Are you considering travel to Santa Fe, New Mexico? Are you wondering if Santa Fe is worth visiting? The answer is YES! It is the perfect small city for a solo or small group of friends trip over the spring or fall.
This enchanting city boasts a vibrant arts scene, offering a delightful blend of upscale galleries, cozy textile shops, and pottery boutiques, lining every street. Santa Fe unfolds into distinct neighborhoods, but Old Town is where the best things to do are.
Santa Fe is the capital of New Mexico. It was founded as a Spanish colony in 1610 and is the oldest capital city in the United States. Santa Fe has preserved its authentic pueblo-style architecture, exemplified by the transformed Palace of the Governors, now home to the New Mexico History Museum.
Downtown is a walker’s dream, teeming with hotels, shops, galleries, eateries, and just about everything you could ask for.
I visited Santa Fe on a weeklong road trip. I started at El Paso Airport and stopped in Las Cruces, White Sands National Park, Roswell, Santa Rosa, and Santa Fe before leaving to go home from Albuquerque. It was an incredible experience!
I loved the vibes of Santa Fe and my experiences there, so I’ve compiled a list of the 21 best things to do.
Is Santa Fe Is Worth Visiting? The 21 Best Things To Do:
21. Treat Yourself to a Hotel or Spa Pool
Indulge in luxury. Santa Fe is an arts haven, filled with beautiful upscale hotels with pools. I stayed at the Eldorado, a gorgeous four-star resort in the heart of the Old Town.
Nidah Spa is a gorgeous spa inside the resort, as well. Get a treatment, like a massage, to relax. Also inside Eldorado is Agave restaurant, a chic spot known for crafted cocktails.
20. Enjoy a Drink on the Rooftop of the Historic La Fonda on the Plaza
La Fonda on the Plaza is a centrally located hotel, built when Santa Fe was governed by the Spanish in 1607. Open to the public, the Bell Tower Bar rooftop offers fantastic views over the main plaza. Enjoy a beverage there around Golden Hour – that’s the best time. In the evening, the bar is lit up with lights and candles to bring a warm ambiance.
19. Explore Meow Wolf
Meow Wolf is one of those Instagram-able attractions that visitors can’t get enough of. It was initially founded as an immersive interactive experience to transport visitors into a new world of creativity. While it was first dreamt up by independent artists, Game of Thrones author and Santa Fe resident George RR Martin, funded the opening of its permanent home. The exhibit has over 70 rooms made by local artists.
Tickets start at $35 for adults and non-residents of New Mexico and $26 for New Mexico residents. Children’s tickets are only a few dollars less.
Meow Wolf now has exhibits in Denver, Las Vegas, and Grapevine, TX.
18. Shop Native American Handicrafts
Santa Fe is home to beautiful Native American handicrafts like woven dream catchers and figurines, accessories like woven bracelets and rings, and clothing items like sweaters. These can be found all over in the authentic stores of Santa Fe.
17. See the City from Above at the Cross of the Martyr
The Cross of the Martyrs is a monument dedicated to the 21 Franciscans who were killed in the 1680 Pueblo Revolt – they’re known as the Martyrs. Take the short hike to the hilltop on which this cross sits. Though the hike isn’t particularly difficult, expect to climb ten sets of stairs. There are several spots to rest, as well as informative plaques, along the way.
16. Journey on the Sky Railway
Rail Skyway is a scenic train that runs along the historic rail from Santa Fe to Lamy, New Mexico. Guests can enjoy incredible views, beverages, and snacks along the way. Many trains offer live music or dance performance acts, too.
Not only does Sky Railway run an incredibly dreamy sunsets seranade train but they also host fun-themed trains like Margarita Rail, Solar Eclipse Train, Stargazer, New Mexico Ale Trail, Jazz Under the Stars, and so much more.
Trains run mostly on weekends. Tickets start around $100.
15. Take a Day trip to Santa Rosa
Santa Rosa is 109 miles, about an hour and 40 minute drive from Santa Fe. It’s most known for the Route 66 Auto Museum.
The Route 66 Auto Museum holds its own as a must-visit spot. With a lineup of over 30 vintage vehicles, it’s a heaven for car enthusiasts. On top of that, they’ve decked out the place with Route 66 nostalgia, including classic records and those iconic Coca-Cola signs.
Before you leave, make sure to visit the souvenir shop. It’s stocked with some neat stuff that’ll make great gifts for any car lover back home. Admission is $5.
Santa Rosa is also home to The Blue Hole, a cenote known for swimming and diving. It has clear blue water that maintains at 62 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s only 80 feet wide at the top and about 80 feet deep. Locals consider it a blue gem in the middle of the desert. I stopped to look at the hole but no one was swimming, so I continued my journey.
14. Venture to Taos
Taos, a town located in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, boasts a rich history with its historic adobe structures dating back centuries, making it a living museum of Pueblo and Spanish colonial heritage. Taos is about 70 miles north, a 1.5-hour drive from Santa Fe.
