The city of Santa Fe is the beating heart of New Mexico. The city rises out of the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Santa Fe’s pueblo buildings have stood on this spot since the 17th century, when Spanish conquistadors colonized the area. Santa Fe is the oldest capital in the United States, and history practically radiates from this desert city.
Visitors to Santa Fe, New Mexico, find themselves in a fantasy land of hidden nature trails, romantic river walks, thrilling nightlife, and mysterious history. Santa Fe is an oasis of art, music, and history. A step in any direction on this spirited city’s streets will set you off on an adventure. You’ll soon discover that there are a million things to do in Santa Fe!
Coolest Places To Stay In Santa Fe
- Best for Foodies. Featuring an outdoor swimming pool, a spa and four restaurants, La Posada de Santa Fe, A Tribute Portfolio Resort & Spa is within 10 minutes’ walk of Santa Fe Plaza and art galleries on Canyon Road.
- Best for Native American History. Located in Santa Fe’s Railyard District, this Native American-owned hotel features on-site spa services and gourmet dining options. Guests can enjoy a pool and a hot tub and outdoor gardens. Hotel Santa Fe features on-site ceremonial dance performances, historical storytelling and an on-site gift shop featuring handmade crafts. Guests can also enjoy relaxing around the fireplace and listening to live Native American music.
- Best in Historic District. Located on the Old Santa Fe Trail in the Historic District of Santa Fe, New Mexico, El Sendero Inn, Ascend Hotel Collection offers an outdoor pool and an on-site restaurant. The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum is with a 10-minute walk of El Sendero Inn.
The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum
Few artists have shaped the modern art world more than Georgia O’Keeffe. Her passionate, colorful, and powerful landscapes became influential in the Modernist art movement. Many of her paintings display the natural beauty of New Mexico, so it’s no surprise that the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum is located in Santa Fe.
The museum itself comprises over 3,000 original pieces by O’Keeffe. Visitors receive a new experience every time they visit the museum, as the massive collection rotates throughout the year.
For visitors keen on learning more about Georgia O’Keeffe, I recommend traveling to Abiquiu, New Mexico, where her studio and home reside. The drive takes you through some of the landscape and lighting that inspired O’Keeffe’s artwork and only takes about an hour. At her pueblo home, you’ll look out at the very land that O’Keeffe painted, see where the artist developed her work, and walk the halls she once lived in.
Santa Fe is the perfect destination for history lovers, and no location in the city serves their need for unique historical exploration more than Museum Hill. What is Museum Hill, you ask? The site is home to four world-class museums offering cultural enrichment, and it’s only a few minutes from downtown Santa Fe.
At the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, visitors dive into the stories and culture of the Southwest’s Native tribes. Pueblo pottery, traditional woven blankets, and hundreds of other artifacts await you there. Not far away, the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian also displays traditional and contemporary Native American art within the Navajo-style Hogan building.
Also found on Museum Hill is the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art. This museum focuses on the colonial period of Santa Fe, starting in the 17th century. Paintings, fiber art, and more line the exhibit halls here. Many display traditional Catholic Saints, early-colonial landscapes, and early colonial cultural scenes.
To round out your Museum Hill trip, stop by the Museum of International Folk Art. The museum is perfect for families, displaying hundreds of toys from countries worldwide. You’ll see miniature dioramas, colorful masks, and more here.
On your way out of the museums, stop by the Santa Fe Botanical Gardens, also located on the hill. The gardens feature meadows, orchards, bronze sculptures, and other whimsical features; if you get hungry after all that exploring, the Welden Cafe happily provides coffee, lunch, and other fares to its visitors.
New Mexico Museum of Art
There’s no shortage of museums in New Mexico – the sheer number of museums is one reason Santa Fe is a cultural hotspot in the USA. One local favorite is the New Mexico Museum of Art.
The art museum displays artwork from a variety of artists in various mediums and forms. The diverse array of exhibitions excites the senses, as the traditional splashy colors of O’Keeffe and other Modernists are regularly displayed here. You’ll find portraits of cowboys, desert landscapes, black and white photography, and more on display throughout the year.
Santa Fe Plaza
When you walk through Santa Fe Plaza, you feel like breaking out into Newsies “Santa Fe” numbers! Stunning Italianate, Pueblo, and Mission-style buildings – including the four-hundred-year-old Palace of Governors – line the streets, practically glowing gold in the sun. Fountains, tailored gardens, and more add lush greenery and nature to the area.
