Santa Fe: The First 25 Things To Do

The abbreviated version of where to begin the adventure.

We could have made this list waaay longer, but we want to give you what we think are the best things to do in Santa Fe. One thing is for sure, one adventure will lead you to another, and it won't be long before you have added 25 more things to this list. 

1. Meow Wolf 

This has been our number one for awhile now for a reason. The mysterious multiverse of Meow Wolf brilliantly blends interactive art installations with a fantastical fun house in “House of Eternal Return,” the permanent exhibit created by a collaborative group of young artists. Housed in a former bowling center that's morphed into a giant play park, Meow Wolf's wild journey begins in a Victorian mansion with a mind-bending mystery and quickly unfolds into otherworldly realms of tunnel and secret passages. Don't miss the gleeful gift shop or the playful Float Cafe and Bar. The year-round calendar of events includes workshops, lectures and cool concerts.

Photo Courtesy of Meow Wolf

2. Dale Ball Trails

Santa Fe's acclaimed hiking and biking trails cover more than 400 miles of varied terrain. Once you've ridden the cross country loops, flow trails and long ascents, you'll see why USA Today ranked Santa Fe as one of the best mountain biking towns in the U.S. The Dale Ball Trails, a network of nearly 25 miles that includes the Santa Fe National Forest, leads you through juniper forests and high-desert terrain with breathtaking views. Maps at the trailheads and an advanced wayfinding system help you navigate the trails. The 15-mile multi-use Santa Fe Rail Trail takes you into the country alongside Santa Fe's railway line. Popular with commuters, runners and hikers, the Rail Trail is also fun for families.

3. The Santa Fe Opera

All the world's a stage at the Santa Fe Opera, the internationally renowned summer festival established in 1956. Located 7 miles north of Santa Fe, on the former grounds of a rustic ranch, the open-air opera house showcases world premieres and classic and contemporary works performed by established and emerging opera stars. Don your finest duds for the longstanding tradition of pre-show tailgating in the parking lot, or dress casual in jeans and cowboy hats and you'll still fit right in. For a more formal affair, enjoy the Preview Buffet's opera-themed dinner as you listen to an opera expert discuss that evening's performance.

Image Courtesy of the Santa Fe Opera

4. Puye Cliff Dwellings

A National Historic Landmark, Puye Cliff Dwellings once sheltered 1,500 Pueblo people—ancestors of today's Santa Claran people— who farmed the land and hunted game from the 900s to 1580 A.D. Today, their descendants live 10 miles east, on Santa Clara Pueblo. The first of the ancient pueblos  in the Rio Grande River Valley to be excavated, the site consists of split-level cave and cliff dwellings as well as mesa top dwellings and connecting paths and stairways. Guided tours reveal the majesty and mystery of the site and take you to an historic Fred Harvey House built in the late 1800s for tourists traveling by train. The only Harvey House built on Pueblo lands, the building houses an interpretive center and gift shop.

5. Museum Hill

Santa Fe is a celebrated mecca for museum-lovers, but with more than a dozen museums scattered across the city, it's a challenge to visit them all in in a day or two. That's why Museum Hill is the perfect place to start your exploration.  Situated on a picturesque hill east of downtown, Museum Hill offers stunning views of the city along with four fine museums—the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian, the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art and the renowned International Folk Art Museum. When your museum legs kick in and you need a break , enjoy dining, shopping, an outdoor labyrinth and the fragrant pathways of the Santa Fe Botanical Garden, all on the same hill.

6. Santa Fe Brewing

Back when craft beer was hard to find,  Santa Fe Brewing Company opened for business. Some 30 years later, New Mexico's first craft brewery is also the state's largest, producing an array of award-winning ales, including the flagship Happy Camper IPA. The brewery grows four varieties of hops and offers seasonals and barrel aged sours. The beer is sold all around town and around the country. The best place to try it, though, is at the company's tasting rooms in Santa Fe, including at the brewery, where you can take a guided tour and check out the live music venue, The Bridge at Santa Fe Brewing Company.

7. Ski Santa Fe and Ski Taos

New Mexico's Rocky Mountains offer the best skiing in the Southwest, whether you're a thrill-seeking skier wanting steep slopes and mighty moguls or a novice snowboarder searching for long, leisurely runs. Abundant sunshine, turquoise skies and pristine powdery trails make northern New Mexico a skier's paradise.

Located 16 miles from downtown, Ski Santa Fe offers 83 trails for skiers and snowboarders, with 1,725 vertical feet of skiing,  a base elevation of 10,350 feet and an annual average of 225 inches of snowfall. When you need to fuel up, La Casa Lodge offers a food court with grill items, pizza, pasta and other family favorites. Or, chill out slope-side on the mountain at Totemoff’s Bar, where you can grab a burger and catch live music on the outdoor deck on Saturdays.

