Top 25 Things To Do in Santa Fe

From ancient adobe pueblos to cutting-edge art installations, Santa Fe blends rich history and vibrant culture in the high desert.

West Parker
By
West Parker
July 18, 2024

As the sun sets behind the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, casting a warm glow on adobe buildings, visitors to Santa Fe might feel they've stepped into a Georgia O'Keeffe painting come to life. But this enchanting city is far more than just a picturesque backdrop. Known as "The City Different," Santa Fe offers a unique blend of multicultural heritage, artistic innovation, and natural beauty that captivates visitors year-round.

With over 400 years of history, Santa Fe is a place where ancient traditions meet contemporary creativity. Wander through the winding streets of the historic downtown, where adobe architecture houses world-class museums, galleries, and restaurants. You'll find yourself immersed in a cultural mix woven from Native American, Spanish colonial, and Anglo-American influences.

But Santa Fe isn't just about looking to the past. The city's thriving arts scene pushes boundaries and sparks imagination, from the traditional galleries of Canyon Road to the mind-bending installations at Meow Wolf. And beyond the city limits, the rugged beauty of the high desert beckons, offering outdoor adventures and spiritual retreats.

Whether you're an art aficionado, a history buff, a foodie, or an outdoor enthusiast, Santa Fe has something to captivate you. Let's explore the 25 best things to do in this enchanting desert oasis.

Explore the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum

Vibrant Georgia O'Keeffe painting on display at her namesake museum in Santa Fe, showcasing the artist's distinctive style
Seeing O'Keeffe's work up close was mind-blowing. The colors are so much more vibrant in person!

Step into the world of one of America's most iconic artists at the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum. This intimate museum houses the largest collection of O'Keeffe's work in the world, offering a deep dive into her unique vision of the Southwest. As you wander through the galleries, you'll see how O'Keeffe's bold use of color and form captured the essence of New Mexico's landscapes and flora. The museum's thoughtful curation goes beyond just paintings, providing insights into O'Keeffe's life and creative process through photographs, personal items, and interactive displays.

  • Location: 217 Johnson Street, Santa Fe, NM 87501
  • Hours: Daily 10 am - 5 pm (closed Wednesdays)
  • Admission: $18 for adults

Why Visit: To see how O'Keeffe's groundbreaking art perfectly captures the spirit of Santa Fe and the Southwest.

Insider Tip: Visit on the first Friday evening of the month for free admission and special programming.

Wander Through the Santa Fe Plaza

Tourists and locals enjoying the historic Santa Fe Plaza, surrounded by adobe buildings and vibrant atmosphere
Heart of Santa Fe right here! Grabbed a coffee and people-watched for hours. Such a lively spot!

The heart of Santa Fe beats in the historic Plaza, a gathering place for locals and visitors alike for over 400 years. This vibrant square, flanked by adobe buildings housing shops, restaurants, and galleries, offers a perfect introduction to the city's unique blend of cultures. Street vendors sell authentic Native American jewelry and crafts under the portal of the Palace of the Governors, while the sound of live music often fills the air. As you stroll around, you'll feel the layers of history beneath your feet, from Spanish colonial times to the present day.

  • Location: 63 Lincoln Ave, Santa Fe, NM 87501
  • Hours: Open 24/7
  • Admission: Free

Why Visit: It's the historic and cultural heart of Santa Fe, where you can feel the pulse of the city.

Insider Tip: Visit during the annual Fiesta de Santa Fe in September for a vibrant celebration of the city's culture and history.

Immerse Yourself in Meow Wolf's House of Eternal Return

Psychedelic, interactive art installation at Meow Wolf's House of Eternal Return in Santa Fe, showcasing its mind-bending creativity
Meow Wolf blew my mind! Felt like I stepped into another dimension. Still trying to figure out what I saw!

