This New Mexico City Has Relaxing Hot Springs, Beautiful Hiking Trails, and Luxury Hotels
It might sound like a cliché to say a city "has it all," but Santa Fe genuinely fits that description. With thriving arts and culinary scenes, thousands of years of human history, and dozens of miles of hiking trails through canyons, mountains, and forests, it's no surprise that there really is something for everyone.
While the activities vary greatly across Santa Fe, the city has an incredibly cohesive feel, thanks to its Pueblo-style exteriors and New Mexican–style interiors that are ubiquitous downtown, in restaurants, galleries, and hotels.
There's really no place quite like Santa Fe in the United States, which makes it the perfect destination for your next vacation. Here's everything you need to know to plan an unforgettable trip to Santa Fe.
The Best Time to Visit Santa Fe
Santa Fe is a year-round destination; because the city sits at an elevation above 7,000 feet, it experiences all four seasons, despite New Mexico generally having a desert climate. In the summer, you can expect temperatures to reach the high 80s or low 90s, while in the winter, temperatures can fall below freezing. As such, there's a great range of activities in Santa Fe, which travelers can enjoy throughout the year.
Mid-summer through early fall is the traditional high season, because the monsoon (typically July and August) brings much-needed rain to this arid region, bringing temperatures down considerably. It also causes the wildflowers to bloom, creating a scenic backdrop to the artsy city. Winter is also a popular time to visit Santa Fe's ski slopes. Spring and mid-to-late fall are shoulder season — you'll find great deals on your stay then, plus milder weather.
No matter when you visit, you're likely to experience good weather; Santa Fe has an average of 325 days of sunshine each year.
The Best Things to Do in Santa Fe
If there's one thing Santa Fe is known for, it's its arts scene. The city has long been beloved by artists drawn to its landscapes — Georgia O'Keeffe was a longtime Santa Fe resident, and there's a museum honoring her life and work here. Today, the city has one of the largest art markets in the country, with more than 250 galleries and dealers selling artwork and artisan-made goods.
Besides the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, there's also the Museum of International Folk Art, the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, the New Mexico History Museum, the New Mexico Museum of Art, Museum of Spanish Colonial Art, the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian, and Meow Wolf, an immersive, interactive art installation that draws an international audience.
Santa Fe is also known for its Pueblo-style architecture — everywhere you look downtown, particularly around the Plaza, you'll see structures made of reddish adobe bricks inspired by the buildings of the Pueblo peoples, whose communities you can visit just outside of the city. But there are other architectural gems here, too, including a number of churches and cathedrals, such as St. Francis Cathedral Basilica of Assisi and the Loretto Chapel.
And if it's an adventure you seek, the great outdoors is all around Santa Fe. Go hiking in Tent Rocks National Monument, or hit the slopes at Ski Santa Fe.
The Best Hotels in Santa Fe
There's no shortage of hotels in Santa Fe, and they range from sprawling luxury resorts to family-run boutique inns. One commonality between all of them? A dedication to Santa Fe–inspired décor, from adobe bricks to colorful textiles.
If you're looking to stay downtown near the Plaza, top hotels include the Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi, the Inn of Five Graces, La Fonda on the Plaza, and Inn on the Alameda. You can even stay at a small resort downtown: La Posada de Santa Fe is set on six acres.
Looking for a resort just outside of town? Check out the Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado Santa Fe, Ojo Santa Fe Spa Resort, the Hilton Santa Fe Buffalo Thunder, Ten Thousand Waves, and Bishop's Lodge, Auberge Resorts Collection.
Experiencing the Santa Fe Springs
Santa Fe is something of an under-the-radar spa destination. Though it might not have the acclaim of Arizona's Sedona, the city is home to world-class spas, some of which are located in downtown hotels, and others of which are part of resorts built around natural hot springs.
Sister spa resorts Ojo Santa Fe and Ojo Caliente are located 25 minutes and 60 minutes outside of the city, respectively, and they offer soaking opportunities in spring-fed mineral pools — both hot and cold. Both properties have a range of services beyond soaking, from spa treatments to yoga classes, not to mention accommodations and restaurants. Whereas Ojo Santa Fe has a more lush property filled with greenery, Ojo Caliente offers a more desert-driven experience.
If there's one destination spa that could be considered "off-brand" for Santa Fe, it's Ten Thousand Waves — but don't let that deter you from a visit. The luxury spa, just a 10-minute drive from downtown, is designed in the style of a Japanese onsen, with private hot tubs and cold plunge pools that visitors can reserve up to 45 days in advance. But Ten Thousand Waves also has spa treatments like facials and massages, as well as the restaurant Izanami and suites for guests who'd like to stay overnight.
Hiking the Santa Fe Trails
Santa Fe is located in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, a subrange of the Rocky Mountains. As such, there are myriad hiking opportunities for people of all athletic abilities.
The city of Santa Fe itself operates the Dall Ball Trails, which provide 25 miles of hiking and biking just outside of downtown. Looking for a challenge? Head to the Santa Fe National Forest to tackle the Atalaya Mountain trail, a six-mile, out-and-back hike with an 1,800-foot elevation gain, or the 22.8-mile-long Winsor National Recreation Trail.
If you want to add a dose of history and culture into your hike, visit Bandelier National Monument, where 70 miles of trails weave through the ancient lands of 23 Ancestral Pueblo nations. Along the trails, you'll be able to see petroglyphs (ancient drawings) and historic architectural sites.
Where to Ski in Santa Fe
When we said Santa Fe is a four-season destination, we meant it. In the winter, Santa Fe transforms into quite the ski destination. Ski Santa Fe is the city's ski resort, located just 16 miles away from downtown in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. There are 86 runs here with a base elevation of 10,350 feet, and they're serviced by seven lifts. Ski Santa Fe has trails for all levels, but overall, this is a family-friendly mountain. Ski season in Santa Fe kicks off in December and runs through mid-March.
The Best Restaurants in Santa Fe
New Mexico, as a state, is well-known for its cuisine — a blend of Spanish, Indigenous, Mexican, and American flavors — and you can sample all of it in Santa Fe. Enchiladas, tamales, and posole (a pork stew) are a must, whether you try them at fine-dining establishments or crowd-favorite casual joints. Know that you'll have to pick between green or red chile for many savory dishes in Santa Fe — or you can opt for a "Christmas" blend of both, a style reportedly invented at Tia Sophia's Mexican diner, best known for its breakfast burritos. On the sweeter side of the spectrum, be sure to taste local chocolate, biscochitos cookies, and sopaipillas (fried dough often served with honey).
It's hard to pick favorite restaurants in Santa Fe, but we'll do our best. For fine dining, we recommend Geronimo and the Compound. For local eats, hit up Tia Sophia's or the Pantry, another diner. And for sweets, head to Dolina Cafe and Bakery or Kakawa Chocolate House.
And finally, you must make a stop at the Five & Dime General Store for frito pie — it's a classic!