The Oldest House in Santa Fe

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17 Best Things To Do In Santa Fe, New Mexico Not To Miss

When visiting Santa Fe, you’ll see a place where art thrives, with stunning landscapes, and fabulous cuisine made with its famous hatch chile peppers. Combined with a diverse culture and striking architecture, you’ll find several fun things to do in Santa Fe for a memorable trip.

It is truly one of the most unique cities in the United States. Of any city I have been to, Santa Fe stands out visually as the entire city is designed and built in a distinct pueblo architectural style.

For me personally, the outstanding New Mexican food found here is reason alone to bring me back often. But beware, it can get fire alarm spicy!

Home to about 300 days of sunshine each year, it is a very appealing destination no matter when you visit.

An art mural of a burro in Burro Alley, where all the burros would park to unload cargo in the 19th century and one of the best things to do in Santa Fe.

Top Santa Fe attractions include visiting some of the oldest dwellings in the United States, charming chapels, and quirky museums.

If you have an appreciation for eating delicious food, sipping margaritas, hiking, and visiting art galleries then you will love spending a long weekend in Santa Fe.

In this Santa Fe travel guide, I have included the best Santa Fe activities, where to stay, eat, and tips for visiting.

Planning to spend time visiting other areas of New Mexico?

Best Things To Do In Santa Fe

1. Hang Out In Santa Fe Plaza

If you are wondering what to do in Santa Fe first, head to the Santa Fe Plaza. It is located in the heart of Santa Fe’s Old Town and is pedestrian-only, making it a popular spot to explore on foot.

The Plaza is a place where people come to gather and socialize in this tree-lined square.

It is a good starting point for your visit and one of the first Santa Fe attractions to see once you arrive. It also has an energetic atmosphere that draws many to visit.

Most of the year, vendors will line the plaza selling various art and jewelry locally made. There are numerous restaurants and cafes that encompass the Plaza and are a perfect place to take a break from sightseeing.

Several picnic tables with umbrellas in the tree lined old town Plaza is the historic center of the town and one of the top Santa Fe attractions.
Walking through the center of the Santa Fe Plaza with tons of shade from trees, benches to sit, and a fountain in the center.
The obelisk war memorial in the center of the Santa Fe Plaza with people sitting on a bench surrounding it.

As the center of social and political life in Santa Fe since the early 1600s, the Plaza has played an important role in history.

The obelisk monument in the center of the Plaza is a war memorial from 1868. It is in remembrance of the Mexican American War with the Indians and Americans.

On each side is an inscription dedicated to the fallen heroes and hoping that prejudices would eventually dissolve.

2. Palace of Governors

Along one side of the Plaza and on Palace Avenue is the Palace of Governors that was the heart of all government in Santa Fe starting in 1610.

It also happens to be the oldest continuously lived in public building. It has since been declared a historic building and houses a museum next door at the New Mexico History Museum.

You can access the actual Palace of Governors currently through the museum and included with your ticket.

The museum and exhibits do an excellent job of providing a timeline of New Mexico’s history as you walk through.

The historic Palace of Governors in pueblo architectural style lined with vendors in front and beautiful red flower plants in front in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Locals line up to sell their wares right outside and along the historic Palace of Governors in downtown Santa Fe.
Inside the historic Palace of Governors in Santa Fe with the wooden floors, white painted walls and looking through an opening that leads to a series of rooms beyond.

New Mexico’s history is much more fascinating than I ever knew and I left having a better understanding of not only this state but of the entire Southwest.

One of my favorite exhibits was the area sharing the history of the “Harvey Girls” and the Harvey House (La Fonda Hotel).

Before leaving, browse through the gift shop as they have a ton of great Native American items and unique gifts.

Hours: Open Tuesday – Sunday from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm and closed on Monday. During the summer months, open on Friday until 7:00 pm.

Admission: $12 per adult

3. Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi

The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi is one block away from the Plaza and is a Roman Catholic church.

The Cathedral is known as St. Francis Cathedral was built between 1869 and 1886 with a French Romanesque Revival style.

Saint Francis of Assisi also happened to be the Patron Saint of Santa Fe.

