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10 Best Things to See and Do in Santa Fe

Simply put, Santa Fe is a stunning jewel of the Southwest. It’s an artsy and outdoorsy city that’s manageable in size but has so much to see and do to fill your days with enchantment. The architecture here has an intriguing old world charm, and the landscapes are reminiscent of a Wild West adventure.

Art and culture lovers will fall in love with Santa Fe’s art markets and galleries, and nature lovers will enjoy the beautiful hiking, biking, and skiing areas. Rich with Native American and Mexican traditions, Santa Fe cuisine is internationally famous and featured at the city’s many fun festivals and restaurants. Depending on whether you want to enjoy the summer sunshine, attend specific festivals, or go skiing in the mountains nearby, Santa Fe is a wonderful place to visit year-round.

These are some of the most awesome things to see and do when you visit New Mexico and spend some time in Santa Fe. And there are some great accommodation options at top-rated hotels and budget-friendly Airbnbs if you’re looking for a place to stay here.

Nearby Native American Pueblos Taos Pueblo
Credit: Taos Pueblo by bigstock.com

Nearby Native American Pueblos

What Is It? The history and spirit of the Native American people is such an important part of New Mexico culture, so be sure to learn about the tribes that call this land home while you visit Santa Fe. 

Why Do It? Many pueblos are open and welcoming to the public and host festivals and events throughout the year. Visit the Santa Fe tourism website to learn more about these pueblos, the Native Americans that call them home, and proper etiquette for visiting.

Good to Know: In New Mexico, there are 19 pueblos, which includes eight north of Santa Fe. The eight northern pueblos are Nambe Pueblo, Ohkay Owingeh, Picuris Pueblo, Pojoaque Pubelo, San Ildefonso Pueblo, Santa Clara Pueblo, Taos Pueblo, and Tesuque Pueblo.

Live Music in Santa Fe Plaza Santa Fe Plaza
Credit: Santa Fe Plaza by © Chon Kit Leong | Dreamstime.com

Live Music in Santa Fe Plaza

What Is It? Lively and vibrant music is integrated into daily life in Santa Fe, and one of the best places to hear live music is at the plaza. 

Why Do It? The Santa Fe Bandstand has been coming to the plaza every summer since 2003 and hosts bands from a diverse range of genres. 

Good to Know: Bring a blanket or folding chair to join in the fun, or at least linger for a while on the sidewalk to listen to a bit if you’re just passing through.

Turquoise Shopping at Palace of the Governors Turquoise jewelry
Credit: Turquoise jewelry by bigstock.com

Turquoise Shopping at Palace of the Governors

What Is It? New Mexico is world-famous for its turquoise jewelry, so consider doing a bit of shopping to find a perfect souvenir or treat for yourself.

Why Do It? A great place to start is the Native American Vendors Program of the Palace of the Governors. Here, Native Americans from the nearby pueblos set up shop on the sidewalk to sell their finest jewelry creations. The stones and metals are authentic, and the vendors are part of an authorized and regulated government program. But just be prepared that the pricing varies greatly and that some vendors only accept cash. 

Good to Know: While you’re in this area, visit the New Mexico History Museum next to the Palace of the Governors to learn more about the area. Admission is free for all visitors, regardless of where you’re from, on Friday evenings between 5 pm and 8 pm.

Georgia O’Keefe Museum Georgia O’Keefe Museum
Credit: Georgia O’Keefe Museum by Georgia O’Keefe Museum

Georgia O’Keefe Museum

What Is It? One of the most famous artists from New Mexico is Georgia O’Keefe, who was also one of the most influential artists of the entire 20th century. 

Why Do It? Her museum is in Santa Fe and honors her artistic legacy through her works and details about her life. 

Good to Know: For travelers who are very interested in her art, you can also visit her home at Ghost Ranch.

Mountain Biking Trails Biking Trails
Credit: Biking Trails by Alyssa L. Ochs

Mountain Biking Trails

What Is It? Santa Fe has been named one of the top mountain biking towns in America, and there are even some paved trails for cyclists who prefer a smoother ride.

Why Do It? There are lots of public lands around the city, and the surrounding mountains provide a variety of terrain for all levels of bikers who like to see their destinations on two wheels. Given the compact size of the city, biking is also an ideal way to get around town and there’s a growing network of multi-use paths, shared bikeways, and bike lanes in and around the city. 

Good to Know: The Dale Ball Trails are wonderful for both biking and hiking, and so close to the city too. Pick up a bike map when you get in town or download one online to plan your route.

Art Galleries on Canyon Road Canyon Road Art
Credit: Canyon Road Art by Larry Lamsa via Flickr

Art Galleries on Canyon Road

What Is It? Santa Fe has a huge art scene and the most famous gallery area is on Canyon Road. 

Why Do It? There are hundreds of galleries here, and this is a must-see area to take a walk when you visit the city. 

Good to Know: Although the gallery goods are pretty pricey, it’s always free to window-shop and soak up the authentic Southwestern charm.

Ski the Sangre de Cristo Mountains Ski Santa Fe
Credit: Ski Santa Fe by Paul Sableman via Flickr

Ski the Sangre de Cristo Mountains

What Is It? Many people who haven’t traveled extensively in New Mexico think that the state is all desert and sunshine. But up north, it snows every winter and is an excellent place to go skiing. 

Why Do It? Ski Santa Fe is a well-organized and friendly resort that serves tasty food in the cafeteria at the bottom of the slope. The views from the slopes of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains are absolutely stunning. 

Good to Know: You can also head a bit farther north to hit the slopes in Taos as well.

Santa Fe's Many Markets Santa Fe's Markets
Credit: Santa Fe's Markets by © Brian Welker | Dreamstime.com

Santa Fe's Many Markets

What Is It? Santa Fe is a city of markets, and there’s always a fun one to check out while you’re in town. 

Why Do It? The Santa Fe Farmer’s Market was established in the late 1960s and is the largest year-round market in the state. This is a great place for finding local produce, nursery plants, handicrafts for souvenirs, and baked goods. Stop by on Saturday morning to check out the local scene. 

Good to Know: Some of the best art markets in the world are based here too, including the Contemporary Hispanic Market, International Folk Art Market, Traditional Spanish Market, and Santa Fe Indian Market. The Indian Market, for example, takes place the third weekend in August and hosts over 1,000 artists from more than 100 tribes.

Bandelier National Monument Bandelier National Monument
Credit: Bandelier National Monument by bigstock.com

Bandelier National Monument

What Is It? Just outside the city of Santa Fe lies the Bandelier National Monument.

Why Do It? This is a rugged canyon and natural mesa area that has evidence of human inhabitation dating back over 11,000 years. This is a great place to see petroglyphs and cave dwellings. Consider starting your visit on the Main Loop Trail, which is an easy 1.2-mile look that begins at the visitor center and goes to archeological sites and the Frijoles Canyon. 

Good to Know: Falls Trail is another amazing trail that’s three miles round-trip takes you up to the mesa tops.

San Miguel Mission, the Nation's Oldest Church San Miguel Mission
Credit: San Miguel Mission by bigstock.com

San Miguel Mission, the Nation's Oldest Church

What Is It? This Spanish colonial mission church is believed to be the oldest church in the United States and was built in the early 1600s, although it has since been restored. 

Why Do It? This is a significant site in the Barrio de Analco Historic District, which is a National Historic Landmark. 

Good to Know: You can attend mass at 5 pm on Sundays or listen to the Schola Cantorum of Santa Fe sing and chant on the third Sunday of every month.

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