There are so many fun things to do in Santa Fe, a city with a small-town feel and a huge indigenous influence. The adobe buildings and turquoise jewelry are reasons enough to visit Santa Fe, but there’s more to do in this New Mexico town than just shopping.
Table of Contents
- 33 Best Things to Do in Santa Fe
- Santa Fe Plaza
- Museum of Contemporary Native Arts
- Santa Fe Indian Market
- Canyon Road
- Museum of International Folk Art
- Santa Fe Farmers Market
- Georgia O’Keeffe Museum
- Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi
- Museum of Indian Arts and Culture
- New Mexico History Museum
- Meow Wolf Santa Fe
- Loretto Chapel
- New Mexico Museum of Art
- Santa Fe Botanical Garden
- Dale Ball Trails
- El Rancho de Las Golondrinas
- Kakáwa Chocolate House
- Bandelier National Monument
- Museum Hill Cafe
- Atalaya Mountain
- Santa Fe Balloons
- Pecos National Historical Park
- La Cieneguilla Petroglyphs
- SITE Santa Fe
- Museum of Spanish Colonial Art
- Frank S Ortiz Dog Park
- Adobe Gallery
- Santa Fe Opera House
- Santa Fe Trail
- Sangre de Cristo Mountains
- Baca Street Arts District
- Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta
- FAQs About What to Do in Santa Fe
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33 Best Things to Do in Santa Fe
Santa Fe Plaza
Wander around the adobe establishments and take photos of quintessential Southwestern architecture
Wander around the adobe buildings of the enticing Santa Fe Plaza. This huge courtyard is lined with luxury turquoise and fur jacket shops, second-story restaurants, and eclectic souvenir shops.
There are also indigenous merchants against the far side of the plaza selling their locally-made jewelry. I recommend buying turquoise from these local vendors to support small businesses.
The plaza becomes animate during Labor Day weekend when the courtyard is stuffed with vendor booths and bands playing in the gazebo. The best time to visit the Santa Fe Plaza is during the hustle and bustle of the Labor Day Festival.
Museum of Contemporary Native Arts
Take photos near one of the most famous, artsy landmarks in town
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (505) 428-5912 | Website | Hours: 10 am-5 pm Monday-Saturday, 11 am-4 pm Sunday, Closed Tuesdays | Entrance: $10, general, $5, students, military, New Mexico resident, Free children under 16 | 👉 Browse Tours on Viator
The Museum of Contemporary Native Arts is one of the most visited sites in Santa Fe. Located on the back side of the plaza and right across the street from the Basilica of St. Francis Assisi, many Santa Fe first-timers visit this museum to take photos of the colorful exterior alone.
The museum displays contemporary art on history and Native culture. Visit the “Matrilineal: Legacies of Our Mothers” or “The Stories We Carry” exhibits on display now.
Visit an ancient indigenous pueblo that has been continuously inhabited for 1,000 years
The Taos Pueblo is only 1 hour and 20 minutes northeast of Santa Fe and is the perfect day trip from the big city. Situated high in the Sangre Mountain range, Taos is home to famous adobe structures and a Native American reservation that’s open to the public on specific days.
There are also a variety of hipster cafes and boutiques in Taos as well as a plethora of art galleries, being that Taos is an artist enclave much like Santa Fe.
The Taos Pueblo is the biggest draw to the area, an establishment that’s been inhabited by Natives for over 1,000 years with multi-level adobe establishments. Taos is one of the most famous small towns in America and is an absolute must next time you’re in Santa Fe.
Santa Fe Indian Market
Buy local, handcrafted goods at this annual festival in the plaza
The Santa Fe Indian Market is one of the town’s biggest events and happens each August. This is the largest juried Native American art show in the world with an attendance of over 100,000 each year.
You can find the highest-quality Native American handicrafts at this event, from beadwork to silversmithing, precious gems, and more! Visit the central plaza to partake in this exchange of goods and cultures in Santa Fe.
Browse around more than 100 art galleries in an adobe village
This photo-worthy road is lined with chic art galleries, quaint boutiques, and the occasional coffee shop, all adobe of course.
Canyon Road has an impressive 100 galleries in a half a mile radius. Be sure to wear your most comfortable walking shoes when you visit Canyon Road because the exhibits get better as the road progresses.
Museum of International Folk Art
Experience cultural art traditions from over 100 countries
Located on Museum Hill, the Museum of International Folk Art is worth the visit for anyone who likes tribal/cultural art. If you could only choose a handful of museums to visit in a city of 1,000 museums, this one is worth the trip.
