24 Hours in Santa Fe, New Mexico
Updated: Jun 13, 2022
Tucked in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo mountains, Santa Fe offers a charming blend of urban cool and outdoor adventure. The city, New Mexico's capital, was officially founded as a Spanish colony in 1610 and the central plaza, winding streets, and adobe buildings harken back to a different era. Now, there are too many art galleries and boutiques to count, meaning one could easily while away a week popping in and out of storefronts. For those less interested in art, public parks, museums, and historic sites dot the city, meaning there’s plenty to do besides gaze at paintings. Live music is common and, beyond the city limits, nature offers a bounty of activities from hiking and biking to skiing and fishing.
In the winter, Santa Fe feels particularly cozy, with luminaria glinting on every street and roaring fires blazing in every lobby. If you visit during the holidays, be sure to check a local events calendar for seasonal gatherings and festivals. Read on for a jam-packed itinerary that introduces you to some of Santa Fe’s quirkiest offerings.
Morning: A Hearty Start
Fuel up for a full day of activities with breakfast at The Teahouse. Nestled amongst the multitude of art galleries on Canyon Road, The Teahouse serves up a cozy, down-home vibe, heaping plates of colorful breakfast fare, and innovative tea drinks of all kinds. Try the Mushroom Eggs Benedict for a vegetarian take on the classic dish or the quiche of the day. Pair your breakfast of choice with one of The Teahouse’s creative tea drinks -- the Teahouse Chai Latte delivers a powerful punch of spices while the Halifax Fog, a mix of Earl Grey and maple syrup, offers a milder, more floral flavor profile.
How To Spend Your Day: Town & Country
After a hearty breakfast at The Teahouse, meander up and down Canyon Road. Canyon Road is known as the epicenter of Santa Fe’s art gallery scene. With more than 100 galleries, boutiques, and businesses within a half-mile stretch, it’s an art lover’s paradise. Make sure to stop in at the Dark Bird Palace next to The Teahouse -- the gallery more closely resembles a shack and is filled, floor to ceiling, with quirky, colorful creations. Take it all in and decide for yourself whether the creations are creepy or creative...
Once you’ve made your way through Canyon Road’s galleries, head across town to the Santa Railyard Arts District. Wander through the 13-acre Railyard Park (keep an eye out for the neat little display about bees in America) before stopping in at SITE Santa Fe, a non-profit contemporary arts organization. When we visited SITE, we saw the “bel canto” exhibit -- an exhibit that explored race, gender, class, and post-colonialism through opera. The exhibit was captivating, interactive, and profoundly educational, offering a far more modern take on opera than I’ve ever seen before. If you’re lucky enough to visit SITE on a Friday, admission is free.
Continue your trek through the Railyard Arts District and stop off at the extremely hip Sky Coffee for an afternoon pick-me-up. Once you’ve taken in the sights and flavors of the Railyard District, it’s time to head out to the outskirts of town for a breath of fresh air.
The Santa Fe Botanical Garden at Museum Hill is located just a short 10-minute drive from downtown. The gardens, which are lovingly tended by hundreds of volunteers, showcase the unique geology, botany, and history of Northern New Mexico. Take in the peace and quiet, learn about New Mexico’s native plants, and keep an eye out for the lovely statues placed throughout the garden. Before you visit, be sure to check the website for the seasonal schedule as the hours do change throughout the year. Admission is $7 for adults and $5 for students.
After a full morning of activities, stop by Vinaigrette, a sweet little cafe devoted to delivering the most delicious salads. The restaurant sources most of its veggies from its nearby farm and runs a robust composting program for their food waste. Try the All Kale Caesar! for a modern take on the classic or the Spinach-Mushroom for something a bit heartier.
Feeling energized after lunch? Check out Meow Wolf, the infamous arts collective that thrills visitors with immersive and interactive art installations. Wild colors, multimedia, and lights galore will delight visitors of all ages. So, if you’re into art but want something a little more funky and hands-on than the typical Santa Fe art galleries, don’t miss Meow Wolf. Admission is $30 for adults and $25 for kids with tickets available for purchase ahead of time online.
Dinner: A Taste of Spain
Finish your day with a leisurely dinner at La Boca in downtown Santa Fe. The space is warm and inviting, the staff friendly and helpful, and the food delightful. All the tapas are excellent; I recommend starting with the Remolaxta and the Plato de Queso and seeing where your taste buds take you from there. There is often live music in the evening, so order a bottle of Spanish wine and finish your day in Santa Fe with a slow, satisfying feast.