Planning a jaunt through the Southwest USA? Don’t deprive your itinerary of all of the best things to do in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Nestled in the heart of the state, New Mexico’s capital city celebrates its rich Native American heritage with a barrage of inspirational art galleries, world-renowned museums, and historic venues.
Among the top tourist attractions in Santa Fe lie some of the country’s most celebrated art institutions, including the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, the New Mexico Museum of Art, and the Museum of International Folk Art. Outside the city, you’ll fill your days with outdoor activities, like hiking, mountain biking, and—surprising to many visitors—skiing.
Need ideas for what to do in Santa Fe? Spice up your Southwest trip itinerary with this complete guide to the best places to visit in Santa Fe, NM.
Must-see places to visit in Santa Fe, NM
Meow Wolf Santa Fe
Tired of traditional old-fashioned art galleries? Step into Meow Wolf Santa Fe for an immersive art experience unlike any other.
Meow Wolf Santa Fe occupies a former run-of-mill bowling alley. With funding from the Game of Thrones writer George R. R. Martin, it’s since been transformed into something akin to a science fiction novel merged with art. The experience features over 200 art installations, including its famed landmark: the House of Eternal Return.
Enter the previous abode of the mysterious Selig family. Don’t forget to check the mailbox at the front for important clues. Remember: Nothing you is what it seems at Meow Wolf: A fridge door can transport you to a new room, the inside of a toilet could be a portal, and a closet door could be the doorway to an aquarium!
Founded in 1610, Santa Fe is not just full of artistic inspiration; it’s also an important historical destination. Drive over to the Loretto Chapel on the Old Santa Fe Trail, and you’ll quickly see what we mean. With its splendid Gothic architecture, the former Catholic church is one of Santa Fe’s must-see attractions.
Amidst Santa Fe’s beautiful churches, Loretto Chapel is one of the finest. Now a private museum, the chapel charms with its blissful 19th-century architecture. But it’s the chapel’s mysterious spiral staircase that captures the attention of visitors most.
Without traditional supports, the staircase defies the laws of physics and swirls with mysteries like who built it and how. Listen to the audio-based program during the visit for more insight into its origin and history.
Santa Fe Plaza
Searching for the heart of Santa Fe? You’ll find it buzzing at Santa Fe Plaza. Whether you’re looking for delicious food, boutique shops, local artwork, or just a lively place to hang out, the historic plaza is one of the coolest places to go in Santa Fe.
Marking the start of the Old Santa Fe Trail, the National Historic Landmark Santa Fe Plaza centers around the Palace of the Governors, an adobe building dating back to the city’s founding.
Around the traditional Spanish-style plaza, you’ll spot Native American craft vendors. Explore the quaint streets around the square, ducking into its boutique shops, museums, and restaurants.
Need a break from exploring the city? Enjoy a bite at Santa Fe Plaza’s oldest restaurant, Famous Plaza Cafe.
Ski Santa Fe
Visiting New Mexico in winter? Add a surprise to your road trip with a stop at Ski Santa Fe. Perched over 10,000 feet above sea level in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, just 16 miles from downtown, the ski resort is, surprisingly, one of the highest ski areas in the continental United States.
Soar up the Millenium Trip Chairlift to launch a Southwest skiing adventure from 12,075 feet elevation. Ski Santa Fe features 660 acres of skiable terrain, with 86 trails catering to every level of skier and snowboarder.
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum
If you’re a fan of American modernism, don’t miss out on visiting Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. As America’s only museum solely dedicated to the internationally-renowned artist, the popular art museum is one of Santa Fe’s top attractions for art lovers.
Stroll through the museum’s rotating exhibits to get a glimpse of the esteemed 20th-century artist’s most famous works. The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum also displays renowned works of over 140 other famed American artists, including Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock, and Arthur Dove.
For a more detailed look into where O’Keeffe worked, you can also visit her home, also managed by the museum. It’s just an hour’s drive north of Santa Fe.
Santa Fe Railyard
Once the city’s former main railroad hub, the Santa Fe Railyard has been transformed into the New Mexico capital’s top entertainment, shopping, and dining destination. The historic railyard now sits at the intersection of some of the city’s most important thoroughfares, including Paseo de Peralta and Cerrillos Road.
Start a hot summer day with a cold brew at Sky Coffee before wandering around Santa Fe Railyard to shop for everything from antiques to outdoor gear. If you’re visiting later in the day, sip on refreshing craft beer at Second Street Brewery.