Front view of the beautiful and historic St. Francis Cathedral built of stone and lovely stained glass in the windows in Santa Fe, NM.
Intricate carved doors of St. Francis Cathedral in Santa Fe with different scenes of people in each square on the doors.
Inside St. Francis Cathedral in Santa Fe with low lighting over rows of pews and the altar in the distance up at the front.
Cathedral Park
Cathedral Park is tucked right next to St. Francis Cathedral

Located next to Cathedral along Palace Avenue is Cathedral Park which was previously the sight for a Sanatorium in 1883.

Today, it is a large grassy area with walkways for you to wander and enjoy the quiet space. And if you need a spot to relax and rest your legs, there are plenty of benches to do so.

Hours: The Cathedral is open from 9:30 am to 4 pm Tuesday – Friday, from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm on Saturday and from 8:00 am to noon on Sunday. Closed on Monday. The park is open 24 hours a day.

4. Step Into The Loretto Chapel

A few blocks from St. Francis Cathedral is the Loretto Chapel and it is a Santa Fe must-see when in town.

It might be the most charming and prettiest chapels I have ever seen!

And to top it off, it has the most exquisite staircases inside, that is a helix-shaped spiral staircase.

The wooden staircase that leads to the choir loft is the main reason to visit as it is beautiful and an amazing piece of craftsmanship.

The original version of the staircase had no railings and appeared to have no support. It looked as if it was floating and quite a miracle in construction.

A front view of the enchanting and small Loretto Chapel with beautiful architecture including tall thin stained glass windows in the old town section of Santa Fe.
A close up view of the front entrance of the Loretto Chapel and detailed craftsmanship in its construction.
The craftsmanship that went into this spiral wooden staircase is amazing as it looks like it is floating with no support.
The intricate details of the staircase is a wonder at how it could stand without support

For safety and preservation, there is now a railing and support added. It is more a piece of art than a staircase.

Although you can’t use it, you can admire in awe and take as many photos as you want of it.

The chapel was built in 1873 by the Sisters of Loretto to be the chapel for the Loretto Academy, a school for girls.

This is what the staircase looked like before support was added
The front altar where you can hear the audio of the chapel's history

After the school closed in 1968, it was purchased and turned into a museum and a site for weddings. Thank goodness it was purchased otherwise there was talk of tearing it down!

As it is a small chapel, I recommend going right when it opens to avoid the crowds.

To listen to the recording on the history of the chapel sit in the front row pew so it is easier to hear.

Hours: Open daily from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm. Enter chapel via the side entrance and pay $5.00 (Adults). And note, it can be closed for special events or weddings occasionally.

5. Visit The Oldest House Museum

Not only is this the oldest house in Santa Fe, but it is one of the oldest houses in the United States.

So, it goes without saying that this is a place to visit in Santa Fe that you don’t want to skip.

Documented as being on the same site of an ancient Pueblo (~ 1200 AD), the house you see today dates back to 1646.

Over the years it has since been occupied by several different families up until the 1920s.

There are records that show the house was once two stories but all that remains is the main floor. The upper floor was used for the sleeping quarters.

The oldest house in Santa Fe is made in a pueblo adobe construction with its tan color and flat roof with wooden doors.
Me knocking on a wooden door at the oldest house in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
The oldest home is now a museum inside
Oldest House Gift Shop is so adorable!

The house was also much larger beyond the two rooms left for you to see. It is quite small but truly amazing at the fine condition it is in for its age.

Today, it is now a museum with an attached gift shop for you to explore and learn more about its history.

With artifacts and replicas, it is staged to mimic what the inside of the house would look when it was used.

You can also see old photographs of what the Oldest House looked like over the years. This house and the San Miguel Chapel are some of the coolest things to do in Santa Fe, New Mexico!

Hours: Open from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm Monday – Saturday and from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm on Sunday. It is free to enter.

Address: 215 East De Vargas Street, Santa Fe (located a short walk from the Loretto Chapel).

Discover Fun Tours In Santa Fe, New Mexico!


6. San Miguel Chapel

Like its neighbor the Old House, San Miguel Chapel is the oldest chapel in the United States making it one of the most unique places to visit in Santa Fe.

It is also referred to most of the time as the “Oldest Church”. Fitting as it is right next to the Oldest House!

As you can guess, this area of Santa Fe is the oldest neighborhood or “barrio” so it has seen a lot over the years.

The history of this chapel is very fascinating so do be sure to ask the attendant that is inside to tell you a bit about it. It is like getting a small history lesson of the chapel and Santa Fe in a few minutes.