The impressive art collection exhibits over 130,000 folk art pieces from 100 countries. Take your time browsing around the unique collection then head on over to the Museum Hill Cafe for a hot cup of coffee to energize you for the next-door Museum of Indian Arts & Culture.
🛎️ Need a Hotel? Rosewood Inn is one of my favorite places to stay in town.
Santa Fe Farmers Market
Purchase the freshest, locally-sourced produce in town
Source your produce locally from the Santa Fe Farmers Market. This is also the best place in the city to meet the locals and make some friends.
Right next to Railyard Park and REI Santa Fe, the farmers market is one of the oldest and largest in the state. Keep in mind, if you visit in the winter, the market will be moved indoors and will showcase fewer merchants.
Every single item sold at the Santa Fe Farmers Market is locally sourced, from the produce to the materials in the craft goods. This is the perfect Saturday morning activity for the whole family.
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum
View works from a famous Santa Fe artist, inspired by the surrounding desert landscape
About 7 minutes walking from the main downtown Santa Fe Plaza area, the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum pays tribute to the late and great modernist artist. She produced over 2,000 works over the course of her career, showing the artist’s dedication to her craft.
The museum is small and shouldn’t take more than 2 hours to view. There is also no on-site public parking. I recommend either walking from the plaza area if the weather is agreeable or parking in a nearby garage closer to the museum.
Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi
Admire the centuries-old architecture of this famous town landmark
The Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi sits at the top of downtown Santa Fe. Just north of the main plaza, this church is a must-see. Also known as the “mother church of Santa Fe,” the cathedral was built in 1610 and rebuilt in 1693 following the Indian Revolt of 1680.
Visitors can see the interior of the basilica during open hours or attend a Saturday or Sunday mass. Include this destination in a self-guided walking tour of all the top sights in downtown Santa Fe.
Museum of Indian Arts and Culture
Learn more about inspiring Native American culture through the art on display
This Museum Hill museum showcases Native American art and local artists. It tells the story of people from the Southwest from prehistory to the present day through contemporary art.
Along with informative exhibits, the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture also offers public lectures, field trips, artist residencies, and educational programs.
Current exhibitions on display include “Grounded in Clay: The Spirit of Pueblo Pottery”, “Here, Now and Always”, “ReVOlution”, and “Painted Reflections”. Some upcoming events are a pottery demonstration, indigenous painting demonstrations, and an artist symposium.
New Mexico History Museum
Explore exhibits about all settlers to New Mexico
Located just three minutes’ walking distance from the Santa Fe Plaza, the New Mexico History Museum connects the past, present, and future of New Mexico through contemporary art.
This museum highlights the history of all of New Mexico’s inhabitants including the early lives of Native Americans, the Spanish, the Mexican era, merchants from the Santa Fe Trail, cowboys, hippies, and more.
Current exhibits at the New Mexico History Museum include The First World War, The Massacre of Don Pedro Villasur, and Telling New Mexico: Stories from Then and Now.
🚗 Need a Car? The best way to get around town is with a rental car. Discover Cars is the most reliable way to find a rental in the area.
Meow Wolf Santa Fe
Immerse yourself in the extraordinary interactive exhibits of this unusual art installation
This art installation is as quirky as the name implies. The immersive art experience at Meow Wolf is unique from a regular museum visit because it involves the museum-goer in a series of 3D art installations.
Walk through a dark hall of illuminated, neon bare trees, get lost in a maze of Tim Burton-seeming room displays, and question whether or not you were sober when you entered the museum as you stare at bizarre displays that make no sense.
Unleash your inner child with a visit to Meow Wolf, the most unique thing to do in Santa Fe.
Wind your way up the spiral staircase located inside this historic chapel
Only a few minutes walking distance from the cathedral, Loretto Chapel is famous for its helix-shaped interior staircase. Once a Roman Catholic church, this establishment is now a wedding chapel near the Santa Fe Plaza.
This gothic-style chapel from the 1800s is a popular tourist destination for photos and to visit the small museum inside that pays tribute to the chapel’s Spanish history.
📚 Related Reading: Depending on where you live in the U.S., you could make exploring this cool city into a weekend trip. Check out our ultimate weekend packing list guide.
New Mexico Museum of Art
Pose for a photo outside of this iconic adobe structure
There is certainly no shortage of art in Santa Fe. If you still have the energy to visit more museums in Santa Fe, the New Mexico Museum of Art is worth a visit for the adobe architecture alone.
The museum opened in 1917 and was the only building in New Mexico that was dedicated solely to art. This museum paved the way for many more Santa Fe, New Mexico art museums around the state.
Current exhibitions include 20th Century Collections and Western Eyes: 20th Century Art Here and Now.
