A Travel Price Comparison for United States of America Chicago vs. Santa Fe for Attractions, Food, Nightlife, and Music

Should you visit Chicago or Santa Fe?

Which is cheaper to visit? Which is more expensive for vacation?

Which city is more affordable and which is best for your travel style? If you're trying to figure out where to go next, comparing the travel costs between Chicago and Santa Fe can help you decide which place is right for you.

Chicago

Chicago is a diverse, vibrant, and multicultural city. Visitors will also find so much to do here because it's a large city with many sights and attractions. It offers plenty of beauty for visitors. It's also popular because of the food, beaches, and shopping.

Santa Fe

Santa Fe is a historic, charming, and artsy historic town. It offers plenty of beauty for visitors. As this is a very quaint destination, you'll find it has a special atmosphere. Other popular activities here include food, hiking, and shopping.

Chicago and Santa Fe: Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Popular museums and historical sights
  • Numerous theater shows
  • Active nightlife
  • Good music scene
  • Popular beach
  • Popular at Christmas
  • Known for Christmas markets
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers
  • Good for students
  • Good public transit
  • Big city activities
  • Home to the Willis Tower (previously the Sears Tower)
Pros
  • Popular for skiing
  • Scenic old town
  • Good for hiking
  • Good for couples and romance
Things to Consider
  • Less museums and historical sights
  • Less popular for nightlife
  • Less active music scene
  • Less family-friendly
  • Less popular with backpackers
  • Less popular for students
  • Public transit not as usable


Is there more to do in Chicago or Santa Fe?

Tourists will generally find more to do in Chicago than Santa Fe. It is bigger and it has more sights, attractions, and activities for travelers. Chicago is very popular for its museums, theatre productions, food, nightlife, music, beaches, shopping, christmas markets, and big city activities, while Santa Fe attracts visitors for its skiing, historical sights, hiking, and quaint atmosphere. Chicago is more touristy than Santa Fe and is popular for its thriving sports scene, its iconic local cuisine, and its world class shopping at the Magnificent Mile. It is also well known for The Willis Tower (previously the Sears Tower). Santa Fe is famous for its strong arts scene, its Pueblo-style architecture, and its unique local cuisine.

How is Chicago different from Santa Fe?

Which is Better for a Holiday?

Let's take a look at the differences and similarities between Santa Fe and Chicago. Then, you can decide for yourself which place is better for your next trip.

Is Chicago or Santa Fe Better for Skiing?

Chicago
Santa Fe

Santa Fe is very good for winter skiing. However, Chicago is not a skiing destination.

Head to Santa Fe for some great skiing and other winter activities. There are a few good ski resorts not far from Santa Fe. Popular options include Taos Ski Valley, Ski Santa Fe, Pajarito Mountain Ski Area, and Sipapu Ski and Summer Resort.

Chicago is not a skiing destination.


Are the Museums and Historical Sights Better in Chicago or Santa Fe?

Chicago
Santa Fe

Chicago is an unbeatable place for its historical sights. Also, Santa Fe is not as popular, but is still a nice historic town for its sights and museums.

With plenty of landmarks, attractions, and museums, Chicago has many famous sights for visitors. There are countless landmarks, museums, and iconic sights in the area. Some of the most famous are the Art Institute of Chicago, Adler Planetarium, and the Museum of Science and Industry. Notable landmarks include the famous Willis Tower - formerly the Sears Tower, Buckingham Fountain, and the iconic Cloud Gate (the bean).

Santa Fe is a good place to visit if you're interested in museums or other recognizable sights. Head to the Museum of New Mexico Complex, which has four museums that give a great overview of the history of the area. Also make sure you visit the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi and the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum.

Is Chicago or Santa Fe Better for Theater?

Chicago
Santa Fe

Chicago is an unbeatable place for its shows and theatre. However, Santa Fe is not a theatre destination.

The theater scene in Chicago is world-class. Theater is big here with many of the major Broadway productions visiting the city. There is also an endless list of smaller, local theaters to choose from.