If you’re visiting the railyard on Saturday or Tuesday morning, pencil in a visit to the Santa Fe Farmers Market. Operating since the 1960s, it’s listed among the top farmer’s markets in the country, with over 150 vendors. The adjacent Railyard Artisan Market and El Museum Mercado are also worth a peek.
Art fans should spend time roaming around the Railyard Arts District. Home to seven contemporary art galleries, the district offers evening art walks on the last Friday of every month. The district is also home to SITE Santa Fe, one of the city’s top art museums.
After exploring the urban charms, unwind with a stroll in 13-acre Railyard Park. The award-winning green space features over two dozen gardens, a children’s playground, rotating art exhibits, and year-round events.
New Mexico Museum of Art
Looking to dig deeper into the city’s beloved art scene? Set your compass for the New Mexico Museum of Art. Housing more than 20,000 works, it’s the oldest art museum in New Mexico and features a wide array of American and European art spanning a variety of forms.
Browse the captivating collection of the Taos Society of Artists and the Los Cinco Pintores, who were instrumental in making Santa Fe one of the Southwest’s most important art centers. At the New Mexico Museum of Art, you’ll also spot several important works by famed local artist Georgia O’Keeffe, printmaker and painter Gustave Baumann, and several American photographers.
Besides its collections, the New Mexico Museum of Art is famed for its unique architecture. Built in 1917, the museum’s building exhibits a Pueblo Revival architecture style, fusing together elements of Native American and Spanish Colonial styles.
Museum of International Folk Art
One of Santa Fe’s most popular museums, the Museum of International Folk Art is home to the world’s largest collection of folk art, making it a must-see for any trip to Santa Fe.
Drive over to Museum Hill, where you’ll discover four world-class museums, including the Museum of International Folk Art. With 150,000 artifacts from over 150 countries scattered across four wings, you’ll need a few hours to explore this massive folk art museum in its entirety.
The Museum of International Folk Art is famed for housing Alexander Girard’s international folk art collection alongside his Multiple Visions: A Common Bond exhibit. The museum’s rotating exhibits offer hand-on art-making activities suitable for the entire family. You can also set the kids loose at the Tree of Life Children’s Play Area, lighting up their imaginations with a selection of toys and books.
Museum of Indian Arts & Culture
Ever wanted a first-hand experience of Native American life in New Mexico? Walk through the doors of another one of Santa Fe’s popular destinations, the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, to tap into that and more!
At the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, you’ll expand your knowledge of New Mexico’s indigenous communities through a collection of over 80,000 objects, spreading over two permanent and multiple rotating exhibits. After perusing the artifacts, wander through the outdoor sculpture garden, presenting a rotating slate of works by Native American sculptors.
The Museum of Indian Arts & Culture also allows patrons to participate in events or workshops, including pottery classes.
The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi
For architecture buffs, few Santa Fe points of interest hit the mark like The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. Located in the city center, the 19th-century church stands out among the surrounding adobe buildings with its distinctive Romanesque Revival architectural design.
The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi charms with round arches held up by Corinthian columns and its striking dual steepleless towers. Step inside Saint Francis Cathedral to admire the beautiful stained-glass windows casting light on the congregation.
Santa Fe Opera House
Looking for an unforgettable evening in The City Different? One of the best things to do in Santa Fe is watching a performance at the Santa Fe Opera House. Located on a hilltop seven miles north of the city, the venue is the only open-air opera house in the United States, making for a unique experience on your New Mexico itinerary.
Lightening up the mood or showcasing the bitter reality of the world, the Santa Fe Opera House hosts operas of all types. Get swept away by its world-renowned performances from late June until August.
As enchanting as the operas are here, the cherry on top is the open-sky theatre, surrounded by Sangre de Cristo and Jemez mountains. Arrive at the venue early to enjoy the tailgates around the parking lot and have a picnic before stepping into the theatre. Set up a picnic spot of your own or rent a tailgate beforehand. The high-spirited atmosphere under the twilight sky will be the perfect start to your evening!
San Miguel Chapel
You’ve already seen ancient artifacts on your trip to Santa Fe. So, how about visiting a building that’s over 400 years old? You’re bound to be dazed by the San Miguel Chapel. Dating back to the 17th century, this old adobe church is one of the city’s must-see sights.
Also known as the San Miguel Mission, the San Miguel Chapel is listed as the oldest church in the continental United States. While little remains of the original structure, built in 1610, you’ll still get a chance to see remnants of its original adobe walls on your visit.
Despite its modest size, the mission-style architecture and artwork inside are a sight to behold. Keep on the lookout for the restored wooden statue of St. Michael the Archangel and early 18th-century oil paintings of St. Gertrude, St. Louis, St. Francis of Assisi, and St. Teresa of Ávila.
