Santa Fe is the capital of the US state of New Mexico sitting in the shadow of a mountain range. It abounds with Spanish colonial and native Indian structures. Brimming with art venues, Santa Fe is an attractive destination for visitors cherishing outdoor and indoor activities.
Known as “The City Different” among the locals and travellers, Santa Fe is a first-class shopping and culinary destination. While roaming its streets, browse countless shops selling Indian artwork. Strings of red peppers will keep reminding you that time for lunch may be near.
Are you a full-time fan of art that is a part-time hiker or skier? Maybe you are a full-time gourmand and a part-time shopaholic? If so, plan to move for a couple of years to the City Different to discover what the top things to do in Santa Fe are.
Where Is Santa Fe And How To Get There?
You will find Santa Fe in the north of New Mexico, the USA. The city is some 100km/63mi northeast of Albuquerque, where Bugs Bunny often mistook the turn. If vast landscapes confuse you, maybe taking an aeroplane would be a solution.
Direct flights to Santa Fe Regional Airport are available from Phoenix, Denver, and Dallas. Furthermore, many vacationers find flying to Albuquerque, New Mexico’s largest city, and taking a connecting flight more convenient.
You can catch a direct flight to Albuquerque from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, Las Vegas, Chicago, Seattle, and Atlanta among other US cities. Also, aeroplanes from Chihuahua, Mexico fly to Albuquerque directly.
Moreover, Interstate 25 (I-25) highway connects Santa Fe to Denver (around six hours) in the north and Albuquerque (about an hour) in the south.
You won’t need to worry about where Santa Fe is if you take a train. To Santa Fe, trains run from Albuquerque (travel time is less than two hours) Chicago (24 hours), Kansas City (21 hours), and Los Angeles (18 hours).
The Lamy train station is around 25km/15mi away from downtown Santa Fe.
Getting Around In Santa Fe
You’ll need your best shoes for walking since downtown Santa Fe is walkable and great to explore on foot. If you are particularly passionate about walking, visit the City Different on weekends. The bus service operates shorter than during workdays.
Lines M and 2, operated by Santa Fe Trails, are the most useful bus lines for travellers. The M line travels to Museum Hill. To keep your budget and soles of your shoes for something else, resort to free Santa Fe Pickup service.
Riding a bike is among the top things to do in Santa Fe given that your backside serves you better than your feet or wallet. By bike, you can explore the capital of New Mexico via many trails and cycle your way to the nearby mountains of Sangro de Cristo.
Now you know how to get here and around. So let’s see what the best things to do in Santa Fe are.
Top Things To Do In Santa Fe
Santa Fe, New Mexico, is an attractive destination for visitors interested in history, culture, art, architecture, cuisine, and nature. Whatever your personal preferences are, you won’t lack things to do in Santa Fe for a week, month, year, or a lifetime.
Unlike its name suggests, Canyon Road isn’t a place to find an outdoor thrill, but an artistic hotspot of New Mexican capital. The city of art boasts hundreds of museums and galleries, many of which line Canyon Road.
Art venues housed in homes over a century old pack the full length of the street that is around 1.5km/1mi long. They exhibit a wide range of works of art, including paintings, sculpture, jewelry, crafts, and more. Aside from the Indian and regional art, you can appreciate contemporary, Latino, and international art here.
Regarding the street length, quite a bit of walking is required. Thankfully, Canyon Road features restaurants and venues in which you can replenish your energy. Opening hours of the art venues are usually between 10 am to 5 pm.
Santa Fe Plaza
If Canyon Road isn’t enough to satisfy your artistic spirit, check out Santa Fe Plaza. Some of the leading art venues of the city are in the neighbourhood, while cultural events take place in the Plaza.
Adobe houses surround the square whose centrepiece is the American Indian War Memorial. In the area, you can find arts and crafts made by the Indians. Dancing and musical performances, as well as markets, take place in the Santa Fe Plaza.
Besides visiting artistic and cultural sights, you can satisfy your shopping appetite in the Plaza’s shops and boutiques.
Palace Of The Governors
Visiting the Palace of the Governors is among the top things to do in Santa Fe. Constructed in 1610, it is the oldest working public building in the USA.
While you are in the Plaza of the City Different, locate the arcade beneath which the Indians sell their goods, and you will find the palace.
Palace of the Governors is a National Historic Landmark equipped with period furniture. Make an appointment for a history class and consult the archives of the Fray Angelico Chavez History Library if you are an expert or amateur historian.
Furthermore, check out photos and slides in the Photo Archives for a historical overview of New Mexico, South America, and other parts of the world.
Opening hours of the Palace of the Governors, Santa Fe, are from 10 am to 5 pm.
New Mexico History Museum, Santa Fe
Visiting the New Mexico History Museum is undoubtedly the top thing to do in Santa Fe for fans of history. The museum occupies a section of the Palace of the Governors, which flanks the Plaza.
The museum’s permanent exhibition chronicles the pre-colonial, colonial, and post-colonial eras of New Mexico. What’s more, it highlights the events that occurred from a variety of perspectives.
Furthermore, you will learn various interesting facts related to the City Different. The capital city status of the Spanish Kingdom of New Mexico, Mexican province, and the US state is among them. The city’s significance as a trade centre is also in focus.
