Santa Fe, New Mexico Guide: Planning Your Trip

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Santa Fe, the nation's oldest capital , boasts a vibrant and rich history that few other U.S. cities can match. Most of the town consists of 17th and 18th-century Spanish adobe buildings, providing an idyllic setting for browsing world-class art galleries along Canyon Road, shopping for Native American jewelry and crafts at the Palace of the Governors, or chowing down on blue-corn enchiladas, a New Mexican staple. Of course, you can't forget the city's incredible surrounding landscapes—plan on spending a day hiking under a canopy of aspen, soaking in a mineral spring, or kayaking the Rio Grande.

Read on for more about planning your trip to Santa Fe, including the best time to visit, how to get there, what to see and do, and where to eat and drink.

Planning Your Trip

Best Time to Visit: With 320 days of sunshine and a distinct four seasons, there's not really a bad time to visit Santa Fe. Still, visitors will find that late spring (May) and early fall (September through October) offer excellent weather and reduced accommodation costs.

Language: English, but Spanish widely spoken as well.

Currency: U.S. Dollar

Getting Around: The city center is compact and easily walkable, but you'll need a car if you want to head out for any day trips or a hike.

Travel Trip: Santa Fe's airport is small, with just a limited number of flights—fares can be exorbitant. Save money by flying into Albuquerque's airport, which is much larger and only an hour away.

Things to Do

Most things to do in Santa Fe are rooted in the arts or in the outdoors. The city is loaded with museums, galleries, and shops dedicated to showcasing the work of Native American artists and craftsmen, Western painters, and the many contemporary artists who call the city home now. If you wish to get some fresh air, Santa Fe is also an ideal destination for the outdoorsy set, whether you prefer skiing, fly-fishing, trail running, and more. As for what you can't miss:

  • Visit Meow Wolf. This quirky, artist-run entertainment complex has attracted visitors from all over the world with its incredible interactive exhibit. It's truly a can't-miss.
  • Shop at the Palace of the Governors. Shopping in Santa Fe is serious business, so if you're looking for turquoise, sterling silver, onyx, or other precious stones and metals, the Native American sellers at the Palace of the Governors are likely to have what you're after.
  • Walk along Canyon Road. With more than 100 art galleries in a mile-long stretch , famous Canyon Road is a great way to see world-class art for free.

Check out our complete guides to Santa Fe's best museums, top hikes, and day trips for more great things to do.

What to Eat and Drink

Santa Fe's unique regional cuisine is a draw for many visitors—this is the motherland of blue corn tortillas, red and green chile, biscochitos (New Mexico's state cookie), and countless other uniquely New Mexican dishes. Local favorites like Tomasita's and The Plaza Cafe have been long-running destinations for these favorite dishes, but if you're worried about a chile overload, don't fret. Santa Fe is also home to a remarkable number of international restaurants and fine-dining haunts.

As for drinking, margaritas are often the cocktail of choice, but despite its sometimes sleepy reputation, Santa Fe has a buzzy, high-class cocktail scene, with dedicated drinkers heading to bars like Secreto and Bar Alto. Beer drinkers will be delighted too, as there are a number of craft brewing outposts in the city.

Plan your trip with our guide to the city's best restaurants, top foods to try, and nightlife.

Where to Stay

Most of Santa Fe's hotels are centered around the Plaza, or close by. For first-time visitors, staying here will give you easy walking access to many of the city's top restaurants, galleries, and museums. While Santa Fe has many posh hotel options, like Rosewood's Inn of the Anasazi or Inn of the Five Graces, there are plenty of smaller inns and B&Bs that offer equally peaceful environments for a friendlier price.

If you want to get outside of the city center, the Japanese-inspired Ten Thousands Waves is located in a sybaritic setting at the base of the Santa Fe ski basin, while the Four Seasons Rancho Encantado is a family-friendly resort with tons of activities to keep you busy.

Getting There

Santa Fe is served by the Santa Fe Regional Airport, 10 miles southwest of the city center; however, flights are minimal. If you want to fly into Santa Fe directly, American Airlines flies to and from Dallas/Fort Worth and Phoenix, and United Express flies to Denver. Most visitors to Santa Fe arrive through the Albuquerque International Sunport, about an hour away. A small, but well-designed, airport, ABQ serves five million travelers each year and offers flights to and from most major U.S. cities, including Phoenix, Dallas, New York, Atlanta, and Chicago.

Santa Fe's city center is walkable and it's easy to get to many restaurants, galleries, and shops in town, but if you want to explore further afield—say take a day trip to Taos or head out of the city for a hike—renting a car is a good idea. If you're planning to stay close to the city limits, Uber is available.

Money Saving Tips

  • To see world-class art for free, go gallery-hopping on Canyon Road. On Friday nights, many of the galleries serve wine and cheese, and the owners and artists are often present—and always willing to chat.
  • For a restful day, head to Ojo Caliente, a mineral spring outside of town. The $30 admittance fee on week days ($45 on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and holidays) gets you day-long access to the public mineral pools, mud pool, steam room, and sauna.
  • New Mexico's museums are generally reasonably priced, but the $30 New Mexico CulturePass gets you one-time access to all 14 of the state's museums, which can add up to significant savings. It includes museums like the New Mexico Museum of Art on the Plaza and the Museum of International Folk Art at Museum Hill.
  • The nation's oldest state capital has a packed event calendar, filled with cultural events, flea markets, rodeos, and more. Check the calendar before your trip so you don't miss out on entertaining (and free!) events like the annual Santa Fe Indian Market and June’s Rodeo de Santa Fe parade.
Article Sources
TripSavvy uses only high-quality, trusted sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. TOURISM Santa Fe. "History."

  2. TOURISM Santa Fe. "About Santa Fe."

  3. TOURISM Santa Fe. "Canyon Road."

  4. ABQ Sunport. About Us.

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