The completely walkable Santa Fe Plaza carries some of the richest, deepest colonial history in the city. Located in the center of the city, locals know the plaza as “the heart” of Santa Fe. Here, annual festivals occur throughout the year, like Fiestas de Santa Fe and the Spanish Market.
New Mexico History Museum
The region of New Mexico has been inhabited for thousands of years. So, it stands to reason that there’s plenty of history for the New Mexico History Museum to share with its visitors!
The New Mexico History Museum shares unique exhibits that rotate and change throughout the year. If you’ve visited before, chances are it’s changed since the last time you were there! You may find an exhibit on the Tewa people who lived in the area before Santa Fe existed, or on colonial life, or even modern New Mexico history.
El Rancho de Las Golondrinas
At El Rancho de Las Golondrinas, visitors discover the stunning landscape of Santa Fe while exploring the historical world of the New Mexican rancher. The site is, in fact, a living museum, displaying what life was like in colonial Santa Fe.
You’ll discover farmers tending to their sheep at the museum, Native dance performances, and more. There’s also a scenic wetland preserve, the Leonora Curtin Wetland Preserve, located on the site that’s perfect for watching local wildlife enjoy the Santa Fe sun.
Santa Fe is one of the key cities of New Mexico and was critical to the Spanish colonization efforts in North America. One of the ways this city grew into the cultural center it is today by railroad.
On the Sky Railway, you can dive into the landscape and history of Santa Fe and New Mexico while traveling to nearby Lamy. Trips often come in themed packages, ranging from a historical storytelling ride to events with cocktails and live music. It’s a blast for explorers of all ages!
Kakawa Chocolate House
Chocolate lovers, rejoice! Santa Fe has the house for you!
At Kakawa Chocolate House, visitors get to enjoy drinking chocolates and sample tastings of simply divine chocolates. But there’s more to Kakawa than just truffles or bars!
Kakawa means cacao and comes from the ancient Olmec people. Many of the indigenous peoples of the Santa Fe region drank cacao elixirs for longevity and health. Kakawa Chocolate House makes these drinking elixirs for your enjoyment, so you can get a taste of historic chocolate magic, too!
Santa Fe Brewing
Adult visitors can enjoy a taste of local brews and eat at Santa Fe Brewing. At Santa Fe’s premier location, The Beer Hall at HQ, you can sample over 27 brews crafted by the brewery’s local artisans.
Alongside delicious beers, you’ll get to enjoy a lush green beer garden and plenty of delicious food. Fusion tacos, cocktails, and yummy appetizers are just a few things to look forward to during your visit.
Palace of the Governors
To get to the heart of Santa Fe’s colonial history, you need to visit the four centuries-old Palace of the Governors. This majestic building is located in downtown Santa Fe, and rises out of the landscape like a Mission-era fairytale. It is a National Historic Landmark that’s worth a visit.
The Palace of the Governors has been open and in use since 1610, making it the oldest continuously operated public building in the U.S.A. The renovated structure consists of Spanish-Revival style, evoking colonial ties to the region.
You can visit the renowned portal that locals love for its Native American jewelry and wares at the Palace. There’s also the historic Palace Press publication studio, art galleries, and other unique exhibits to explore in the Palace.
The Loretto Chapel graces the skyline of Santa Fe with its delicate spirals. It is a must-see destination full of colonial history.
The site Chapel originally began as a girls’ school. It stands out against the Pueblo-styled buildings of the region, with its gothic facade and spires. The chapel was designed to look like Sainte Chapelle in Paris, bringing a taste of Europe to the American colony.
A visit to the Chapel is full of stained glass, spiral staircases, and other unique architecture that entices the eye. You may also hear a Catholic mass or music playing when you arrive because the church remains in service to this day!
Canyon Road Arts District
Discover over 100 art galleries, boutiques, cafes, and more at the Canyon Road Arts District. The district is home to many galleries and artists whose works fill art museums around the world!
The arts district is a perfect walking destination for Santa Fe visitors. You might see bronze statues on lawns or hear a local musician playing on the street corner during your stroll. Stop in at beloved businesses like Manolla Cafe or Kakawa Chocolate House, tour a few galleries, and of course, shop for a souvenir in one of the boutiques during your visit!
Ski the Southwest
A lot of folks think that Santa Fe is a desert, but that’s far from the truth! Around Santa Fe lays some of America’s best skiing countries. Within an hour’s drive from Santa Fe, you’ll find four fantastic ski resorts waiting!
