The 20 Best Things to do in Santa Fe for First Timers

New Mexico is a unique state. If you have never had the opportunity to visit there, it is time to get it on your schedule. One of the most fun and entertaining cities in the state is Santa Fe. This is a place that benefits from great weather, particularly in the spring and winter months. There is always something going on here, with regular events being held throughout the year. There is also a great deal of history to take in and a lot of cultures to experience. Beyond that, there are many attractions and fun experiences to be had, so you will want to make it a point to get to Santa Fe at least once in your life.

When you do visit Santa Fe for the first time, you will discover that there is actually a great deal to do and see here. It is important to leave time to just explore the city without feeling hostage to the clock or the calendar, but there are also some sites that you will want to be sure that you see. That is why we have put together the following list of the 20 best things you can do in Santa Fe when you visit here for the first time. Take a look and see which of these you want to add to your list and then let the fun begin.

20. Canyon Road Arts

To get to Canyon Road you will go to the bottom of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. This is a most scenic trail that will bring you right into the heart of the art scene in Santa Fe. This is an area that has been made famous around the world. In addition to the spectacular natural environment, you will get to be in, you will also see a variety of arts, crafts, and much more. There is a lot of shopping to be done and food to eat. This will be a great day out for the entire family.

19. New Mexico Museum of Art

No visit to Santa Fe should be considered complete until you visit the New Mexico Museum of Art. This is actually the oldest such museum in the state of New Mexico, so you know that you are in for quite the collection of historical and contemporary pieces of art. The museum itself is housed in a building that is fashioned after the traditional Pueblo architecture. You will be able to browse more than 20,000 works of art during your visit here, ranging from historical times right up to the modern age.

18. Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

Here is another museum that you should visit during your stay in Santa Fe. It is the only museum in the country that is devoted to playing homage to Georgia O’Keeffe. She is one of the most popular female artists of her time. When you visit this museum, you will be able to see more than a thousand different pieces of art. These include sculptures, paintings, and drawings that date from the 20th century. The works are dated through 1984 when O’Keeffe started to lose her ability to see.

17. The Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian

This is a museum that dates back to 1937. So, it is rather historical to say the least. It is here that you will learn a great deal about the American Indians that have called this area of the country home for centuries. The museum is a walking history of Native American Art. The focus in on the Navajo, but there are plenty of other tribes represented here as well. It is the oldest non-profit museum in the state.

16. Santa Fe Farmer’s Market

If you have always wanted to sample some fruits and vegetables that are common in the Southwest, going to the Santa Fe Farmer’s Market is a great way to do just that. This market is open every Saturday all year round, so you should be able to take part in it during your visit. This is a great place to interact with local residents, as many of them will come here weekly because of the selection of fresh produce that is housed here. Kids will also enjoy visiting here as there are many activities designed just for them.

15. Santa Fe International New Media Festival

Here is a media festival that occurs once every year, so you will need to check if you are in town while it is going on. If you are, then it will be well worth your time to go here. You will find a range of exhibits, workshops, and performances to see and take part in. The best thing is that everything is free for everyone in the public to attend and enjoy. Santa Fe has become a popular place for media artists to assemble, so you will want to see how this event takes hold.

14. Heritage Inspiration

If you really want to experience the local culture of Santa Fe, Heritage Inspiration is the way to do it. These are exclusive tours that you can arrange to take place over an entire day or just half of one. You will be able to do such things as hike the Bandelier National Monument, attend a wine tasting while hiking a scenic trail, look at some magical heirlooms while taking a Chimayo Tour, and so much more.

13. Santa Fe Indian Market

You can see the Santa Fe Indian Market if you in town in the second week of August. This is a market designed to celebrate the Native American art community. It is hosted by the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts and has been continuously going on for 93 years now. It is now the largest such cultural attraction in the entire Southwest. You will find more than a thousand artists displaying their work at this market.