The original adobe church at this site was built around 1610 but was destroyed in the Pueblo Revolt of 1680.

San Miguel Chapel, the oldest chapel in the U.S. is in Santa Fe with its tall and narrow structure with a white cross on top.
Inside the simple yet beautiful San Miguel Chapel with wooden beams on the ceiling, wooden pews, and white walls with low lighting and an altar at the front.
The craftsmanship in the woodwork is marvelous with very detailed designs carved into each beam on the ceiling at the San Miguel Chapel in Santa Fe.
Ruins of the original church from 1610 can be seen under the glass

The chapel that you see today was built in 1710 but you can still see the ruins under the glass of the adobe steps from 1610 (under the front altar).

The front altar is beautiful and although it is not a very decorative chapel, there is something about it that is quite appealing.

Do take a moment to look up and admire the craftsmanship of the wood ceiling throughout and the loft balcony in the back.

The San Miguel Chapel is a wonderful example of adobe architecture that is very distinctive to Santa Fe.

Fortunately, the chapel is now a U.S. National Historic Landmark that will continue to be preserved. And if you want, you can join mass here on Sundays at 5 pm.

Hours: Open from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm on Monday, from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm Tuesday – Saturday, and from noon to 3:00 pm. Enter on the side of the chapel.

7. Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

Of all the Santa Fe museums, the Georgia O’ Keeffe Museum is my favorite! And if you don’t know Georgia O’Keeffe, you most likely will recognize her paintings.

Georgia O’Keeffe is considered to be one of the most influential and talented American Modernist painters.

She took many normal things in life such as flowers or nature and painted them in an abstract way that immediately captures your attention. It is no wonder she is known as the “mother of American modernism”.

O’Keeffe’s career as an artist spanned from 1906 until her death in 1986 at the age of 98. Once you view her art and learn more about her personality, you realize that she was a woman years ahead of her time.

She was fiercely independent and marched to her own path.

O'Keeffe pulled inspiration from nature such as this abstract tree in red, green, black and white colors at the Georgia O'Keeffe museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
O'Keeffe is known for her abstract flower paintings this one in blues, green, and white which many believe looks more like a body part of women.
A painting of several beautiful clouds and similar to the clouds seen in Santa Fe where Georgia O'Keeffe got her inspiration from.
This painting of a NYC skyscraper is one of my favorites at the Georgia O'Keeffe museum in Santa Fe.

The museum features many paintings of O’Keeffe and dedicates her legacy to the world of art. So why is there a museum of her work in Santa Fe?

Well, O’Keeffe lived in New Mexico from 1929 part-time to eventually full-time up until her passing. The landscapes and nature that surround Santa Fe became famous subjects in her work.

Currently, her paintings have been auctioned as the highest for any female artist. Some of her flower paintings have been subject to having a sexual expression.

Thought to depict the vulva-esque area of a woman which is something O’Keeffe has vehemently denied. What do you think?

Make sure to see the short video of Georgia O’Keeffe’s life and clips of her talking about her work. Expect to spend between 1 to 1.5 hours here including watching the short film.

And if you have any interest in talented artwork, this is one of the best museums in Santa Fe to visit.

Hours: Open daily from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.

8. Hiking In Santa Fe

There is no better way to see gorgeous landscapes than to go for a hike on one of the many Santa Fe trails.

The bonus of getting in a good workout is so you don’t feel too guilty eating the amazing New Mexican cuisine.

There are plenty of Santa Fe hiking trails to choose from, but a few hikes that are great for the fall foliage are the Aspen Vista Trail and the Tesuque Trail.

Parking area for the Aspen Vista Trail

Both of the Aspen Vista Trail & Tesuque Trail are hikes that are spectacular to go on in the fall when the aspen tree leaves turn a vibrant yellow.

You can hike either one or combine them for a long and tough hike. Remember that you are at 10,000 feet elevation so any hike will seem somewhat difficult.

Another great place to hike in Santa Fe is on the Dale Ball Trails system covering over 20 miles of trails.

The view looking out on the city of Santa Fe

A scenic and nice trail within the Dale Ball Trails is 2.5-mile loop starting at the Sierra del Norte Trailhead.

