Fun Things to do in Santa Fe
Beautiful Santa Fe is famous for its artsy scene, blue skies and adobe buildings.
Visit the winter for snow and luminarias or spring and fall for brisk days with beautiful blue skies. Summer can be warm but Santa Fe still offers a lot to her visitors. There is lots to discover in this small city, from food and culture to nature and adventure. Read on for our Santa Fe city guide.
The Weekend Guide to Santa Fe
There are many fun things to do in Santa Fe. Go hiking, eat New Mexican cuisine, see historic adobe buildings or visit some art galleries! of course two activities that make Santa Fe extra famous are the Georgia O’Keefe Museum and Meow Wolf. If you have any interest in either one, they are both highly recommended! Let’s go on a Santa Fe weekend getaway – or stay a little longer!
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Getting to Santa Fe & Getting Around
Fun Things To Do in Santa Fe
Places to Stay in Santa Fe
Getting to Santa Fe & Getting Around
Santa Fe is located in north central New Mexico about 70 miles northeast of Albuquerque and can be reached by car, bus, plane or train.
Most people visit Santa Fe by airplane or automobile but it is also possible to get there by Greyhound bus and the local Railrunner train, which can connect you with the Amtrak station in Albuquerque. Both will take you directly into the downtown area which is very convenient. (check out this post with 10 things to bring on your Amtrak trip!)
There is a regional airport in Santa Fe (SAF) and a larger international airport in Albuquerque (ABQ). You can rent a car at the airports or take public transit or a shuttle into downtown.
Once you are in the city it is easy to get around on foot or by car. There’s also a public bus service but it is not the most convenient for getting all around town. Uber and Lyft are available and easy to use.
Many visitors to Santa Fe either rent a car or drive their own. This is often the most convenient way to sightsee, especially if you plan to head out of the city for some hiking and exploring!
10 Fun Things To Do in Santa Fe
Here are a few of my favorite things to do and see (and eat!) when visiting the city of Santa Fe and the surrounding area.
1. Visit the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum
OK so this one is not exactly a secret surprise as many visitors already plan to visit the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. It’s definitely a must-do on many people’s list. Fans of the artist will enjoy seeing some of her lesser known works and learning about her life.
Some visitors might be surprised that Georgia’s most famous paintings are not in this museum, rather they are displayed all over the globe in museums like the Smithsonian, Brooklyn Museum, Art Institute of Chicago, MOMA and The Met. Tate Modern in London currently has an exhibition on the artist, but most of the works are owned by institutions in the USA.
The gift shop is really lovely and has a good selection of books about the artist as well as prints of her paintings.
The museum also owns and operates Georgia O’Keeffe’s Abiquiu home, which can be visited by tour only.
Georgia O’Keeffe was a fascinating woman and a great painter, and I’d recommend reading one of her biographies before a New Mexico trip.
2. Experience Meow Wolf
I’m sure you’ve heard of Meow Wolf by now and maybe you are curious about the hype. Is it worth it? I answer with a resounding YES.
This bowling alley has been transformed into a strange and wondrous place that must be experienced. Words cannot do it justice.
A few pieces of advice are indeed useful however. Get your tickets in advance. Tickets and entries are timed and you’ll probably want to go earlier in the day if possible. That way you can spend as much time as you like. There is a lot to explore and you can spend hours trying to figure out the mysteries. If you didn’t plan ahead you can wait in line but be aware sometimes that means you can be waiting a long time. The day we went at 9am there was a wait until 5pm!
Wear comfy clothing and don’t bring a backpack or anything like that. You can check your coat and bag but you’ll be happiest if you are comfortable. You might be crawling, crouching, dancing, sliding, climbing… so keep that in mind!
Also if you are coming with several children you’ll want to bring a few adults too. The place is dark and twisty and you’ll need to stay with your children at all times – not because it is dangerous but because it is easy to get lost. So it’s best if you have a ratio of one adult to two kids max, depending on how well behaved your kids are!
Meow Wolf also hosts special events of all kinds so check out the website to see what’s on!
3. Taste New Mexican Cuisine
Are you a fan of Tex-Mex food or California Mexican or even authentic Mexican cuisines? Well, you might be surprised that you won’t really find these same foods that you are familiar with in New Mexico.
When I first visited New Mexico I ordered one of my favorite dishes (carnitas) at a restaurant that appeared to serve Mexican food. I was perplexed to find the food didn’t look or taste anything like what I expected. Instead of the Mexican style carnitas I got a saucy dish of stewed meat. Once I was over the surprise I found New Mexican cuisine to be very interesting.
New Mexico is famous for chiles, both red and green. In many restaurants you’ll have the familiar choice, but many people suggest going for “Christmas” or a combo of green and red.
Another food you should definitely try is sopapillas. These yummy fried pastry breads are often served with the meal and can be drizzled with honey or used to mop up sauces.
You’ll find the green chile cheeseburgers are another popular item on menus in New Mexico. If you like peppers you will probably enjoy this typical food.
A few favorite restaurants, cafes and bars in Santa Fe:
- Tomasita’s: classic New Mexican food
- Cafe Pasqual’s: organic food, be prepared to wait in line
- La Choza: relaxed New Mexican food
- Sweetwater Harvest Kitchen: seasonal breakfast, brunch and lunch
- Fiesta Oaxaca: delicious Oaxacan food
- Santarepa: yummy Chilean delights
- Iconik Coffee: tasty coffee drinks and healthy dishes
- Tia Sophia’s: hearty, casual breakfast and lunch
- Santa Fe Brewing: cute tap room with tasty local beers
- Maria’s New Mexican Kitchen: classic New Mexican restaurant
- El Chile Toreado: food truck serving up tacos and more
- Vinaigrette: salad, soup and sandwiches
- New Mexico Hard Cider Taproom: excellent selection of craft ciders and beers
4. Wander Canyon Road Galleries
Shopping for some art to decorate your home or just like to look? Head to the Canyon Road area for all kinds of art galleries. You’ll find paintings, sculptures, weavings, huge metal wind decorations for the garden, contemporary art and quirky galleries too.