Santa Fe Botanical Garden
Explore the different types of native flora in this small but abundant botanical garden
This Museum Hill activity is the perfect place to go on an afternoon with a good book and a thermos of tea. Enjoy the company of native New Mexico flora in the juniper-piñon woodland landscape of the Santa Fe Botanical Gardens.
The garden is right across from the International Museum of Folk art and the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture and is the ideal location to rest for a while and enjoy the tranquility of the surrounding Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
Dale Ball Trails
Hike through dense forest and to the base of snowy peaks right outside of town
Located in the foothills just outside of Santa Fe, the Dale Ball trails offer a nice change of pace. Lace up your hiking boots, put on your running shoes, and put air in your mountain bike tires for some Santa Fe exercising on the Dale Ball Trails.
There are trails suited for all fitness levels here and most trails even welcome four-legged friends. Be sure to research conditions ahead of time, as the trails can be covered with snow in the winter.
El Rancho de Las Golondrinas
Visit a ranch from the early 1700s and learn more about the settlers in the area
Just outside of Santa Fe on the way up from Albuquerque, El Rancho de Las Golondrinas is located in a remote grassland suburb and offers visitors serenity. This living history museum dates back to the early 1700s and was a stop along the original Camino Real.
Visiting the museum is a fun excursion for the whole family but it is closed during the winter months. I recommend taking the Women’s History or Wetland Preserve Tours when the ranch is open.
📚 Related Reading: Check out some of our top picks of where to stay in Albuquerque!
Kakáwa Chocolate House
Give your tastebuds a whirl by sampling a chile chocolate bar or a Mexican hot chocolate
The first time I visited the Kakáwa Chocolate House, I was expecting it to be similar to See’s Candy, selling nothing but chocolate sweets. Instead, I was surprised to be warmly greeted by an indigenous chocolate-themed cafe.
The small interior welcomes a few thirsty customers, quenching their thirst with cacao lattes or a chile and almond chocolate drink. I tried the “Aztec Brownie,” a brownie made with blue corn, cacao nibs, chile, and love.
Bandelier National Monument
Visit historic Ancestral Puebloan dwellings in the mountains outside of town
This national monument is nearly 34,000 acres with petroglyphs, Ancestral Puebloan dwellings carved out of the side of a cliff, and standing masonry walls.
As the photo suggests, many parts of the national monument may be difficult or impossible to access during the winter months, but it’s a fantastic thing to do in Santa Fe in the summer.
Museum Hill Cafe
Take a break from exploring informative museum exhibits with a satisfying cup of joe
Located in an area among many museums, Museum Hill Cafe invites museum-goers to take a break from observing and sit for a while with a warm coffee.
Museum Hill Cafe conveniently sits right between the Museum of International Folk Art and the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture. The lattes are delicious but the cafe is only open for a short time, so I recommend enjoying your caffeine with a view in the early afternoon.
🛎️ Need a Hotel? Sun Mountain Views is one of the closest accommodations to Museum Hill.
Make your way to the top of one of the highest mountain peaks in the area
Climb to the top of Atalaya Mountain in the Santa Fe National Forest as a part of your awesome New Mexico trip. At 6.2 miles round-trip and nearly 1,800 feet of elevation gain, this mountain peak is best suited for intermediate-level hikers.
The 360-degree views of the indigenous, adobe city from the summit are spectacular. Be sure to bring foot traction in the winter months, as the trail may be covered in snow.
Santa Fe Balloons
Soar high above town on a propane-powered blowup aircraft
While Albuquerque is the more famous hot air balloon destination due to its annual festival, you can ride hot air balloons year-round in Santa Fe! Companies like Santa Fe Balloons help you get above the cityscape and enjoy the high-altitude air in a hot air balloon.
You can also witness the huge Albuquerque balloon fest from anywhere in Santa Fe during the event, usually the first or second weekend in October.
Pecos National Historical Park
Stop by the historic park’s museum to learn more about how the civil war affected the area
Only half an hour southeast of Santa Fe, Pecos National Historical Park is a reserve for pueblo housing and a historic Civil War site.
This cultural crossroads site is the gateway to the plains. Many westward-bound travelers have found refuge at Pecos throughout time. Stop by the museum and catch an informative film or go hiking on one of the Ancestral Site trails.
La Cieneguilla Petroglyphs
Discover hundreds of petroglyphs quietly existing in the hills on the outskirts of town
Located near the El Rancho de Las Golondrinas museum, the La Cieneguilla Petroglyphs site offers hundreds of petroglyphs dating from both pre-contact times and after the Spanish colonial era.