You can see the city of Taos via an informative walking tour. I love walking tours!
If you have a rental car, you can visit different hot springs! Ojo Caliente is a world-renowned Spa resort with hot springs. The resort offers many options for soaks and services like massages.
13. Raft the Rio Grande
The Rio Grande is one of North America’s longest rivers at 1,885 miles. It runs from the San Juan Mountains in Southern Colorado through Texas to the Gulf of Mexico.
The Rio Grande Gorge, located near Taos, New Mexico, offers some of the most exhilarating rafting opportunities, allowing adventurers to navigate in challenging rapids while taking in the stunning desert scenery of the high desert plateau. You can experience it as a light float (excursion here) or in Class III rapids (excursion here). These trips begin in Taos.
12. Sample Local Beer
Beer lovers will appreciate a trip to Santa Fe, as there are several fantastic breweries in the area.
Santa Fe Brewing Company is the most popular. The brewery hosts several locations that offer its 11 craft beers. The New Beer Hall at HQ Mountain sits about 20 minutes outside the heart of Santa Fe. They offer brewery tours on Saturdays at 1 p.m., Taco Tuesday specials (10 for $20), and live music on Thursday evenings from 6- 8 p.m.
Santa Fe Brewing Company also offers a smaller location called the Brakeroom in Downtown Santa Fe. It’s an old cabin where brakemen used to sleep. It’s a super cool spot with outdoor heating lamps and food trucks every night.
Many new breweries are starting to gain traction. The popular Tumbleroot Brewery and Distillery is now offering tours and tastings, too!
11. Hike Bandelier National Monument
For a great day excursion from Santa Fe, take a scenic 50-minute drive northwest to reach Bandelier National Monument. Spanning 33,000 acres of canyons and mesas, this federally preserved land is a sanctuary of cultural and natural treasures. Here, you can marvel at petroglyphs etched into the rocky cliffs and gaze upon standing masonry walls from a human civilization dating back over 11,000 years.
The primary attraction for most visitors is the Main (Pueblo) Loop Trail, a 1.4-mile circuit beginning at the Visitors Center. This trail guides you through excavated archaeological sites on the floor of Frijoles Canyon. You can explore it at your own pace or join one of the Ranger-Guided walks, typically available throughout the summer.
Another popular route is the 3-mile roundtrip Falls Trail, leading to the incredible Upper Falls. Bandelier National Monument offers 70 total miles of diverse pathways for your exploration.
I enjoyed the Pueblo Loop Trail, walking around the nearby areas of the park, and having a picnic near the Visitor’s Center. (I wasn’t feeling so well during my trip, so I wasn’t as adventurous.)
Admission for a private vehicle is $25, or you can conveniently access the site using the America the Beautiful annual park pass. This pass, currently sold for $80, covers admission to all federal land, including National Parks for one year.
10. Visit the Georgia O’Keefe museum
The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum is dedicated to showcasing the life and work of the renowned American modernist painter, Georgia O’Keeffe. The museum’s extensive collection houses a diverse range of O’Keeffe’s artwork, including her iconic paintings of enlarged flowers, New Mexico landscapes, and abstract compositions. Art enthusiasts will think that Santa Fe is worth visiting for this acclaimed museum.
Admission is $20. Purchase tickets online in advance.
9. See the New Mexico History Museum
The New Mexico History Museum, located in Santa Fe’s historic district showcases a vast collection of artifacts and exhibits that chronicle the rich and diverse history of the state.
This museum offers a deep dive into New Mexico’s past, with exhibits ranging from the Spanish colonial era and Native American heritage to the territorial period and the state’s contributions to the atomic age.
Visitors can explore a wealth of historical artifacts, documents, and interactive displays that provide a comprehensive understanding of the unique blend of cultures and events that have shaped New Mexico into the vibrant state it is today.
Tickets are $12 for non-residents and $7 for residents. The museum offers free admission on the first Friday of the month from 5- 7 p.m. from May to October.
8. Take a Food Tour
Santa Fe serves up some of the best food in New Mexico. Local favorites include mouthwatering chili, hearty burritos, and posole, a traditional Mexican comfort stew typically made with simmered pork shoulder.
Santa Fe is a foodie city. And, one of my favorite things to do while traveling is to take food tours. They’re great for seeing a city and hearing about its culture including food, from locals. You can also often get to know other travelers on these tours, as you converse over food and drinks. All the food is worth visiting Santa Fe for.
7. Eat Breakfast at Dolina
I’m a foodie, and Santa Fe is a foodie city! I wanted to include a few standout restaurants that I enjoyed.
Dolina is an adorable café on the outskirts of Old Town. I drove there and parked in the lot.
