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Things to Do in Santa Fe

As we’ve discovered, the stereotypes of a state don’t often coincide with what exists beyond its borders. Texas, for example, has all varieties of terrain and wildlife. Similarly, New Mexico is far more than just desert. There are so many things to do you may be totally unaware of. Santa Fe is dedicated to its Native American roots by way of its many museums and shops, its Mexican heritage through its many restaurants, its diversity brought by the Santa Fe Railroad, and its natural treasures, like the hot springs, mountains, and remaining homes of the Puebloan people.

Learn About Santa Fe

Santa Fe highlights Native American culture, history, and art all across the city at its many museums, listed below.

Pro Tip: If you plan on visiting multiple museums, save a little money with the New Mexico Culture Pass. This pass, however, does not include the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts or the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum.

Museum of International Folk Art

A collection of over 130,000 artifacts, you’ll find an in-depth history of folk art from over 100 countries. You’ll see art and historically functional items made from a wide variety of mediums, along with exhibits that cover regionally specific topics, such as fashion, history, music, and folklore. There is currently an exhibit on the role of face masks in self-expression during the COVID pandemic that you’ll have until January 2023 to see.

Museum of Indian Arts & Culture

Take a deep dive into Native American culture through artifacts from across the globe. Learn about the methodical creation of Puebloan pottery, the cultural significance of certain animals, and the reimagination of traditional Native American creations through art created by current artists. The museum also hosts events like talks, live demonstrations, and poetry sessions to create personal experiences between its visitors and influential members of the community.

Things to do in Santa Fe

Museum of Contemporary Native Arts

This museum showcases progressive and contemporary Native artists, including current students at the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA)! Supported by IAIA’s staff and trustees, you can find everything from murals and sculptures to informative exhibits and photographs.

New Mexico Museum of Art

The Santa Fe Museum of Art houses one of the oldest Pueblo Revival structures with an impressive courtyard that inspires artwork of its own. With 20,000 works of art, there’s plenty to see of the Southwest, the incredible New Mexico landscape, and Native American life. They even have rotating exhibits for something new every trip.

Things to do in Santa Fe

New Mexico History Museum

Get a glimpse of New Mexico’s both rich and grim history. From the original indigenous people who lived here, the presence of colonizers who encroached on their way of life, to the devastating effects of Manifest Destiny, the New Mexico History Museum walks visitors through different points of history. Additionally, they have a large exhibit on the history and legacy of the Harvey Girls, as well as the exhibit, “Telling New Mexico: Stories from Then and Now” that shares personal stories from across the last 500 years that also make up New Mexico’s history.

Things to do in Santa Fe

Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

You may not know much about Georgia O’Keeffe, but after visiting the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum and learning about her story, you’ll be captivated by the way that Georgia played such a prominent role in the development of art. She was the first woman painter to gain respect in the art world of New York in the 1920s.  Her abstract art of landscapes and flowers break down the essence of nature while capturing its most important aspects.

Things to do in Santa Fe

Take a Day Trip to Jemez Mountains

The Jemez Mountain Trail is a natural wonderland that showcases the iconic New Mexican red rock, Pueblo dwellings of the Bandelier National Monument, volcanic cliffs, and the water of Jemez River that flows through them. Despite what comes to mind when you think about the dessert, these trails also have an abundance of greenery and wildlife. If you’re looking for an outdoor adventure that’ll fill your day and give you a variety of activities, whether you’re on land or soaking in the hot springs, then a day trip to Jemez Mountains is for you. Click here to read about our experience hiking through the Jemez Mountains.

Take a Native American Cooking Class

As you’re checking off all the things to do in Santa Fe, make sure this one is on your list: the Native American II cooking class at the Sante Fe School of Cooking. It’s like a history lesson and cooking class in one. You’ll learn about the effects of colonization on food, as well as how food crossed continents (fun fact: tomatoes didn’t actually come to Italy until the 15th/16th century). You’ll also learn about the magic eight: corn, squash, beans, chiles, tomatoes, potatoes, cacao and vanilla, which were only found in the Americas.

Best of all, you’ll learn cooking techniques like trout baked in clay, have an incredible meal, and leave enlightened and nourished. If you’re lucky, you’ll also have the honor of witnessing a cultural moment with Native songs and drums. Afterwards, you can browse their store with all the different types of chile and chile-themed items like chile jelly, chile cookies, chile fudge, and more!

Stroll Through Santa Fe Plaza

Santa Fe Plaza can be enthralling and overwhelming due to its numerous galleries. The Santa Fe Art app is a helpful tool to build a list of art galleries you are interested in visiting beforehand with information about each one. Check out Santa Fe Art Tours to get a more in-depth perspective, perfect for newbies and experts alike.

You’ll also find Native artists along the Palace of Governers in Santa Fe Plaza, as well as Native performers who share their traditions, dances, music, and stories.

Things to do in Santa Fe

Try All the Great Food

New Mexico’s flavor profiles have been shaped by its native history, the impact of colonization, and the influence of the Santa Fe Railroad. New Mexico is known as the chile capital of the world due to its warm climate and alternating periods of rain and drought that influence the heat of the peppers harvested here.

Santa Fe specifically is famous for its many types of mole, a thick marinade that is commonly seen on plates in Southern Mexican cuisine. Despite the prominence of traditional Mexican food, many dishes you’ll find on the menus you come across during your visit will have a New Mexican flare or they’ll be from a completely different corner of the world, like Scandinavia or the Afro Caribbean. Take a look at our list of where to eat in Santa Fe for an abundance of options, no matter your food preferences.

Things to do in Santa Fe

Enjoy New Mexican Wine

Many people are surprised to learn that New Mexico is actually the oldest wine country in the US. In the early 1500s, the monks were in need of wine for their religious services, so they smuggled vines from Spain to New Mexico (they didn’t like the imported wine very much). While the commercial establishment of wineries is recent, the high, dry climate and rich soil make for some excellent wines!

Hervé Wine Bar is tucked away off the Santa Fe Plaza with a scenic tasting room and a large list of their own New Mexico-made wines. You can choose between flights, glasses of wine, and small bites.

You can also attend brunch and tasting events at Gruet Winery, which specializes in sparkling and still wine made from grapes. Originally grown in France, the Gruet Family expanded their vineyards into New Mexico in 1984. Black Mesa Winery in Velarde, halfway between Santa Fe and Taos, produces small-batch wines and ciders made from fruit exclusively grown and hand-sorted in New Mexico.

Browse the Different Shops & Galleries

If you’ve had the opportunity to explore the many Native American-centered museums on your list of things to do in Santa Fe, there’s no doubt you’ll want to take that beauty home with you. Lucky for you, Santa Fe Plaza has so many shops that support Native American creators and artists, no matter your budget. You’ll find instruments, art, modern furniture, pottery, jewelry, and more! Click here for a list of must-see shops in Santa Fe.

See Traditional Puebloan Housing

Make the most of your time in Santa Fe and stop at the Bandelier National Monument on your way to Jemez Hot Springs. These are the largest cliff dwellings in North America, and you can climb up the ladders in order to see inside. The amazing thing about mountain views is their duality; the often sun-kissed view on one side and the snow-capped mountains on the other.