Fun Things to Do in Santa Fe, New Mexico - Santa Fe City Guide

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Things to Do In Santa Fe: Our City Guide

Santa Fe School of Cooking classic New Mexican dishes

Tourism Santa Fe

Walk with us through the Southwest’s “City Different” where a confluence of Native American culture, fine art galleries and international cuisine top our list of fun things to do in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

From hideaways in Arizona’s sunny desert to dude ranches in Colorado’s national forest, the four corners are the meeting of cowboy culture and American history. The high-desert capital city of New Mexico is another destination we have pinned as one of our ICONIC locations to spend a long weekend with our Santa Fe city guide. Sitting at 7,000 feet above sea level at the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, this modest town of Santa Fe stems back to the Pueblo, Zuni and Hopi tribes, who were the first stewards of the land and whose architectural influence is prominent today.

With a population less than 100,000, the city quickly draws you in closely; a place where cultures collide, then soften their edges to become a collage of global folk culture, from Hispanic to Anglo to Native American.

adobe and pueblo architecture in Santa Fe New Mexico

Tourism Santa Fe

As you glance beyond the skyline of the city, adobe homesteads dot the land along with Spanish colonial buildings and a humble downtown that takes you back to a simpler time. With a population less than 100,000, the city quickly draws you in closely; a place where cultures collide, then soften their edges to become a collage of global folk culture, from Hispanic to Anglo to Native American, and there are so many informative, seductive and fun things to do in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

If the smoking chili’s and savory pozole doesn’t keep you here—the gracious welcome from the locals surely will.

During your stay, you may be invited to drink in such sights as traditional clay pottery with vibrant iconography, Japanese wooden masks, floral ceiling fixtures with Chinese lanterns and Puebloan sculptures crafted by the indigenous locals. Our recommendation: stay curious and be willing to see a storied past that leads right into the possibility of the present. Now, walk with us while we follow a few locals closely through the City Different, highlighting the best places to rest, dine, drink and other Santa Fe attractions with our city guide.

If the smoking chili and savory pozole doesn’t keep you here—the gracious welcome from the locals surely will.

Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi in Santa Fe

Tourism Santa Fe

• The cultural blend that stitches together a diverse city stems from the Pueblo tribes who occupied the region all the way until 1150. The Spanish influence came in 1607 when the governor of New Spain, Don Pedro de Peralta, founded what is now Santa Fe in 1608.

• Mexico would eventually gain its independence from Spain in 1821 and the city became the capital of Nuevo Mexico. Trappers and American traders would populate the capital and create prosperity in the Southwest.

• In 1822, the 1,000-mile-long Santa Fe Trail was created for trade between here and Franklin, Missouri.America’s Army of the West followed the trail west-bound with the plan to invade New Mexico.

• After the Mexican American War in 1846, the American flag was raised in in the Plaza of Santa Fe and become the capital in 1912 after the state received statehood.

Following our Santa Fe city guide, getting there is rather easy as major airlines fly into the small airport, but depending on your departure city, you may have to consider flying into Albuquerque and drive an hour to Santa Fe. If you can find a direct flight, departing from Denver takes just over an hour and from Los Angeles an easy two.


fun things to do in the Santa Fe City Guide

Andrey Lebeder / Shutterstock

What makes Santa Fe unique from other capital cities is the quaint layout of the town with so much culture to absorb and so many fun things to do in Santa Fe, New Mexico. You won’t be finding much modern infrastructure poking up from the skyline or glass facades housing corporate headquarters, instead you will stumble into adobe and wooden beam buildings reminiscent of a bygone era.

The preservation of the Pueblo structures is just another chance to take in the history of the city that Santa Fe honors rather than covers up. And because of its diverse scenery, the area is worth a visit all year-round. The Ski Santa Fe resort in the wintertime will offer powdery turns through the pine trees and during summer the city opens itself up for the busiest time of the year as festival season begins.

Hotel St. Francis in Santa Fe City Guide

Hotel St. Francis

For a regal stay on the main plaza, we recommend a few nights at the Hotel St. Francis, as part of our Santa Fe city guide. The hotel has a colorful history dating back to 1922, but now resides inside a renovated building emulated after the early Franciscan missionaries along with breezy interiors, steep archways and artisan-crafted décor that welcomes you on your way to the well-appointed suites for a luxurious sleepaway in the center of town. Escape to the Secreto Lounge near the lobby for a speakeasy-style cocktail bar and ask for their award-winning Garden-to-Glass offerings, one of the many fun things to do in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

For a dose of trendy-meets-desert aesthetic, head to the hipster haven of El Ray Court located on the original Route 66. With a nod to early American history, the rooms and community spaces offer details like Kiva fireplaces, cow skulls, ornate tinwork and Alexander Girard textiles. To wind down after a day on the dusty trails or indulging in the art scene, grab a mezcal from La Reina’s or take a dip in the outdoor pool set inside this low-key luxe motor inn.