Note: Bring plenty of water and hydrate, especially when at high altitudes. Expect it to take about 25-30 minutes to arrive at the trailheads from Old Town Santa Fe.

Tip: If you are looking for the best essential hiking gear for yourself or as a gift for someone, explore 45+ Awesome Gifts For Hikers & Adventurers.

9. New Mexico State Capital (Roundhouse)

I bet you never thought of seeing an array of artwork at the state capital, huh?

Well, you would be surprised to learn that there is indeed an art museum inside the New Mexico State Capitol building known as the “Roundhouse”. It is referred to as the Roundhouse because of its circular shape.

There are both permanent and temporary art exhibits on display throughout the Roundhouse and buildings next to it.

The artwork displayed is of artists from New Mexico and the Southwest showcasing paintings, photography, sculptures, and mixed media.

Hours: The Roundhouse is open Monday through Friday, from 7:30 am to 5:30 pm. An added bonus is one of the top free things to do in Santa Fe! Expect to spend about an hour here.

10. Cocktails At The Best Santa Fe Rooftop Bar

There are not super tall buildings or any high-rises in Santa Fe so any rooftop bars in Santa Fe have a clear view of the city.

A visit to the La Fonda Hotel rooftop is a must when in Santa Fe as it is the site of the oldest hotel corner in the United States.

Records document that where the La Fonda Hotel sits was previously an inn going back to the early 1600s.

The hotel you see today was built in 1922 and has a grand and vibrant décor true to Pueblo Revival Style.

The tan pueblo style of architecture of the historic La Fonda Hotel was also once a "Harvey House" with a bright blue VW bus parked in front in Santa Fe, NM.

In 1925, Fred Harvey took over La Fonda and made it a Harvey House which became famous for the “Harvey Girls”.

Harvey Girls were excellently trained waitresses that were known for their class, elegance, and superior hospitality.

They also had to be single but it was an excellent job for women back then that gave freedom and a chance to travel.

There went on to be more Harvey Houses (hotel and restaurant) along routes of train travel. They were in spots where travelers needed services throughout the southwest.

Ask to get a seat along the railing for the best view of Santa Fe at the La Fonda rooftop bar.
View of Loretto Chapel and the charming Santa Fe old town from the Bell Tower Bar at the La Fonda Hotel.

Harvey Houses were quite prominent and popular from the 1880s to the 1950s.

If you head up to the Bell Tower Bar on La Fonda’s 5th floor rooftop, you will be greeted with superb views of Santa Fe. It is the perfect spot to enjoy a drink and take in the sunset.

Get there early as it gets packed and you don’t have to wait up to 2 hours!

I got there at about 4 pm and walked right in. When I left, there was a 2-hour wait at about 6 pm.

Hours: Open Monday – Friday at 3:00 pm to Twilight and at 1:00 pm Saturday & Sunday. The rooftop bar is open seasonally from May – October.

Discover Fun Tours In Santa Fe, New Mexico!


11. Visit Santa Fe Art Galleries

If you didn’t know, Santa Fe is known for its art and art galleries! I knew it was famous for art but have never seen so many art galleries in one town.

It seems that there are several art galleries on every block to pique your interest.

There are in fact well over 200 art galleries, which is a lot for a population of about 83,000!

In the early 1900s, artists from all over began flocking to Santa Fe to admire its breathtaking landscapes.

A covered walkway in the center of Santa Fe with poles painted in vibrant colors and designs with the ceiling beam painted bright orange.

To encourage people to visit and take pride in their “differences”, Santa Fe imposed a strict building code. The building code made sure that all buildings and houses were in Pueblo Revival style.

I’m sure glad they did, as Santa Fe really stands out in its cohesive architecture and is a beautiful sight to see.

Note: You can find many of the art galleries in Santa Fe in downtown and along Canyon Road.

12. Meow Wolf Santa Fe

Meow Wolf is one of the top Santa Fe art museums but different from the traditional museums you may be familiar with. It is a place where art and interaction come together in a fun way.

Although there are a few Meow Wolf museums in the country, the first one started out in Santa Fe in 2008.

A group of local Santa Fe artists came up with the concept to create what is known as the House of Eternal Return.

Each artist didn’t see their art fitting in at typical museums so this was a creative space that they could showcase their art to the public.

The “house” is a collection of over 70 rooms that visitors can explore an immerse themselves into a scene that looks straight out of a fairytale or sci-fi movie.

