Photograph by travellinglight, Alamy Stock Photo
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Shoppers gather at an artists market at the Santa Fe Railyard.

Photograph by travellinglight, Alamy Stock Photo

Discover the Best of Santa Fe

Plan your trip to New Mexico's capital city with these top 10 tips.

With centuries of blended cultures, exciting cuisine, unique art, and rugged mountains, Santa Fe offers its visitors everything from cozy romance to alpine adventure.

Wildlife

More than 180 species of birds call the Randall Davey Audubon Center and Sanctuary home throughout the year. This 135-acre protected area near the end of Upper Canyon Road borders the Santa Fe National Forest and Santa Fe River Watershed and contains a riparian habitat teeming with local flora and fauna.

Natural Wonder

Located 20 miles south of Santa Fe near Cochiti Pueblo, Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument contains cone-shaped geological formations created seven million years ago when volcanically ejected rocks landed on a layer of volcanic ash. Three trails here wind through a surreal landscape of formations that reach up to 90 feet tall, often with the cap rock still on top.

National Park

At Valle Caldera National Preserve 50 miles northwest of Santa Fe, 89,216 acres encompass a 13-mile-wide crater left when a supervolcano exploded some 1.25 million years ago. Today the area contains lush meadows, forests, and streams that are homes for elk, eagles, trout, and other wildlife, and a playground for hikers and nature lovers.

Archaeological Site

Located an hour northwest of Santa Fe near Los Alamos, Bandelier National Monument protects Native American cliff dwellings dating to the 13th century that were carved into the side of a forested canyon. A series of ladders leads 140 feet above the canyon floor to picturesque Alcove House, a circular structure dug into the shallow cave’s floor.

UNESCO Site

Taos Pueblo’s 1,000-year-old adobe buildings, art, and culture were cited when it was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1992. Iconic Old Village is home to 150 tribal members who live traditionally without running water, and generally allows visitors from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. ($16 per person). Call (575) 758-1028 beforehand to make sure the Pueblo is open to visitors.

Cultural Experience

Several of New Mexico’s 19 Pueblos are near Santa Fe, including San Ildefonso, Santa Clara, and Ohkay Owingeh. These Native American communities have been inhabited for centuries and welcome respectful visitors. Some traditional dances are open to the public throughout the year. For general information regarding the Pueblos, check with the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center.

Off the Beaten Path

Called the Lourdes of America, El Santuario de Chimayo is an adobe church in Chimayo, a village 30 miles north of Santa Fe. Since the 1700s El Santuario has been believed to be a place of miracles and answered prayers. Today, visitors may still enter a small side room and, from a hole in the floor, take a scoop of dirt that some believe has healing properties.

Most Iconic Place

Part fun house, part art installation, Meow Wolf is an interactive amusement park inside a 20,000-square-foot former bowling alley. Sponsored by George R. R. Martin, author of the Game of Thrones books, Santa Fe artists have built a house in which passages through fireplaces and refrigerators lead to surreal “worlds” that house fantastical creatures, interactive musical instruments, tree houses, and hidden crannies filled with plush pillows.

Neighborhood to Explore

The quiet Canyon Road neighborhood is home to more than 100 fine art galleries, making it the densest concentration of art galleries in the world. The narrow road was once used by burros and their owners carrying firewood into town from the surrounding mountains, and its adobe homes, which were once artists’ studios in the 1920s, are now galleries, restaurants, and boutiques.

Loretto Chapel

Completed in 1878, the Loretto Chapel is known for its Miraculous Staircase, a wooden 22-foot-tall spiral that makes two 360-degree turns with no center support. Only square wooden pegs were used to fasten the wood. Legend has it that a mysterious carpenter arrived at the chapel and built the unusual staircase, then left without payment.