Land of Enchantment: Best things to do in Santa Fe, NM

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Santa Fe, New Mexico, is a high-desert haven of art, history and culture, nestled in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Whether you’re an art lover, a history buff or just crave New Mexican cuisine, the best things to do in Santa Fe include a rich tapestry of experiences that are as vibrant as its sunsets.

A view of downtown Santa Fe, NM, at sunset.
Photo credit: Depositphotos.

Santa Fe is not just a city — it’s a sensory experience that captures your heart and soul. From Pueblo-style architecture to its rich cultural heritage, New Mexico’s capital city is a melting pot of Native American, Hispanic and Anglo influences. The city’s high-altitude charm and unique blend of cultures make it a must-visit destination. Here are the best things to do in Santa Fe, NM.

Discover the historic Palace of the Governors

Built in the early 1600s, the Palace of the Governors is a testament to Santa Fe’s rich history. Once the seat of the Spanish colonial government, this adobe building now houses the New Mexico History Museum. Whether you opt for a docent-led tour or go at your own pace, you’ll immerse yourself in centuries of stories and artifacts.

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Tour the New Mexico State Capitol

Known as the Roundhouse, the New Mexico State Capitol is anything but a typical government building. Its circular design is inspired by the Zia sun symbol, emblazoned on the New Mexico state flag. Take a guided tour or explore on your own to appreciate this architectural marvel and its significance as the nation’s oldest capital city.

A large building with a clock tower.
New Mexico State Capitol. Photo credit: YayImages.

Live history at El Rancho de las Golondrinas

This living history museum, located about 30 minutes south of Santa Fe, offers a hands-on experience of historic New Mexico. Through recreated structures and live demonstrations, El Rancho de las Golondrinas gives you a glimpse into the past that’s as educational as it is fascinating.

Explore the world of Georgia O’Keeffe

The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum is a tribute to a world-renowned artist who found her muse in the New Mexico landscape. Located just a few blocks from the Plaza, the art museum showcases over 3,000 of O’Keeffe’s sketches, paintings, sculptures and other art pieces, offering a deep dive into her life and inspirations.

Immerse yourself in the New Mexico Museum of Art

Adjacent to the Plaza, the New Mexico Museum of Art is a sanctuary for art lovers. Inside a sprawling adobe structure built around a courtyard filled with desert plants and strings of chile ristras, you find a diverse range of art forms. From photography to sculpture, this museum is one of the best things to do in Santa Fe if you want to drink in some culture.

Travel the globe at the Museum of International Folk Art

This museum offers a unique collection that ranges from costumes to miniatures, providing a global perspective right in the heart of Santa Fe. The Museum of International Folk Art takes you on a cultural journey around the world without ever leaving the capital city.

Listen to the voices of the Pueblo at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture

Here, you can admire the art and hear the stories of the Pueblo people who have called this region home for thousands of years. The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture is not just a museum — it’s a dialogue between the past and present.

Celebrate diversity at the National Hispanic Cultural Center

Visiting the National Hispanic Cultural Center is one of the best things to do in Santa Fe to explore Hispanic culture. From fine art to live performances, the center celebrates the rich diversity and multicultural fabric of Santa Fe.

Two American and New Mexican flags flying in the sky.
The Zia symbol on the New Mexico flag. Photo credit: YayImages.

Reflect inside the San Miguel Chapel

Built in 1610, the San Miguel Chapel holds the title of the oldest church in the United States. Its simple adobe structure and white cross make it a beautifully serene and fascinating historical site to visit.

Marvel at the Loretto Chapel’s Miraculous Staircase

Known for its Miraculous Staircase, Loretto Chapel is a Gothic-style church, an architectural anomaly in Santa Fe. The staircase, which makes two complete turns without visible support, adds an air of mystery to this already captivating chapel.

Hike Santa Fe’s terrific trails

If you love the great outdoors, hiking the trails in and around the city is one of the best things to do in Santa Fe. The Santa Fe National Forest offers more than 70 miles of trails that lead you through ancient cliff dwellings and past archaeological sites. It’s a hiker’s paradise with a historical twist.

“Just outside the city, the Sante Fe National Forest showcases quintessential southwestern landscapes of towering pines, rocky mesas, rugged canyons and crystal-clear streams. The best part is that there are a plethora of hiking trails for any skill level. If you are up for it, a heart-pumping 6-mile out-and-back trek to Nambe Lake to see the best of what the area has to offer.”

— Julie Chickery, Chickery’s Travels

Soar over Santa Fe in a hot air balloon

For a bird’s-eye view of Santa Fe’s stunning landscape, nothing beats a hot air balloon ride. This unique experience will elevate your trip to Santa Fe to breathtaking new heights.

A colorful hot air balloon floating gracefully in the sky.
Photo credit: Depositphotos.

Relax in the Santa Fe Botanical Garden

This garden is a peaceful retreat where you can slow down and appreciate the beauty of desert flora. The Santa Fe Botanical Garden is the perfect place to take a breather and soak up some New Mexico sunshine.

Savor Santa Fe’s culinary delights

Santa Fe’s food scene is as diverse as its culture. From green chile cheeseburgers to homemade tamales, the city offers a gastronomic experience that’s as flavorful as its history.

Santa Fe’s allure

Santa Fe is more than a travel destination — it’s an impressive work of art that invites you to become part of its ever-evolving story. Whether you’re exploring museums or tasting local cuisine, you’re adding your own brushstroke to this vibrant canvas.

Sage Scott was bitten by the travel bug as a preschooler when her family moved abroad for the first time. Now settled in America’s Heartland, Sage is a travel writer, world wanderer and photographer whose favorite color is golden hour.

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