Hi. I am taking a tour to Mesa Verde and Canyon de Chelly out of Albuquerque and would like to spend a few days in Santa Fe beforehand. I need recommendations for hotel/B&B (central location, priced in the $100-$125 range per night); restaurants; essential sights; best area for just walking and inhaling the vibe of the city. I can stay 2 or 3 nights, but will be arriving after a long flight, so that arrival day will probably be shot. That leaves me either 1 or 2 full days, plus my travel day back to Albuquerque by late afternoon. I am considering renting a car, but might take the train from Albuquerque instead. If I have 3 nights should I go to Taos too - is there a good day trip to hook up with or am I trying to cram too much into this brief trip? I don't want to feel like I am rushing all over.
For background on me - I am a 59 year old female traveling on my own for only the second time. I obviously want to feel safe. I usually have a preference for small hotels or B&Bs, but that is when I travel with my husband or daughter, maybe not so much when I am on my own. So for this trip anything well located and affordable is ok. I would like to try local cuisine, but need dinner places ($25-30 range for dinner without wine) where I can eat at the bar or otherwise feel comfortable eating on my own. (I recall eating at a table in a high end place in NOLA and feeling uncomfortable the whole time. Didn't help that I didn't like the food!) I'd like to see the Georgia O'Keefe museum - I'll pass on any others. I hate formal shopping, although I enjoy browsing at open air markets. I'd like to just enjoy whatever it is that makes Santa Fe special to so many people. Everyone tells me they liked it, but no one really says why.
Thanks for your help.