

“Take Santa Fe Trails’ M bus (it runs every hour from the downtown bus terminal on Sheridan Street) for a 20-minute ride to Museum Hill: home to four popular museums:

“Renting bikes in Santa Fe is a good way to see the city as well as get around. There are several bike paths that connect different parts of the city, The Arroyo Chamisa Trail connects the south part of town with the Railyard. There is also a newly developed recreational trail system: La Tierra Trails, a fun place for some mountain biking.

“My best suggestion for bike rentals is Mellow Vello, located right downtown, They can provide further info on trails and getting around.

“My best tips for those not driving is to stay hydrated – we are both high, 7,000 feet, and dry – and bring sun protection as we have 300+ sunny days a year. Taking it a little slowly on the first 24 hours in town will help with the altitude.

Where to Stay in Santa Fe

“Santa Fe Sage Inn is conveniently located on the edge of downtown and is one of the best values in the city.

“Inn on the Alameda is another good value located downtown,

The Old Santa Fe Inn is another reasonable spot in downtown,

“Many moderately priced hotels along Cerrillos Road, about 1-2 miles from downtown, are easy to reach by using the Santa Fe Trails bus system. These include:

“Courtyard by Marriott –

“El Rey Inn –

“Santa Fe Double Tree –

“Everything to see and do in Santa Fe can be found at, the Santa Fe Convention & Visitors Bureau’s web site. You can also call toll-free (800) 777-2489.”

Steve Atlas enjoys hearing from readers. To contact Steve, share feedback about this or other “Car Free Journey” columns, or suggest destination for future columns, e-mail Read Steve’s previous columns at






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