You’ll encounter all sorts of art media installations including painting, fabrics, sculptures, and digital art that almost looks a little psychedelic visually.

There are various art installations in different media that you can explore, touch, and interact with!

And if you are wondering where the name came from, it couldn’t get any more random than pulling various words out of a hat. Yep, both meow and wolf were pulled out of a hat the combined as one name.

13. Indulge in New Mexican Cuisine

I always knew that New Mexican Cuisine involved spicy chile peppers and different from the Mexican food I grew up with in San Diego.

But I had no idea how incredibly mouth-watering and delightful it would be! I was on the hunt to try the best New Mexican food in Santa Fe and had a lot of enjoyment doing so.

What makes New Mexican food so different is its use of spices, herbs, and New Mexican chile peppers that make for such unique flavors.

The chile pepper used in many New Mexican dishes is the Hatch Chile Pepper. Both green and red Hatch chile peppers are used, with the red being an aged green chile pepper.

Enchiladas at "The Shed" which were fiery hot but tasty!
Tomasita's pork tamales covered in red chile sauce is the best!

When ordering food in a restaurant you will likely be asked green or red sauce?

The locals will tell you to order it “Christmas” style. That is to get both green and red chile sauce on it!

But if you are not sure or you can’t take a lot of heat in your food, order the sauce on the side. I love spicy food, and at a few places, it was almost hard to handle it was so hot.

New Mexican food is a blend of Native American, Mexican, and European cuisines that are very distinguishable after that first bite.

A few dishes that are yummy to try are enchiladas, burritos, chile stew, anything pork, green chile burger, posole, and sopapillas.

Huge sopapilla's in a basket with honey and butter on the side in a restaurant in Santa Fe for New Mexican food.

I think of sopapillas as more of a dessert as they bring it to your table after your meal. Lather the sopapilla (frybread) with butter and honey then sit back in absolute bliss…

Some top-notch restaurants to eat at in Santa Fe are:

Tomasita’s – best meal in all of New Mexico! On different nights I had the tamales with red chile sauce and chile relleno that were dynamite.

The Shed

La Choza – sister restaurant to The Shed

Tia Sophia’s – known for their breakfast burritos

Iconik Coffee – excellent coffee and a cozy place to enjoy it

Note: If you happen to love Margaritas, try your luck on the Margarita Trail that features 17 bars or restaurants that have their own signature margaritas.

Many claim their margarita to be the best in the world. You decide which one is the best! You can download the app so you can keep track of your drinking accomplishments.

Discover Fun Tours In Santa Fe, New Mexico!


14. Watch The Sunset At Old Fort Marcy Park

Old Fort Marcy Park is a great place to watch the sunset overlooking the city of Santa Fe. Sitting up on the hill above Santa Fe, the fort was built in 1846 at the beginning of the Mexican American War.

The Americans built Old Fort Marcy to protect troops in the event of an uprising.

Walking the path to the Old Fort Macry lookout point
Old Fort Marcy offers up great views of Santa Fe

Its strategic position up on the hill allowed for them to see any potential attacks from a distance. Today there are just mounds of ruins but a beautiful park to view Santa Fe from.

You can either drive to the park or walk up from downtown Santa Fe. It will take about 15 mins to walk from the Santa Fe Plaza.

15. Sip A Cup Of Pinon Coffee

What is New Mexican Pinon Coffee? Pinon Coffee is coffee made with Pinon Nuts, a Spanish word for “pine nuts”.

That is edible pine nuts from pine trees that are abundant in New Mexico and used frequently in New Mexican cuisine.

The pine tree that produces the pinon nut grows the best between 6,000 and 8,000 feet, an elevation similar to Santa Fe and nearby regions of New Mexico.

The coffee is made by combining roasted arabica coffee beans with roasted pinon nuts.

Pinon Coffee is usually a dark roast that has a rich nutty flavor that people either love or hate. I first tried it at the Taos Pueblo and immediately loved it.

Pinon Coffee might be my new favorite!
Holding a bag of pinon coffee beans with red colored bag and red and yellow logo for the New Mexican Pinon Coffee company on it in Pinon Fudge roast.

The Pinon Coffee is so good on its own that I don’t need to add any milk and can enjoy it black. You can get a cup of a dark roast, medium roast or with flavors such as chocolate.