Prepare to have your mind blown at Meow Wolf's House of Eternal Return. This immersive art installation defies easy description - imagine a psychedelic fun house meets sci-fi mystery novel. You'll start in what seems like an ordinary Victorian house, but as you explore, you'll discover secret passages leading to fantastical realms filled with interactive art. From a luminous forest of alien plants to a spaceship straight out of a retro comic book, each room offers a new surprise. It's a multi-sensory adventure that challenges your perceptions and ignites your imagination.

  • Location: 1352 Rufina Cir, Santa Fe, NM 87507
  • Hours: Thursday-Monday 10 am - 8 pm
  • Admission: $45 for adults

Why Visit: For a mind-bending artistic experience that's uniquely Santa Fe.

Insider Tip: Look for the hidden clues throughout the exhibit to unravel the mysterious narrative at the heart of the installation.

Discover Native American Art at the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture

Intricate Native American pottery exhibit at the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture in Santa Fe, highlighting indigenous craftsmanship
The craftsmanship on these pots is unreal. Each piece tells a story of centuries-old traditions.

Delve into the rich cultural heritage of the Southwest's indigenous peoples at the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture. This comprehensive museum showcases the art, history, and contemporary life of Native American tribes from the region. From ancient pottery and intricate beadwork to contemporary paintings and sculptures, the exhibits offer a fascinating journey through time. The outdoor sculpture garden, with its panoramic views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, provides a beautiful setting for contemplation and connection to the land that has inspired Native artists for millennia.

  • Location: 710 Camino Lejo, Santa Fe, NM 87505
  • Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 10 am - 5 pm
  • Admission: $12 for adults

Why Visit: To gain a deeper understanding of the Native American cultures that have shaped Santa Fe and the Southwest.

Insider Tip: Don't miss the "Here, Now and Always" exhibit, which was curated in collaboration with Native American communities.

Stroll Down Canyon Road

Charming adobe art galleries lining Canyon Road in Santa Fe, showcasing the city's renowned art scene
Art lover's paradise! Spent the whole day wandering in and out of galleries on Canyon Road. My wallet's a bit lighter now!

Art lovers, prepare to be enchanted. Canyon Road, a picturesque half-mile stretch in the historic district, is home to over 100 galleries, boutiques, and restaurants. As you wander down this charming street, you'll find yourself surrounded by a dizzying array of art from traditional Southwestern paintings to cutting-edge contemporary sculptures. The adobe buildings, many of which date back to the 18th century, are works of art in themselves. Take your time, chat with gallery owners, and perhaps find that perfect piece to take home as a memento of your Santa Fe adventure.

  • Location: Canyon Road, Santa Fe, NM 87501
  • Hours: Most galleries open daily, 10 am - 5 pm
  • Admission: Free to browse

Why Visit: It's one of the most concentrated art districts in the world, offering a feast for the eyes and the soul.

Insider Tip: Visit during the annual Canyon Road Paint and Sculpt Out in October to see artists at work in the open air.

Experience the Santa Fe Opera

Stunning open-air Santa Fe Opera house at dusk, with the Sangre de Cristo Mountains as a dramatic backdrop
Opera under the stars! The setting is as breathtaking as the performance. Don't forget a jacket - it gets chilly!

Even if you're not an opera aficionado, the Santa Fe Opera is a must-see experience. The open-air Crosby Theatre, set against the backdrop of the Sangre de Cristo and Jemez Mountains, offers a breathtaking setting for world-class performances. As the sun sets and the stars come out, you'll be treated to innovative productions of classic and contemporary operas. The acoustics are superb, and the pre-performance tailgate parties in the parking lot are a beloved local tradition. It's a magical evening that combines high culture with the casual charm of the Southwest.

  • Location: 301 Opera Dr, Santa Fe, NM 87506
  • Hours: Seasonal (July-August), performances typically start at 8 pm
  • Admission: Varies, starting from $45

Why Visit: For a uniquely Santa Fe blend of high art and natural beauty.

Insider Tip: Arrive early to enjoy the sunset and stunning views from the theatre's open sides.

