Tent Rocks

21. Easy Drives from Santa Fe

There are so many things to do in Santa Fe, but to get a true feel for the beauty of Northern New Mexico your itinerary should include a drive around the surrounding area. The Jemez Mountains to the west of Santa Fe have several options for scenery, culture, and awesomeness. Bandelier National Monument combines a beautiful drive through the Rio Grande valley, a hike among volcanic cliffs, and a fascinating look at ancient civilizations. If you are looking for a shorter outdoor excursion, the nearby Tsankawi trail is a fun hike just off the road. If scenery is your thing then the Valles Caldera, a collapsed volcano on top of the Jemez, should be on your list — the views here are simply stunning. Another great place to visit is the Taos Gorge Bridge, one of the highest bridges in the country, that overlooks the Rio Grande River. Chimayó is even closer, and has special significance for those who want to visit the Santuario. Read more about the best scenic drives near Santa Fe.

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.

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. Check out some of the best entertainment venues in Santa Fe.

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. Check out some of Santa Fe’s best shopping.

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. Check out Santa Fe’s best restaurants.

bonus item: 26. Get Outside 

Santa Fe is surrounded by open space. Just to the east of downtown Santa Fe is the Dale Ball Trails, with some 30 miles of well-marked trails that criss-cross the foothills. These trails are easy to access from town by bike, and are only a short drive by car. Though hikers, trail runners and mountain bikers all share this system, it never seems crowded, especially by Front Range standards. Just up the mountain is Santa Fe National Forest, a whole different ecosystem and even more trails. If you want something completely different, head toward the Rio Grande and experience cacti, dramatic cliffs, and one of America’s legendary rivers. Here are some trails to try!


This article was posted by Cheryl Fallstead

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