At Ski Santa Fe resort, you’ll find glades, slopes, and mountainscapes to delight you. At neighboring Taos Ski Valley, you can rest up in the spa or Oxygen Bar after a busy day on the slopes. Or, you can explore Pajarito Mountain Ski Area and their delicious mountain cafe.
Visitors to Santa Fe in the summer stay or visit Sipapu Ski and Summer Resort, where the mountain becomes a premier hiking and kayaking destination. Don’t worry; you can ski there in the winter, too!
Meow Wolf House of Eternal Return
Bend your mind at Meow Wolf House of Eternal Return. This interactive art exhibit takes your senses on a colorful journey through 70 rooms, each featuring a different theme.
You’ll discover neon landscapes, hidden woods, starry skies, and even a miniature neighborhood, all within this unbelievable display of living art.
Puye Cliff Dwellings
Explore the most ancient parts and peoples of Santa Fe at the Puye Cliff Dwellings. The cliff dwellings were once home to the Pueblo Indians, from 900-1500 C.E along the Pajarito Plateau.
The cliff dwellings rise, carved over an impressive mile along the cliff base. Ancient pathways are carved into sharp relief into the cliff, from the ground up to the mesa top. There are over 170 known rooms carved into these majestic dwellings.
Located only 40 minutes from Santa Fe, a visit here makes for an epic road trip.
Santa Fe Opera House
Along with being a pinnacle of art galleries and museums, Santa Fe is also home to a beautiful opera house. Santa Fe Operas offer a taste of everything, from the comedy Falstaff to The Barber of Seville.
Few pastimes offer as rich or varied an experience as a visit to the Santa Fe Opera House. You can enjoy fine dining at the opera’s at the Twomey Terrace, or enjoy a tailgate picnic before relishing fine Italian opera – you decide!
Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi
When you walk into the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi’s doors, you instantly feel calm and at ease. These walls have seen centuries of history; its doors first opened to Santa Fe in 1886. It is one of the finest examples of the Romanesque Revival in the United States.
Outside the cathedral, bronze doors welcome visitors to enter. Statues of notable saints, including a statue of St. Francis of Assisi and Saint Kateri, the first North American to be beatified, greet you. You might hear chanting or catch the briefest whiff of incense before entering.
During your visit, you’ll want to walk slowly to take in the beauty of this cathedral. The rose window casts shimmering sunlight on the floor—treasures from history line the walls. You’ll find a wooden Madonna, Mission-style Stations of the Cross murals, and etched glass depicting the apostles within the cathedral walls.
Contemporary art, delicious food, and outdoor fun come together at The Railyard in Santa Fe. Locals consider this venue the premier gathering place for good times in the city!
If you visit The Railyard on Sunday, The Railyard Artisan Market offers handmade jewelry, fine art, and home goods. During the spring and summer, the Santa Fe Farmers Market has local fruits, veggies, and other foods for you to enjoy.
If you’re in the mood for a spot of tea, swing by Opuntia Cafe for a cup of green tea or Earl Grey to go with your homemade huevos rancheros! At The Railyard Wayward Sons Distillery, locally made agave spirits, vodka, and liqueurs provide a delicious treat to end your day exploring the city.
Santa Fe FAQ
Is Santa Fe worth visiting?
Santa Fe, NM, is definitely worth a visit! You’ll find plenty of arts, history, family-friendly activities, outdoor adventures, museums, natural beauty, and more. It’s a truly wonderful city.
What is Santa Fe best known for?
Santa Fe is best known for its rich Native American culture, its amazing art scene, its historic architecture, and its natural beauty. There is so much to see, do, and discover in Santa Fe.
When is the best month to visit Santa Fe?
There are plenty of great things to do in Santa Fe year-round, but if you’re looking for milder temperatures, then spring or fall are great times to visit. In the spring, you’ll find more tourists though, as the spring season is when Santa Fe hosts lots of festivals and events.
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO NEW MEXICO
- YOUR NEW MEXICO VACATION
- ALBUQUERQUE: 11 Amazing Things To Do In Albuquerque
- NM RV PARKS: 15 AWESOME NEW MEXICO RV PARKS WORTH A VISIT
- WHITE SANDS NPS: An Epic Guide to the Park
- ROSWELL: 13 Things To Do In Roswell, NM For Extraterrestrial Fun
Where To Stay In Santa Fe
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