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Help needed for trip to Durango, Mesa Verde, Taos, Santa Fe, etc.

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Our family of four is planning a northern NM/southwestern CO vacation 5/31-6/9, flying in and out of ABQ. We love exploring vacations, and while our daughters (ages 21 and 18) still have time to travel with us… you get the idea. The trips that work best for us mix a little bit of everything: great natural beauty (outdoor activities like hiking, horseback riding, river floats, though we know altitude can be tough, esp at first), history, culture/art (museums, a little gallery shopping), and some time just to soak up local color, relax, and laugh together. I’ve read a lot of great posts on this forum and would appreciate reactions to my rough itinerary and suggestions of more/different things to do, places to stay and eat, etc. We’re not big spenders but don’t opt for the cheapest either. We prefer authentic and local to luxurious and glitzy, especially when it comes to food.

Tues, 5/31: Plane arrives ABQ early pm. Drive to Durango via Farmington. Anything to stop for on way? Stay in Durango area. Lodging recommendations? (From what I’ve seen, it looks like the atmospheric places in town would be a lot more expensive for us, since we’d need two separate rooms, than places like Comfort or Hampton Inn, where we could share one.)

Wed, 6/1: Durango/Silverton RR. I saw the posts about whether to ride or drive, but we should have enough time to give a day to the train if it’s really great. Also, DH thinks his grandfather used to work on the RR a long time ago.

Thurs, 6/2: More to do in/around Durango or a little further afield or head to Mesa Verde with enough time to do something? Spend night at Far View Lodge.

Fri, 6/3: Full day at Mesa Verde. Based on forum reviews, will want to do major cliff dwellings (Cliff Palace, Balcony House, Spruce Tree House) and Wetherhill Mesa between 6/2 afternoon and 6/4 morning. I assume it’s better to do the inexpensive ranger tours rather than the big Aramark combo tours, right? Another night in park.

Sat, 6/4: Make way to Taos. What to do en route? Is it worth going by way of Ghost Ranch for tour? Recommended places to stay?

Sun, 6/5: Taos. Taos Pueblo worth visiting? Other must-sees? Or would it make more sense to only stay one night in Taos (especially if we didn’t stop to do anything en route day before) and leave more time for SF area?

Mon, 6/6-Wed, 6/8: To Santa Fe. Again, anything to do en route or with a bit of a detour? We were thinking of staying in SF 3 nights, giving us at least 2 full days there. How much time to allow for what? Bandelier (or anyplace else) worth a side trip, or will it be too similar to what we’ve already seen? I’ve seen a lot of discussion about hotels, so I’ll have to start pricing how much more it would be for us to stay near plaza vs. on Cerrillos. If it’s not too much more expensive, I would rather stay somewhere with character, but as I said, oftentimes that doubles the price for us.

Thurs, 6/9: DebitNM’s pictures of Tent Rocks look so cool that I’d love to stop there on way back to ABQ. We’d need to be at airport by 2. How long to leave for Tent Rocks? Does it make more sense as a side trip from SF on an earlier day?

Any and all suggestions—restaurants, hotels, sights, funky experiences, best ways to experience something, etc.—would be welcome.

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