Things to do in Santa Fe, N.M.? Where to begin?
Santa Fe is known for its beautiful high-desert landscapes, eye-catching adobe architecture and flavorful Southwestern cuisine (you can also add margaritas to the mix!), but visitors will find plenty more to keep them occupied. There are art galleries, hiking trails and spas – there’s even a modern side with cutting-edge museums and design shops. And be prepared to answer the oft-heard question: Red or green? (Meaning do you want red or green chile sauce with your meal?)
Here are some of the best things to do in Santa Fe, N.M.
Santa Fe Plaza, dating from 1610, is the heart of the city and a good sightseeing starting point for experiencing some of the best things to do in Santa Fe, N.M. It’s lined with shops and hotels, including the historic, AAA Four Diamond Rated La Fonda on the Plaza. Visitors can also enjoy cultural attractions like the New Mexico History Museum, which opened in 2009. It’s housed in the Palace of the Governors, originally Spain’s seat of government in the area.
Gallery hop along Canyon Road, which is lined with art galleries and artists’ studios. You’ll find everything from abstract paintings and bronze sculptures to ceramic tiles and pueblo pottery. If you’re into shopping, Canyon Road will definitely be one of your favorite things to do in Santa Fe, N.M. Friday nights are particularly good times to visit. Galleries and studios are open late on many first and last Fridays.
Visit the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, on Johnston Street, housed in an adobe building just off the Plaza, which showcases the iconic American artist’s dramatic flower, landscape and animal skull paintings. The museum opened in 1997, 11 years after O’Keefe’s passing. The museum’s 3,000-work collection includes oil paintings, drawings and other works dating from 1901 to 1984. Exhibits change regularly. Those desiring an even closer look at the artists’ life can schedule tours to her home and studio in Abiquiu, about an hour drive north of Santa Fe.
Great restaurants represent some of the best things to do in Santa Fe, N.M., and Cafe Pasqual’s is a perfect example. It’s decorated with murals and Mexican tiles, and is one of Santa Fe’s most beloved restaurants. Join the line for breakfast to try the huevos rancheros with applewood-smoked bacon.
Explore spectacular outdoor beauty with a hike or bike ride through pinon and juniper forests and wildflower-studded meadows in the nearby Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The mountains – spanning New Mexico and Colorado – have 10 peaks over 14,000 feet tall, and several over 13,000 feet tall, including Wheeler Peak, the highest natural point in the state. There are trails of varying length to the top. One of the shortest is about 4.1 miles each way.
Museum Hill, just off the Old Santa Fe Trail, is home to a trio of impressive museums, which collectively represent some of the top things to do in Santa Fe, N.M. The Museum of Indian Arts & Culture has an extensive collection of objects including pottery, textiles, jewelry and other items. Permanent exhibits highlight 400 years of Pueblo pottery, and histories of the Navajo, Apache and Pueblo peoples. The Museum of Spanish Colonial Art showcases pieces created throughout the world since the start of Spanish colonization. The collection totals about 3,700 objects such as paintings, sculptures, furniture, books and other items. The Museum of International Folk Art houses folk art, toys and miniature marketplace scenes, among other items, from more than 150 countries. Its 150,000 pieces represent what is said to be the biggest folk art collection in the world.
Shop for local items (fresh goat cheese, organic eggs, green chile-infused chocolate) in the farmers market in the Santa Fe Railyard, which is also home to an artisan market, modern design stores and 13 acres of open space.
For the ultimate afternoon of relaxation, book a treatment at Ten Thousand Waves, a Japanese-inspired spa offering signature shiatsu massages and soaks in open-air wooden hot tubs. The facility also has 13 lodging rooms, and guests are encouraged to wear casual-style kimonos around the property.
A local institution, Tomasita’s should be part of any itinerary highlighting things to do in Santa Fe, N.M. It’s the place to go for traditional Southwestern fare. Start out with freshly made guacamole and chips, then dig into delicious entrees like enchiladas and quesadillas.
No tour of the best things to do in Santa Fe, N.M., would be complete without trying a margarita, but you can also sample craft beer at the Santa Fe Brewing Company and small-batch whiskey and gin in the tasting room at Santa Fe Spirits.
Have a favorite spot in Santa Fe? Gone on a Pink Jeep Tour or know of other fun things to do in Santa Fe, N.M.? Share with us in the comments.