The Dancing Ground of the Sun was the name given to Santa Fe by the indigenous peoples. It was dubbed The City Different by its founders. So what distinguishes this metropolis from others in the continental United States?
Many consider it to be Santa Fe’s living past. It is the country’s oldest state capitol, established on Tewa Puebloan soil, and fully celebrates its Native American cultural origins. Every nook of the city is steeped with legendary history and culture.
Everyone who has spent time in Santa Fe will tell you that it has a distinct and distinctive aura. Despite being New Mexico’s capital city, it has a small-town feel about it. Its unique adobe and pueblo-style architecture is unparalleled. Add to it its rich history, world-class art galleries, beautiful inns, seductive markets, delicious food, and wide-open spaces, and you get a lively town that proudly embraces its culture and past.
Theres a lot to see, do, and experience here. These are some of our top suggestions for having a very pleasant experience here.
Visiting other places in New Mexico? Check out our other tasty guide:
- 15 Must-Try Albuquerque Restaurants
- 10 Must-Try Las Cruces Restaurants
- 12 Must-Try Restaurants In New Mexico
- 10 Best Santa Fe Restaurants
- 1 The 12 Greatest Activities in Santa Fe, New Mexico
- 1.1 Stay at La Fonda del Plaza.
- 1.2 Discover Meow Wolf
- 1.3 Go to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum.
- 1.4 St. Francis of Assisi Cathedral Basilica
- 1.5 The Museum Hill
- 1.6 Fine Ceramics by Andrea Fisher
- 1.7 The Loretto Chapel
- 1.8 Keshi: The Zuni Collection has information about turquoise.
- 1.9 Lightning Boy Foundation may be seen on the Plaza.
- 1.10 Trail of the Arroyo Hondo
- 1.11 Culinary School in Santa Fe
- 1.12 American Native Arts Institute
The 12 Greatest Activities in Santa Fe, New Mexico
Stay at La Fonda del Plaza.
Phone: 505-982-5511100 E. San Francisco St.
This 100-year-old historic hotel, a member of Historic Hotels of America, is in a beautiful Plaza Square location, perfect for visiting downtown’s amazing shops, galleries, and restaurants. La Fonda has long been a renowned hotel in Santa Fe, emphasizing history, culture, and a rich heritage.
Its huge collection of remarkable artworks, handmade furniture, luxurious facilities, and courteous hospitality merge beautifully with its old-world charm and genuine New Mexico flavor. While we’ve stayed at numerous magnificent Santa Fe places, La Fonda is our absolute favorite. Visitors may also take advantage of free history excursions, which provide intriguing behind-the-scenes anecdotes about the beautiful property. If only these walls could communicate.
Discover Meow Wolf
Meow Wolf is a one-of-a-kind art experience. The theater, which opened in 2008, was financially funded by Game of Thrones writer George R.R. Martin.
This mind-blowing multiverse entertainment venue was founded by a group of extraordinarily brilliant, out-of-the-mainstream Santa Fe artists. Visitors are transported via hidden corridors inside the House of Eternal Return. On the opposite side, all paths lead to astonishing unreal realms. And how does one travel from one side to the other? Of course, via the refrigerator.
It is so popular that a comparable facility has opened in Denver, and another is planned for Las Vegas. The bottom line is that you just must do it!
Go to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum.
+1 505-946-1000217 Johnson St.
A well-lived life. This perfectly represents Georgia O’Keeffe. The Georgia O Keefe Museum in ancient Santa Fe tells the narrative of the legendary great American artist in a wonderful way.
OKeeffe, known as the “Mother of American Modernism,” first visited New Mexico in the summer of 1929. The stark beauty of the terrain pulled her in like a moth to a flame. Her Southwest landscapes, as well as other inspiring pieces, are on show. Personal property and a substantial archive of papers and images documenting this intriguing artist’s life are also included in the collections.
St. Francis of Assisi Cathedral Basilica
505-982-5619131 Cathedral Street
When the city was founded in 1610, Franciscan friars erected the first church on this location. During the Pueblo Revolution in 1714, the cathedral was reconstructed and dedicated after St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of Santa Fe. While some structural alterations have happened, the neighboring modest adobe chapel dedicated to Our Lady of La Conquistadora nevertheless houses the earliest image of the Virgin Mary in the United States.
Accessible for daily mass as well as for tourists to explore, the Romanesque Revival style construction is an amazingly magnificent and huge cathedral, situated in the middle of the old city. You can’t and shouldn’t miss it. That really is beautiful!
The Museum Hill
710 Camino Lejo 505-476-1269704-710 Camino Lejo (off Santa Fe Trail)
Museum Hill, nestled in the foothills of the gorgeous Sangre de Cristo mountains, is home to four unique museums where tourists may explore some of the region’s largest collections and Native works of art.
We had a great time exploring the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, which displays the richness and diversity of the area’s Native People. Many current exhibitions are on display in the museum, including traditional Pueblo pottery and the magnificent Absolutely Indigenous: Native Visions Reimagined in Glass.
The Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian, New Mexico’s oldest non-profit autonomous museum, is entirely dedicated to Native American artwork. The museum is well-known for its emphasis on lesser-known genres and solo exhibitions by live Native American artists. A trip here is a native art lover’s dream.