Santa Fe is not a theatre destination.

Is the Food Better in Chicago or Santa Fe? Which Destination has the Best Restaurants?

Chicago
Santa Fe

Chicago is an unbeatable place for its local flavors and cuisine. Also, Santa Fe is not as popular, but is still a nice historic town for its local cuisine and restaurants.

Chicago has long been recognized as a culinary destination with great restaurants. With everything from award-winning luxury restaurants to local dives, this city has something for everyone. It also has very distinct local flavors and dishes that create an identity and bring great pride to the locals. While you're in town you have to try the famous deep dish pizza, Chicago style hot dogs, and Italian beef.

With its innovative style combined with traditional elements, Santa Fe makes for a great culinary experience. There are many local restaurants that use regional ingredients and offer great flavors. There are also cafes and bistros where you can enjoy breakfast or brunch. Local dishes include sopaipillas made with Native American fry bread, slow-cooked beans, and anything made with red and green chili peppers.


Is Chicago or Santa Fe Better for Nightlife?

Chicago
Santa Fe

Chicago is an unbeatable place for its evening party scene. However, Santa Fe is not known for nightlife.

The nightlife in Chicago is well established with world renowned clubs and venues. It has a wide range of activities at night, with everything from theater and comedy clubs to dance venues, sporting events, and local bars. It's easy to fill many evenings with whatever activity appeals to you. Popular bars and clubs include the Smart Bar, Beauty Bar, and Le Nocturne.

Most people don't head to Santa Fe specifically for the nightlife scene, but you can find a few options. While most of the town quiets down at night, the city has a few areas that stay active late into the night. Live music is popular and diverse. It often includes different genres such as the blues, country, salsa or bluegrass.

Is Chicago or Santa Fe Better for Music?

Chicago
Santa Fe

Chicago is an unbeatable place for its music scene. Also, Santa Fe is not as popular, but is still a nice historic town for live music.

Chicago has become a mecca for musicians from around the world. The city is the birthplace of such interesting styles as modern gospel and the Chicago style blues.

The music scene helps keep Santa Fe active and fun. The town has an eclectic music scene that includes a mix of the blues, country, Latin American music, and bluegrass.

Is Chicago or Santa Fe Better for Beaches?

Chicago
Santa Fe

Chicago is very good for the beach. However, Santa Fe is not a beach destination.

Many people head to Chicago to enjoy the beach. While you don't immediately think of beaches when you think of Chicago, there are some nice beaches by the lake. If the weather is nice, it's a great area to spend some time.

Santa Fe is not a beach destination.


Is Chicago or Santa Fe Better for its Old Town?

Chicago
Santa Fe

Santa Fe is a great destination for its historic old town charm. However, Chicago does not have a historic old town.

There is a nice variety of sights in the old town of Santa Fe. As the 2nd oldest city in the United States, the old town historic district is filled with charm. The Pueblo-style buildings are brightly colored and there are churches throughout.

Chicago does not have a historic old town.

Is Chicago or Santa Fe Better for Hiking?

Chicago
Santa Fe

Santa Fe is very good for its hiking experiences. However, Chicago is not a hiking destination.

Many people include a hike when visiting Santa Fe. Because it's located right by the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, there are many beautiful hikes right outside of town. Popular trails include the Picacho Peak Trail and the Nambe Lake Trail. Bandelier National also has many places to hike.

Chicago is not a hiking destination.

Is the Shopping Better in Chicago or Santa Fe?

Chicago
Santa Fe

Chicago is an unbeatable place for its shopping areas. Also, Santa Fe is not as popular, but is still a nice historic town for shopping.

Many people travel to Chicago specifically to go shopping. There are countless neighborhoods that are filled with boutiques, local vendors, and art galleries. The city has some of the country's best shopping opportunities, and the most notable area is the famous Michigan Avenue and the Magnificent Mile.

Santa Fe is an extremely popular place for shoppers. There are many unique shops and art galleries that feature local artists and craftsmen.


Is Chicago or Santa Fe Better for Christmas?

