What are the best things to do in Santa Fe?

Hayley Bosch

Because of the altitude, the climate in Santa Fe is cool, so there’s much to do and see here all year round. Here are some of the best things to do in this Southwestern capital:

1. Hike the Atalaya Mountain Trail. This trail is one of the most popular and easily accessible in Santa Fe. Hikers have the option of taking the longer route (Trail 174), which is approximately seven miles round-trip, or parking further up near the Ponderosa Ridge development and doing a 4.6-mile loop (Trail 170). Both trails eventually join and take you toward the top of Atalaya Mountain, a 9,121-foot peak. The first few miles of the trail are relatively easy, but it becomes increasingly steep and strenuous as you near the summit. You’ll be rewarded with great views of the Rio Grande valley and the city below.

2. Tour the Palace of the Governors. Built in 1610, this is the oldest public building in continuous use in the U.S. and was the seat of government in New Mexico for more than 300 years. It is now a major museum of Southwestern history and part of the Museum of New Mexico; daily self-guided and docent-led tours are free. Outside, Native American vendors sell artwork and traditional crafts in the adobe building's arcade, so leave time for shopping.

3. Go white-water rafting. The Rio Grande and Rio Chama rivers north of Santa Fe are prime for river running and white-water rafting. Santa Fe Rafting Company offers several rafting trips, including half-day, full-day and multi-day camping excursions, some of which include a boxed lunch. The biggest rapids are found on the Taos Box full-day trip, open to anyone over age 12. All trips include roundtrip transportation from Santa Fe.

4. Visit the Museum of International Folk Art. The museum, first opened in 1953, contains more than 130,000 objects, billing itself as the world’s largest folk museum dedicated to the study of traditional cultural art. Much of the massive collection was acquired when the late architect and designer Alexander Girard donated his 106,000-object collection of toys, figurines, figurative ceramics, miniatures and religious/ceremonial art, which he had collected from more than 100 countries around the world. This is a rich museum experience and can easily take several hours to explore. Two museum shops offer a wide variety of folk-oriented books, clothing and jewelry from which to start your own collection at home.

5. Explore the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. The legendary artist painted in Santa Fe throughout her life, so a visit to this museum is a must. You’ll find 1,149 works of art by O’Keeffe, including paintings, drawings, sculptures, sketches and photographs, which are accompanied by 1,840 pieces by other artists. The current exhibition, “Modern Nature: Georgia O’Keeffe and Lake George,” focuses on the work she created on many visits to the New York lake. This exhibit is on display through January 26, 2014.

  • On May 9, 2013
    Natalie Wearstler answered the question: Natalie Wearstler

    What are Santa Fe’s best museums?

    Museum hopping should definitely be on your list of things to do in Santa Fe. Whether you're a history buff or a self-proclaimed art historian, you'll want to spend a day perusing the options in downtown Santa Fe.

    The Georgia O'Keeffee Museum is an excellent starting point. In addition to the large collection of O'Keeffe's paintings of cityscapes, flowers and other natural forms, the museum regularly hosts exhibits by other notable aritsts — masterpieces by Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock and Arthur Dove have all been featured in the past.

    Explore the grandeur of Santa Fe in a new light at The New Mexico Museum of Art. As the name would suggest, the museum highlights the work of New Mexico-based artists, as well as works that are inspired by the Land of Enchantment and the greater Southwest region of the United States. The outdoor sculpture garden is a serene place for a quiet stroll or a thoughtful conversation.

    The Loretto Chapel is a can't-miss stop, no matter your degree of spirituality. The stunning Gothic Revival-style chapel was completed in 1878, and its architectural details are a wonder to behold — you could spend an entire day marveling at the stained glass windows, which were purchased from the DuBois Studio in Paris in 1876. Legend has it that the "Miraculous Staircase" in the chapel was built with no nails and has no visible means of support; some even believe that is the handiwork of St. Joseph the Carpenter.

  • On May 9, 2013
    Natalie Wearstler answered the question: Natalie Wearstler

    What are Santa Fe’s best museums?

    Museum hopping should definitely be on your list of things to do in Santa Fe. Whether you're a history buff or a self-proclaimed art historian, you'll want to spend a day perusing the options in downtown Santa Fe.