El Ray Court in Santa Fe City Guide

Vitra Girard & Krysta Jabczenski

The crown jewel of the city’s accommodations and topping our list in our Santa Fe city guide is The Inn of the Five Graces, where a global aesthetic of imported furnishings from the Silk Road adorns every corner of the hideaway. Occupying space on the historic De Vargas Street, the Inn welcomes international visitors to take part in what Travel + Leisure voted as the #1 city hotel to visit in the US this past year. In 1996 Ira and Sylvia Seret began imagining their collected treasures into a hotel so that Santa Fe could have its own taste of the Middle East, right here in the Southwest.

Walking inside, you will see decorative Nuristan carved doorways, embroidered textiles from Uzbekistan donning floral and fruit imagery, lapis lazuli from Afghanistan and precious stone inlays that sparkle across nearly every surface. The Seret touch can be seen in the elaborately tiled bathrooms and unexpected upholstery showing off bold rugs-turned-cushions with patterns that should be dizzying but effectively engage.

Ask for Joshua, who may just whisk you away to your treasured suite and give you a poetically spoken tour of your space that dissolves the line between function and art.

The Inn at the Five Graces Santa Fe

David Marlow

Ask for Joshua, who may just whisk you away to your treasured suite and give you a poetically spoken tour of your space that dissolves the line between function and art. To see more furnishings from the family, you can visit the Seret & Sons store on the nearby corner where home decorators and travel enthusiasts will both find a space that inspires.

Finish the visit, a highlight of our Santa Fe city guide, off with a trip to their spa sanctuary where romantically lit walkways are flanked by bubbling fountains and Brazilian quartz stones at standing height. Healing treatments include holistic massages using customized essential oils and Himalayan salt stone exfoliants. Before we leave, Josh gushes to us post-tour: “When you want a hotel experience, you stay at a hotel. When you want a life experience you stay with us here.”

Gruet Winery tasting room in Santa Fe New Mexico

Gruet Winery Tasting Room

When we think of what to do in Santa Fe, we think where to grab a great meal and even better drink! New Mexico is the oldest wine-producing region in the US—beating out the ever-popular state of California where Napa Valley wines typically steal the show—a little secret in our Santa Fe city guide. Stemming back to 1629, the local missionaries planted their very first Spanish-imported grapes known as the Mission grape, which are still grown today. These bottled elixirs can be found across Santa Fe at fine-dining establishments and in dimly lit tasting rooms, just ask your server for the native vinos offered.

For a memorable sampling of some of these grapes and one of many fun things to do in Santa Fe, New Mexico, head to the Gruet Winery tasting room where the French brand, now with an independent American winery, offers reserve batches served at a chic bar situated on the main floor of the St. Francis hotel. If Janelle is behind the bar, you will get an expertly guided journey through their selection of sparkling, red and white wines sourced from European vineyards along with grapes grown on the nearby Santa Ana Pueblo, making for a generous pour of cross-culture. Traveler’s tip: let it be known, Janelle is a self-proclaimed wine-enabler—consider yourself warned.

Pasquels restaurant in Santa Fe city guide


For those seeking to sink their teeth into the marrow of this special place with our Santa Fe city guide—you will surely need a fork to get there. Starting out with brunch at 40-year-old Café Pasqual’s will guarantee a stretched tummy for a long weekend ahead. Crafted by Chef Katharine Kagel, the menu offers lofty portions of Oaxacan-flavored mole sauces, pasture-raised meats and organically-sourced ingredients—without any spared flavor. (Hint: Ask for your chili ‘Christmas style’ for a fragrant combo of both red and green chili).

To walk off the meal, take a stroll down the infamous Canyon Road, where dozens of galleries and boutiques tempt the traveler with turquoise and silver jewelry unique to the Southwest tribes as well as breath-taking paintings, sculpture and large format photography. Keep your eyes peeled for food trucks on corners with freshly made tamales or storefronts serving sipping chocolate for a mid-day sweet, a fun thing to do in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

For those seeking to sink their teeth into the marrow of this special place with our Santa Fe city guide—you will surely need a fork to get there.

La Boca restaurant in Santa Fe City Guide

La Boca

As the day winds down, enjoy one of the best happy hours in town at La Boca. Tapas and cocktails can be shared with friends as you gush over art collections you loved and whether or not it’s appropriate to order yet another glass of blood-orange sangria. The eight-time James Beard nominee restaurant has weekly live music that pairs well with the modern Spanish cuisine. Do not miss a fave on our Santa Fe city guide, the patatas bravas fried to perfection or the cremini mushroom and truffle oil-topped bruschetta.

Winding down at the Japanese spa and lodge Ten Thousand Waves will show you a tradition from the east. Along with hot springs and plunge pools, you can experience a spa treatment in a private pagoda in the woods and afterwards imbibe on Sake at one of the country’s best selections of the spirit at the on-site Izanami restaurant.