Fine Ceramics by Andrea Fisher
W. San Francisco Street 505-986-1234
In Santa Fe, you may discover pottery stores and individual sellers selling Southwest pots. Nothing, however, compares to this wonderful exquisite pottery exhibition.
The stunning items from indigenous tribal craftsmen that reflect the charm and beauty of the Southwest will wow lovers of high-quality works. Each handcrafted, hand-painted treasure speaks of Native American Puebloans’ culture, beliefs, and way of life, and is arranged and presented by tribe. The pieces range in age from the 1880s to the present.
It’s not uncommon to see one of these craftspeople at the store with Andrea. We were delighted to meet and speak with Thomas Tenorio, whose amazing traditional Kewa pottery is on display at the gallery.
The Loretto Chapel
+1 505-982-0092207 Old Santa Fe Trail
It’s one of New Mexico’s most unique locations. The Loretto Chapel, located in the center of old Santa Fe, is famous for its remarkable stairway. This astonishing architectural accomplishment, a helix-shaped, spiraling Gothic staircase, was built with no center column or support beams, nails, or glue. The spiraling steps are only held together by wooden pegs.
The old Roman Catholic church, complete with spires, buttresses, and beautiful stained-glass windows, now functions as a museum and wedding chapel. This should absolutely be on your list of things to do in Santa Fe.
Keshi: The Zuni Collection has information about turquoise.
New Mexico features 23 Native tribes, each with its own language and culture. I have a thing for the Zuni, a Pueblo Native tribe from the Zuni River Valley. They are a strange people noted for their wonderful artwork, sculpture, ceramics, and dishware.
Their jewelry is one-of-a-kind and associated with excellent quality and unwavering integrity. Keshi is Santa Fe’s sole boutique dedicated to Zuni art. They provide a large selection of jewelry as well as Zuni ceramics, kachinas, and fetishes (animal sculptures) that may help you discover, improve, or rekindle your relationship with nature.
Spending time with the incredible crew opened my eyes to the turquoise dilemma, since many mines in the United States have been depleted. As a result, turquoise, a holy stone, has become more scarce. As a consequence, certain retailers in the United States are no longer selling the genuine stone. Although turquoise fans may have to pay a premium for these uncommon jewelry items from Keshi, they are the genuine thing and really stunning!
Lightning Boy Foundation may be seen on the Plaza.
Whatever visitors to the Santa Fe Plaza are doing, they come to a halt and assemble in the plaza’s center for a display of artistry in motion by the Lightning Boy Foundation’s hoop dancers. This organization was founded to instill confidence and integrity in its young Native Americans via creative representation of their unique traditions.
Lightning Boy Valentino Tzigiwhaeno Rivera, a young, passionate, and exceptionally gifted hoop dancer who died in a vehicle accident, inspired the creation of the organization.
Several native communities in North America employed hoops in ancient healing practices and have long considered them holy. Young artists convey the narrative here using local costumes and a plethora of colorful circles that weave stories about life connectivity via the usage of symbols.
It’s unlike anything else. And you’ll wonder, like many others in the audience, how they do it.
Trail of the Arroyo Hondo
there is no phone number Arroyo Hondo Boulevard
The Santa Fe area has a mysterious air that is best experienced in isolation, one-on-one with nature. This is what you mean by straying off the beaten path.
Backcountry juniper. While there are other other walks in the Santa Fe area, this is a terrific place to start. The Arroyo Honda Open Space Trail is a 1.8-mile circle route located near downtown Santa Fe. It is famous for horseback riding and trekking for people of various skill levels. This is a somewhat simple hike with just enough up and down levels to keep your heart rate up. We like the stunning open panoramas of this desert scrub and pinion basin, peaks, and hills.
Culinary School in Santa Fe
125 N. Guadalupe St., 505-983-4511.
Nothing makes me more excited about a location than learning about its distinct cuisine and culture. With its hands-on and demonstration-only programs, Santa Fe School of Cooking offers the ideal experience. It is entirely up to you how much you want to be a part of the final result.
We enjoyed the traditional New Mexican lesson, which celebrated Santa Fe’s Southwestern cuisine with strong flavors and intriguing fragrances. Enchiladas with green and red sauces, chiles rellenos, calabacitas (green chile, squash, and corn), sopapillas, posole, and a dessert are common class offerings.
The chefs are personable and enthusiastic about their art, the environment is vibrant and joyful, and the cuisine is delicious!
American Native Arts Institute
505-424-230083 Van Nu PO Box
This distinguished public tribal land-grant institution has produced a plethora of well-known Native American artists. IAIA, as the institution is known locally, is the cradle of modern Native American art. This year marks the 60th year of training inventive and successful artists, sculptors, authors, filmmakers, and community leaders.
Guests may schedule a guided tour of this prestigious academic institution and experience the inspirational works of art made at the institute. Guests may see students as they work on their soon-to-be masterpieces. Despite the majority of students at the institution are from indigenous tribes throughout the United States, the school is accessible to anybody who is interested in Native American art studies.
Walking through its sacred halls and roaming the lovely grounds is an eye-opening experience. This wonderful retreat on 140 gorgeous acres surrounded by the tremendous natural splendor of Santa Fe has something extremely unique about it.
New Mexico really is a country of magic. And Santa Fe is its best achievement.