Things to do in Santa Fe, NM

Get Your Bearings in Santa Fe

By Billie Frank
Santa Fe Expert

See & Do
Stay
Eat
Party
Shop

Things to See

Come for the history and culture, stay for the great outdoors. Santa Fe has a rich history dating back over 1,000 years. It’s also the oldest state capital in the USA. Walk the streets and take in the past, explore museums, galleries and boutiques.  Head out of town and explore ancient cliff dwellings, a contemporary Pueblo, an old Spanish Colonial village or a winery. The great outdoors offers seasonal activities such as skiing, snowshoeing, ballooning, biking and hiking. After a long day, pamper yourself with a hot tub soak or a treatment at a spa.

Caution:

Santa Fe, at 7,000 feet above sea level, is high desert. Drink plenty of water all the time and wear sunscreen and a hat when outdoors.

Hot Tips:

Some things close seasonally. If there's a must-do on your list, do some research and advance planning to make sure you can get there.

Where to Stay

If you want to be where the action is, stay in the historic downtown Plaza area.  Hotels here may be a bit pricier, but it’s worth the splurge. While many are historic, some have been recently updated. As with most city hotels, some rooms and bathrooms may be small. Charming bed and breakfasts within walking distance of shops, museums and galleries may offer better pricing. If you want more space or a kitchen, check out the many casita and condo rentals in the area. The usual chains options are farther out from the Plaza along Cerrillos Road. 

Caution:

If you're coming in summer, especially during Santa Fe Indian Market at the end of August, book early; rooms can sell out.

Hot Tips:

Look for rate specials and packages, especially off-season.

What to Eat

Santa Fe dining runs the gamut from humble street stands and trucks to upscale eateries with creative American fusion menus. The downtown Plaza area, trendy Railyard, Guadalupe Street and Canyon Road, as well as the up-and-coming Midtown area offer a range of possibilities. Most places have vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options. World cuisine places abound. Don’t want to break the bank? Less expensive dining spots are out on the Cerrillos Road.  A must-try: the spicy native Northern New Mexican cuisine. Farm to market is a big buzz phrase on the local dining scene. 

Hot Tips:

If restaurants accept reservations, make them, especially in summer or during holidays. Popular places can get busy at dinner time, especially around 7 to 7:30 pm.

Be Sure to Sample:

The local green or red chile (ask for Christmas and you'll get both) at one of the many New Mexican restaurants.

Places to Party

While Santa Fe isn't known for its nightlife. there’s plenty to keep you busy once the sun goes down. Enjoy a signature cocktail at a trendy lounge or head to one of the bars or clubs where live music or hot local DJs rock the joint. Summer’s a hot time for music. Choices include the free concerts at Santa Fe Bandstand in the historic Plaza, jazz at the free Music on the Hill or the annual New Mexico Jazz Festival, the world-renowned Santa Fe Opera and the prestigious Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival. Or you could spend the night gazing at the stars. 

Caution:

The 7,000-foot altitude amplifies the effects of alcohol for some.

Hot Tips:

The Santa Fe Plaza, historic Eastside and Canyon Road are great for romantic strolls at night.

Where to Shop

Santa Fe, a city of small boutiques, is the place to hunt for that special pair of cowboy boots or that concho belt you’ve always wanted. It’s one of the best places in the world to find American Indian art and handcrafts, including silver and turquoise jewelry, pottery and Navajo rugs. Buy directly from Indian artisans under the portal at the Palace of the Governors. Shops here excel in world imports, home décor, wearable art and jewelry. Don’t miss the Farmers Market or the specialty shops for chocolate, wine, gourmet vinegars, spices and foreign foods.

Caution:

When shopping for luxury items, beware of shops that offer you a deal. Head for the door; reputable shops don't usually do this.

Avoid:

Shops near the plaza with "Going out of Business" signs.

Hot Tips:

For quality, authentic American Indian jewelry and handcrafted items at fair prices, check out the shops at the New Mexico History Museum and the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture.

Things to do in Santa Fe