Chicago
Santa Fe

Chicago is a great city for its Christmas holiday experiences. However, Santa Fe does not offer Christmas activities.

Chicago is a very popular destination during Christmas. There's a number of seasonal celebrations, ice skating, and excellent shopping.

Santa Fe does not offer Christmas activities.

Is Chicago or Santa Fe Better for Christmas Markets?

Chicago
Santa Fe

Chicago is very good for visiting Christmas markets. However, Santa Fe does not offer Christmas markets.

Chicago offers some nice Christmas markets. Shopping is a highlight of a trip to the city, and the Christkindlmarkt is not to be missed.

Santa Fe does not offer Christmas markets.

Is Chicago or Santa Fe Better for Families?

Chicago
Santa Fe

Chicago is an unbeatable place for its kid-friendly activities. Also, Santa Fe is not as popular, but is still a nice historic town for its family-friendly activities.

Chicago is one of the most popular family destinations. The city has a large number of activities for kids, including zoos, Shedd Aquarium, impressive children's museums, and large and elaborate playgrounds in Millennium Park. It's easy to keep kids entertained in this very kid-focused city.

Santa Fe is a family-friendly place to visit. There are a few kids' museums in Santa Fe including the Santa Fe Children's Museum and the Meow Wolf Art Complex. Kids also enjoy the botanical gardens at Museum Hill and Bandelier National Monument just outside of the city.


Is Chicago or Santa Fe Better for Couples?

Chicago
Santa Fe

Both Chicago and Santa Fe are nice destinations to visit as a couple.

Chicago is a good city for couples to visit. Couples will enjoy exploring the city's vibrant theater scene and diverse neighborhoods. There are many varied restaurants and entertainment options that make for a great date night. There are also sporting events, parks, and gardens where couples can explore.

Santa Fe is a nice destination for couples. There are many romantic inns around town, each with a lot of character. The town also has a lot of atmosphere that makes for a romantic getaway.

Is Chicago or Santa Fe Better for Backpackers and Budget Travelers?

Chicago
Santa Fe

Chicago is very good for backpackers and budget travelers. However, Santa Fe is not known for backpackers.

Chicago is popular with backpackers and budget travelers. The city doesn't have a huge backpacker vibe, but it does have a number of hostels that help keep costs in check.

Santa Fe is a challenging destination for budget travelers and backpackers due to the higher prices. There's a hostel in town as well as several campgrounds.

Is Chicago or Santa Fe Better for Students?

Chicago
Santa Fe

Chicago is an unbeatable place for its student-friendly activities. Also, Santa Fe is not as popular, but is still a nice historic town for students.

Students come from all over the world to visit Chicago. The city has a large number of universities that bring in students from around the country and around the globe. It's a huge international city with economic ties and many opportunities connected to the universities.

Santa Fe is a good city to visit for students. There are a few colleges and universities in town and students will appreciate the reasonable cost of living and outdoor activities nearby.


Is Chicago or Santa Fe Better for Public Transit? Which Is Easier to Get Around Without a Car?

Chicago
Santa Fe

Chicago is an unbeatable place for times when you don't have a car. However, Santa Fe is not known for its public transit.

Visitors in Chicago can get around quickly with the extensive public transit system. There's a subway (the "L"), a commuter well, as well as buses and countless taxis available.

Public transit is generally limited in Santa Fe. There is a bus system - the Santa Fe Trails Bus Service.

Is Chicago or Santa Fe a more walkable city?

Chicago
Santa Fe

Chicago and Santa Fe both are very good when exploring on foot.

Chicago is a very walkable destination. The city has many restaurants, sights, and hotels that are easily accessible on foot.

Santa Fe is very walkable. The historic district is walkable and it's easy to visit most of the tourist sights in this area on foot.

For even more information, also check out Is Chicago Worth Visiting? and Is Santa Fe Worth Visiting?.

Should I spend more time in Santa Fe or Chicago?

How long in Chicago or Santa Fe?

