Santa Fe, New Mexico, is a tourist hot-spot for a reason—plenty of beautiful, striking, and extraordinary reasons. Known for being sprinkled with adobe architecture (even the Target is adobe!), adorned with turquoise jewels, and surrounded by glowing deserts and forested mountains, Santa Fe is a true icon of American cities.
Visitors can fly into the quaint (and yes, adobe) Santa Fe airport, or take the quick 1-hour trip up the highway from the larger and often cheaper Albuquerque International Sunport (and yes, it’s really called that). Santa Fe is a total crowd-pleaser—visitors can focus on eating & drinking, shopping, hiking, history, art, or all of the above. Check out the top 15 things to do in Santa Fe, New Mexico at any time of year.
15. Hit the Trails
(image via Maureen Lunn)
While dreams of Santa Fe may conjure images of adobe buildings and turquoise jewelry, the area is surrounded by some of New Mexico’s most beautiful hiking trails for walkers and hikers of all levels. Start by hopping on the well-marked Dale Ball Trail System, which weaves throughout the hills of the Sangre de Cristos between the city of Santa Fe and the Santa Fe Ski area, allowing hikers to go for a short, flat jaunt or a more challenging day-long journey, and everything in between. Mountain bikers are welcome here, too, and should also check out the Las Tierras trail system on the west side of town.
14. Meow Wolf
(image via Maureen Lunn)
When visitors to Santa Fe ask a local, “What is Meow Wolf?” they often find they can’t get a straight answer. With a little bit of gallery, a little bit of amusement park, a little bit of hide-and-seek adventure, and a lot of weird and wacky mystery, Meow Wolf is an immersive experience that will wow all ages. Plan for a couple of hours of wandering through the indoor maze of glowing treehouses, upside-down rooms, and dinosaur bones you can play like a xylophone, and maybe solve a mystery while you’re at it. Be sure to buy tickets online in advance.
13. Have a Beer Tasting
(image via Beer Creek Brewing)
New Mexicans love their beer, and microbreweries abound throughout Santa Fe and the surrounding areas. From the flagship, Santa Fe Brewery to newer joints like Beer Creek to standards like Second Street Brewery, Santa Fe brewhouses and their beer can be found on basically every corner. Most breweries have full food menus and tasting flights. While beers are always on rotation, be sure to look for a good green chile ale while in the state!
12. Georgia O’Keefe Museum
(image via Georgia O'Keeffe Museum)
Some of the most iconic American modernist art was painted right here in New Mexico by the renowned Georgia O’Keefe. The museum of her work is a must for lovers of art and landscape. Featuring a rotating display of her most famous works as well as lesser-known beauties, photographs, and her personal history, the museum is a perfect stop on a busy Santa Fe tour when it’s time for a couple of hours of quietude. Be sure to book a ticket online in advance, and visit the top-notch gift shop on your way out.
Georgia O’Keefe Museum Admission: $18
11. Channel the Santa Fe Spirits
(image via Santa Fe Spirits)
No, we’re not talking ghosts. Known for their apple brandy and juniper-steeped gin, Santa Fe Spirits offers a full bar of award-winning liquors that are all infused with local flavors, stories, and history. Book a distillery tour or tasting on their website, or pop into the downtown tasting room. Can’t make it to one of their locations? Their liquors are sold in stores all over the state, so you can take home a bottle to share with your friends who didn’t make it on your iconic Southwestern vacation.
10. Santa Fe Railyard
(image via Santa Fe Railyard)
When it comes to Santa Fe neighborhoods, the Railyard is a local favorite. Just a few blocks south of the iconic Plaza area, the Railyard continues to charm with restaurants, bars, shops, and great walkability. Do some plant shopping while sipping on tea at the greenhouse-cafe combo Opuntia, get a cortado at Sky Coffee while watching the Rail Runner pass by, try some mezcal at Paloma, and pound one of the best green chile cheeseburgers around at The Cowgirl BBQ. If you’re in town on a summer or fall weekend, don’t miss the popular Santa Fe Farmers Market, which is also the best spot to stock up on some green chile fresh out of the roaster during the Fall months.
9. Museum of International Folk Art
(image via Museum of International Folk Art)
A unique and vast collection, the Museum of International Folk Art features decorative, utilitarian, handmade pieces from all over the world. Its galleries are full of vibrant energy and color, and its mission is to “shape a humane world by connecting people through creative expression and artistic traditions.” One of the largest collections of folk art in the world, the museum has something for everyone, along with special events and programs on its calendar. Museum lover? This museum is located on Museum Hill, where you can spend all day enjoying the history and art of Northern New Mexico in one iconic spot.
8. Canyon Road
(image via Canyon Road)
Whether you’re in the market for some high-end artwork, or just want to enjoy some quiet walking and window-shopping, Canyon Road is a must-see in Santa Fe. It’s a meandering street just off the Santa Fe Plaza full of galleries and boutique art shops. Enjoy a walk to see the outdoor sculptures and murals, have a light lunch at The TeaHouse, or some flavorful tapas at El Farol. Art-buying is not required, but if you’re in the market, Canyon Road is your place.