Hike in Bandelier National Monument

Ancient Puebloan cliff dwellings carved into the rock face at Bandelier National Monument near Santa Fe
Climbed up to these ancient homes at Bandelier. It's mind-boggling to think people lived here over 11,000 years ago!

Just an hour's drive from Santa Fe, Bandelier National Monument offers a fascinating glimpse into the lives of the ancestral Pueblo people who lived here over 11,000 years ago. The main loop trail takes you past ancient cliff dwellings and petroglyphs, with ladders allowing you to climb up and explore some of the cave rooms. As you hike through the beautiful Frijoles Canyon, keep an eye out for wildlife like mule deer and Mexican jays. The visitor center provides excellent context for understanding the rich history and ecology of the area.

  • Location: 15 Entrance Rd, Los Alamos, NM 87544
  • Hours: Open daily, dawn to dusk
  • Admission: $25 per vehicle

Why Visit: To connect with the ancient history of the region while enjoying stunning natural beauty.

Insider Tip: Visit in the early morning to avoid crowds and have a better chance of spotting wildlife.

Relax at Ten Thousand Waves

Serene outdoor hot tub surrounded by pine trees at Ten Thousand Waves Japanese-inspired spa in Santa Fe
Pure bliss at Ten Thousand Waves! Soaking in a hot tub surrounded by piñon pines - best way to end a day of hiking.

After a day of exploring, treat yourself to a rejuvenating experience at Ten Thousand Waves, a Japanese-inspired spa nestled in the hills just outside Santa Fe. This tranquil retreat offers a variety of services from hot tub soaks with mountain views to traditional Japanese massages. The outdoor baths, surrounded by pine trees and fresh mountain air, provide a perfect setting for relaxation and contemplation. It's a unique blend of Eastern tranquility and Southwestern scenery that will leave you feeling refreshed and renewed.

  • Location: 3451 Hyde Park Rd, Santa Fe, NM 87501
  • Hours: Daily 10:15 am - 9:30 pm
  • Admission: Prices vary, communal tub access starts at $49

Why Visit: For a serene, spa experience that perfectly combines Japanese traditions with Santa Fe's natural beauty.

Insider Tip: Book a "Night Bathing" session to soak under the stars in their outdoor hot tubs.

Taste New Mexican Cuisine on the Santa Fe Margarita Trail

Vibrant, salt-rimmed margarita on a sunny Santa Fe patio, part of the city's famous Margarita Trail experience
Day 3 on the Margarita Trail - this prickly pear margarita might be my favorite yet! Santa Fe knows how to do cocktails.

Embark on a flavorful journey along the Santa Fe Margarita Trail. This self-guided tour takes you to some of the city's best restaurants and bars, each offering their own unique twist on the classic margarita. From traditional lime to creative concoctions featuring local ingredients like prickly pear or chile, you'll discover why Santa Fe is known for its margaritas. Along the way, you'll also get to sample delicious New Mexican cuisine, from blue corn enchiladas to green chile cheeseburgers. It's a fun and tasty way to explore the city's culinary scene.

  • Location: Various locations throughout Santa Fe
  • Hours: Vary by establishment
  • Admission: Free to participate, drinks priced individually

Why Visit: To taste Santa Fe's signature cocktail while exploring the city's vibrant food scene.

Insider Tip: Purchase a Margarita Trail Passport for discounts and a chance to win prizes.

Visit the Palace of the Governors

Historic adobe facade of the Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe, the oldest public building in the United States
Standing in front of the oldest public building in the US! The Palace of the Governors has seen over 400 years of history.

Step back in time at the Palace of the Governors, the oldest continuously occupied public building in the United States. Built in 1610 as Spain's seat of government, this adobe structure has witnessed over 400 years of Santa Fe history. Today, it houses fascinating exhibits on the city's colonial past. Outside, Native American artisans sell their handcrafted jewelry and pottery under the building's portal, continuing a centuries-old tradition. As you walk through the rooms, you'll gain a deeper appreciation for the complex history that has shaped Santa Fe.