It is likely something you will only come across in New Mexico, so don’t miss out on trying it.

I liked it so much I purchased a few pounds of pinon coffee beans to take home with me. In fact, I now order once a quarter and have it shipped to my house!

You can find it at one of many New Mexico Pinon Coffee Company, Pinon Coffee House or at grocery store locations in New Mexico.

16. Explore Santa Fe Railyard

Santa Fe used to be a major railroad stop in the early days of railroads as the Santa Fe Railway Company (1880s) was the first time travelers could get to several cities in the West instead of by horse.

The railroad enabled much of the West coast to be developed and an easier way for people to get around. One could travel on the Santa Fe railroad line all the way from Chicago to California.

The Santa Fe Railyard Arts District or commonly referred to as the Santa Fe Railyard, is located in the old railway hub that hadn’t been active since the late 1980s.

Today, you’ll find a vibrant district filled with art galleries, dining, shopping, and even some residential living.

Just 7 blocks south of downtown Santa Fe, the Railyard is a great place to visit, grab something to eat, and take a stroll through the park.

The local farmer’s market, artisan market, and last Friday Art Walks can be found here too.

Over a hundred years since its heyday, it’s fun to see this historic spot revitalized and made into a space for both locals and visitors to enjoy.

17. Go On A Day Trip From Santa Fe

There are several fantastic places to visit near Santa Fe that are anywhere from 30 mins to 1.5 hours from Santa Fe.

It makes sense to add a day to your Santa Fe itinerary to visit some of these nearby locations as they are so close and you likely wouldn’t visit them otherwise.

One of the most popular day trips from Santa Fe is visiting the town of Taos north of Santa Fe to visit Taos Pueblo, a Native American community, and a World UNESCO Heritage Site.

A large adobe dwelling at Taos Pueblo

It is the only Native American community to live onsite at the pueblo and live traditionally, not much differently than they did years ago without all the modern conveniences.

Or you can visit natural wonders such as Bandelier National Monument, Tent Rocks National Monument, the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, or soak in natural hot springs at Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs.

READ MORE: Get More Info On The Best Santa Fe Day Trips!

Where To Stay In Santa Fe?

The most convenient place to book a room is near the historic Santa Fe Plaza which is the center of many attractions.

Staying close to the Plaza makes most things to do in Sante Fe within walking distance.

Hotels that I recommend laying your head down at are:

Best Santa Fe Tours

What better way to experience and see Santa Fe than with a unique tour! The top tours in Santa Fe to go on are:

Historical Walking Tour – Go on a walking tour to learn about Santa Fe’s unique culture, history, and more!

New Mexican Foodie Tour – Sample delicious New Mexican food and see the top attractions in Santa Fe!

Santa Fe Architectural Tour – Learn about and see the different architectural styles that makes Santa Fe stand out!

E-Bike Adventure In Santa Fe – Hop on an e-bike and go on a guided tour of hidden Santa Fe attractions!

The adobe architecture sets Santa Fe apart from any other city

Where Is Santa Fe?

Santa Fe is located in the state of New Mexico in the Southwest region of the United States. It is the capital of New Mexico and happens to be the oldest and highest (7,200 ft elevation) state capital in the U.S.

Santa Fe is a great base if you are wanting to visit Albuquerque (1 hour) and Taos (1.5 hours) along with plenty of places to visit in between.

How To Get To Santa Fe, New Mexico

Unless you are on a road trip and driving to Santa Fe, the best place to fly into is in Albuquerque at the Albuquerque International Sunport (ABQ).

From there you can rent a car and drive to Santa Fe, which will take about an hour.

READ MORE: How To Spend The Best Weekend In Albuquerque!

There is a closer airport, Santa Regional Airport (SAF) but flights will be more limited and likely pricier than flying into Albuquerque.

Drive times from the following cities:

  • Albuquerque: 1 hour
  • Taos: 1.5 hours
  • Carlsbad, NM: ~ 5 hours
  • White Sands National Park: ~ 4 hours

READ MORE: White Sands National Park Visitors Guide

Map Of Santa Fe Attractions

Best Time To Visit Santa Fe

There is a lot to see and do in Santa Fe year-round but spring through the fall will offer the best weather. It does get snow in the winter with cold temperatures of 20’s to 40’s.

