Top 12 Things to Do in Santa Fe, New Mexico

Art, nature, food and relaxation await in Santa Fe

New Mexico Landscape
••• Copyright (c) Richard Susanto / Getty Images

Santa Fe, New Mexico, is one of the top destinations in the United States' Southwest. Santa Fe is a city that embraces its natural environment, a city whose beautiful adobe architecture blends with the high desert landscape. A city that is, at the same time, one of America's great art and culinary capitals. Santa Fe draws those who love art, natural beauty and those who wish to relax, according to Steve Lewis, spokesperson for the Santa Fe Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Here are the 12 best things to do in Santa Fe. 

  • 01 of 12

    The Plaza, the Heart of Santa Fe

    Santa Fe Plaza
    ••• Murat Taner / Getty Images

    As the heart of the city and the place where Santa Fe was founded, the Plaza is the city's most historic area. Surrounded by museums, historic buildings, restaurants, hotels, galleries, and endless shopping, the Plaza is the place to start understanding Santa Fe.

  • 02 of 12

    Canyon Road

    Santa Fe has more than 250 galleries and has been rated the second largest art market in the country, after New York City. Canyon Road is a historic pathway into the mountains and an old neighborhood that has become the city's center for art with the highest concentration of galleries.

  • 03 of 12

    Georgia O'Keeffe Museum

    The Georgia O'Keeffe museum is a showcase not only for O'Keeffe's work but also for that of her many contemporaries. It features more than 3,000 works, including 140 of the famous artist's oil paintings and almost 700 of her drawings. 

    The museum also preserves her home and studio in Abiquiu, New Mexico, about an hour away. You can visit this by appointment.

  • 04 of 12

    Museum Hill

    In a town with many museums, Museum Hill is a collection of four of its most interesting: the Museum of International Folk Art, the ​​Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art and the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian. With a wonderful plaza, expansive views, footpaths connecting each museum and a convenient cafe, Museum Hill is a day trip right in town.

    Continue to 5 of 12 below.
  • 05 of 12

    The Railyard

    The area around the Railyard along Guadalupe Street is where Santa Fe's history is reborn. In this redeveloped historic area, the Railyard features everything from a farmers market to great restaurants, shops, art galleries and a cinema. You can take a commuter train to and from this area, which is truly a hub of action in Santa Fe. 

    The 50-acre Railyard, after years of community input and visioning, is a multi-use property that is home to SITE Santa Fe, a contemporary art museum with rotating exhibits, shops, galleries, restaurants and the Santa Fe Farmers Market.

  • 06 of 12

    Bandelier National Monument

    Located about 45 minutes from Santa Fe, Bandelier is the centuries-old site of a large pre-Pueblo community that was established in the area's extensive volcanic cliffs. One of the state's most important cultural and archaeological sites, Bandelier is a beautiful spot that offers a view across time into the lives of the hundreds of Native Americans who called it home from 1100 to 1500 AD.

  • 07 of 12

    New Mexico's Pueblos

    The 19 Pueblo tribes that form the majority of New Mexico's Native American population are scattered around the state. A number of the communities are in close proximity to Santa Fe, however, and offer a view into both the ancient and modern worlds of the Pueblos.

  • 08 of 12

    Palace of the Governors Native American Vendors

    Market, downtown Santa Fe
    ••• Kylie McLaughlin / Getty Images

    Every day, dozens of artists from around Santa Fe, New Mexico and the Southwest sell their work under the long portal that fronts the Palace of the Governors. This is a regulated program that ​ensures that high-quality, authentic artwork is sold by the artists or their family members. The palace itself is the state's history museum and the oldest public building in the U.S., making it a perfect setting.

    Read more about shopping in Santa Fe here.

    Continue to 9 of 12 below.
  • 09 of 12

    Institute of American Indian Art

    Contrasting to the more traditional art forms sold at the palace and at many of Santa Fe's shops and galleries is this museum dedicated to contemporary American Indian art. The museum is an arm of the IAIA college that teaches art to native peoples.

  • 10 of 12

    St. Francis Cathedral Basilica of Assisi

    The largest example of non-adobe style architecture in the city, the Romanesque St. Francis Cathedral dominates the downtown cityscape. The cathedral is a religious center for Santa Fe and the home to La Conquistadora, a centuries-old statue revered within the city.

  • 11 of 12

    New Mexico History Musuem

    This museum is conveniently located on the Historic Plaza in Santa Fe next to the Palace of the Governors. This new museum has permanent and rotating exhibits, as well as archives. The exhibits are interesting, vibrant and interactive.

  • 12 of 12

    Tent Rocks National Monument

    There are destinations on this planet that have a certain Oz-like quality about them, where you’re suddenly struck with the sensation of entering another world. Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument is just such a place. Fortunately, you don’t have to venture somewhere over the rainbow to get to this enchanting New Mexican landscape. Tent Rocks is located just 40 miles southwest of Santa Fe.