Updated: Mar 30, 2021
Located more than 7,200 feet high on the southwestern slopes of the Sangre de Cristo foothills, Santa Fe is a haven for history buffs and artists alike. As the oldest and highest capital city in the United States, Santa Fe dates back to 1610 and is home to just over 80,000 people. But don’t let its small size fool you. There are plenty of things to do in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and lots of budget-friendly hotels to suit every taste.
From Spanish colonial architecture to Native-American arts and crafts, diverse cultures collide to create a vibrant and exciting array of tourist attractions. Nestled in a valley along a tributary of the Rio Grande, Santa Fe is surrounded by 1.5 million acres of national forest. The picturesque mountain town offers loads of outdoor fun as well as hundreds of restaurants, art galleries, and historical sites, all within walking distance.
History and Culture
Image via Flickr by sarahstierch
Steeped in rich history that’s teeming with Spanish influence and Native-American heritage, the Santa Fe Plaza is the cultural hub of the city. Built by the Spaniards at the end of the Santa Fe Trail, the National Historic Site is the perfect place to pick up traditional arts and crafts from local Native-American vendors. The square is always abuzz with activity, including markets, live music, and festivals.
Walking among the ancient buildings that surround the Plaza, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported back to a time when bullfights were common on the streets. In addition to notable structures like San Miguel Mission, La Fonda Hotel, and the Palace of the Governors, check out the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi just a short walk away.
Museums and Galleries
Image via Flickr by Ron Cogswell
Art lovers will want to check out the New Mexico Museum of Art in the Plaza before heading east to Canyon Road. Here, you’ll find the largest concentration of art galleries in the city. Walk for a half-mile amid adobe buildings, checking out the more than 100 galleries that feature everything from abstract to contemporary artworks by both up-and-coming artists and famous names like Fernando Botero.
Santa Fe is also home to nearly 20 traditional museums, including Museum Hill, which features four institutions in one convenient location. Other local highlights include the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Museum of International Folk Art, Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, and Museum of Spanish Colonial Art. For a unique experience, check out Meow Wolf. This is an interactive collection of art installations that showcases the work of more than 100 local artists.
Image via Flickr by Oemar
Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy the many ski hills and hiking trails found in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. If you’re looking for adventure, head out on the Rio Grande for an exciting whitewater rafting experience. Alternatively, take a stroll through the Santa Fe Botanical Garden, which features 12 acres of beautiful landscapes and mountain views.
Tourists with a little extra time on their hands might enjoy a trip to Bandelier National Monument. Located about 40 miles outside the city at the base of Frijoles Canyon, the monument is made up of cave dwellings and stone structures that were once home to the ancestors of the Pueblo peoples.
Whether you’re looking to take in the local culture or spend time in the great outdoors, you’ll find a wide variety of things to do in Santa Fe, New Mexico.