23 Best Things to Do in Santa Fe — From Sculpture Gardens to a Margarita Trail

From world-class galleries to stunning nature trails, these are 23 of the best things to do in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

View from the Bell Tower Bar on top of the La Fonda on the Plaza hotel in downtown Santa Fe, New Mexico
Photo: Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images

As far as capital cities go, Santa Fe is a bit of an anomaly. The New Mexico capital is surprisingly small, with just over 80,000 people, and is set in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Instead of skyscrapers, you'll find Pueblo-style architecture, and the entire city revolves around the traditional plaza, where arts and handicrafts are still sold to this day.

Santa Fe's deep-rooted Native American heritage and stunning desert landscape have inspired countless artists, making the city one of the world's top art destinations. But there's more to the city than art — here are 23 of the best things to do in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Explore Meow Wolf.

Art takes on a mind bending form at Meow Wolf, a 70-room art installation with one foot set firmly in another world. The interactive exhibit, under the narrative "House of Eternal Return" is the brainchild of a collective of Santa Fe artists.

Get inspired at the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum.

Many famous artists have called Santa Fe home over the years, but arguably none as renowned as Georgia O'Keeffe. Known for her paintings of enlarged flowers — and her New Mexico landscapes — O'Keeffe's story, along with some of her most renowned works, can be found at her namesake museum downtown. Just make sure to reserve your ticket early, as they do sell out.

Visit Bugs Bunny and co. at the Chuck Jones Gallery.

Chuck Jones is the artist behind many of the world's most beloved characters: Daffy Duck, Road Runner, and Marvin Martian, to name a few. Each character — and the artist behind them — get plenty of love at this gallery, which also houses work by animators like Dr. Seuss and Charles Schulz.

Get a drink on the rooftop of a building that dates back to 1607.

La Fonda on the Plaza is a true Santa Fe landmark, with a history that dates back to when the city was founded by the Spaniards in 1607. Today, you can look out over the plaza, with a drink in hand, at the rooftop Bell Tower Bar.

Treat yourself at a Japanese-inspired spa.

You don't have to travel to Japan to experience the country's iconic hot spring resorts. Just outside downtown Santa Fe, near the national forest, is a Japanese-style sanctuary with private hot tub suites — each with its own cold plunge and sauna. And while you're there, you might as well take it to the next level and book a shiatsu massage.

Interior view of Loretto Chapel
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Check out the "miraculous" staircase at Loretto Chapel.

Loretto Chapel is a beautiful old church, but most people visit to see the "miraculous" staircase. According to legend, the Sisters of Loretto prayed a nine-day novena to St. Joseph, Patron Saint of Carpenters, for help building a staircase to the choir loft. After nine days, a skilled carpenter showed up out of the blue, built a helix-shaped spiral staircase, and then disappeared without receiving thanks or payment.

Order your burrito smothered in green chile — or better yet, "Christmas style."

New Mexico is known for its green chile. And they use the blessed ingredient every chance they get (no complaints here!). While you're in town, you'll want to do as the locals do and smother everything in the good stuff. Or you can order it "Christmas style" for a mix of red and green chile.

Hike under the aspens on the Aspen Vista Trail.

One of Santa Fe's most beautiful trails is the Aspen Vista Trail, a six-mile route through aspen forests that leads to the top of the ski area. The trail is beautiful year-round, but really pops in the fall, when the aspen trees turn shades of yellow, orange, and red.

Go gallery hopping in the Railyard.

The vibrant Railyard District southwest of downtown is the place to be for contemporary art, live music, film screenings, and cool architecture. Pop in and out of galleries and museums — including SITE Santa Fe, a contemporary art museum — or just sit back and watch the artists of Santa Fe do their thing.

Canyon Road Historic Art District, Santa Fe
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Experience the Canyon Road art destination.

Canyon Road packs a punch. Over 100 galleries, restaurants, and boutiques are packed in a mere half mile. But don't think quantity negates quality. The road is a destination for art collectors who come to peruse everything from traditional to abstract art by artists from all over the globe.

