Santa Fe New Mexico – Should it be on Your Bucket List?

Santa Fe New Mexico –

Why Put it on Your Bucket List?

Sculpture in front of Museum of Indian Art and Culture in Santa Fe New Mexico

Santa Fe New Mexico has it All

Santa Fe New Mexico – Thinking of visiting? Santa Fe New Mexico offers exhilarating and enriching experiences year round. From winter sports and summer hiking to the arts, great food, Native Indian and Spanish culture, to history and geology. A treasure trove of adventures awaits you.

Santa Fe New Mexico – Outdoor Experiences

New Mexico Painted DesertNo matter the time of year, Santa Fe’s unspoiled wilderness invites adventure. In winter, you can ski at Ski Santa Fe or go up to Taos. In April, we hiked Tent Rocks, a moderate to difficult hike that took us from the canyon base to the mountaintop – exhilarating. Plaza Blanca, another hike we did near Abiquiu where Georgia O’Keeffe lived and painted, is quite an interesting set of land formations to explore. We also hiked:

Bandelier National Monument Pueblo Cliff dwellings

  • Bandolier National Monument – where Ancient dwellings of the Puebloan people are located
  • Puye Cliffs – abandoned pueblo ruins on the Santa Clara Pueblo – another National Historic Monument
  • Tent Rocks National Monument
  • Rio Grande Gorge – Bridge and hiking near Taos

Everywhere you look the scenery is diverse and exquisite.

Arts + Culture

Sculpture of Valentino Tzigiwhaeno Riveria by his father George RiveraIf you are a city person and love art, history and culture, you’ll find plenty to do in downtown Santa Fe New Mexico. Four world-class museums reside on Museum Hill in Santa Fe New Mexico. They include:

  • Museum of Indian Arts & Culture (my favorite)
  • Museum of Spanish Colonial Culture (missed it dues to our time limitations)
  • Museum of International Folk Art (We visited it; has extensive collections and regular tours included with admission. If you like folk art don’t miss it. It’s not my thing.)
  • Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian (missed it dues to our time limitations)

And Santa Fe Botanical Garden is also on Museum Hill.

Other Arts + Museums

A visit to Santa Fe New Mexico is not complete without a visit to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, as Georgia O’Keeffe was a major figure in American art, and a trendsetter.

Meow Wolf – a modern experiential, interactive installation that transports you to various realms – is quite an experience, so don’t miss it.

Two bronze sculptures of bears. Found along Gallery Row on Canyon Road in Santa Fe, NMSpend the day browsing the incredible galleries on Canyon Road. There are over 100 galleries and artist studios. Every style and medium seems to be represented. Whether you are a collector or a voyeur, it is an interesting experience.

More than 23 Museums of Art and history are in Santa Fe, and more in the surrounding area.

I highly recommend a day trip to Abiquiu to experience Georgia O’Keeffe country – The Ghost Ranch and Abiquiu – her home and studio. The Ghost Ranch tour physically engages visitors in the landscapes that inspired Georgia O’Keeffe’s painting. Her home can only be seen on a tour, and it gives a wonderful understanding of the artist, her life, how she lived and loved the land. You’ll see her fruit and vegetable garden, which is still planted today.


Two great finds in Santa Fe New Mexico are the Jackalope Complex and Gallery Ethnica. At Jackalope, a local glass blower offers works and instruction; students leave completing 3 pieces in 1 hour. Tom wants to go back and take some lessons with the glassblower. The majority of the complex offers great items for purchase, many are imports – some real, some imitations so ask questions if you are looking for authentic objects. Not everything needs to be authentic to get great buys. Gallery Ethnica on Cerrillos Road is a wholesaler of authentic and imported jewelry, crafts, furniture and accessories. Anyone can purchase at their wholesale prices and it’s a great place to buy gifts. We spent hours at each.

Spas + Relaxation

If you are interested in relaxation and rejuvenation, Santa Fe has plenty of opportunities. From spas to healing arts, yoga, hot springs, and wellness, you’ll have a wide array of places to spend time. My friend spent an evening at Ten Thousand Waves, and I wish I would’ve gone too; hot tubs and spas are located outdoors amongst the juniper and pinion trees.

Some of the hotels have highly rated spas, like Nidah Spa at the Eldorado and Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado Santa Fe Spa. There are many spas in downtown Santa Fe and outside of town also, like Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort & Spa, which looks lovely and expensive. I hope to visit Ojo Caliente on our next visit to Santa Fe.

Native American & Spanish Culture

Native American Culture abounds in and around Santa Fe, so visit the Indian reservations and Pueblos. We visited several, for either a tour of the Pueblo, shopping for Native American jewelry, crafts, or food, and exploring the ancient dwellings and ruins. Within approximately 30 miles of Santa Fe, and worth checking out are Puye Cliffs and the Santa Clara Pueblo, Bandolier National Monument, Poeh Cultural Center at the Pojoaque Pueblo, Nambe, and San Ildefonso. At San Ildefonso, you can visit their artisans and shops. We found the Native Americans very friendly on all of the Pueblos.

Taos Pueblo is the only living Native American community designated both a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and a National Historic Landmark.If you love nature’s landscapes, take a day trip to Taos on the High Road. A visit to the Spanish Colony of Chimayo and artisans along the way is a ‘must.’ Eat at Rancho de Chimayo, and experience the fusion of Spanish, Indian and American food; it was delicious!

In Taos, visit the Taos Pueblo and take a free tour. After the tour, be sure to visit the craftsman and check out or purchase authentic Native American crafts, including very fine silver jewelry.