  • Location: 105 W Palace Ave, Santa Fe, NM 87501
  • Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 10 am - 5 pm
  • Admission: $12 for adults

Why Visit: To experience a living piece of Santa Fe's colonial history.

Insider Tip: Visit on Sunday afternoons for free admission to New Mexico residents.

Explore SITE Santa Fe

Striking contemporary art installation at SITE Santa Fe, showcasing the museum's cutting-edge exhibitions
SITE Santa Fe always pushes boundaries. This installation had me questioning reality - in the best way possible!

For a taste of Santa Fe's contemporary art scene, head to SITE Santa Fe. This cutting-edge museum, housed in a striking building in the Railyard District, showcases innovative and often provocative exhibitions by international artists. The museum's commitment to pushing boundaries and sparking dialogue makes every visit a thought-provoking experience. From large-scale installations to multimedia presentations, the exhibits here challenge perceptions and inspire new ways of thinking about art and society.

  • Location: 1606 Paseo de Peralta, Santa Fe, NM 87501
  • Hours: Thursday-Monday 10 am - 5 pm
  • Admission: $10 for adults

Why Visit: To experience Santa Fe's forward-thinking side and see cutting-edge contemporary art.

Insider Tip: Check their website for information on artist talks and special events, which offer deeper insights into the exhibitions.

Shop at the Santa Fe Farmers' Market

Vibrant displays of fresh, local produce at the bustling Santa Fe Farmers' Market, highlighting the region's agriculture
Farm-fresh heaven! The chile roasting at the Farmers' Market fills the air with the most amazing smell.

Get a taste of local life at the bustling Santa Fe Farmers' Market. Held year-round in the Railyard District, this market brings together over 150 local farmers and producers. You'll find an abundance of fresh, seasonal produce, as well as locally made cheeses, breads, jams, and crafts. The market is a feast for the senses, with colorful displays of chiles, fragrant herbs, and the sounds of live music filling the air. It's not just a place to shop, but a community gathering that celebrates New Mexico's agricultural heritage.

  • Location: 1607 Paseo de Peralta, Santa Fe, NM 87501
  • Hours: Saturdays 8 am - 1 pm year-round, Tuesdays 8 am - 1 pm May-November
  • Admission: Free

Why Visit: To experience the local food culture and pick up some unique New Mexican ingredients.

Insider Tip: Try the fresh roasted green chiles, a New Mexican staple, when they're in season (late summer to early fall).

Take a Cooking Class at the Santa Fe School of Cooking

Hands-on tamale-making class at the Santa Fe School of Cooking, offering insight into traditional New Mexican cuisine
Learned to make tamales today! Pro tip: the Santa Fe School of Cooking classes book up fast, so reserve early.

Bring the flavors of Santa Fe home with you by taking a class at the Santa Fe School of Cooking. This renowned culinary school offers hands-on and demonstration classes that focus on traditional and contemporary Southwestern cuisine. Learn how to make the perfect tamale, master the art of chile rellenos, or discover the secrets of New Mexican spices. The classes are informative, fun, and always end with a delicious meal. It's a great way to deepen your understanding of the local food culture and pick up some new culinary skills.

  • Location: 125 N Guadalupe St, Santa Fe, NM 87501
  • Hours: Vary by class schedule
  • Admission: Classes start at $98 per person

Why Visit: To learn the secrets of Southwestern cooking from expert chefs.

Insider Tip: Book the "Restaurant Walk" tour to visit and taste from some of Santa Fe's best restaurants.

Visit the Loretto Chapel

Famous spiral 'miraculous staircase' inside the Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe, known for its mysterious construction
The 'miraculous staircase' at Loretto Chapel defies logic. How it stands without central support is still a mystery!

