Whoever said that nothing in life is free must never have made it to Santa Fe. From miles of pristine mountain trails waiting be explored to color-drenched sunsets that stop you in your tracks, this world of natural wonders is full of adventures that won't put a dent in your wallet. Equally enticing, the city brims with spectacular things to do. Feast your eyes in world-class museums and dance to some excellent tunes at outdoor music festivals. None of it demands even a dime—except, perhaps, at the downtown parking meters.
Sundown at Cross of the Martyrs Park
For a complimentary daily dose of Santa Fe beauty, head to the Cross of the Martyrs Park, where spectacular sunsets paint the sky with vivid colors nightly. Located northeast of the Santa Fe Plaza on Paseo de la Loma Hill in Fort Marcy Park, the park memorializes 21 Franciscan friars and Spanish colonists who died during the 1680 Pueblo Revolt. A moderate climb on a paved trail leads you past 20 plaques chronicling Santa Fe's rich history, starting with 500 AD and on through modern times. When you reach the top, a 25-foot tall cross solemnly stands in memory of the people who perished in the Pueblo Revolt. Get there before the sun starts its descent in the sky so you can admire glorious views of the city and the Jemez Mountains to the west and beyond. Santa Fe's stunning sunsets are legendary. Watch them with someone you love.
Along the Dale Ball Trails
Whether you're into hiking, mountain biking or snowshoeing, the Dale Trail Balls will provide you with hours of delight that won't cost you a cent. Nearly 25 miles of trails leading through the Sangre de Cristo foothills offer magnificent views, shaded forests and a chance to commune with nature at her finest. Here in the high desert, you're roaming the foothills of the Rockies and exploring one of the most country's most beautiful spots for outdoor adventure. An advanced wayfinding system helps you navigate your way and trail maps are available at the trailheads, accessed at two parking lots: one off of Hyde Park Road at its Sierra del Norte intersection and the other where Upper Canyon Road intersects Cerro Gordo. Find more information here: https://sfct.org/dale-ball-trails/
For the Birds
Experience more wilderness at the Randall Davey Audubon Center and Sanctuary, where 135 acres on Santa Fe historic eastside draw more than 200 bird species, including the red-winged blackbird and the red-tailed hawk. The former home and studio of Randall Davey, a prominent painter, printmaker and sculptor of the Santa Fe Art Colony, the upper Canyon Road property was donated by Davey to the National Audubon Society as an education, cultural and historical center. Protected by the Santa Fe River Watershed and on situated on the boundary of the Santa Fe National Forest, the site fifers great hikes and places for watching birds, butterflies and other wildlife. Artists flock here too, to paint en plein-air. There's no fee to enjoy this sanctuary but if you'd like to make a donation to support the cause, it won't be turned away.
Santa Fe Bandstand
This free summer music festival has been rockin' the city since 2003, presenting local and touring musicians and bands on the Santa Fe Plaza most Tuesdays through Saturdays in June and August. A newer venue brings concerts to the city's southside, on Swan Park Stage. Each night features different award-winning and emerging performers and it's a rare evening when listeners aren't swept to their feet to dance the night away. Locals and visitors alike pack the venues, greeting old friends and making new ones as music fills the air. You'll hear everything from Rock and Country to Pop, Bluegrass, Jazz, Latin, Salsa, World Music and more. Bring a picnic and a blanket or a folding chair and plan to stay a while.
Music on the Hill
On a mid-week summer evening, head to the hills—or more specifically, St. John' College on the hill— for a free summer concert series presented by St. John’s College. Since 2005, Music on the Hill has offered a variety of family-friendly concerts held Wednesdays in June and July from 6 to 8 pm. Relax on a blanket with a picnic on the college's athletic field as you listen to Jazz, Latin music, a New Orleans brass band, global beats and more, performed by local, national and international musicians. There's no parking at this event, so you'll have to take the Park and Ride shuttle, also free, that runs from the Lamy building, located at 413 Old Santa Fe Trail.
People travel from far and wide to visit Santa Fe's renowned museums, offering miles of exhibits that trace New Mexico's fascinating history, art, Native American and Spanish Colonial traditions and so much more. Not everyone, though, is aware that the state-run museums in Santa Fe—New Mexico Museum of Art, New Mexico History Museum, Museum of Indian American Arts and Culture and Museum of International Folk Art—offer complimentary admission on a regular basis. Anyone is admitted for free on the first Friday of the month, from 5 to 7 pm, which makes for a great date night. If you're a New Mexico resident with a New Mexico driver's license, the first Sunday of every month also gets you free admission, making this an ideal time to visit with family and friends.