Sip your way around town on the Margarita Trail.

Santa Fe loves a good margarita — and if you do, too, you can experience over 40 of the city's best on the Santa Fe Margarita Trail. The self-guided, tequila-fueled tour will take you all over town as you collect stamps in your paper passport or app. (Plus, you'll get $1 off the signature margarita at each location.)

Shop for turquoise jewelry at the Santa Fe Plaza.

The Santa Fe Plaza is the true heart of the city. In addition to being a National Historic Landmark, the plaza, or city square, is still the location of many Native American vendors who come to sell traditional jewelry and artwork in front of the New Mexico History Museum.

Catch a show at the open-air opera house.

A night at the Santa Fe Opera House is truly one-of-a-kind. The venue welcomes performances like "Madama Butterfly" and "The Barber of Seville" to its open-air theater. Just make sure to pack a jacket for when the temperature drops.

Swing by one of the nation's oldest and largest farmers markets.

The farmers market in Santa Fe might put your local operation to shame. With over 150 farms and producers, the market is hyper local, only selling goods from New Mexico vendors. The Saturday market runs year-round in the uber-hip Railyard District.

Visit the oldest church in the U.S.

Although very little of the original structure is still present, the San Miguel Chapel just south of downtown Santa Fe is thought to be the oldest church in the U.S. The original structure was built around 1610 as a Spanish colonial mission church.

Take a glass-blowing class from a master.

Blowing glass is something most people have never — and will never — try. But Liquid Light Glass, a glass-blowing studio and shop that was established in 1986, is set to change that. You can book a class with one of the artists on Friday, Saturday, or Monday.

Rent a bike and cruise the La Tierra trail system.

When it comes to mountain biking, Santa Fe continually tops the charts. One of the best and most accessible trail systems is La Tierra, which has over 25 trails, many of which are easy to moderate. The best part? All the trails are within three miles of the Santa Fe Plaza.

Catch a sunset from the top of the Cross of the Martyrs.

Just northeast of the plaza is a hilltop park with a cross that gets some of the best sunset views in town. The cross itself was erected to commemorate the death of 21 Franciscan friars during a revolt against colonial occupation. The history, which is outlined on plaques that line the path to the top, is worth a visit on its own, but if you can make the trip at dusk, you'll be treated to a stunning sunset.

Meander through Allan Houser's sculpture garden.

On a sunny day, head just south of Santa Fe to the Allan Houser Sculpture Park. You can walk amongst over 70 pieces of the artist's best and biggest works, then duck inside the gallery to see smaller pieces. Tours are available Monday through Saturday, weather permitting.

The Long House Cliff Dwelling at Bandelier Monument
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Hop in the car and drive to the Bandelier National Monument.

Less than an hour down the road is a national monument that protects the land and homes of the Ancestral Puebloans. You'll get a glimpse into their way of life by climbing in ancient cave dwellings and gazing at petroglyphs carved into the soft rock.

Road trip to the religious pilgrimage site in Chimayo — and pick up a woven rug while you're there.

Every year, over 300,000 Catholics make the pilgrimage to El Santuario de Chimayo, a religious shrine and National Historic Landmark, to ask for healing. From central Santa Fe, your pilgrimage is short, at just 40 minutes, and is well worth the drive. Plus, the community of Chimayo is also famous for its stunning, hand-crafted weavings.

Grab a fish taco from Bumble Bee's Baja Grill.

When you think of land-bound Santa Fe, chances are fish tacos don't come to mind. But Bumble Bee Baja Grill is working to change that. Swing by for a fish (or your protein of choice) taco and an aguas fresca and enjoy your meal outside. Then, go back in for more.

Visit the largest collection of international folk art in the world.

Santa Fe may be small, but it has a long and rich cultural heritage that shows. One place you can experience that heritage is at the Museum of International Folk Art, which is heralded for holding the largest collection of folk art in the world. Inside you'll find pieces from all over the world — Africa, Asia, Latin America, and of course, New Mexico.

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