The History Museum of New Mexico stages both permanent and temporary exhibitions. The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday between 10 am to 5 pm.
Museum Of International Folk Art
Santa Fe’s Museum of International Folk Art is as visually appealing as it is diverse. It houses the world’s biggest collection of folk art, which encompasses around 130,000 items from 100 nations. Among other exhibits, you will admire paintings, masks, textiles, ceramics, and carvings.
International Folk Art Museum introduces the arts of North America, South America, Europe, and Africa among other parts of the world. Besides meridians, the collection spans different eras. Spanish colonial folk art, for example, occupies an entire wing of the museum.
The Girard Foundation Collection is the highlight of the Museum of International Folk Art. The collection displays small-scale settlements belonging to different nations. These comprise of streets lined with structures, markets, even tiny people and animals.
If folk art isn’t among your interests, check the museum’s schedule for lectures, film screenings, musical events, and other programs. I’ll risk sounding monotonous, but the opening hours of the museum are from 10 am to 5 pm.
Clear your schedule when planning a visit to the International Folk Art Museum of Santa Fe. No matter how long you intend to stay at first, you are likely to stay longer once the collection grabs your attention.
Is the end of the art walk still ahead of you? Then let your footsteps take you to the Meow Wolf, a surreal haunted house. Figuring out the secrets behind the disappearance of a family while observing art displays is among the top things to do in Santa Fe.
Around 100 artists joined forces to create a mind-blowing art collection. No doubt that you will catch yourself forgetting your quest now and then by admiring the collection. Once you recall your goal, remember that you have to crack the code to a safe.
It would be best if you don’t arrange a date with a local lady or gentleman before visiting the Meow Wolf. You may need more than a few hours, or visits, to make it to the end.
Meow Wolf, Santa Fe, is open from 9 am to 8 pm (10 pm on Fridays and Saturdays) daily except on Tuesday.
Cathedral Basilica Of St. Francis Of Assisi
The 19th-century Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi occupies the site of a church destroyed in 1680. Back then, the Pueblo Indians rebelled against the Spanish, driving them away for 12 years. Along the way, they destroyed their structures.
The cathedral is an architectural masterpiece you would expect to see in Europe, not in New Mexico. Inside the Romanesque cathedral, you can see the oldest statue of the Virgin in the USA.
Arches (architectural features introduced by the Romans) and towers are the main features of the exterior. Inside the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, admire stained-glass windows and Greek Corinthian columns supporting the arches.
Bonus knowledge: The Romans adopted classical architecture introduced by the ancient Greeks, enriching it with arches. Therefore, the structures featuring Doric, Ionian, and Corinthian columns and arches, among other elements, we call Romanesque.
Loretto Chapel, Santa Fe
The Romanesque cathedral isn’t the only architectural masterpiece of Santa Fe, New Mexico. The 19th-century Gothic Revival Loretto Chapel is another one.
Loretto Chapel boasts elegant interior decorated with stained-glass windows and statues depicting Christ’s passion. It is the staircase, however, that will draw your eyes the most.
You may be unwilling to climb the staircase since it seems as if it hangs in the air. Defeat your doubts and admire views of the altar from the upper platform.
Bonus knowledge: Originated in France, the Gothic style replaced the Romanesque as the chief style in the Middle Ages. Romanesque buildings had thick walls, small windows, and were relatively short.
Gothic architects figured out how to deploy the weight better. That allowed them to build higher and grander structures. Very convenient for getting closer to God won’t you agree?
Winsor Trail is a mountain biking and hiking path near Santa Fe in the Sangro de Cristo range. Rated as moderate, it spans forests, meadows, ridges, and more. The cycling path is about 20km (13 miles) long, while the hiking path is 14km (8.5 miles) long.
There is a ski area nearby which caters most to expert skiers.
Tips And Tricks For Visiting Santa Fe
Enjoying the top things to do in Santa Fe can be even more rewarding with a few tips and tricks. These are some of them:
– Visit the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi in the evening when the sun casts a golden glow to its facade.
– If visiting museums is why you came to Santa Fe, consider purchasing the four-day Museum Pass. It allows you unlimited visits to the International Folk Art Museum, New Mexico History Museum, New Mexico Art Museum, and the Indian Arts and Culture museums during the validity period. Ask about the pass at any of these museums.
– Eating chilli peppers, New Mexico’s official vegetables, in Santa Fe is virtually unavoidable. You only get to choose, in fact, between red and green peppers. If you are a big fan of chillies, answer “Christmas” to get both when they ask you which type you prefer.
– Roaming the Sangre de Cristo mountain range is among the top things to do around Santa Fe. The New Mexican capital sits around 2,130m/7,000ft above sea level. At this height, the level of oxygen in the air starts to decrease. Going to the mountains takes you up to the 3,350m/11,000ft height.
You may, therefore, experience some symptoms of altitude sickness which include among others: nausea, fatigue, and loss of appetite. Thus, remain in Santa Fe for some time before going into the mountains to adapt to the elevation.
While visiting Santa Fe, New Mexico, you may jump to Santa Barbara in California. There, other great indoor and outdoor opportunities await you.