    The Georgia O'Keeffee Museum is an excellent starting point. In addition to the large collection of O'Keeffe's paintings of cityscapes, flowers and other natural forms, the museum regularly hosts exhibits by other notable aritsts — masterpieces by Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock and Arthur Dove have all been featured in the past.

    Explore the grandeur of Santa Fe in a new light at The New Mexico Museum of Art. As the name would suggest, the museum highlights the work of New Mexico-based artists, as well as works that are inspired by the Land of Enchantment and the greater Southwest region of the United States. The outdoor sculpture garden is a serene place for a quiet stroll or a thoughtful conversation.

    The Loretto Chapel is a can't-miss stop, no matter your degree of spirituality. The stunning Gothic Revival-style chapel was completed in 1878, and its architectural details are a wonder to behold — you could spend an entire day marveling at the stained glass windows, which were purchased from the DuBois Studio in Paris in 1876. Legend has it that the "Miraculous Staircase" in the chapel was built with no nails and has no visible means of support; some even believe that is the handiwork of St. Joseph the Carpenter.

  • On November 2, 2012
    Hayley Bosch answered the question: Hayley Bosch

    What's new in Santa Fe?

    Santa Fe’s dynamic arts scene and deep Southwestern culture are nothing new, but with New Mexico celebrating its centennial this year, the time is right to visit the desert capital. While there is plenty of history to be explored in Santa Fe, the city also has fresh offerings for visitors — from museum exhibits to food trucks. Read on for Forbes Travel Guide.com’s picks for what to do now.
     
    Where to stay
    Ranch-turned-resort Encantado has become Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado Santa Fe. Though not much has changed aside from the name and new Four Seasons staff, the luxury brand is putting its signature touches on the secluded property. The Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star resort is known for its 65 casitas scattered throughout the scrubby desert landscape and perks such as a concierge outpost in downtown Santa Fe to drop off your shopping bags and a beautiful spa with outdoor relaxation areas and regionally inspired treatments.
     
    Where to explore
    Georgia O’Keeffe reigns in Santa Fe — the artist painted here throughout her life — and the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum celebrates its 15th anniversary in 2012. A special exhibit, “Georgia O’Keeffe and the Faraway: Nature and Image,” explores how the artist’s experiences with Southwestern nature — including many camping trips to remote areas — impacted her work. Featuring paintings, photographs and even a reconstruction of one of O’Keeffe’s campsites, the exhibit will be on display until May. Mark the state’s centennial at the New Mexico Museum of Art, housed in a 1917 building patterned after a mission church. “It’s About Time: 14,000 Years of Art in New Mexico” traces art through the state’s history from the early Clovis culture to the present, including works from artists like Judy Chicago, Robert Henri and Patrick Oliphant.

    Where to eat and drink
    The owners of Tanti Luce 221 traded hectic New York life for laidback Santa Fe, opening this contemporary bistro this past spring. Housed in a 100-year-old adobe hacienda with a wood-beamed ceiling, the restaurant puts a Southwestern twist on Southern European dishes, such as pesto-crusted scallops with spicy polenta and wilted greens. Later this summer, popular Spanish restaurant La Boca is debuting a sister spot, Taberna La Boca, a relaxed tavern next door. Order up tapas and sangria and similar cuisine (paella with mussels and chorizo, or white-wine-poached red trout) on the outdoor patio.
     
    For casual fare, check out Santa Fe’s food truck scene. Though mobile eateries aren’t new in town, several trendy trucks are serving up eclectic cuisine. Le Pod specializes in classic French street food such as crêpes and “frog dogs” (hot dogs tucked in baguettes), served out of a converted Airstream trailer. The newest truck on the streets is Dr. Field Goods — opened in June 2012 — offering locally sourced, gourmet fare, including pulled pork and barbecue baked bean burritos and aguas frescas.
     
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  • On August 8, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    Which Santa Fe restaurants serve the best Southwestern cuisine?

    This New Mexico city oozes with Southwestern flavor — both historically and culturally. As far as food goes, here are the best Southwestern restaurants to get a taste of in Santa Fe:

    1. The Anasazi Restaurant & Bar. The Anasazi Restaurant & Bar exudes a Southwestern vibe with details such as petroglyph art. But you can taste it in the food as well, with chile and mustard braised rabbit plated with spring pea fettucine.