With 3,274 vertical feet and some of the best snow in the West, Taos Ski Valley is legendary. The resort opened in 1954 after Swiss-German ski pioneer Ernie Blake first saw the majestic mountain from his Cessna 1. The resort's European hospitality established by the Blake family continues today, with an 80-room alpine guesthouse and spa. The mountain is open to downhill skiers and snowboarders. Keep a  lookout for bighorn sheep

8. Canyon Road Arts District

Stroll Santa Fe's fabled Canyon Road and in just a half mile, you'll find more than a hundred galleries, artist studios, shops and restaurants.  Meet fascinating gallery owners exhibiting stellar work by artists from around the globe. Peek into a studio and you might find a painter setting up an easel or a jeweler placing the finishing gemstone on an exquisite bracelet. Check out Canyon Road's vibrant Friday night art openings, an enduring tradition. This is the very heart of the city's longtime, lauded art scene.

9. New Mexico History Museum & Palace of the Governors

Discover everything  there is to know about our state's rich and riveting past at the state-of-the-art, interactive New Mexico History Museum. Travel a timeline that starts with the Ancestral Puebloan people then proceeds to Spanish conquistadors and  Santa Fe Trail pioneers. Journey on through the the railroad era, the Manhattan Project years, the days of the hippie communes and beyond. View Pancho Villa's revolver, an old-time stagecoach, Fred Harvey and the Harvey Girls.' memorabilia, among the museum's thousands of artifacts, maps, photographs and paintings. The museum complex includes the four-centuries old Palace of the Governors, a National Historic Landmark and the state's oldest museum, with period rooms and exhibits chronicling 400 years of New Mexico history.


10. Santa Fe National Forest

The scenic Santa Fe National Forest sprawls across a staggering 1.6 million acres, containing the headwaters of three rivers as well as lakes and streams offering terrific trout fishing. Ride the Rio Grande on a whitewater rafting trip in summer or take to the powdery slopes of Ski Santa Fe in winter. Fall is beautiful, too, as golden aspens shimmer in sunlight. With 1,000 miles of hiking trails leading into spectacular wilderness areas, you can explore to your heart's content, on foot or on horseback. Or join a wildness pack trip. Keep an eye out for spectacular wildlife, including elk, deer and bear.

11. Santa Fe Farmer's Market

At the bustling Santa Fe Farmers' Market , dozens of farmers, ranchers, artisan cheesemakers, bakers and others sell their delectable goods to locals and visitors from around the world. The year-round market, consistently ranked as one of the top farmer's markets in the country, features fresh produce, New Mexico-raised beef and poultry, artisan cheese, spicy salsa, roasted chile, and much more. As you shop, fuel up on freshly made local coffee and handmade breakfast burritos, dynamite donuts and delicious pastries. Check out the on-site Santa Fe Farmers' Market Shops for local and international treasures.


12. The Santa Fe Railyard

If Canyon Road is Santa Fe's art heart, then the Santa Fe Railyard is the city's hub. The newest neighborhood, re-fashioned from remnants of the bygone railroad era, is abuzz with shops, cafes, restaurants and the Santa Fe Farmers' Market. Visitors and locals alike stop by to catch a movie, share a meal, listen to live music and shop the weekend artist and artisan markets. The 13-acre Railyard Park is the perfect place to share a picnic and meander through 28 gardens, admiring the rotating public art and enjoying one of the many free events offered throughout the year.

13. Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

The Georgia O'Keeffe Museum is the perfect place to acquaint yourself with one of the world's most iconic artists. The museum holds the world's largest permanent collection of O'Keeffe's work—with some 3,000 items including oil paintings, drawings and sculpture, some rarely shown during her lifetime.  Exhibits in nine galleries change throughout the year and include shows solely of O'Keeffe's work as well as those combining her art with work by other American Modernists. The museum also operates insightful tours of the artist's home and studio in Abiquiú.

14. Buffalo Thunder

You don't have to go to Vegas to find high-stakes thrills. Just drive15 miles north of the Santa Fe Plaza to Hilton Santa Fe Buffalo Thunder Resort and Casino, a world-class resort set on 587 stunning acres. The striking Pueblo-inspired architecture houses a 61,000-square-foot casino with 1,200 slot machines, 18 game tables, and a poker room. Ready to relax? The Wo'P'in Spa offers massage, skin and body treatments to recharge body, mind and spirit. Or, tee off at the award-winning, championship Towa Golf Club. The resort's restaurants showcase the flavors of the Southwest and the elegant hotel rooms and suites feature Native American décor.

