Things to see and do in Santa Fe, NM

We’re spending a long weekend (Fri-Mon) in Santa Fe, leaving this Friday. It looks like we’ll have nice weather (sunny, coolish).

My wife likes art and museums; we both like getting out into nature. We’re both big-time foodies.

What should we see, do, go, eat?

Let me know if you have any trouble getting out of town…

I’ve been to Santa Fe twice, and, both times, found myself trapped, once in a maze of twisty passages all alike, as the streets gave way to dirt roads, and the second time, out in the countryside, where I could see the freeway, but couldn’t get to it.

Otherwise, I enjoyed it, but just as an overnight tourist, and didn’t spend any real time there.

I liked the Traditional Flea Market and the Plaza

Disclaimer: I haven’t lived in Santa Fe for five years, so be sure and make sure places still exist.

When it comes to art, you’re spoiled for choice in Santa Fe. Canyon Road is a road absolutely lined with art galleries; there’s also lots around the Plaza. If you’re into art you can easily kill a couple hours there. There’s also the Georgia O’Keefe museum (downtown, I believe), and a couple lovely art museums up on Museum Hill. There’s also a couple galleries in the Railyard district – all those places are pretty close together.

As for food, you’re also spoiled for choice. You can find a remarkable variety for a town that size. If you’re looking for local cuisine, check out Tia Sophia’s or the Santa Fe Baking Co. for breakfast or lunch, Tomasita’s or Maria’s for dinner – or just ask at your hotel. There are too many great restaurants to count. Get yourself a margarita either at Maria’s or Del Charro. I’m more of a beer person, and I can wholeheartedly recommend Blue Corn Cafe or 2nd Street Brewery (I liked their down at the Railyard) for dinner and good local beer. Cowgirl can be fun if you’re looking for more of a bar experience.

If I had to give one food rule for Santa Fe: come hungry. Make sure you have lots of green chile (on pretty much everything), and a sopaipilla for desert (or dinner, you can get them stuffed with savory fillings).

For super convenient hiking options check out the Dale Ball trails network, which starts just north of town. A favorite trail of mine started in the visitor parking lot of St. John’s College up on the north side of town and heads up to the peak of Atalaya, which is a lovely day hike.

If you want a more expensive but delightfully relaxing outdoor activity, check out the tubs at Ten Thousand Waves.

And if you’re looking for something a little more adventurous (and bring/rent snowshoes) if you head up to the ski basin you can start on the Windsor trail up towards Baldy.

In the nature department, Bandelier National Monument is about an hour north and Tent Rocks is about an hour south. They’re both worth a visit.

What’s the weather like nowadays in the immediately surrounding hills? Is there just a tiny bit of snow? If there’s a bunch of snow, whenabouts are there usually just a lot of big patches/drifts of snow?

Go visit Taos pueblo.


  • Georgia O’Keefe museum is great
  • International Folk art museum (on museum hill) is really interesting
  • Los Alamos has a small, good museum about the Manhattan project


  • Bandelier is great. Nice easy hikes (more challenging if you want as well)
  • Tsankawi is a lesser known “section” of Bandelier and is very cool. Nice trail to visit cliff dwellings and actually walk along the paths used by the dwellers
  • There’s good hiking out of the Santa Fe ski resort, but I suspect they will have a good bit of snow at this time.

Tomasita’s is the “go to” place for local food (killer sopapilla’s !)

Though a lot of the souvenir shops in the plaza carry a lot of the same, somewhat cheesy stuff. It is also a good place to see the amazing Hopi kachinas and some cool pueblo pottery. (I understand my favorite store to see these is now closed). So visiting some of those shops is like visiting a museum in a way.

The drive up to Taos takes a while, but once you emerge from the gorge, you are treated to some spectacular views. If you do go to Taos, be sure to check out the Rio Grande bridge.

And if you do go north from the city and pass through Pojoaque, go to Gabriel’s and order the made-at-the-table guacamole.

Just in case of crummy weather or laziness or whatever:

Check out the gigantic fantastic department-store sized consignment store called Double Take on Aztec St for vintage jewelry, boots etc.

The custom boot shop called Back at the Ranch is a trip, too. Way the hell outside of my budget, but fantastic craftsmanship.

I agree with Tomasita’s. It was my go-to place whenever I hit Santa Fe back when I lived in Albuquerque.

San Miguel Mission is touted as the oldest church in the US. There’s a pizza parlor next door called the Upper Crust, and it’s good too.