In either Chicago or Santa Fe, you'll find plenty of activities to fill your time. In our opinion, Chicago has more to see and do, so we recommend that you spend more time in Chicago than Santa Fe. In general, 3-5 days is a good amount of time for Chicago, and 2-5 days is enough time in Santa Fe.

Families should spend more time in Chicago than Santa Fe. Because of the many family-friendly attractions and fun things to do for kids in Chicago, it's a great place to visit with the whole family.

Couples should spend more time in Chicago than Santa Fe. You'll find plenty of romantic sights and fun activities in Chicago that are great for a weekend getaway or a longer couple's trip.

Backpackers and budget travelers should spend more time in Chicago than Santa Fe if your budget allows for it. With a larger number of budget-friendly sights, good nightlife, and active things to do, anyone traveling on a budget would have a good time in Chicago.


  • How many days in Chicago or Santa Fe? Ideal Length of Stay
    Chicago 3-5 
    Santa Fe 2-5

One day in Chicago or Santa Fe?

Chicago is a big city with plenty to do. With so much to do, one day is probably not enough time to see everything. It will give you the chance to have new experiences.

In Santa Fe, you'll find shopping and museums. Most visitors spend time around the old town while in the area. This historic town offers something for everyone. One day is usually not enough time for a trip here as there is plenty to do.


A weekend in Chicago or Santa Fe?

Chicago is a popular place that is full of things to see and experience. But since there are so many activities, you'll likely want to spend more than a weekend exploring. Take your pick from the many activities offered here.

In Santa Fe, you'll find museums and skiing. The length of your trip often depends on your style of travel. A weekend here is typical. Visiting the old town is also a must. A weekend is a great amount of time to relax and see the many things that Santa Fe has to offer.

Five days in Chicago or Santa Fe?

Chicago is a popular choice for travelers. Five days here is typical. While some people choose to spend more or less time in Chicago, five days is sufficent for most. The entire region has so many activities, and you'll want time to do everything.

Santa Fe is a great place to explore. It is common to spend five days here. The old town is one of the main draws for visitors. Five days is a great amount of time to relax and see the many things that Santa Fe has to offer. Anyone can find something fun to do here.

A week in Chicago or Santa Fe?

Chicago is a great place to explore. One week is more than enough time to enjoy everything. Take some day trips to nearby places to fill the extra days. This city offers something for everyone.

It's hard to know how much time to spend in Santa Fe. Many people enjoy the live music and food when visiting Santa Fe. Exploring the old town is a popular activity. One week may feel like too much time unless you plan to do a lot of relaxing.


For some great organized tour ideas, see The Best 2-Week Tours from Los Angeles, The Best Family-Friendly Tours to United States of America, The Best Wildlife Tours to United States of America, and The Best Hiking & Trekking Tours in United States of America.


Which place is cheaper, Santa Fe or Chicago?

These are the overall average travel costs for the two destinations.

The average daily cost (per person) in Chicago is $288, while the average daily cost in Santa Fe is $159. These costs include accommodation (assuming double occupancy, so the traveler is sharing the room), food, transportation, and entertainment. While every person is different, these costs are an average of past travelers in each destination. What follows is a categorical breakdown of travel costs for Chicago and Santa Fe in more detail.



Accommodation
  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Chicago $198
    Santa Fe $81
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Chicago $396
    Santa Fe $162
Compare Hotels in Chicago and Santa Fe

Looking for a hotel in Chicago or Santa Fe? Prices vary by location, date, season, and the level of luxury. See below for options and compare which is best for your budget and travel style.

Hotels in Chicago


Hotels in Santa Fe


Kayak helps you find the best prices for hotels, flights, and rental cars for destinations around the world. Compare prices for multiple destinations when planning your next trip.


Our Analysis
We've analyzed the average and typical hotel prices based on guest reviews, star ratings, and hotel amenities here: Chicago Hotel Prices and Santa Fe Hotel Prices.