Marvel at the architectural wonder of the Loretto Chapel, home to the "Miraculous Staircase." This Gothic Revival-style chapel, built in 1878, is beautiful in its own right, but it's the spiral staircase that draws visitors from around the world. According to legend, the staircase was built by a mysterious carpenter who disappeared without payment after completing the seemingly impossible task. With two 360-degree turns and no visible means of support, the staircase is indeed a marvel of engineering. The chapel's stained glass windows and intricate woodwork add to its ethereal beauty.

  • Location: 207 Old Santa Fe Trail, Santa Fe, NM 87501
  • Hours: Daily 9 am - 5 pm
  • Admission: $5 for adults

Why Visit: To see the famous "Miraculous Staircase" and enjoy the chapel's serene beauty.

Insider Tip: Visit early in the morning to avoid crowds and have a quiet moment of reflection in this peaceful space.

Explore the Museum of International Folk Art

Vibrant, diverse folk art exhibit at the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, showcasing global traditions
So much color and creativity at the Folk Art Museum! The Girard Wing is like stepping into a miniature fantasy world.

Dive into a world of color, creativity, and cultural diversity at the Museum of International Folk Art. Housing the world's largest collection of folk art, this museum is a joyful celebration of human imagination and craftsmanship. From intricate textiles and vibrant masks to whimsical toys and religious artifacts, the exhibits span continents and centuries. The Girard Wing, with its miniature village displays, is particularly captivating for both adults and children. Each visit offers new discoveries and a deeper appreciation for the incredible diversity of human culture.

  • Location: 706 Camino Lejo, Santa Fe, NM 87505
  • Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 10 am - 5 pm
  • Admission: $12 for adults

Why Visit: To marvel at the incredible diversity of global folk art traditions.

Insider Tip: Don't miss the Girard Wing, which houses an enchanting display of over 100,000 pieces of folk art.

Hike the Atalaya Mountain Trail

Hikers enjoying panoramic views of Santa Fe from the summit of Atalaya Mountain, a popular local trail
The hike up Atalaya Mountain is a workout, but these views of Santa Fe make it so worth it!

For breathtaking views of Santa Fe and the surrounding mountains, lace up your hiking boots and tackle the Atalaya Mountain Trail. This 6-mile round trip hike offers a challenging but rewarding ascent through pinyon-juniper woodlands to the summit of Atalaya Mountain. As you climb, you'll be treated to ever-expanding vistas of the city below and the vast New Mexico sky above. The trail is well-maintained and clearly marked, making it accessible for most hikers with a moderate fitness level.

  • Location: Trailhead at St. John's College, 1160 Camino Cruz Blanca, Santa Fe, NM 87505
  • Hours: Open daily, dawn to dusk
  • Admission: Free

Why Visit: For panoramic views of Santa Fe and a great workout in the fresh mountain air.

Insider Tip: Start early in the morning to avoid the midday heat and catch the soft morning light on the landscape.

Visit the Santa Fe Botanical Garden

Diverse collection of drought-resistant plants and flowers at the Santa Fe Botanical Garden, showcasing high desert flora
Who knew desert plants could be so beautiful? The Botanical Garden is a masterclass in water-wise gardening.

Experience the unique flora of the high desert at the Santa Fe Botanical Garden. This beautifully designed space showcases native and adapted plants that thrive in the challenging Southwest climate. As you wander through the themed gardens, you'll learn about water conservation, sustainable gardening practices, and the rich plant traditions of the region. The Orchard Gardens, with its heritage fruit trees, and the Ojos y Manos: Eyes and Hands Garden, which explores ethnobotany, are particularly fascinating. Art installations throughout the garden add an extra layer of beauty and interest.

  • Location: 715 Camino Lejo, Santa Fe, NM 87505
  • Hours: Thursday-Sunday 9 am - 5 pm
  • Admission: $10 for adults

Why Visit: To see how beautiful and diverse a water-wise garden can be in the high desert.

Insider Tip: Visit during the annual GLOW winter lights event for a magical nighttime experience in the garden.

