Located in New Mexico, USA, Santa Fe is the place to go for all things art. From upscale art galleries on Canyon Road to alternative explorable experiences, Santa Fe has everything you need for a vacation full of art and culture. Tour art galleries, enjoy amazing food and explore art exhibits that take you to another world.
There are so many things to do in Santa Fe, New Mexico but this list will help narrow it down. If you want to plan a vacation that feels like no other, check out NM. Here are eye-opening things to do when visiting Santa Fe:
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Check out the United States Oldest Capital: The Roundhouse
Located in downtown Santa Fe, the Roundhouse is New Mexico’s capital building. Stop by the State Capitol for a complimentary self-guided art tour (guided tours are available by appointment). In this collection, you will find contemporary masterworks by artists who live and work in New Mexico. Formed in the Zia sun symbol, the capitol building is a great place to start your walking tour of Santa Fe.
Visit 0ne of the Oldest Houses in the United States
Then, continue walking north on Old Santa Fe trail to De Vargas St, where you will find one of the oldest houses in the United States. This 800-year-old adobe building is now a small museum. Inside you can tour two small rooms (no fee). Catch a glimpse of Spanish colonial life before entering a gift shop. Those interested in Indigenous life should consider a visit to Acoma or Taos Pueblo, where you will find even older houses.
See Santa Fe’s Miraculous Staircase – No Nails Needed
At this point, you should stop by the Loretto Chapel. This is your chance to view one of Santa Fe’s miracles. Inside this chapel, you will find a spiral staircase built in 1878 without any nails.
There is an admittance fee ($3-5), which allows you to see the miraculous staircase in person (Guests of the Loretto Inn have complimentary access). This low fee is worth the price as the chapel is beautiful! & of course, you exit through a gift shop.
Support Local Indigenous Artists at the Santa Fe Plaza
Next, stop at the Plaza with your wallet. The Santa Fe Plaza has a long history, from the Pueblo Revolt to Civil War and modern-day protests, this space is where things happen. This spot turns into vendor booths during annual festivals. Consider visiting during Santa Fe’s Indian or Spanish Market. Sit down and enjoy some eccentric people-watching at the Plaza.
Check out the Northside of the plaza, where Indigenous artists sell their works under the shade of the Palace of the Governors. This is one of the best spots to purchase local Indigenous jewelry that you won’t necessarily find in an art gallery. Stop here for turquoise earrings, bracelets, and other silverwork from locals. Many will take cards, but cash is king when it comes to supporting local artisans.
Learn About the Art History of NM
Of course, a trip to Santa Fe would not be complete without some art. Start at the New Mexico Museum of Art to see the state’s artistic heritage from pre-Conquest to our present day. Then visit the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts (MoCNA). Many prominent contemporary Native artists exhibit work there.
Or visit the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum to see the work of a famous US artist. You don’t have to visit Canyon Road to experience art in Santa Fe. No shame if you head out that way and find your next piece for your home.
Visit Meow Wolf, Santa Fe’s Original Explorable Art Exhibit
Finally, a stop at Santa Fe’s immersive art exhibit Meow Wolf is a must. This exhibit was started by artists who felt like they did not fit into Santa Fe’s gallery arts world. Meow Wolf used an old bowling alley for their alternative art exhibit. Plus, it is backed by Game of Thrones writer George R.R. Martin.
With over 70 rooms to explore, you can turn this into an all-day thing or do a walk-through. When you look a little closer, there is an underlying story with a mystery to solve. Look out for Nimsesku or hop through some portals! Then grab a Meowgarita at the Float Café & Bar. If you are visiting when Meow Wolf hosts a music show, even better! The building closes early and show attendees are allowed to tour the art exhibit without crowds. Santa Fe’s Meow Wolf is a must-see on your trip (and it is recommended for all ages! My 3-year-old niece LOVED it).
Adding art and history to your next trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico is a must. Whether you love the history and art of museums or explorable options, there is something for everyone. There are so many things to do in Santa Fe! These steps will start you on the right foot.
Support the locals, buy native art from the Indigenous people there, and be prepared for hot chile. Santa Fe is the place to visit for all things art and culture. Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below.
The Basics – Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA
Best Time to Visit:
All these activities can be done year-round.
How to Get There:
Fly into ABQ and drive about 1 hour north or take the Rail Runner, which ends about a half-mile from the plaza.
Fly into Santa Fe Regional Airport (Denver & Dallas only via American or United), shuttles are available from this airport, call ahead for reservations.
Rent a Car – Metered parking available, download the ParkMobile App for downtown & railyard area.
Bike – Not recommended until the city installs protected bike lanes. There are plenty of sweet MTB trails in the area though!
Public Transportation System – Santa Fe Trails (ensure you have single dollar bills for this!) to get around Santa Fe, or Santa Fe Pickup for complimentary service to downtown, Museum Hill and Canyon Road.
English, locals speak Spanglish (a combo of Spanish & English)
Hotel Santa Fe (Indigenous-owned, Picuris Pueblo) Check Hotel Rates
La Fonda (the oldest hotel corner in America) Check Hotel Rates
Hotel St. Francis (Guests must be 21+ to make reservations) Check Hotel Rates
What to Eat:
Breakfast Burrito or Huevos Rancheros from Tia Sophia’s
Carne Adovada Plate and a Silver Coin Margarita from The Shed (Gluten-free & Vegan items clearly marked, the Shed’s red chile is amazing)
A Frito Pie Anthony Bourdain would actually approve of from Del Charro
Craft Ice Cream from La Lecheria
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