They offer a wide range of breakfast items – everything from healthy granola to hearty burritos. I enjoyed the scrumptious Santa Fe omelet which includes ham, mushrooms, sour cream, caramelized onions, and asadero, with chile on the side. The plate also comes with hashbrowns and an English muffin. Highly recommend!
Dolina is rated the #5 restaurant in Santa Fe on TripAdvisor.
6. Try Green Chile Stew at La Choza
Santa Fe is renowned for its green chile, a spicy and versatile pepper variety that features prominently in the region’s cuisine, adding a distinctive Southwestern flavor.
The green chile, typically harvested in late summer, is often roasted to enhance its smoky flavor before being incorporated into dishes like green chile stew, burritos, and enchiladas, offering a delightful culinary experience for visitors. It’s worth visiting Santa Fe for.
While in Santa Fe, tasting Green Chile is a must! Rated one of the best in the city, the Green Chile Stew at La Choza is a top choice. This spicy stew is made with roasted green chiles, potatoes & pork. It’s gluten-free! The chile is served with a savory slice of garlic bread.
La Choza is rated the #23 restaurant in Santa Fe on TripAdvisor.
Photo Caption: Experienced to-go because of 2021 regulations
5. Devour Mexican Fare at Tomasita’s
I loved the deep-fried flautas with a side of rice from Tomasita’s. It came with a sopaipilla, a fried, crispy pastry puff. This restaurant is in the railway district.
Tomasita’s is rated the #21 restaurant in Santa Fe on TripAdvisor.
Photo Caption: Experienced to-go because of 2021 regulations
4. Dine Al Fresco The Shed
The Shed is in Downtown Santa Fe in the main square. It’s easily walkable to main attractions in Old Town, as well as most hotels.
I started with the Green Chile Stew and then had the Southwest Grilled Shrimp.
3. Explore Canyon Road
Canyon Road is home to over 100 galleries, boutiques, fine jewelers, and restaurants over just half a mile. As you stroll up the road, you’ll find incredible art from artists from all over the United States. Canyon Road also has neat art installations outside.
Most galleries are open 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. You can explore Canyon Road on a neat bike tour or a walking tour. If driving, park at the bottom of the hill and spend a half-day walking up Canyon Road and down again.
2. Get Photos Outside Santa Fe Plaza
Santa Fe Plaza, established in 1610 (the same year Santa Fe was founded), is one of the oldest public gathering spaces in the United States, with centuries of history and cultural significance.
Surrounded by adobe-style buildings, the plaza serves as the heart of Santa Fe, hosting a vibrant mix of events, art markets, and festivals while preserving its colonial-era charm and Pueblo Indian heritage.
Get your photo taken by the colorful pillars!
1. Stroll Old Town
Santa Fe is worth visiting for Old Town alone. My top thing to do in Santa Fe is to stroll Old Town. See the Palace of the Governors and the other historic sites in Santa Fe Plaza and branch out to explore other streets nearby.
I recommend taking a walk to learn more about this historic city!
- This walking tour is led by a homegrown historian
- This walking tour focuses on architecture and offers a champagne tasting!
- This walking tour is centered around photographing the city
Is Santa Fe Worth Visiting? FAQs
Why is Santa Fe so popular?
Santa Fe is so popular because it’s an all-around nice place to visit. Most importantly, it’s safe for visitors. It’s also accessible to much of the United States and has an incredible art scene, rich history, sought-after turquoise jewelry, incredible food, fantastic spas, and beautiful natural sites nearby.
What is Santa Fe most known for?
Santa Fe is most known for its historic architecture, deep Native American culture, and its arts scene.
Where should I stay in Santa Fe?
The city offers a plethora of opulent, spa-inspired accommodations.
I enjoyed the four-star 📍Eldorado Hotel and Spa, which features the stunning rooftop infinity pool featured above. Opt for a balcony room complete with a cozy fireplace, providing the perfect setting to relish sunny days and embrace the cool evenings.
Other places to stay:
How do I get around Santa Fe?
Santa Fe is best traveled with a rental car if you plan to take day trips, especially to Taos and Bandelier National Monument. However, since Uber and Lyft operate in the city, it’s easy to get a ride quickly.
Does Santa Fe get a lot of snow?
Santa Fe gets about 32 total inches of snow per year in town. The surrounding ski mountains will see up to 300 inches per year!
Is Santa Fe wealthy?
Santa Fe attracts more affluent residents and visitors because of the vibrant arts scene. Santa Fe is the capital of New Mexico, and typically cost of living is higher in major metro areas.
Final Thoughts: Is Santa Fe Worth Visiting?
Absolutely! Santa Fe’s thriving arts scene draws an impressive two million visitors annually. It’s an incredible city with a rich cultural scene, great food, and remarkable art. Visit Santa Fe with friends, adult family, or on a solo trip.
If you’re short on time, don’t miss the heart of Old Town, Canyon Road, or Green Chile!
Thinking about heading to New Mexico or other U.S. cities?
White Sands National Park