Don’t miss the hidden gardens in this area. Be sure to stop by the Historic Santa Fe Foundation. You can also take a stroll in a grassy green area nearby at the Santa Fe River Park.
5. Explore Santa Fe Plaza Area
The historic city plaza is a great place to start an exploration of Santa Fe and people watch while you are at it. The plaza is surrounded by benches with leafy trees providing shade. Wander around the neighborhood to check out shops and restaurants in historical buildings.
From the plaza head to the famous Loretto Chapel. If you haven’t heard about the miraculous staircase you are in for a treat. I found it especially interesting because I had already been to Oliver Lee Memorial State Park where it is said the mysterious staircase carpenter actually lived.
Also be sure to stop by the San Miguel Chapel. This 17th century adobe building has a stunning altar inside.
6. Check Out Petroglyphs
Near the Santa Fe Airport you can check out an amazing collection of petroglyphs at a place called La Cieneguilla. It is BLM land and has a huge amount of interesting rock art including birds, deer, musicians and lots of geometric symbols. There are said to be more than 4,000 glyphs within one square mile. Be prepared to do some scrambling and plan to come early or late in the day for the best lighting. Please don’t touch the glyphs! Oil and friction from hands can damage the fragile artworks.
7. Go Birding at Audubon Center
The Randall Davey Audubon Center is of course a great place to stop by to spot some local bird life. There are beautiful gardens you can explore and even take a guided bird walk. There is also the historic Randall Davey House and Studio that you can visit with a docent on Fridays.
But did you know there are wonderful trails behind the center too? Head off on the loop for a short exploration just behind the center. Nearby you can also hike the Two Mile Pond Loop or the Upper Canyon Loop.
8. Hike Kasha-Katuwe National Monument
This park, known as Kasha-Katuwe or Tent Rocks National Monument, is on the small side but fascinating! Take the loop trail to see the white rock formations in the shapes of cone and spires. You can explore the canyons and caves too.
Kasha-Katuwe is about an hour’s drive from Santa Fe. Be aware that in the summer there can be a wait at the entrance to the park due to limited parking spots.
9. Shop & Eat at the Santa Fe Farmers Market
Looking for local eats? Make your way to the Santa Fe Saturday farmers market at the Railyard. You’ll find seasonal fruits and veggies, meat, eggs, flowers, honey, herbs and lots of crafts too. There are often several stands selling readymade food so come hungry! Get in line for delicious pastries and breads, pupusas, coffee, breakfast burritos, blue corn donuts and more! This farmers market is also next to a few artisan markets as well so you can get your gift shopping done too.
Depending on the time of year there are also markets on Tuesdays and Wednesdays if you need to get your shopping done mid-week instead!
10. Take a Road Trip
If you have a bit more time you can also head out of town on a road trip. Here are some awesome destinations not too far from Santa Fe that would make a great day trip or even for a few days if you have extra time!
- Santuario de Chimayo: historic adobe church
- Bandelier National Monument: ancient ruins & amazing hikes
- Pecos National Historic Park: civil war battles & ancient pueblos
- Petroglyph National Monument: rock art galore
- Albuquerque: lots to see in this nearby city, take the train
- Madrid: small artsy village
- Ghost Ranch and Abiquiu: beautiful scenery and O’Keeffe home
- Taos: ski slopes and interesting arty town
- Ojo Caliente Hot Springs: hot springs spa
- Rio Grande Gorge: explore the river and go rafting
Places to Stay in Santa Fe
The city of Santa Fe is filled with hotels both big and small as well as Airbnbs and longer term rentals. Here are a few of our favorite lodging options in the Santa Fe area.
For a limited time, if you register at Booking.com using this link and then reserve using the links below you can get $20 cash back! It’s a special offer from Booking.com.
- Eldorado Hotel and Spa is a luxurious place to stay right in the plaza are, within easy strolls to restaurants and shops.
- Just steps from the plaza, Hotel Chimayo offers cozy rooms in an adobe style building.
- Hilton Santa Fe Historic Plaza is an excellent choice with spacious rooms and a swimming pool.
- Looking for traditional style, check out Hotel St Francis. Some describe the decor as minimal monastery.
- The Santa Fe Suites offer kitchens for those who prefer to prepare meals rather than eating out. It’s located next to a grocery store and the Zia Road Railrunner Station.
- El Rey Court is a retro motorcourt motel that has been transformed into a hipster chic hotel.
- How about a weekend of camping while you explore the Santa Fe area? Check out campgrounds in the Santa Fe National Forest like Black Canyon or Big Tesuque.
- Hipcamp has a ton of amazing options for camping and rustic lodging around Santa Fe. Bring your tent or rent a camper or RV, some places have cabins too! Sign up for Hipcamp here and get $20 off your first stay.
- Santa Fe is also popular on Airbnb. Sign up here to save $38 off your first booking. We stayed at several darling Airbnbs when visiting Santa Fe. Look for a post soon with some of our faves.
We hope you enjoyed this list of fun things to do in Santa Fe! Be sure to explore more of beautiful southwest using our guides to Sedona and Tucson. Or venture to Southern California and check out San Diego, Joshua Tree and Palm Springs.
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