12. Kakawa Chocolate House

If you love chocolate, then this is one destination in Santa Fe that you will not want to mix. This is not just your ordinary sugar fix either. This place has a long history of producing original cholate goodies that are based on recipes that have been passed down for generations. You will be able to enjoy such treats as agave caramels, homemade ice cream, and chocolate elixirs ready to drink.

11. The Museum of Spanish Colonial Art

This is not just another museum. This is the only such museum in the country that focuses on Spanish Colonial art. The collection includes many pieces that were created by artists from the Southwest. It opened back in 2002 and has been growing in popularity ever since. You will find many different types of art here including furniture, textiles, and decorative art.

10. Astronomy Adventures

There is a reason why so many people around the world go to the desert to see the sky at night. It is dark and the stars seem like they are right on top of you. Santa Fe is a great location to stargaze, and taking part in this astronomy adventure is the way to enjoy it to its fullest. You will to able to take part in a night tour that will help you see the sky through a telescope in ways that you never dreamed were possible before now.

9. Compound Restaurant

After you have had your fill of sightseeing, it is time to relax and grab a great meal at the Compound Restaurant. Not only will you get some great food, but you will also love your surroundings. It has a certain charm about it that brings out the best that Santa Fe has to offer. You will find a number of dishes inspired by the Southwest. The hardest decision you make this day will be choosing what you will eat.

8. Jambo Cafe

Here is a different type of restaurant that will give you a cultural experience you will remember for quite some time. The Jambo Cafe is a way to better appreciate cuisine inspired by the African-Arabic influence on the region. The owner is name Ahmed Obo and he is well respected throughout the Santa Fe area. You will find a variety of dishes on the menu that are inspired by Swahili cuisine. Spicy curry and goat stew are always on the menu at Jambo Cafe.

7. Second Street Brewery

At the end of the day, it is always nice to have a nice cold beer waiting for you. This is what you can expect to get with your visit to the Second Street Brewery. This is where you will find a number of craft beers on tap. The pub was opened back in 2010 and has been popular since day one. You will also find a menu filled with comfort food, including items unique to New Mexico. Don’t worry, you can always get burgers and chicken wings as well.

6. Santa Fe Opera

This is a cultural experience you are not soon to forget. You might think that Santa Fe is a place for the Fine Arts, but this theater will help you get rid of that notion. It was founded back in 1956 and is home to numerous cultural activities all throughout the year. Look to see what is playing while you are in town and then make plans to attend. Just looking at the grounds where the building is housed is an experience in and of itself.

5. Sweetwater Harvest Kitchen

Now, here is a restaurant that is really worth visiting. It is definitely unique, so you will want to see it just to see what the buzz is about. You will find a number of organic and sustainable food items on the menu. This included daal from East India, fried rice made with kimchi, burgers made from bison, and so much more.

4. Le Lecheria

Here is where you will find all things dairy in Santa Fe. You will love the array of ice cream options here. Nothing is more refreshing than a visit to Santa Fe institution during the summer months. It is a great place to cool off and enjoy a tasty treat at the same time. You will find so many different flavors on offer that you may just have to make several visits here while you are in Santa Fe for the first time.

3. Santa Fe School of Cooking

If you take a liking to SOuthwestern cuisine, this is a great school to attend so you can take home some recipes. You can also take some walking tours of famous restaurants in the area and learn from the chefs how the dishes are prepared. There are a lot of different options that the school offers you depending on how much time you have.

2. Turner Carroll Gallery

This is an art gallery that was opened up back in 1991. You will find that many of these artists whose work is here are famous from around the world. You will find collections from various time periods and from a number of regions around the globe.

1. Kokopelli Rafting Adventures

The best thing to do while you are in Santa Fe for the first time is to take a rafting trip down the Rio Grande River. You will love the adventure, and it sure is a great way to cool off when it is hot outside. There are tours for beginners all the way to the most experienced rafters out there.

Now that you have this list of the best things to do while in Santa Fe, it is time to start the planning process. Take a look and start to pencil in a few of these activities. Consider the entire family in the planning process as well. It is always fun to do things that everyone will enjoy. This is your chance to get to know this historical city in the southwest, so make the best of your time there.


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