My wife and I just returned from four days in Santa Fe, which we found very enjoyable and relaxing. We stayed at the Inn on the Alameda which is at the intersection of Paseo de Paralta and Alameda Ave. on the east side of town. It was a very short walk to the Plaza and just around the corner from the galleries on Canyon Rd. We found the location perfect for jockeying between the shops and restaurants of downtown and the galleries of Canyon Rd. The historical section of town was very walkable and compact. In particular, after moving around town, I was happy that we decided to stay on the east side, as it is a more pleasing, less commercial neighborhood and convenient to many things.
There are so many museums in the Plaza area you might not have time to visit them all, so I would suggest reading a guidebook to identify in advance what interests you most. The area also has its share of touristy gift shops, but they are all in such old buildings that each one is fascinating to visit just for that reason alaone. We were told that for authentic Indian jewelry and crafts to buy from the vendors outside the Palace of the Governors, who had to get certification or something that they make they own goods.
We found day trips to Bandelier National Manument and the Taos Pueblo very enjoyable. We tried to do Bandelier in an afternoon and found that we were hurried, so give it a day and leave time to try the many different trails. Being the history buff that I am, we toured the Kit Carson house in Taos. It's owned by the Masons (as Carson was also a Mason through his connections with Gen. Fremont). The tour came with a Discovery Channel video presentation and a great narration by a docent who was a direct descendant of Carson's last wife.
The Inn on the Alameda was very charming. While it is not a historical structure, it is built to the pueblo architecture standard with nice gardens, patios and trees. You have your choice of rooms in three buildings, which vary by price and amenities, from standard up to suites with fireplaces. We stayed in a standard room which we found to be very nice and had no complaints. The staff and service were excellent, as was the travel and restaurant advice from the knowledgeable front desk people. They served a breakfast every day, but it never changed. Some variety would improve it, but otherwise it was excellent.
What struck me most about my visit was the beauty of the landscape juxaposed against the high, blue New Mexico sky. What they say about it is true. And also the history, Santa Fe was a town before there was a United states and the story of its evolution is fascinating to hear from the various guides and docents you encounter in the museums.
We had a great dinner with New mexican cuisine at the La Fonda hotel restaurant, a charming room under a huge skylight. For another "special" dinner we went to Geronimo's on Canyon Rd. Excellent food beatifully prepared and served. For a more casual, unpretentious night out, we went to the Cowgirl Cafe and BBQ, a bar, for drinks and dinner. I had a great tasting steak at a reasonable pricer that I'm sure was every bit as flavorful as something I could easily have paid twice the price for at a more formal steakhouse. Go here for a simple, no flair bar atmosphere. We had a lunch at The Shed, which was good, but not great. The service was slow and unattentive but the place itself was very intersting as so many places are in town--located in a very old building and spread out over several rooms, just reeking of historyu. We had another pleasant lunch in Taos at a tourist sandwich shop on a patio, just up from the central parking lot in town.
If you visit the Taos Pueblo itself, it's worth paying for the short tour.