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Tips on What To Do in Santa Fe

Santa Fe attractions appeal to a diverse group of tourists. Whether you're looking to travel back in time, explore Santa Fe's Southwestern culture or discover the natural wonders of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, make sure to bring your walking shoes.

  • Driving in Santa Fe, especially the area around the Plaza, is very congested and confusing; watch out for one-way streets and name changes along the way." -- Sherman's Travel
  • The best way to see downtown Santa Fe is on foot. Free walking-tour maps are available at the tourist information center." -- Frommer's

Historic Attractions

Because Santa Fe is one of the oldest cities in the United States, it comes as no surprise that many of the attractions focus on the city's history. The Plaza's historic sites like the San Miguel Mission, the Palace of the Governors and the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi should all make your itinerary. Also, consider strolling through the Historic Guadalupe district, home to the famous Santuario de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe church.

  • Loretto Chapel: The home of the famous 'miraculous staircase' is now privately owned. It's getting quite touristy with an admission charge, a recorded narration playing over speakers, complete with pitch for donations. If you're taking a walking tour, admission to the chapel may be included." -- About.com
  • Barrio de Analco: Get lost in Santa Fe's past and discover the oldest house in the U.S. along with San Miguel Church -- two of the oldest buildings in the country. Cute shops and cafes complete this charming area." -- Sherman's Travel

Museums

Santa Fe is home to numerous museums and galleries, showcasing art from the colonial era up until today. If you're interested in old pieces, the New Mexico History Museum has artifacts that date back to the 16th century. Meanwhile, El Museo Cultural de Santa Fe features recent Hispanic and New Mexican pieces. Contemporary art lovers will enjoy the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum.

  • The city's Museum of New Mexico, art galleries and studios, historic churches, and cultural sights associated with local Native American and Hispanic communities all merit a visit. It would be easy to spend a full week sightseeing in the city, without ever heading out to any nearby attractions." -- Frommer's
  • There are five state museums in Santa Fe, and purchasing a Museum of New Mexico pass is the most economical way to visit them all. The four-day pass costs $15 and is sold at all five of the museums." -- Fodor's

Galleries

If you're looking to purchase some artwork, head to the galleries that line Canyon Road. Travelers also recommend stopping by the Davis Mather Folk Art Gallery, which sits just north of the Plaza on Lincoln Avenue.

  • Santa Fe offers a broad range of art, from very traditional Native American crafts and Hispanic folk art to extremely innovative contemporary work … Galleries speckle the downtown area, and as an artists' thoroughfare, Canyon Road is preeminent." -- Frommer's
  • Shops selling Native American art, jewelry and fashions are all over town. For a break from silver and turquoise, don't miss the cartoon art and animation cels at Chuck Jones Studio Gallery. For truly serious Southwest art, take a stroll down Canyon Road, but if you want to buy, you'd better have a very high credit limit!" -- About.com
  • Bargain savvy Native American artists are proud of their work, but prices can sometimes be politely negotiated, especially in the off seasons. They will usually offer right away if they're willing to accept less." -- Sherman's Travel

Attractions for Kids

The city is severely lacking in family-friendly attractions. However, the Santa Fe Children's Museum -- which sits on the Old Pecos Trail -- has activities that help children learn about several different aspects of science, including the earth's ecosystems. Several other Santa Fe museums also offer kid-friendly events. Experienced travelers particularly recommend a visit to the unique Science Toy Magic shop on Montezuma Avenue, a few blocks southwest of the Plaza.

  • Don't miss taking the kids to the Museum of International Folk Art, where they'll love the international dioramas and the toys. Also visit the tepee at the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian, where storyteller Joe Hayes spins traditional Spanish cuentos, Native American folk tales, and Wild West tall tales on weekend evenings." -- Frommer's
  • Catch a rodeo. During intermission, the youngest can ride woolly rams and ewes. The Rodeo de Santa Fe … takes place June 21-24." -- Travel and Leisure

Sports & Leisure

To best take advantage of Santa Fe's great outdoors, it's best to have a car. Use it to visit the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, where the Borrego and Windsor trails are popular for hiking and biking. There are also several downhill and cross-country ski sites, such as Ski Santa Fe.

Known for it's relaxing atmosphere and top-notch spas, Santa Fe was earned the number-nine spot on TripAdvisor's 2010 Travelers' Choice list of the Top 10 Relaxation & Spa Destinations in the World. If you're visiting Santa Fe for a bit of R&R, pamper yourself at the Absolute Nirvana Spa Tea Room & Gardens, located a few blocks from the Plaza

  • Although nighttime temperatures drop into the teens in December, sunny, arid days can get up to 50 degrees -- ideal weather for taking to the slopes of Ski Santa Fe, just 16 miles northeast of town in the 12,000-foot Sangre de Cristo Mountains. It's a more laid-back facility than the famous Taos Ski Valley, 90 minutes to the north, but it packs plenty of powder." -- Travel and Leisure
  • Santa Fe is 7,000 feet above sea level, and it may take a day or two to acclimate to the elevation. Your body will crave oxygen and water if you're coming from lower altitudes, don't over-exert yourself and drink plenty of water." -- Sherman's Travel

Shopping

Santa Fe's shopping scene is different from other American cities in that its primary merchandise is arts and crafts. Central Santa Fe has remained true to its original purpose as a trading post, and the Plaza is the best place to go for artisan crafts, while the Santa Fe Farmers Market is the place to go for fresh produce or a spicy snack. Contemporary fashion stores and outlets have settled on the outskirts of the city along Cerrillos Road where visitors can find Santa Fe's most popular shopping center, the Villa Linda Mall.

  • Head to Santa Fe's central plaza for outdoor music, galleries, gift shops, and opportunities to purchase handmade Native American jewelry straight from the artists." -- Sherman's Travel
  • The downtown district, around the Plaza, has unusual gift shops, clothing, and shoe stores that range from theatrical to conventional, curio shops, and art galleries. The funky, laid-back Guadalupe District, less touristy than the Plaza, is on downtown's southwest perimeter and includes the Sanbusco Market Center and the Design Center." -- Fodor's

Nightlife

When it comes to performing arts venues, Santa Fe doesn't disappoint. Experienced travelers particularly recommend the Lensic Performing Arts Center for an elegant night out. But bars and clubs are lacking. Although you can sometimes find live music buzzing in the air outside one of the few central-city bars, it's best to plan for a relaxing night in.

  • Culturally endowed though it is, Santa Fe has a pretty mellow nightlife scene, its key strength being live music, which is presented at numerous bars, hotel lounges, and restaurants." -- Fodor's
  • Information on all major cultural events can be obtained from the Santa Fe Convention and Visitors Bureau … or from the City of Santa Fe Arts Commission … Current listings are published each Friday in the 'Pasatiempo' section of The New Mexican … the city's daily newspaper, and in the Santa Fe Reporter … published every Wednesday." -- Frommer's
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