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Chicago $37
    Santa Fe $61
Typical Local Transportation Prices in Chicago

Here are some examples of typical transportation prices from actual travelers in Chicago:


  • Parking
    $19
  • Taxi Ride
    $10
  • Taxi from Airport
    $45

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Chicago

Some specific examples of transportation prices in Chicago:

  • Meet and Greet Private SUV Transfer from MDW to Downtown Chicago: $300
  • Meet and Greet Private Sedan Transfer from ORD to Downtown Chicago: $240
  • Departure Private Transfer: Chicago to O'Hare Airport ORD in Luxury Car: $233
  • Private Chicagoland One-Way Transfer by Mercedes Sprinter : $229
  • Private Sedan Transfer from Chicago Downtown to Midway airport: $220
  • Departure Private Transfer: Chicago to O'Hare Airport ORD in Luxury SUV: $204
  • Chicago Airport Transfer: Chicago to O'Hare Airport ORD in Luxury SUV: $204
  • Arrival Private Transfer: O'Hare Airport ORD to Chicago in Luxury SUV: $202
  • Chicago Airport Transfer: O'Hare Airport ORD to Chicago in Luxury SUV: $202
  • Curbside Sedan Transfer from O'Hare Airport to Downtown Chicago: $190
  • Private Round trip Transfer - Chicago O'Hare Airport (ORD): $189
  • Executive Airport transfer SUV: $180

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Santa Fe

Also for Santa Fe, here are a few examples of actual transportation services:

  • Private Arrival Transfer from Santa Fe Airport (SAF): $62
  • Private Departure Transfer to Santa Fe Airport SAF: $125

Is it cheaper to fly into Chicago or Santa Fe?

Prices for flights to both Santa Fe and Chicago change regularly based on dates and travel demand. We suggest you find the best prices for your next trip on Kayak, because you can compare the cost of flights across multiple airlines for your prefered dates.





Food
  • Food Meals for one day
    Chicago $49
    Santa Fe $43
Typical Food Prices in Chicago

Below are a few samples from actual travelers for food and meal costs in Chicago:


  • Dinner for 1
    $24
  • Dinner for 3
    $118

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Chicago

Also, here are some specific examples of food and dining related activities in Chicago.

  • Traveling Spoon Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza Private Online Cooking Class : $40
  • Fulton Market Delicious Donut Adventure and Walking Food Tour: $63
  • Chicago West Loop Pizza Crawl: $79
  • Friday Pizza Walk of Downtown Chicago: $79
  • Chicago Walking Food Tour With Secret Food Tours: $89
  • Chicago Buffet Dinner Cruise on Lake Michigan: $96
  • Saturday Chicago Pizza History and Tastings Bus Tour: $99
  • Chicago Half-Day Walking Food Tour with Free Bike or Kayak Rental: $99
  • Chicago Food Tour in Devon Ave: $125
  • Chicago Fireworks Dinner Cruise with Buffet: $129
  • Mother's Day Signature Dinner Cruise on Lake Michigan: $130
  • Chicago Gourmet Dinner Cruise on Lake Michigan: $132

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Santa Fe

For Santa Fe, here are some samples of tours and activities related to meals and dining experiences:

  • New Mexican Flavors Food Tour of the Santa Fe Plaza: $184
  • Santa Fe Farmers Market & Railyard Food Tour: $184
  • Wander New Mexico Food Tour - Railyard Arts District: $189
  • Wander New Mexico Food Tour - Downtown Plaza 'Sip & Savor': $209
  • Downtown Plaza "Sip and Savor" Half-day Food Tour: $209
  • Savor Wine Pairing Dinner: $228

Entertainment
  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Chicago $47
    Santa Fe $17
Typical Entertainment Prices in Chicago

Here are a few typical costs in Chicago for activities, ticket prices, and tours that come from previous visitors:


  • Sears Tower (family of 4)
    $102
  • Aquarium for 4
    $118
  • Water Taxi (family of 4)
    $22
  • IMAX Movie for Two
    $35
  • Shakespeare Play (2)
    $116
  • Art Institute (2)
    $36
  • U-Boat Tour (2)
    $8.00