Santa Fe New Mexico Restaurants

sante-fe-new-mexico-dining-at-vinaigretteSanta Fe is also known for its foodie culture. Some restaurants our group enjoyed include Geronimo – for a high-end experience, Café Pasqual – for eclectic, organic Mexican food, Vinaigrette – for fabulous salads or sandwiches, Harry’s Roadhouse – a ‘neighborhood restaurant’ offering regional food and Milrad Persian Bistro – on Canyon Road, was named a top New Mexico restaurant serving middle eastern cuisine.

The food at the Abiquiu Inn was excellent too. There are so many more great restaurants that I invite you to add your favorites in the comments section.


There’s so much to do in Santa Fe and the surrounding area; it exceeded my bucket list expectations. Our week was busy and we saw most of what I discuss here. We did skip quite a number of interesting attractions due to time constraints.  I plan to visit Santa Fe again in the future.

40 thoughts on “Santa Fe New Mexico – Should it be on Your Bucket List?

  1. hi Wendy,
    thanks for your wonderful article about Santa Fe as well as the many beautiful photos you included! I have never had the opportunity to visit New Mexico, but you have definitely convinced me that it should be on everyone’s bucket list!
    thanks again for such a beautiful, informative, and stimulating description of this unique part of our country!

  2. Very comprehensive summary of the best of Santa Fe New Mexico and first hand experiences. Wonderful pictures! It was a great trip and these descriptions are super.

  3. It’s high time we head back to Santa Fe. I think it’s been 15 years since I last visited. Looking at your post and reading all of the Spanish names reminds me of how much I miss living in the West. Many moons ago, Santa Fe was the dream city I would move to leaving Ohio. Turned out we hit Tucson Arizona instead. I loved all of the galleries and the vibe of walking through the streets of Santa Fe.

    • We spent some time in the Tucson area on this trip too. If you are driving from Tucson, depending on how you go, I can make some suggestions on great places to stop along the way. Let me know if you want some tips. Happy travels!

  4. It may sound silly, but I’ve actually been dying to visit New Mexico since binge-watching Breaking Bad! It looks so lovely. I’ve visited a lot of the north of the US since I’m Canadian but the south (and west) are interesting me more and more! Thanks for this post!

  5. This is quite the guide to experiencing Santa Fe, the Bandolier National Monument, Puye Cliffs. Tent Rocks National Monument. Rio Grande Gorge look like they are must do’s when visiting. I’ve not yet embarked on my USA road trip yet but I will definitely bear this in mind for when I do

  6. I have a friend who loves Santa Fe for the yoga and meditation experiences. Before reading this informative post, that’s all I knew about the area. Visiting the monuments and Georgia O’Keeffe museums would be high on my list! What a wonderful overview to everything Santa Fe has to offer!!

    • Yes, my friend goes for the yoga too. We never did yoga, and it was such a fun filled, action-packed, interesting week!

  7. I always wanted to visit New Mexico – especially for the Native American and Spanish culture. Visiting the Georgia O’Keefe museum must be great! Problem is that I’m not driving and – also according to your post – I hardly see a chance how to get to visit the canyons and monuments….as soon as I find a driver, I go!

    • There are several things you can do using the bus. Uber is there too. You can likely take a tour of some of the canyons. I think it is doable without being a driver, as long as you are willing to use some of these alternatives.

  8. I’ve been wanting to go to Santa Fe for ages…mainly for the Georgia O’Keefe stuff. I’ve heard the foodie scene is good too (green chilis!), but I never would have guessed that middle eastern food is a highlight. Great tips!

    • There is so much more in the Arts area, and food too! My favorite were the hikes and The Ghost Ranch Tour where O’Keeffe painted.

  9. Santa Fe was not on my list/ Now I need to relook :). I can very easily see that it is a photographer’s delight. If not for photography , I would go there for the Spas , surely 🙂 🙂 With so many things to do in and around Santa Fe , it looks like a complete vacation.

  10. I didn’t know Santa Fe had a lot of Museums. Wow, 23?! These recommendations are amazing. What I’m also excited about is the foodie culture. I love Mexican food! I hope I can visit someday.

  11. I spent only night in Santa Fe and didn’t get to see very much. What I did see convinced me I’d like to return and spend several days. You’ve given me lots of ideas of what to see and do when that happens.

  12. I have not been to New Mexico for a very long time. So a trip to Santa Fe is highly in order. Thx so much for the great post. You’ve certainly got me planning a return visit to this region.

    • There is a very special chocolate place there too! Steve Collins (Billie Frank’s husband) can give you the details.

  13. You had me at great food and Native Indian and Spanish culture! Santa Fe sounds like a great place to visit for adventure lovers, hiking enthusiasts, foodies and culture enthusiasts. I’ve never been to a place with Native Indian influence and I really would love to go. I love the pictures of Puye Cliffs, they’re so intriguing!

  14. Pingback: Flagstaff Arizona Attractions - Top 11 reasons to use Flagstaff as your baseAdventurous Retirement

  15. I missed Puye and Tent Rocks but clearly remember how much I enjoyed the others you’ve listed here. And we wandered a bit more to Chaco, Pecos and Los Alamos.

    • Yes, we loved Chaco and Tom was enamored with Los Alamos. We also did Bisti Badlands. If you have seen Tent Rocks, it is quite a sight to see! Perhaps a short trip from your home in Mesa?

  16. New Mexico has been on my bucket list for a while because of the Spanish and Native American culture. But I hadn’t realised it had such fabulous countryside too – I need to get there!

    • Yes, Santa Fe has it all. The town of Chimayo and the High Road from Santa Fe to Taos has that Spanish influence. We loved the countryside the most.

  17. Pingback: Top adventure trips in the USA

  18. Pingback: The Best Road Trips in USA - 22 Epic American Road Trips

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.