Be aware that Santa Fe can get a lot of rain in the summers due to monsoon thunderstorms in July and August.

I think the fall (September & October) is a perfect time to visit Santa Fe as the temperatures are still nice, sunny and you can see the trees changing colors.

The Fall is the best time of the year to visit Santa Fe

Even though the fall is my favorite, Santa Fe is a great city to visit in any season.

Not to mention if you visit at the beginning of October, you can attend the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque.

Parking In Downtown Santa Fe

If you are staying at a hotel near the Plaza, you will likely park at your hotel. But if you are staying further out or plan to visit Santa Fe for the day, a good place to park is in a parking lot next to the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi (St Francis Cathedral).

Or there is a parking garage on the corner of W San Francisco Street and Sandoval Street. Both are within 2 blocks of the Plaza.


FAQ About Visiting Santa Fe

Is Santa Fe Worth Visiting?

Yes! Santa Fe is worth visiting as it is a unique destination with a vibrant arts community, distinct pueblo architecture, history, and incredible New Mexican cuisine.

How Many Days Do You Need To See Santa Fe?

Spend a minimum of 2 to 3 days in Santa Fe to really capture and experience the town’s magical appeal. But if you have the time, extend your stay between 4 – 5 days to add on a few day trips as there is a lot to see in the surrounding area.

What Is The Altitude Of Santa Fe, New Mexico?

The altitude of Santa Fe is 7,199 feet above sea level and considered high altitude. If you are sensitive to altitude sickness, drink plenty of water and take it easy the first day to acclimate yourself to the change.

How Far Is Santa Fe From Albuquerque?

Santa Fe is approximately 65 miles or 1 hour northeast of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Is Albuquerque or Santa Fe More Fun?

Both Albuquerque and Santa Fe are great cities to visit with very different activities. Albuquerque is a larger, more spread out city that is home to the famous Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta in October whereas Santa Fe has a very charming old town area that is filled with art galleries, restaurants, shopping, and museums.

Santa Fe has a more laid back atmosphere that is easier to wander on foot but Albuquerque will have more nightlife options.

How Far Is Santa Fe From Taos?

Taos is 1.5 hours north of Santa Fe at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and where the UNESCO World Heritage Site Taos Pueblo is located.

But Before You Go…

If you happen to time your trip to Santa Fe in October, add a few days to visit Albuquerque and attend the world famous Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta!

It is one of the most amazing bucket list experiences and I share everything you need to know about attending the festival in my guide.

Got Travel Insurance?

Don’t leave home without travel insurance as you never know what might happen on a trip! It is always when you least expect it that something can go wrong like getting sick, in an accident or cancellation of some sort.

Get a no-obligation quote from two trusted travel insurance companies for peace of mind on your next trip! I have used both companies on numerous occasions and trust them for myself and my family.

SafetyWing Travel Insurance

World Nomads Travel Insurance

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Vanessa Shields

Vanessa Shields is the founder of Traveling Ness helping people with trip ideas, itineraries, travel planning, and boosting confidence for female travelers to take a solo trip. She has been a travel writer and content creator since 2019.

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  1. I have never seen anything quite like that adobe architecture. Those beams that sick out of the building, are they there to hold up the roof? It is a really distinct look, whatever they are for!

    Anyway, this all sounds like a fab destination. Tasty food, gorgeous hikes, art aaaaand sunset locations!? I’d love it!

    1. Thanks Josy! The beams that come out on top are actually like rain gutters. The roofs are flat so they need a way for the water to run off. I’m thinking that is what you are referring to! Yes, such a cool city to visit for many reasons! 🙂

    1. Thanks Jen! Haha, I’m in the same boat. lol. I’d go back for a meal at Tomasita’s in a heartbeat! 🙂

  2. I went to Santa Fe as a teenager but I don’t remember seeing any of this except the plaza – I’ve always had an inkling I missed out and ought to go back, and this proves it! That staircase is incredible, and the oldest house in the US?? That’s so cool! I’m so glad they still let people go inside, it must be fascinating to see how people lived so long ago. The Oldest Church is kind of adorable, I love the look of the outside. It doesn’t have the forbidding, intimating vibe that a lot of old churches give me; they usually seem unwelcoming.

    I would love to visit the O’Keefe museum. I’m familiar with her flower paintings but didn’t know she did other things like cityscapes. She’s so celebrated, I’d like to study her more in-depth.

