Shenanigans in Santa Fe – So Much to Experience in This Beautiful Town!

Santa Fe is FULL of unique and interesting things to do and see!  Here are some of our favorites from Labor Day weekend 2016. I am giving you links to websites for information, but Santa Fe crowds are really not so bad that you would need to worry about pre-purchasing tickets to any of these attractions.

santa fe sunset cocktails
Mark at the Bell Tower Bar

Viewing a Santa Fe sunset should be near the top of everyone’s list.  We heard that there are two great places to admire an awesome sunset over the mountains.  The first was The Cross of the Martyrs just a couple of blocks away from the central plaza.  The second was from the Bell Tower Bar on the 5th floor of La Fonda Hotel, located at the central part of the historic district.  We chose the rooftop bar! It is a well known fact that this is a fab place to take in a sunset, so it fills up nightly.  Be sure to get there about an hour prior to sunset if you would like a place to sit.  Then, just relax and enjoy the splendor of nature!

santa fe miraculous staircase
Miraculous staircase

The lovely Loretto Chapel is a fun and quick visit to make very near the center of town.  The “miraculous” stairway is the attraction here. Admission is $3.  The story goes that the church was completed around 1878 , except for a means of reaching the choir loft from the main floor.  The architect had died, and the nuns prayed fervently for help.  A carpenter showed up empty handed out of nowhere and built this stairway for them. Then he disappeared, never to be seen again.   The nuns believe it was Joseph, father of Jesus who came to help them. That, and the questionable engineering of this stairway , account for the “miraculous” title.   Interestingly, this stairway had no banisters from 1879-1887.  I think that would have been quite scary!  The chapel itself is very pretty and apparently has great acoustics.  Christmas concerts are often held here. Hours and events can be found on the chapel website .

The International Folk Art Museum is located on Museum Hill.  You can walk there from the center of town, but it is much easier to drive or get a ride on one of the free shuttle services. The walk takes quite a while and is not particularly pretty or interesting.  Admission is $12, or it is included on the $30 Culture pass.  The Culture pass will get you in to Four museums: this one, NM Museum of art , NM History Museum  and the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture.

The International Folk Art Museum is currently #1 on Trip Advisor’s list of things to do in Santa Fe.  It does not disappoint!  My favorite part of the museum is the Girard wing. Photos above are a small sampling of what it has to offer.  It is hard to describe this place. Mr. Girard donated 100,000 items of folk art from all over the world and the money to build a wing for the museum to house them.  He then spent three years of his life laying out a portion of these items according to his vision.  You could come back over and over again and keep seeing something new amidst all of this.  We spent about two hours here and thoroughly enjoyed the astounding collection! Information can be found at the website.

Just a short walk across the museum plaza, is another one of our favorites.

santa fe indian arts museum
Museum of Indian Arts and Culture

The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture costs $12 to enter, or you can use the culture pass.  Photography is not permitted inside.  The largest permanent exhibit is called “Here, Now and Always”. This is where you can get a really good overview of the complicated thousand year history of the indigenous peoples of the southwest.  We had no idea how much we did not know!  I strongly recommend the free docent tour here.  It is offered twice a day. Without the guide, the exhibit can be a little tough to follow, plus you get the added bonus of being able to ask questions.   There is so much to learn about the Pueblos who have lived here in villages and also the other indigenous peoples who came through. We had just visited the Bandelier monument ruins and this experience gave us a much deeper understanding of what we had seen.  Mark and I both highly recommend this place, but WITH the docent tour. Check out their website.

While you are up on museum hill you might get a little hungry.

santa fe museum hill mark
Mark enjoying Steak Tacos on Museum Hill

You should definitely grab a bite at the Museum Hill Café.  It is located directly in between the Museum of International Folk Art and the Museum of Indain Arts and Culture.  You can’t miss it!  This was one of our best dining experiences of the trip. We like it so much that we went back for a second visit on our way home.  If you go on a Sunday, they serve a delicious brunch and have live piano music.

There is another museum back down in town that you really need to see as well.

santa fe georgia o'keefe (2)

The Georgia O’Keefe museum is located just a few blocks off of the main Plaza. Admission is $12 and this is not included on the “culture pass” card.  O’Keefe is probably the most famous Santa Fe artist, and for good reason.  Her paintings are inspired. I was interested to see that even though she is most well known for her beautiful and large paintings of flowers, almost 90% of her paintings were of other subjects!   This museum has a wonderful collection of her works.  I would recommend the free docent tour to fully appreciate the collection.  It only took about an hour, and was very insightful.  Hours and information are available at the museum website .

santa fe statehouse
Mark at the NM Capitol building

The New Mexico Capitol Building is located just  a block or two off of the Plaza in the center of the Historic District.  You can enter for free to see the House and Senate chambers as well as an extensive collection of New Mexican Art.  This is a nice way to spend 30 minutes to an hour of your day, and it made Mark’s top five list, probably more because he likes seeing where the government meets, and also the cool architecture of this newly renovated building.  The art collection is modern and fun, too! They offer tours on weekdays, but we weren’t there on a weekday.  Hours and tour information is available at the capital website.

mark nm museum of art
Mark at the NM Museum of Art

The NM Museum of Art is another great place to explore.  It is included on the Culture pass, or you can pay $12 to enter. Hours and information are available at the museum’s  website. It is a relatively small museum housed in a beautiful Pueblo revival style building.  Think: Adobe meets art deco.  Built in 1917, the architecture reminded me of Guadi, if he used abobe. My favorite part of this place, aside from the architecture, was the permanent exhibit called the Southwestern Sampler.

The sampler had many colorful and evocative paintings from about a century ago. There were some other rotating exhibits and a sculpture garden. A visit here probably won’t take you much longer than an hour or so. You will be glad you stopped in.


From the center of town, it is an easy walk to the famous Canyon Road.

santa fe house
Canyon Road house


Everyone who comes to this town really should check out Canyon Road. It is where most of the art galleries are, and checking them out is really fun. The variety of art is amazing. People watching is pretty interesting, too!  As a bonus, the street itself is quirky and beautiful in its own unique New Mexican way. Some of the town’s fanciest restaurants are up here, but we didn’t get a chance to sample any, so you will be on your own to check those out.  Honestly, you could spend days just on this street.

We visited many other sites in town as well as some outside of Santa Fe, but these were our favorites.  In my next articles, I will tell you a little about our day trip outside of the city and also some dining experiences.  I hope you get a chance to visit!

3 thoughts on “Shenanigans in Santa Fe – So Much to Experience in This Beautiful Town!

  1. Looks nice to visit! Will definitely consider stopping here on my west coast road trip that i’m planning!


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