Tours and Activities in Chicago

Here are a few actual costs in Chicago for available activities, ticket prices, and tours:

  • Windy City Ghosts: Hauntings of Chicago Walking Tour: $28
  • 2-Hour Chicago Fireworks Segway Tour: $80
  • 2-Hour Guided Segway Tour of Chicago: $65
  • 2-Hour Haunted Segway Tour of Chicago: $78
  • 3 Hours Chicago Architecture Tour - Skyscrapers and Photo Ops: $135
  • A Storied Neighborhood: A Self-Guided Audio Tour with Bill Ayers: $5.40
  • Architectural and Historical Private Tour in Downtown Chicago: $199
  • Art Institute of Chicago Private Expert Guided Tour: $215
  • Art Institute of Chicago Skip-the-Line Guided Museum Tour : $133
  • Art Institute of Chicago Ticket and In-App Audio Tour: $47
  • Art of a City Downtown Chicago - Exclusive Guided Walking Tour: $73
  • Best of Architecture & Highlights City Private Tour: $245

Tours and Activities in Santa Fe

Also, here are some specific examples of entertainment, tickets, and activities for Santa Fe.

  • Historic Downtown Self-Guided Audio Walking Tour: $6.75
  • Santa Fe Historic Downtown Smart Phone Audio App Self Guided GPS Walking Tour : $7.80
  • Santa Fe's Historic Gems: A Self-Guided Walking Tour: $9.99
  • Unique Scavenger Hunt Experience in Santa Fe by Crazy Dash: $10
  • Self-guided adventure hunt: Santa Fe Secrets: $13
  • Self-Guided Walking Audio Tour of Historic Santa Fe: $15
  • Murder Mystery Detective Experience in Santa Fe NM: $15
  • Santa Fe Scavenger Hunt Adventure: $21
  • Santa Fe Scavenger Hunt Walking Tour and Game: $25
  • Willa Cather's Walking Tour in Santa Fe: $40
  • Santa Fe Scavenger Hunt Walking Tour and Game: $49
  • Canyon Road Arts District Walking Tour: $69

For more ideas for your next trip, check out The Best Free Things to Do in Chicago, Chicago Bucket List: The Best Places to See, and The Best Museums in Chicago.


Alcohol
  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Chicago $25
    Santa Fe $9.68

Sample the Local Flavors in Chicago

Here are a few nightlife and alcohol tours and activities from local tour providers in Chicago:

  • Chicago Walking Brewery Tour in Malt Row: $30
  • Walking tour to Chicago dive bars: $41
  • Milwaukee,Miller Brewery Tour&Tasting 1-Day Tour from Chicago: $93
  • Chicago Craft Brewery Barrel Bus Tour: $100

Sample the Local Flavors in Santa Fe

Here are a few nightlife and alcohol tours and activities from local tour providers in Santa Fe:

  • Tumbleroot Brewery and Distillery Tour and Tasting: $18
  • Architectural Walking Tour & Wine Tasting: $135


When we compare the travel costs of actual travelers between Chicago and Santa Fe, we can see that Chicago is more expensive. And not only is Santa Fe much less expensive, but it is actually a significantly cheaper destination. So, traveling to Santa Fe would let you spend less money overall. Or, you could decide to spend more money in Santa Fe and be able to afford a more luxurious travel style by staying in nicer hotels, eating at more expensive restaurants, taking tours, and experiencing more activities. The same level of travel in Chicago would naturally cost you much more money, so you would probably want to keep your budget a little tighter in Chicago than you might in Santa Fe.

If you're trying to decide if either of these two destinations are within your price range, also see Is Chicago Expensive? and Is Santa Fe Expensive?.


Which is Bigger, Chicago or Santa Fe?

Chicago has a larger population, and is about 40 times larger than the population of Santa Fe. When comparing the sizes of Chicago and Santa Fe, keep in mind that a larger population does not always imply the destination has more attractions or better activities. So, always research the type of place that you want to visit along with the activities and attractions that interest you.