Ski or Hike at Ski Santa Fe

Skiers enjoying fresh powder on the slopes at Ski Santa Fe, with stunning mountain vistas in the background
Blue skies and fresh powder at Ski Santa Fe! Can't believe this is just a short drive from downtown.

Just 16 miles from downtown Santa Fe, Ski Santa Fe offers outdoor adventure year-round. In winter, hit the slopes for some of the best skiing and snowboarding in the Southwest. With over 80 trails ranging from beginner to expert, and an average of 225 inches of snow annually, it's a powder lover's paradise. In the warmer months, the ski area transforms into a hikers' haven, with trails winding through aspen groves and offering stunning alpine views. The chairlift operates in summer too, giving non-hikers a chance to enjoy the high-altitude scenery.

  • Location: 1477 NM-475, Santa Fe, NM 87501
  • Hours: Vary by season, typically 9 am - 4 pm in winter
  • Admission: Lift tickets start at $84 for adults (winter), summer chairlift rides are cheaper

Why Visit: For high-altitude adventure, whether you're carving down snowy slopes or hiking through mountain meadows.

Insider Tip: Visit in early October to see the aspen trees in their golden autumn glory.

Explore the New Mexico History Museum

Engaging historical exhibit at the New Mexico History Museum in Santa Fe, bringing the state's rich past to life
Fascinating journey through time at the NM History Museum. The mix of cultures that shaped this state is incredible.

Journey through more than 400 years of New Mexico's rich and complex history at the New Mexico History Museum. This state-of-the-art facility brings the past to life through interactive exhibits, multimedia displays, and fascinating artifacts. From the Pre-Columbian era through Spanish colonization, the Mexican period, and statehood, you'll gain a deeper understanding of the events and people that shaped New Mexico. The museum's location, right behind the Palace of the Governors, allows you to seamlessly connect the exhibits with the living history outside.

  • Location: 113 Lincoln Ave, Santa Fe, NM 87501
  • Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 10 am - 5 pm
  • Admission: $12 for adults

Why Visit: To gain a comprehensive understanding of New Mexico's fascinating history.

Insider Tip: Don't miss the Palace Press, where you can see historic printing equipment in action.

Visit the San Miguel Chapel

Exterior of the ancient San Miguel Chapel in Santa Fe, believed to be the oldest church in the continental United States
Standing in front of the oldest church in the mainland US! San Miguel Chapel has been here since the early 1600s.

Step into what is often called the oldest church in the continental United States at the San Miguel Chapel. Built around 1610, this simple yet beautiful adobe structure has been a witness to Santa Fe's history for over four centuries. The interior features a beautiful wooden altar screen (reredos) and a bell that dates back to 1356. Despite damage from revolts and reconstructions over the years, the chapel retains an air of antiquity and spiritual peace. It's a tangible link to Santa Fe's Spanish colonial past and an enduring symbol of faith.

  • Location: 401 Old Santa Fe Trail, Santa Fe, NM 87501
  • Hours: Monday-Saturday 10 am - 4 pm
  • Admission: $5 suggested donation

Why Visit: To experience one of the oldest European-built structures in the United States.

Insider Tip: Attend a Sunday mass to experience the living tradition of this historic chapel.

Experience the Santa Fe Indian Market

Native American artist showcasing intricate jewelry at the renowned Santa Fe Indian Market, a celebration of indigenous art
The talent at Santa Fe Indian Market is next level. Just bought a beautiful piece of jewelry directly from the artist!

If you're visiting in August, don't miss the Santa Fe Indian Market, the largest and most prestigious Native American art show in the world. For nearly a century, this event has brought together the finest Native American artists from across North America. Wander through the Plaza and surrounding streets to see stunning jewelry, pottery, textiles, paintings, and sculptures. It's not just a market, but a celebration of Native American culture with music, dance performances, and traditional food. The energy is electric, and it's a unique opportunity to meet artists and learn about their craft directly from the creators.

