First-Timers Guide to Santa Fe

Here is everything you need to know to plan your first visit to The City Different.

Santa Fe, New Mexico is a magical, exuberant, colorful journey at any time of year. Our legendary history and culture will fascinate and inspire you. Our art galleries and diverse visual arts span ancient traditional art to the most contemporary, making it one of the largest and most important art markets in the country. Settle yourself into our world class accommodations, partake of our sumptuous world renowned cuisine and treat yourself to our colorful markets and experience why Santa Fe has been considered a legendary trading center for hundreds of years.

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Getting To and Around Santa Fe

First Timers Guide
The New Mexico Rail Runner makes its final stop at the Santa Fe Railyard.

The Santa Fe Regional Airport features daily flights from Denver, Dallas and Phoenix. The Albuquerque International Sunport is about a 1 hour drive from Santa Fe, and offers more flight and airline options. There is shuttle service running hourly, or you can take the Rail Runner Express commuter rail system from Albuquerque.

Downtown Santa Fe is an extremely walkable area, but if you are looking to explore beyond, additional transportation is necessary. A free shuttle service, the Santa Fe Pick-up, circulates between the Plaza area, Railyard District, Canyon Road and Museum Hill.  Uber and Lyft are available for taxi style service. Visit our guide on getting around Santa Fe for more information on all public transportation options.


History and Culture

For 400+ years, Santa Fe has improved with age. The nation’s oldest capital city experienced waves of migrations along the three trails that led here—and more recently via the rails, Route 66 and the interstate. Artists, chefs, wellness experts, and other creative dreamers all bring their culture, talents and experience with them and when they meet Santa Fe’s unique blend of Anglo, Spanish and Native cultures against a backdrop of the Sangre de Cristo mountains’ majesty and the spectacular sunsets over the Jemez range—nothing short of magic transpires.

Take in the history of the area at Museum Hill, home to 4 world class museums as well as the Santa Fe Botanical Gardens. Our Insider’s Guide will give you all the tips you need for a successful day on the hill. Our guide of Santa Fe’s Historic Sites will take you to the most significant locations in the city’s long history.


Cuisine

The City Different has more than 400 restaurants that range from fine dining to uber-casual, and the scene continues to blossom with restaurants embracing artisan and farm-to-table craft foods and beverages. Santa Fe has an award-winning year round Farmers Market and superb cooking classes where travelers can learn the secrets from local chefs, among many other assets that will dazzle any palate. 

While visiting, you can check out “The Best Margaritas in the World.” If you are the type of person who wants to eat and drink their way through a city, we have curated the perfect itinerary. If you’re just looking for a little dinner inspiration, these 15 Culinary Experiences will excite your taste buds.


Arts

Santa Fe brings art to life with live music, premier films and cultural dance. There is no more beautiful way to experience opera for the first or fiftieth time than at the Santa Fe Opera. Wander the halls of the New Mexico Museum of Art, Georgia O’Keeffe Museum and IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts or check out the more than 250 galleries concentrated on Canyon Road, downtown Lincoln Avenue and Railyard District. If you are an art enthusiast or collector, you will find in Santa Fe an unparalleled diversity of fine art ranging from traditional to contemporary, including painting, sculpture, mixed media, graphic art and textiles.

If you really want to see the future of mixed media and performance, check out these seven art experiences only found in Santa Fe.


Outdoor Adventures

Santa Fe is famous for its clean, mountain air, amazing blue skies and 1.6 million acres of public land. It is, in fact, a high elevation piñon-juniper woodland. Winter brings downhill and cross-country skiers from all over to test their skills on the snow-packed terrain. While in spring, summer and fall, the surrounding mountain trails provide an endless amusement park for climbers, hikers and bicyclists. And the magnificent quality of the light has inspired artists for generations.

If you are looking to get out for a quick hike, check out our guide to nearby hiking trails for inspiration. If you are planning a winter visit, here are a few winter adventures that might surprise you.


Shopping

In the mid-19th century, traders used the Santa Fe Trail to bring essential and luxury goods to the southwest. Santa Fe continues to give shoppers access to Native American artwork and unique handmade items of delight in small boutiques, trading posts and large open air markets. 

Summer is the ideal time for shopaholics to visit. The International Folk Art Market, Spanish Market, and SWAIA Santa Fe Indian Market all take place within a 6-week period. You can also find local Native artisans selling authentic works of art at the Palace of the Governor Portal daily, year-round.


There is no better time to plan your trip to The City Different than the present. Order your copy of the Official Santa Fe Visitors Guide to begin planning today!

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