Santa Fe Botanical Garden
Despite all its famous art galleries and museums, Santa Fe isn’t short on outdoor activities either. To get your fix, don’t miss out on visiting the Santa Fe Botanical Garden.
The Santa Fe Botanical Garden fuses natural and curated landscapes, featuring a mix of local native and exotic species. Wander through the Orchard Gardens to catch a glimpse of its collection of fruit trees, suitable for the hot & dry New Mexico climate. Or relax in the Meadow Garden, marveling at its xeric garden and wandering rock channels.
Santa Fe Farmers Market
If you wandering about on Saturday or Tuesday morning, set aside time to browse the Santa Fe Farmers Market. Located on Paseo de Peralta at the Santa Fe Railyard, the twice-weekly farmers market features over 150 vendors, selling a range of organic locally-produced food.
An all-rounder winner, Santa Fe Farmers Market has it all. Cheese, wine, honey, baked goods, fruits, vegetables, and even local snacks—whatever your food-loving heart desires, you’ll find it here.
Not one for busy spots? Plan for an early morning visit before the crowd seeps in.
Canyon Road Arts District
Santa Fe is known as a prime destination for art lovers. And nothing proves that more than a stroll through the magical Canyon Road Arts District. The historic mile-long stretch is one of the loveliest places to see in Santa Fe, offering colorful classic New Mexico charm.
The heart of Santa Fe’s art scene, the Canyon Roads Art District features more than 100 art galleries. In fact, it’s known for having the highest concentration of art galleries in the United States. Slip into the beautiful historic homes to browse the works of local artists, spanning every genre of fine art.
After checking out the galleries, fuel up with international teas on the outdoor patio of The Teahouse or chow down on tapas to the sounds of flamenco at El Farol Restaurant.
Canyon Road also hosts a variety of special events & festivals throughout the year. Check the official events calendar to see if anything’s on during your visit.
New Mexico History Museum
History buffs visiting Santa Fe need to carve out time to browse the New Mexico History Museum. Spreading across 3.5 floors, the museum weaves a historical narrative of the American Southwest, from the early Native people to the modern era.
The New Mexico History Museum brings four centuries of history to life through a series of artifacts, documentary footage, and interactive exhibits.
On your visit to the museum, be sure to slip next door into the Palace of the Governors. The oldest still-in-use public building in the USA, the adobe palace is designated as a National Historic Landmark and features an array of interesting exhibits.
El Rancho de las Golondrinas
Occupying 200 acres of farmland south of Santa Fe, El Rancho de las Golondrinas is one of the city’s most interesting historical attractions and one of the top-rated Santa Fe day trips. The living history museum summons the spirit of 18th- and 19th-century New Mexico.
El Rancho de las Golondrinas charms guests with a mix of handsome colonial structures dating back to the early 1700s and reconstructed buildings. Actors, dressed in period garb, wander around the historical park, recounting life on the New Mexico frontier.
Spice up your El Ranco de las Golondrina by coordinating your visit with upcoming events, such as the Annual Santa Fe ¡Viva México! Fiesta, Annual Harvest Festival, or Santa Fe Renaissance Faire.
Recommended places to stay in Santa Fe for sightseeing
For most travelers, the most popular places to stay in Santa Fe fall within the Historic District centered around the Old Plaza. In this area, you’ll find plenty of excellent accommodation options, from boutique hotels to vacation rentals. If you want to save some money, expand your lodgings search to areas & neighborhoods outside the tourist center, like Canyon Road, Siler Rufina Nexus (Midtown), or Southside.
With its incredible views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the Drury Plaza Hotel is one of the city’s most popular accommodation options. The hotel is a quick walk from the Palace of Governors and offers luxurious rooms with whirlpool baths and private balconies where you can bask in glorious views over the landscapes. After a day of sightseeing, head up to the rooftop terrace for a dip in the outdoor pool or to enjoy a cocktail at the rooftop bar.
Located in the heart of historic Santa Fe, this delightful two-acre property dishes out Southwest style in spades with its striking adobe casita suites and rustic decor. Fuel up with a traditional New Mexican breakfast before hitting up Old Plaza or the art galleries on Canyon Road, both a short walk away. Unwind after a long day in one of the inn’s two hot tubs.
With its chic and upscale vibes, the Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi is one of the top luxury accommodation options in the Plaza area. You’ll love relaxing in the beautiful guest rooms, featuring Native American decor and balconies with spectacular views. Enjoy local dishes at the on-site rustic-chic restaurant or unwind with a soothing in-room massage.