  • Location: Santa Fe Plaza and surrounding downtown area
  • Hours: Annually in August, typically 8 am - 5 pm
  • Admission: Free to browse

Why Visit: To experience the world's premier showcase of Native American art and culture.

Insider Tip: Arrive early for the best selection, but prices often drop on Sunday afternoon as artists prefer to sell rather than pack up their work.

Tour the New Mexico State Capitol

Unique round design of the New Mexico State Capitol building in Santa Fe, known locally as 'the Roundhouse'
Did you know New Mexico has the only round state capitol in the US? They call it 'the Roundhouse' - pretty fitting!

Known as the "Roundhouse" due to its unique circular shape, the New Mexico State Capitol is the only round state capitol in the United States. Take a free tour to learn about the state's government and history, and admire the impressive collection of New Mexican art that adorns the building. The Capitol Art Collection features over 600 works, including paintings, sculptures, and photographs, all created by New Mexican artists. The building's architecture, which blends elements of New Mexico Territorial style with Modernism, is a work of art in itself.

  • Location: 490 Old Santa Fe Trail, Santa Fe, NM 87501
  • Hours: Monday-Friday 8 am - 5 pm (when legislature is not in session)
  • Admission: Free

Why Visit: To see the unique architecture and impressive art collection of New Mexico's seat of government.

Insider Tip: Visit the fourth-floor outdoor terrace for great views of Santa Fe and the surrounding mountains.

Soak in Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs

Serene outdoor mineral pool at Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs near Santa Fe, surrounded by desert landscape
Ultimate relaxation at Ojo Caliente. These mineral springs have been soothing people for thousands of years.

Just an hour's drive from Santa Fe, the Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort & Spa offers a relaxing retreat in a stunning desert setting. These natural springs have been considered sacred by Native American tribes for thousands of years. Today, you can soak in a variety of mineral pools, each said to have different healing properties. From iron and arsenic pools to a mud pool where you can give yourself a natural clay mask, there's something for everyone. The tranquil surroundings and starry nights make it a perfect escape from the bustle of everyday life.

  • Location: 50 Los Banos Drive, Ojo Caliente, NM 87549
  • Hours: Daily 10 am - 10 pm
  • Admission: Day passes start at $45 for adults

Why Visit: To relax and rejuvenate in ancient mineral springs with purported healing properties.

Insider Tip: Book a private outdoor pool for a more secluded and romantic experience.

Visit El Rancho de las Golondrinas

Historic Spanish colonial buildings at El Rancho de las Golondrinas living history museum near Santa Fe
Stepped back in time at El Rancho de las Golondrinas. Watching traditional crafts being made was like a living history lesson!

Step back in time at El Rancho de las Golondrinas, a living history museum that recreates Spanish colonial life in New Mexico. This former ranch, whose name means "Ranch of the Swallows," dates back to the early 1700s and was a paraje (stopping place) on the Camino Real. Today, costumed interpreters demonstrate traditional crafts, farming techniques, and aspects of daily life from the 18th and 19th centuries. From bread baking in hornos (outdoor ovens) to sheep shearing and blacksmithing, it's a hands-on journey into New Mexico's rural past.

  • Location: 334 Los Pinos Rd, Santa Fe, NM 87507
  • Hours: Wednesday-Sunday 10 am - 4 pm (June-September)
  • Admission: $8 for adults

Why Visit: To experience life in Spanish colonial New Mexico through interactive exhibits and demonstrations.

Insider Tip: Visit during one of their special events, like the Spring or Harvest Festivals, for an even more immersive experience.

Explore IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts

Bold, contemporary Native American art piece on display at the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts in Santa Fe
Mind-blowing contemporary Native art at the IAIA Museum. It's amazing to see how artists are blending tradition with modern themes.

