Santa Fe flea market

Visit the colorful markets of Santa Fe. (Photo: Getty Images)

Weekend Getaways

Explore Santa Fe, New Mexico’s Rich Cultural Identity on a 3-Day Trip

Getting to know Santa Fe — its history, native cultures, art and environment — is both inspiring and fun. The fascinating capital of New Mexico offers museums from cultural to contemporary, as well as delicious Southwestern cuisine combining elements of Hispanic, Mexican and Native American dishes.

Traditional pueblo-style adobe buildings create a unique atmosphere, and the surrounding mountains lend a stunning backdrop to a place that’s both historic and modern.

As always, check for travel restrictions and closures before planning your trip.

Friday: Explore Local History and Mind-Bending Art

Starting at the traditional Santa Fe Plaza, stroll along the winding downtown streets to get the lay of the land. Grab a latte and pastry at one of the nearby cafés — part hip coffee shop, part local art gallery, JW Windsor’s is an inspired choice — and sit for a while in the plaza, letting the architecture take you back in time.

Then walk to the nearby New Mexico History Museum for a deeper look at the history of the Southwest. Next, just steps away, the Palace of the Governors offers even more background — and a chance for your first shopping excursion. On your way out, visit the Native artisans who display their creations in the museum’s breezeway.

It’s time for a break and your first authentic Southwestern meal at Tres Colores. A hallmark of New Mexican cuisine, chile sauce comes in two main varieties: red or green. If you can’t decide, ask your server for “Christmas” and you can try both. You might also find blue corn, pinto beans or squash blossoms — other Southwestern staples — on your plate.

The Loretto Chapel at night
The Loretto Chapel lights up the night. (Photo: Getty Images)

Before you leave the area, stop in at Loretto Chapel to see the famed “Miraculous Staircase,” said to have been built by a mysterious carpenter in an innovative design ahead of its time. The architectural puzzle has been the subject of articles, TV specials and even a full-length film.

Tonight, travel from history to modernity with a visit to Meow Wolf‘s House of Eternal Return, a “mind-bending explorable art experience,” usually open late on Friday evenings. Stay for a margarita and a hearty meal from one of the rotating food trucks parked outside — the carnitas tacos at Taqueria Gracias Madre are a local favorite.

Saturday: Spend a Day at the Museums

After a stop at Tia Sophia’s, an iconic café that’s been serving up breakfast burritos for more than 45 years, head to Museum Hill for a day of cultural immersion. Set in a sprawling sculpture garden, with unobstructed views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains as your backdrop, this area plays host to four separate cultural institutions, as well as a few artsy gift shops and an upscale café.

You can stroll easily from the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art, where you can browse art from Spain’s “New World” colonies in a 1930s building, to the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture to explore 1,600 years of Indigenous pottery from New Mexico.

Depending on your interests (and appetite for museums), you might also want to see toys, textiles, costumes and masks from more than 100 countries around the world at the Museum of International Folk Art, or visit the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, showcasing 7,500 artworks in a variety of mediums by Indigenous artists from 1962 to the present day.

Enchiladas with cojita cheese and crema
Don’t forget to take a break for lunch! (Photo: Getty Images)

When hunger strikes, enjoy a relaxing lunch with outstanding views at Weldon’s Museum Hill Café. Southwestern-style fare (stuffed poblano or enchiladas suizas) pairs with a solid wine selection.

Afterward, wander through rows of high-desert plants and a pinyon pine forest at the Botanical Garden or pick up a high-style souvenir at the International Folk Art Market. Still in the mood for shopping? Stop at the Case Trading Post at the Wheelwright Museum, built in the style of a Navajo trading post.

It’s a day of museums, and you don’t want to miss Georgia O’Keeffe’s masterpieces. The artist lived in Santa Fe for more than 40 years, and the city is now home to a museum with a collection spanning her lifetime. Spend some time learning about the painter and seeing her work at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum before you move on to Canyon Road — Santa Fe’s unofficial art gallery row.

Take a casual stroll among the galleries along the 1-mile Canyon Road, where you can see fine art and meet the artists. You’ll find traditional and contemporary works, plus sculpture, jewelry and more along a stretch of adobe buildings. During the holiday season, the galleries are lined with thousands of luminarias, paper bags illuminated with candles.

Later, for a change of scenery, head to the Railyard, a trendy area with casual eateries, breweries and, if you’re still in the mood, even more art galleries.

At Second Street Brewery, fill up on the green chile chicken stew and northern New Mexico-style enchiladas — all washed down with one of the house brews, which have been Santa Fe standbys for nearly 60 years.

Sunday: Hit the Trails

It’s time to enjoy Santa Fe’s mountains, scenery and fresh air — but don’t forget breakfast. The Atrisco Café & Bar serves up hearty Southwestern dishes, like huevos rancheros and breakfast enchiladas, to fill you up for a day of hiking. The restaurant is located just off of the Paseo de Peralta, so it’s a quick stop on your way to the trails north of the city.

Sangre de Cristo mountains in New Mexico
Hike the Sangre de Cristo Mountains for some incredible views. (Photo: Getty Images)

You’re probably still getting acclimated to the altitude and dry air, so pack plenty of water before setting out for your hike. The 6-mile Aspen Vista Trail in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains has killer views, or, if you prefer, there are options for mountain biking, horseback riding and snowshoeing come winter.

Also nearby, Cerrillos Hills State Park features a number of shorter hiking and mountain biking trails, as well as a horse rental stable and self-guided history tour of the former mining area.

After a long day on your feet, you deserve a bit of pampering — a massage at Spa Sage at the historic La Posada de Santa Fe Resort will soothe your weary muscles.

Afterward, take your newly invigorated self to the Patio Restaurant for a cocktail and dinner outdoors under the stars. If there’s a chill in the air, move closer to one of the kiva fireplaces as you enjoy small bites like charred octopus, street tacos or chile con queso. It’s time to relax and reflect on all you’ve seen during your days in Santa Fe.