Thanks to its proximity to the Mexican border, Santa Fe is a place that perfectly melds differing cultures. It also happens to be a former Spanish colony and houses many of the oldest sites in all the United States. These things and more make Santa Fe a really cool place, with tons to see and do. Read our list to discover our top 10 choices.
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, but educational events take place more 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, New Mexico. The artist relocated to the city shortly after her visit, and began painting the desert landscape. Then, in 1997, a few years after the artists’ 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, 700 drawings, and more. 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 the artist, American Modernism, and museum studies.
With a combination of over 100 art galleries, studios and museums, Canyon Road is the recognized art district of the Santa Fe area. Canyon Road Contemporary Art is one of the best galleries around, providing collectors with art for the past 30 years. Featured work is created by local and regional artists, and ranges in mediums, including sculpture, fused glass, paintings, mixed media, sketches, and more. 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 so you never miss out.
Loretto Chapel is a retired church that is now preserved to showcase the magnificent architecture. The gothic church was opened in 1878, although the person who built it remains a mystery, and another mystery of the chapel is the ‘Miraculous Stair’ – a helix-shaped spiral staircase. The staircase was built by an unknown carpenter and provides access to the choir lift. The fascination lies in that the staircase has no central support, but is still structurally sound. The chapel has a lot of other remarkable attributes, including stained glass, 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. The art exhibited ranges in mediums, but includes paintings, drawings, sculptures and figurines, photographs, multi-media presentations, and more. Works are often complemented with relevant workshops, performances, lectures, and historic artifacts, which support the artwork. The featured art is representative of cultures from all across the world including African, Asian and Middle Eastern, Latin American, Spanish Colonial, European, North American, and Hispano and Latino. 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.
Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, Santa Fe | Courtesy of Carnegie Museum Of Natural History
With nearly 75,000 annual visitors, the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture displays Native American art, dating from pre-history to contemporary pieces. 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, mixed media and more. In addition to special events, the museum hosts a number of programs and educational workshops, such as lecture series, hands-on workshops, courses, presentations and more. Many of these are free opportunities for people who are passionate about arts and culture.
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. Stop by during the seasons for various recreational activities, including snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, sledding, kayaking, fishing and more. Alternatively, relax and have a fun picnic with the family, or do some bird watching. Hyde Memorial is also home to a historic lodge, which is often used for special events, such as wedding receptions or family reunions. Contact the park superintendent about reserving the space.
Step back into the past when you visit El Rancho de las Golondrinas. Once a rest stop 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 of the times, and through various activities, display what life was truly 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.