We spent a night and part of two days in Santa Fe a couple years ago, on our way home from a cross-country drive. At dinner time, we drove up Cerillos Road looking for the place with the most cars in the parking lot with NM licence plates, and wound up at Cafe Castro. It was the only full meal we ate in town, so I can’t compare it to anything else, but I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it. We also visited the Georgia O’Keefe museum, which was well worth the time and money. I would have like to have gone up to Los Alamos, but we couldn’t fit it into our schedule.

I’d very much like to go back and spend a few days to see the rest of what the area has to offer.

Tomasita’s and The Shed are the the standard for NM food in SF. The Shed gets very crowded, so go to their less-known sister restaurant La Choza (it’s near Tomasita’s). I like the green sauce best at Tomasita’s and the red at Shed/Choza.

Speaking of sauce, red and green are the two types of sauces. They’re both made from a chile pepper grown in Hatch. Green is made with the fresh pepper and red is made from the power of the dried pepper. Either can be hotter than the other. It just depends on the year and the batch. Whereas most chile sauces in the country are made from chiles and a bunch of other stuff (tomatoes, veggies), NM sauce is pretty much just chile pepper and water/stock.

An interesting chocolatier making Aztec-based chocolates and drinks at Kakawa Chocolate House

Drive up to the ski basin for many beautiful scenic overlooks. The road is right outside of town. Stop for a dip in an outdoor hot tub spa at 10,000 Waves on your way down (make reservations).

Art is pretty much everywhere. Unfortunately, the stores around the plaza have mostly touristy crap.

We’re back from our trip, so I thought I’d thank you all for your input, and let you know what we wound up seeing/doing.

Overall impression: New Mexico is totally awesome.

Fri: dinner at Maria’s. Off to a bad start. We had a combination plate that was a mess of indistinguishable glop (however, I had my first sopapailla, on the side, and it was quite good). Someone later said that their food used to be good, but now all they care about is their 140 varieties of tequila.

Sat: drove to Ghost Ranch, home of Georgia O’Keeffe and now a private resort. Took a O’Keeffe Landscape Tour, where we spent 90 minutes driving around the property and looking at the landscape, comparing the sights to various O’Keeffe paintings. It was all quite interesting…and oh yeah, the scenic beauty is incredible. Afterwards we took a short hike off the grounds and into the wild and discovered more fantastic vistas. A great day.

Sun: breakfast at Tia Sophia. Winner! My wife had a blue corn pancake; I had a chorizo burrito, red sauce on one end, green on the other. (It had eggs and potatoes inside, making it suitable for breakfast. :slight_smile: ) We then met up with a walking tour of the Plaza area. Great guide; learned about the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, the Civil War battle, looked inside the Loretto Chapel and its legendary spiral staircase, and lots of other interesting stuff. We then spent the day on Canyon Road, going in and out of art galleries. Who knew that one small community could support so many galleries…had a snack at Cafe Greco, quite tasty.

Mon: We had to be in Albuquerque at 5:00. We’d hoped to start the day at the Bradbury Museum in Los Alamos…but they didn’t open until 1:00. So we went back to the Plaza, and shopping. We were planning on going to Tent Rocks (everyone we talked to said it was a must) but time got away from us – of shopping, eating and Tent Rocks we had to choose 2 and Tent Rocks lost. Had an excellent lunch at Cafe Pasqual. Tried to go the NM History Museum, but it was closed on Mondays. Went to Todos Santos chocolateria, and tiny funky little candy store near the plaza. Very good chocolate, but ridiculously overpriced (i.e., $3.50 for a piece the size of a peanut butter cup). Bought some pottery from the native american vendors working the plaza alongside the governor’s palace.

Then back to ABQ and the flight home.

Any meals I didn’t mention were had at the hotel (Four Seasons Rancho Encantada, which has a fantastic restaurant).

So thanks, everyone. We’ll be going back.

So you got the authentic Santa Fe Experience (especially if the glop-holding plate was metal) :slight_smile: .

This. I was going to say this. Not just the pueblo, but the town, which is chock-full of art galleries and nice restaurants.

And some trivia: You had to fly into and out of Albuquerque because Santa Fe is the only state capital without a commercial airport.

As for the Civil War battle, that was the one featured in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, although it showed more the retreat than the battle.

I was talking to a woman who had lived and worked in Santa Fe. She told me, if you see and extraordinarily scruffy looking hobo wearing sunglasses, get his autograph, because it will be Val Kilmer.

There are no commercial flights into Carson City, NV, but Trans States Airlines (United Express) flies into Santa Fe.