    2. Old House Restaurant. International fare receives a Southwestern makeover at the Old House Restaurant inside the Eldorado Hotel. Traditional chicken gets some regional flavor with wild mushrooms, green chile and corn flan.

    3. Santacafé. Right near Santa Fe’s historic plaza, Santacafé experiments with regional food. Spring rolls are stuffed with shiitake and cactus and served with a ponzu sauce.
  • On August 8, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the best hotels in Santa Fe for a quiet escape?

    Tucked in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado Santa Fe is serene and inviting. Complementing the New Mexico landscape, Four Seasons Santa Fe has a main lodge and 65 private and cozy casitas with kiva fireplaces and outdoor terraces, which are scattered throughout the 57-acre property. It was designed as a place for wellness and rejuvenation, so you’ll have peace and quiet as well as privacy. For more serenity, visit the spa and indulge in one of the varied treatments, from massage to ayurvedic rituals, Eastern medicine and aesthetic arts.

    You can also get your chakras in order at Santa Fe’s Zen-chic Sunrise Springs. You’ll find solitude on its 70 acres of ponds, gardens and wildlife. But if that doesn’t work, try the yoga and tai chi classes, Japanese-inspired spa, or release your tensions in the raku clay studio.
  • On August 8, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are Santa Fe’s best museums?

    This picturesque city is set at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, and remains the oldest capital in the United States. To explore such a rich history, as well as Southwestern culture, visit the best of Santa Fe’s museums.

    1. Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. Brilliant painter Georgia O’Keeffe is synonymous with the New Mexico landscape. The museum houses the world’s largest collection of her artwork, but it also shines a light on the American Modernism movement.

    2. The Museum of International Folk Art. With a collection of more than 130,000 pieces, the Museum of International Folk Art has given itself the title of world’s largest folk museum dedicated to the study of traditional cultural art. You’ll find everything from toys to religious art among the offerings.

    3. Wheel Wright Museum. This museum was created to preserve Navajo Nation’s art and traditions. While those still remain a priority, the Wheel Wright has expanded its mission to host exhibits of Native American artists from tribes all over North America.
  • On November 11, 2011
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the best things to do in Santa Fe?

    Because of the altitude, the climate in Santa Fe is cool, so there’s much to do and see here all year round. Here are some of the best things to do in this Southwestern capital:

    1. Hike the Atalaya Mountain Trail. This trail is one of the most popular and easily accessible in Santa Fe. Hikers have the option of taking the longer route (Trail 174), which is approximately seven miles round-trip, or parking further up near the Ponderosa Ridge development and doing a 4.6-mile loop (Trail 170). Both trails eventually join and take you toward the top of Atalaya Mountain, a 9,121-foot peak. The first few miles of the trail are relatively easy, but it becomes increasingly steep and strenuous as you near the summit. You’ll be rewarded with great views of the Rio Grande valley and the city below.

    2. Take a Canyon Road tour. Many artists live on Canyon Road, and there is no better way to savor the unique character of Santa Fe than to travel along its narrow, picturesque old streets, which includes the famous Camino del Monte Sol. Stop in the Cristo Rey Church, the largest adobe structure in the U.S., with beautiful ancient stone reredos (altar screens).

    3. Go white-water rafting. The Rio Grande and Rio Chama rivers north of Santa Fe are prime for river running and white-water rafting. Santa Fe Rafting Company offers several rafting trips, including half-day, full-day and multi-day camping excursions, some of which include a boxed lunch. The biggest rapids are found on the Taos Box full-day trip, open to anyone over age 12. All trips include roundtrip transportation from Santa Fe.

    4. Visit the Museum of International Folk Art. The museum, first opened in 1953, contains more than 130,000 objects, billing itself as the world’s largest folk museum dedicated to the study of traditional cultural art. Much of the massive collection was acquired when the late architect and designer Alexander Girard donated his 106,000-object collection of toys, figurines, figurative ceramics, miniatures and religious/ceremonial art, which he had collected from more than 100 countries around the world. This is a rich museum experience and can easily take several hours to explore. Two museum shops offer a wide variety of folk-oriented books, clothing and jewelry from which to start your own collection at home.