Thanks to its proximity to the Mexican border, Santa Fe is a true cultural melting pot and former Spanish colony, home to many of the oldest sites in the United States. It’s a fantastic place to visit, but be sure not to miss these top attractions.
Palace of the Governors
Located in the historic district of Santa Fe, the Palace of the Governors is an adobe structure built in 1610. It served as the seat of government for the Spanish colony that presided over Santa Fe, but has since been converted into the state history museum. Take a tour of the facility and discover things related to the Santa Fe Trail, Civil War in New Mexico, Spanish American War and more. Exhibits rotate a few times a year, and educational events take place frequently. Be sure to check the online resources and schedule for upcoming events, and ask your guide about photography rules.
During a 1929 vacation, American modernist Georgia O’Keeffe became fascinated with the beauty of Santa Fe. The artist relocated to the city shortly after her visit, and began painting the desert landscape. In 1997, a few years after the artist’s death, a museum was built to preserve her artwork and legacy. The museum houses an extensive collection of O’Keeffe’s works, including 140 oil paintings and 700 drawings. A number of educational programs, workshops, lectures, presentations and other events take place frequently. The museum is also tied to the Georgia O’Keeffe research center, which cares for letters, photographs and libraries that belonged to the artist, and serves as a place for people to learn more about O’Keeffe, American Modernism and museum studies.
Home to more than 100 art galleries, studios and museums, Canyon Road is known as the art district of Santa Fe. Canyon Road Contemporary Art is one of the best galleries around, selling work created by local and regional artists, from sculpture, fused glass, and paintings, to mixed media and sketches. The gallery acquires new pieces almost every week, so pop in and peruse the walls. Canyon Road Contemporary Art hosts various events throughout the year, so subscribe to their newsletter to make sure you never miss out.
Loretto Chapel is a former church that is now preserved to showcase its magnificent architecture. The gothic church was built in 1878, although the identity of the architect remains a mystery to this day, as does the Miraculous Stair – a helix-shaped spiral staircase built by an unknown carpenter which provides access to the choir lift – and which, bizarrely, has no central support, yet is structurally sound. The chapel has many other remarkable attributes, including stained glass windows, paintings and miniature structures. Stop by and take a look around – just be sure to check the schedule in case a wedding is in progress.
This cultural museum is dedicated to showcasing folk art from all around the globe – including paintings, drawings, sculptures and figurines, photographs and multimedia presentations. Works are often complemented by relevant workshops, performances, lectures and historic artefacts. The museum rotates exhibits regularly, and hosts a number of events and educational programs throughout the year.
Located in downtown Santa Fe, the Cathedral Basilica of St Francis of Assisi is an active Roman Catholic cathedral. The church is quite beautiful, with a keystone, great bronze doors, interior nave, sanctuary and two smaller chapels. Unlike the traditional adobe structures that surround it, the church was built in Romanesque Revival style, with round arches and Corinthian columns. Guests are encouraged to admire the exquisite structure, as well the interior artwork, especially the stained glass.
With nearly 75,000 annual visitors, the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture displays Native American art, dating from pre-history to modern times. Through the art, visitors will learn about the history, heritage and culture of the Native American peoples. Join a free guided tour, which provides fun and interesting facts about each piece of art, including paintings, sculptures, tapestries, pottery, jewelry and mixed media. In addition to special events, the museum hosts a number of programs and educational workshops, such as lecture series, hands-on workshops, courses and presentations.
Enjoy a breath of fresh air as you stroll through Hyde Memorial State Park. The park, which spans 350 acres, is nestled in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, providing exquisite views. There are numerous hiking trails within the forests, as well as established sites for camping. The park is a great spot for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, sledding, kayaking and fishing, but if you’d prefer to just kick back, we recommend a picnic or some bird watching. Hyde Memorial is also home to a historic lodge, often used for special events, such as wedding receptions or family reunions. Contact the park superintendent if you’d like to reserve the space.
Step back in time when you visit El Rancho de las Golondrinas. Once a rest stop on the journey from Mexico City to Santa Fe, the history museum is unlike any other in the area, providing a real-life look into the day-to-day activities of villagers in the 1700s. The site is comprised of original colonial buildings from the 18th century, including a few reconstructed New Mexican historic buildings. Actors wear authentic garb and reenact various activities of the day to give visitors an idea what life would have been like. Participate in traditional celebrations and festivals that were essential to the Spanish, Mexican and colonial heritage of the people that once resided in this New Mexican city. Watch out for special events each month, as well as educational programs for students.