For some culinary and fun things to do in Santa Fe, New Mexico, consider getting your hands dirty in the kitchen through a cooking class at Santa Fe Cooking School, where professional chefs demo recipes like hand-made tamales—New Mexican style.


Santa Fe School of Cooking 72

Tourism Santa Fe

Their staff may range from mise en place professionals from New York City, to chef-instructors like Kyle Pacheco who grew up on the Santa Domingo Pueblo and has a keen understanding regarding the magic of the local chili peppers. Come hungry and ready to prep!

Dining out can invite a multicultural tasting experience but equally offers an invitation to touch base with the locals who weave together this interesting region.

History and Museums in the Santa Fe City Guide

Whether it’s an afternoon spent dining and shopping at the Railyard arts district or exploring the rolling desert-scape of Museum Hill where you can find such treasures as the International Folk Art Museum. Following our city guide with what to do in Santa Fe, you’ll find that there are high doses of culture for the visitor who is willing to look. Because Santa Fe is the oldest capital city in the US, it makes sense to tap the historical centers and museums to gain a better sense of place. Begin at the New Mexico History Museum where you will walk through five centuries, from early Native inhabitants to outlaws and scientists to better understand what shaped the American west.

Georgia O'Keeffe After Return from New Mexico

Alfred Stieglitz. Georgia O'Keeffe - After Return from New Mexico, 1929. Gelatin silver print, 3 1/16 x 4 5/8 inches. Georgia O'Keeffe Museum. Gift of The Georgia O'Keeffe Foundation. [2003.1.15]

Art-enthusiasts look no further than the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. One of the contributing artists to shape the creative landscape of Santa Fe is the inimitable Georgia O’Keeffe, a woman of the land who captured and documented her time spent in this region through imagery and writing that encourages her viewers to fall for the west just a little harder. The museum dedicated to her life and work is a must-see, where you can see her most iconic pieces of magnified flowers, cream-toned animal skulls and illuminated landscapes of New Mexico that have been seen around the world.

Indian Folk dancer in Santa Fe New Mexico

Tourism Santa Fe

For a selection of Santa Fe city guide entertainment in downtown, peep the Lensic Performing Arts Center. The vaudeville stage and movie palace dates back to the 1930s where you can catch world-class theater performances, live music and lectures. The 2020 events calendar hosts such acts as the New York Philharmonic String Quartet and Great Art on Screen: Frida—Viva La Vida.

One of the most notable events come summertime is the world’s largest Folk Art Market that is hosted right here in the city. A gathering of master artisans from over 50 countries takes place on the weekend of July 10th. This immersive event kicks off the city’s hottest season when tourists and locals alike begin flocking to the capital and soaking in events across town under the blue skies above.

Another highly regarded festival is the Santa Fe Indian Market, which is a lively and multidimensional experience that occurs over the second week in August this year.

Fun things to do in Santa Fe, New Mexico during the festival include a couture fashion show, the Native Cinema Showcase, musical entertainment and contemporary art galleries showcasing the most skilled Native American artists from across the country.

opera house credit insight foto for Sante Fe Opera

Tourism Santa Fe

Included in our city guide, and considered a must-see destination is the the Santa Fe Opera. The opera house has become a celebrated part of the landscape; with its sharp angles, sweeping roofline and red hues that match the colors of the earth it was erected from; it is in itself a piece of art. The Washington Post has acknowledged the company’s ability to show more unusual work—and get away with it—with nearly sold-out shows and high-caliber production custom designed to fit their stage.

With space for 2,200 visitors, the celebrated theatre has hosted international and local visitors and is known to commission world premieres, such as the impressive M. Butterfly, The Lord of Cries and The Thirteenth Child. We love the pre-show offerings that invite operagoers to tailgate outdoors at their leisure or opt for the preview dinner hosted at the open-air cantina where dinner and wine is served. The opera house’s 64th season in 2020 begins July 3 and ends August 29. (as far as we know right now), starting with The Barber of Seville.

Enjoy an afternoon at the black-light, secret-door, touchable and story-filled space, or hit the house come nighttime and dance to musical acts by DJ’s, vocalists and international bands.

Meow Wolf part of Santa Fe City Guide

Tourism Santa Fe

A trip to Santa Fe without a city-guide walk through Meow Wolf’s weird and whimsical mystery house is a trip incomplete. Designed as an interactive art experience, the House of Eternal Return was conceptualized by over 200 artists, so, you can expect this journey for all-ages to confuse, dazzle, amuse and invite the creative psyche to be released. In 2008, Game of Thrones creator George R.R. Martin purchased the property in Santa Fe’s Midtown Innovation District where Meow Wolf would soon become a staple to the community’s burgeoning art scene. Enjoy an afternoon at the black-light, secret-door, touchable and story-filled space, or hit the house come nighttime and dance to musical acts by DJ’s, vocalists and international bands.

Now, it’s your turn to discover what makes this city, different.

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