Hike through woodland terrain and find yourself immersed in past cultures. The entire loop trail is only 2.7 miles round-trip, which is doable for the whole family. Be sure to download an offline map before you go, as the hike lacks signs in some areas.
SITE Santa Fe
Marvel at contemporary art from local artists
This Santa Fe museum is located near the Railyard Park and the Santa Fe Farmers Market, about a 10-15 minute drive from the main plaza area.
This huge, industrial-looking space hosts hundreds of contemporary art pieces and holds space for lectures and discussions. Some current exhibitions include “Shirin Neshat: Land of Dreams” and “Pedro Reyes: DIRECT ACTION”.
Museum of Spanish Colonial Art
Mix up your museum experience with a visit to this Spanish art museum and view colonial textiles and furniture
Another Museum Hill inhabitant, the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art, showcases art, furniture, and textiles from the Spanish colonial era in New Mexico.
Learn about New Mexico culture and traditions at this informative museum. Spanish presence and Santa Fe cannot be separated, which is why this museum is a Santa Fe staple.
Frank S Ortiz Dog Park
Give your four-legged friend the freedom to roam freely at this scenic dog park
If you’re like me and you travel with Fido, then you are constantly on the lookout for dog parks. The Frank S Ortiz Dog Park allows your pet to run off-leash and experience some Santa Fe freedom.
Although some great trails in town allow dogs, they must be on a leash at all times. I recommend taking your furry friend to the mountain-encapsulated dog park to let them exercise their “zoomies.”
Take a photo of the European cottage side-like gallery and enjoy the locally-crafted pottery inside
This quaint, cottage-like gallery is steeped in ivy with old English-style wooden doors and authentic Puebloan pottery on display.
See New Mexico’s finest, hand-crafted ceramic pieces by visiting the Adobe Gallery on the famous Canyon Road. Be sure to go ready to purchase because you will most likely be inspired by the beautiful art.
Santa Fe Opera House
Enjoy a night of theater arts at this famous opera house
Located just north of town, the Santa Fe Opera House showcases new, rarely performed, and standard performances. Switch things up by spending your Santa Fe evening entranced by professional opera singers.
Some shows that display at the Santa Fe Opera House are The Flying Dutchman and Tosca.
Santa Fe Trail
Follow historic trail landmarks around town like the pioneers of the olden days
The historic Santa Fe Trail was established by merchants pushing north from Mexico. The trail extended from southern Mexico City and ended in Santa Fe.
Many of the streets or hiking trails that you follow in town run parallel with this historic route. History buffs and other seasoned tourists can have some fun identifying all the Santa Fe Trail markers around town.
Sangre de Cristo Mountains
Get your daily dosage of crisp mountain air with a trek through these rocky mountains
These iconic mountains that surround Santa Fe are a fragment of the famous American Rocky Mountains. Named in the 1700s by a Spanish explorer who was inspired by the red-tinted snowy mountains, the Sangre de Cristo Mountains are the best area to head to if you’re looking to hike in NM.
The Atalaya Mountain Trail is one of the more popular hikes in the range, followed by the Dale Ball Trails and the Chamisa Trail.
Baca Street Arts District
Admire local art inside a historic warehouse
Santa Fe is a Mecca of art. Located in the Santa Fe Railyard District, the Baca Street Arts District houses artist studios in metal warehouses – historic buildings of eras past.
Visit this area to meet local Santa Fe artists and stop by the Saturday farmers market right across the street when you’re done admiring the local art.
Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta
Put your tastebuds to the test with a sampling of the state’s top chile dishes
Walking the streets of Santa Fe, you’ll notice that bunches of dried chiles hang from every other establishment. This marks the significance of the chile pepper in Santa Fe Indigenous and Latino heritage.
The Santa Fe Wine & Chile Festival highlights the importance of this sacred spice. This annual 5-day event celebrates the best Santa Fe restaurants and wineries and receives over 3,500 guests each September.
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FAQs About What to Do in Santa Fe
What are the best things to do in Santa Fe with kids?
Touring the city’s vast array of museums is the best thing to do in Santa Fe with kids. Hiking and going for a balloon ride are also kid-friendly activities in Santa Fe.
What are the best romantic things to do in Santa Fe?
Cooking classes, couples massages, hot air balloon rides, and a downtown stroll among the adobe structures are all romantic Santa Fe activities.
How do I spend a day in Santa Fe?
Spend a day in Santa Fe visiting at least one art museum, shopping from indigenous merchants in the downtown plaza area, and indulging in some delicious cuisine.
What is Santa Fe best known for?
Santa Fe is known for its extensive array of museums and art galleries.
Now that you have information on the top things to do in Santa Fe, New Mexico, you’re ready to take on the artistic adobe scene of the city.
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