    Glad to hear there are so many hiking options – that would be my M.O.! In fact I’ve been trying to figure out where to work my next seasonal job, since I don’t like cold winters so much (they keep me from getting outside like I want to). Despite the elevation, with 300 days of sun a year and hikes like this, maybe Santa Fe is something to consider. A lot of what your describing makes me feel right at home anyway; I learned a lot about Fred Harvey when I worked at the Grand Canyon, and we had Pinon trees everywhere. I didn’t know you could make coffee with them! And I used to eat those delicious sopapillas at the TexMex restaurants growing up in Texas…it’s been awhile, I need one of those suddenly….

    1. It sounds like New Mexico would be right up your alley! Although not super harsh, it does get cold in the winter but at least the sun is out. I loved the O’Keefe museum as she was so talented and of course the food is so good! I’m missing the sopapillas too! I’m pretty sure that I will be ordering Pinon coffee on a regular basis online. lol. People seem to love or hate it, but I think its great especially the dark fudge pinon coffee. It doesn’t taste like chocolate but gives it a hint of added flavor! 🙂

  3. I had no idea that Santa Fe was at a high altitude! This looks like a really fun city to explore. I love the look of the adobe buildings. The food looks really delicious, but probably too spicy for me! Pine nut coffee sounds really interesting and like a great souvenir.

    1. I didn’t know about the altitude either but I had always heard of it being in the “high desert” so now I know why. lol. The good news is you can always get the chile sauce on the side. Yes, a great city to visit! 🙂

  4. I know nothing about New Mexico (well, apart from Breaking Bad being set there 😆 ) so this was a really interesting read…I love the mixture of architectures, and I had no idea you could find so many art galleries there. The spicy food and Pinon coffee sound right up my street too!

    1. I’ve actually not seen Breaking Bad yet but need to after visiting New Mexico. Yes, the food and Pinon coffee are so yummy. I plan on ordering Pinon coffee every few months now that I am addicted. lol

    1. Haha yes, the food is so incredibly tasty! It is very different from Mexican food in taste and preparation but so good! 🙂

  5. Great post! I love art and hiking trails look amazing. Love a good rooftop bar. I’m love with that staircase! Will have to add Santa Fe to my list.

  6. What a great article!! I visited Santa Fe once on a roadtrip and would love to go back! Will definitely come back to this article when I do 😊

    1. Ah, wonderful! I hope you get the chance to visit as it is a lovely city with so much to experience. 🙂

  7. Santa Fe really is such a unique city! I visited way back in 2008 and absolutely did not make the most of it sadly lol. I do remember the Palace of Governors, and a church (I couldn’t tell you which one but likely one of the ones you’ve mentioned!) and I was really struck by all the buildings. I’d love to go back as I feel like I’d appreciate it way more now. This is a great guide!

    1. Yes, the architecture really won me over too! Hopefully, you can get the chance to go back soon and experience it in a new way! 🙂

    1. Oh too funny, nope it is part of the Southwest of the U.S. There is a lot of history with Mexico before the United States came to be but very separate now. 🙂

  8. I love Santa Fe and you captured it perfectly!! There is so much to do, see and tons of good food there 🙂
    The staircase in the Loretto Chapel is so beautiful and I love the mystery behind it. Seeing it in person is a must!

    1. I agree, visiting Santa Fe is a definite must. Omg, the food is so good and worth visiting for that alone! lol

  9. Any destination with history AND nature is great in my book of things. If you add nice food (and it doesn’t get much better than Mexican), then it becomes a must. Cool post, thanks for sharing -I really knew next to nothing about Santa Fe 🙂

  10. Never been to that of the US before but it looks like such a cool spot to visit! Pinning for later, hopefully I’ll get to go next year 😀

    1. It is a very unique place in the U.S. and stands out in a good way. I hope you get the chance to go next year! 🙂

    1. I’m so glad you find it beautiful too! I was pleasantly surprised at how much I loved it there. A great city to visit. 🙂

    1. Thanks Lauren! Omg, it really was one of the best meals I’ve ever had. I will definitely go back for that meal alone! 🙂

  11. What a well written post Ness! I didn’t know much about NM until I read your post. The food, the history, the chapel (love the wooden staircase) & much more. Makes me want to visit.

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