7. Ski Santa Fe
(image via Ski Santa Fe)
When you think of New Mexico, skiing may not be the first thing that comes to mind, but Northern New Mexico is home to some of the best ski areas for the best prices in the country—and one of them is Santa Fe’s very own. Located about a 20-minute drive outside of the city, Santa Fe Ski boasts affordable lift tickets, 86 trails, and seven lifts. It’s extra popular on holidays and weekends, so book your tickets early and break for a local beer at one of its cafes when the trails get too packed.
6. Soak It Up
(image via Ojo Santa Fe Spa Resort)
Perfect for apres ski or after a day of being on your feet in downtown Santa Fe, taking a hot soak at Ojo Santa Fe or Ten Thousand Waves will soothe the senses. Ojo Santa Fe (sister location to Ojo Caliente, which is nearer to Taos, New Mexico) is a serene retreat with several outdoor baths with both private and communal options, a pool, restaurant, and gorgeous grounds for walking and enjoying some downtime. Ten Thousand Waves is a Japanese-style mountain spa that also offers communal and private soaking options, a fantastic gift shop of Japanese imports plus local goods, and an upscale small plate restaurant next door called Izanami. Both soaking locales have full spas for massage and facial services and overnight lodging, in addition to their day pass options.
Admission: $55 and up
5. Try Santa Fe’s International Flavors
(image via Whoo's Donuts)
Chile-topped entrees are our top rec for Santa Fe (see #1!), but when you need a break from the burn, Santa Fe is also home to some top-notch establishments featuring a variety of cuisines. Grab a blue corn lavender donut at Whoo’s Donuts any time of day. Jambo Cafe is an absolute must for a curry lover, run by an award-winning Kenyan chef in an unassuming location that transforms into Kenyan safari vibes the moment you walk in the door. Paper Dosa is a truly unique dining experience with the large crepe-like dipping dosas common to South India.
If you can find its true hole-in-the-wall location on the Plaza, Ji Wang Noodles is the most authentic place for a steaming and savory Chinese noodle bowl. Santa Fe is also a friendly place for vegans and vegetarians; check out Annapurna’s World Vegetarian Cafe, Root 66 Vegan Cafe, Sweetwater Harvest Kitchen, and Bumble Bee’s Baja Grill.
4. Charge Up Some Crystals
(image via Maureen Lunn)
No trip to New Mexico is complete without picking out a crystal or fetish to honor your visit. You’ll find crystals, stones, and fetishes (or spirit animals) all around town, but find your best selection of crystals and stones at Ark Books in the Railyard District, along with a full selection of books, candles, jewelry, and other gifts like tarot cards and incense. Don’t miss stopping into Keshi the Zuni Connection while on the Plaza, where the lovely staff will share the stories of the Zuni artists and the meaning behind the myriad of tiny animal carvings and the spirit they’ll bring.
3. Palace of the Governor’s Native American Vendors Market
On Fridays through Sundays, one side of the Santa Fe Plaza is lined with Native American jewelers who supply the best selection of turquoise and other silver and stone jewelry in the state. Here you can find a simple, affordable turquoise pendant or pair of earrings, or scale up to an investment piece that you’ll want to pass down to your heirs. Prices range anywhere from $15 to thousands, and sellers usually take credit cards (if not, there’s an ATM nearby). A piece of jewelry or art from the Palace of the Governors is the most authentic Santa Fe souvenir money can buy.
2. Walk, Shop, & Eat Santa Fe Plaza
(image via Maureen Lunn)
The Santa Fe Plaza is the true heart of Santa Fe. Popular with tourists and locals alike, the area is a National Historic Landmark in downtown Santa Fe, where one can find an abundance of locally-owned shops and small outdoor markets, the Palace of the Governor’s Native American vendor market, the striking Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi (open for viewing regularly), and even the New Mexico State Capitol building just a few blocks away. Don’t miss grabbing a margarita at The Shed or Coyote Cantina, a spirit animal at Keshi the Zuni Connection, a unique fair-trade outfit at Poetic Threads, and an abundance of other gorgeous garments and stunning souvenirs throughout the many blocks of walkable, iconic Santa Fe streets.
(image via Maureen Lunn)
There is no greater draw to Northern New Mexico than all the chile-smothered food you can handle. Locals know that many food orders come with a follow-up question: “Red, green, or Christmas?” so tourists should be prepared with their answer (we recommend Christmas, which is both red and green, always, on everything). Enchiladas (flat, not rolled) are the most traditional plate, and many restaurants will follow it up with a sopapilla and honey. Make plans to dine at The Shed (downtown/Plaza) or La Choza (The Shed’s sister restaurant, Railyard), Maria’s (mid-town), Tomasita’s (Railyard), or Tesuque Village Market (just outside of the city; splurge on an Uber as they’re known for the strongest margaritas around).
When you’re ready for something other than enchiladas, hit up the Cowgirl BBQ (Railyard) for their “mother of all green chile cheeseburgers,” which sports a massive green chile burger topped with brie (of all things!), and a slab of heirloom tomato. Oh, and don’t forget the most important meal of the day! Breakfast burritos abound in Santa Fe. Grab them where the locals go at El Parasol or the drive-thru at Burrito Spot.
As you can see, Santa Fe has a lot to offer everyone. If you are looking to do more in the surrounding area, check out other weekend trips from nearby Santa Fe.
These areas are perfect for a quick day trip or a long weekend getaway. Explore our favorite things to do or peruse some pre-built itineraries.