Experience the cutting edge of Native American art at the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts (MoCNA). As the country's only museum focused on exhibiting, collecting, and interpreting the most progressive work of contemporary Native artists, MoCNA offers a unique perspective on Native American art and culture. The museum's rotating exhibitions feature both established and emerging Native artists working in a variety of media, from painting and sculpture to new media and performance art. It's a thought-provoking look at how Native artists are addressing contemporary issues while honoring their cultural heritage.

  • Location: 108 Cathedral Pl, Santa Fe, NM 87501
  • Hours: Wednesday-Sunday 10 am - 5 pm
  • Admission: $10 for adults

Why Visit: To see how contemporary Native American artists are pushing boundaries and addressing current issues.

Insider Tip: Check their website for information on artist talks and workshops, which offer deeper insights into Native American art and culture.

Structuring Your Santa Fe Adventure: A 7-Day Itinerary

Now that we've explored the best things to do in Santa Fe, let's put it all together into a weeklong itinerary. Remember, this is just a suggestion - feel free to adjust based on your interests, energy levels, and any special events happening during your visit.

Day 1: Historic Downtown Santa Fe

  • Start at the Santa Fe Plaza, the heart of the city
  • Visit the Palace of the Governors and the New Mexico History Museum
  • Lunch at The Shed for classic New Mexican cuisine
  • Explore the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum
  • Evening stroll down Canyon Road, perhaps catching a gallery opening

Day 2: Art and Culture Immersion

  • Begin your day at the Museum of International Folk Art
  • Visit the nearby Museum of Indian Arts & Culture
  • Lunch at Museum Hill Café
  • Afternoon at SITE Santa Fe for contemporary art
  • Evening performance at the Santa Fe Opera (seasonal) or a concert at the Lensic Performing Arts Center

Day 3: Outdoor Adventure

  • Early morning hike on the Atalaya Mountain Trail
  • Relaxing afternoon at Ten Thousand Waves Japanese Spa
  • Evening stargazing tour with Astronomy Adventures

Day 4: Day Trip to Bandelier and Los Alamos

  • Full day excursion to Bandelier National Monument
  • Stop in Los Alamos to visit the Bradbury Science Museum
  • Return to Santa Fe for dinner at Geronimo on Canyon Road

Day 5: Local Flavors

  • Morning visit to the Santa Fe Farmers' Market
  • Cooking class at the Santa Fe School of Cooking
  • Afternoon relaxation and swimming at Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs
  • Evening on the Santa Fe Margarita Trail

Day 6: Deep Dive into Native American Culture

  • Start at the San Miguel Chapel
  • Visit the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts
  • Lunch at Tia Sophia's for their famous breakfast burrito
  • Afternoon at El Rancho de las Golondrinas
  • Dinner at Sazón for elevated New Mexican cuisine

Day 7: Santa Fe's Quirky Side

  • Morning visit to Meow Wolf's House of Eternal Return
  • Lunch at Jambo Café for a taste of African-Caribbean fusion
  • Afternoon exploring the Railyard Arts District
  • Sunset hike at La Tierra Trails
  • Farewell dinner at La Choza

Remember, Santa Fe is a city that rewards slow exploration. Don't be afraid to wander down a side street, pop into an interesting shop, or spend an extra hour in a museum that captures your interest. Each visit to Santa Fe reveals new layers of its rich culture and history, so consider this itinerary a starting point for your own unique adventure in The City Different.

West Parker
West Parker
Article updated:
July 18, 2024 8:52 AM

West Parker, a Cornell University School of Hotel Administration graduate, has spent two decades as the secret weapon of the jet-set elite, crafting bespoke adventures that redefine luxury travel. Now a resident writer for Town & Tourist, this 45-year-old "Architect of Extraordinary Journeys" combines razor-sharp insights with unparalleled industry connections to deliver experiences that even the most discerning globetrotters can't help but rave about. West's expertise spans from exclusive real estate to fine dining, making him the go-to strategist for those who demand nothing but the extraordinary in their travels.

Recommended Read

No items found.