15. Cross of the Martyrs Park

The Cross of the Martyrs Park, northeast of the Santa Fe Plaza on Paseo de la Loma Hill in Fort Marcy Park, commemorates the 21 Franciscan friars and Spanish colonists who died during the 1680 Pueblo Revolt. A moderate uphill climb takes you along a commemorative walkway, past 20 plaques detailing Santa Fe's fascinating, multi-cultural history, from 500 AD to modern times.  At the top, a 25-foot tall cross stands as a solemn reminder of those who perished in the Pueblo Revolt. The park offers sprawling views of the city and the Jemez Mountains to the west and beyond, and it's a great spot to see Santa Fe's famous sunsets.

Emil Bisttram, Self Portrait, 1935. Photo courtesy New Mexico Museum of Art.



16. Ghost Ranch

Steeped in history, Ghost Ranch today serves as an educational and retreat center for the  Presbyterian Church but its grounds were once wetlands, roamed by dinosaurs. The striking rock formations and landscape were formed over millennia by water and wind. Georgia O'Keeffe was a famous guest at the ranch before 1955, when Ghost Ranch owner Arthur Pack gave the property to the Presbyterian Church. The center offers a wide range of creative workshops on the arts, spirituality, social justice and more. Day visitors can explore Ghost ranch on tours, hiking trails and horseback rides and visit museums devoted to anthropology, archeology and paleontology

17. Santa Fe River Park Trail:  When the water runs, it's the supreme example of desert Southwest flora and fauna. When times are dry, the riverbed offers another fun trail to hike. It takes you through the heart of Santa Fe and provides a gorgeous path to walk or bike. It’s a perfect way to get to know Santa Fe’s natural personality.

Photo courtesy: City of Santa Fe


18. Santa Fe Bandstand:  Bringing diverse music to the historic Santa Fe Plaza each summer since 2003, this is where the community gathers to shamelessly shake their collective groove thang. Both local and national bands of a diversity of genres play here. Get there early with folding chairs in hand to claim your prime spot.


21. Randall Davey Audubon Center and Sanctuary: Santa Fe artist Randall Davey left his 135-acre property to the National Audubon Society for educational, cultural, and historical uses, and it’s now home to over 200 species of birds. Wonderful spot for a peaceful, easy hike.


Photo courtesy: BlueHeronBlast.com


22. The Plaza and Cathedral

The Santa Fe Plaza has reigned as the commercial, political and social center of Santa Fe since the city was founded in 1610. A National Historic Landmark listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Plaza has long served as the city's gathering place for festivals, fiestas, Indian Market, Spanish Market and a host of other events, including the annual 4th of July Pancakes on the Plaza celebration.  All summer long, the bandstand hosts regular concerts and other exciting performances.

The regal Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, just east of the Plaza, is one of Santa Fe's most striking landmarks. New Mexico's first archbishop, Jean Baptiste Lamy, directed the cathedral's construction, which began in 1869. Lamy brought stonemasons from France and stonecutters from Italy to Santa Fe, and their descendants still live here. Financial problems thwarted the cathedral's completion, hence the 160-foot tall steeples planned to top the two existing towers were never installed.


Photo courtesy: MortAuPat
 

23. Santa Fe Entertainment

With brewpubs and lively bars, music festivals and a world-class theater hosting international, national and local acts, Santa Fe's entertainment scene rocks. Visit any time of year and you'll find plenty of places to enjoy live music and dance, classical flamenco performances, Native American flute music and mariachi bands. Take in nightclubs with DJs playing pulsing beats or chamber music concerts  in various venues year-round. The local music scene thrives, too, in restaurants, nightclubs and bars with stages inside and out that draw crowds. To watch one of the city's most entertaining sights of all, head to a rooftop bar to catch a magnificent Santa Fe sunset.

24. Shopping in Santa Fe

No matter what treasures you seek, you'll find them in Santa Fe. The city is a shopper's paradise, chock-a-block full of unique boutiques, art galleries,  jewelry stores, gift shops, kitchenware and home design stores, and so much more. Enter any emporium and you'll find one-of-a-kind handcrafted pieces from the Southwest and around the world. From hand-tooled cowboy boots and custom hats to handwoven rugs,  handcrafted furniture, Native American pottery, contemporary clothing, specialty foods and beyond, shopping in Santa Fe takes you on a delightful odyssey.

25. Dining in Santa Fe

The star of Santa Fe's world-famous cuisine is the beloved New Mexico chile, the official state vegetable. Try it as a hearty stew, a savory sauce ladled over enchiladas and chile relleno and a green chile cheeseburger that satisfies with every bite.  You can savor a world of other cuisines, too, from classic Italian and French to spicy Middle Eastern, Indian, African, Asian, and Old World Mexican. Looking for a prime steakhouse or authentic barbecue joint? We've got those too, along with locally owned coffeehouses and microbrew pubs. Santa Fe is a veritable melting pot of diverse and delectable flavors that will only leave you wanting more.