If You Only Have One Day in Santa Fe
Some of the best things to do in Santa Fe when you only have one day
There are dozens and dozens of things you should do when you visit Santa Fe. But if you do find your time here is limited, here are some of our favorite things to do in Santa Fe if you only have one day.
Breakfast at the Santa Fe Farmer’s Market
Waking up in Santa Fe is glorious. Even in summer the morning temperatures are cool, the sky is almost always clear. And the whole day is ahead of you!
Our one-day-in-Santa-Fe trip starts with one of the locals’ favorites, the Santa Fe Farmer’s Market. Even if you don’t need or want to buy the amazing produce, meat and other delectibles, the Farmer’s Market is a great place to get a bite of breakfast that was grown here in New Mexico. We take pride in our food, so no matter what you eat from the Market, it’s going to be good. (Not your speed? Try these Santa Fe Breakfast Spots.)
But even better than the food is the people watching. Santa Fe is a diverse community and it is entirely evident here. Many of the farmers come from families who have been in New Mexico for hundreds of years. You’ll pick up on the accent that is a legacy of Spanish settlers who came here in the 1600s and maybe get some great stories about the old days
You’ll see plenty of artists, old hippies, families and more. You’ll probably also spot lots of local chefs who are ordering produce for the week. If you see someone stocking up on a particular ingredient, ask them where they are cooking tonight. (Check out our restaurant guide!)
Morning on the Santa Fe Plaza
After breakfast, it’s time to take the 10-15 minute walk to the historic Plaza. The Plaza is the heart of Santa Fe, where there’s more than enough to see, do, eat, and buy. You won’t need your car - the downtown historic district is easily (and best) navigated on foot.
On the Plaza, locals play and tourists gather. First, take a moment to appreciate that you’re standing in the heart of the oldest capital city in the United States, which was founded in 1610. On the north side of the Plaza is the Palace of the Governors, which was built the same year.
Shopping in Santa Fe
Who could leave Santa Fe without taking home a keepsake or two? Since you’re right here on the Plaza, the Native American vendors along the Palace of the Governors offer jewelry, art, and other items made of natural materials from their pueblos. Many drive from hours away every day to display their hand-made wares. If you see something interesting, make sure to ask about how the piece was made or the particular symbols you see. The vendors are generally happy to talk to you and quite often tell interesting stories about where they are from and how they get their inspiration. Prices can be quite reasonable, too.
There is no shortage of shopping in Santa Fe! Wander up Lincoln Avenue to the west of the plaza to explore its many shops, then turn onto Marcy for even more. The area south of the Plaza -- including Galisteo and Water streets -- has some amazing shopping as well. You’ll find everything from boutique women’s clothing to Spanish antiques to authentic Zuni fetishes in the downtown area.
When Santa Fe was still part of Spain, Canyon road was where the first families in Santa Fe settled. Their small farms were nourished by the Santa Fe River (really a creek) and framed by the beautiful foothills. When artists began to flock to Santa Fe in the early 1900s, many chose Canyon Road as their home.
Today Canyon Road is home to dozens of art galleries and shops, ranging from fun and funky to seriously pricey. Regardless of the gallery’s pedigree, everyone is welcome to walk through each gallery and take in some of the best art you’ll find in the United States. Give yourself plenty of time to make the walk as there are more than 80 galleries in all. (Here are some of our favorites)
Pro tip: There are a couple small parking lots on Canyon Road, but if you are staying downtown, just walk. Make sure you have comfortable shoes, because the gallery row is about a mile and the sidewalks are uneven. If you are driving, go slow as there are people in the road and they are looking at the scenery.
Is it lunch time already?
The walk up Canyon Road is a great way to work up an appetite. Luckily you’ll find delicious food at the midway point of your gallery stroll. El Farol is great for lunch, with amazing small plates, killer cocktails and a great beer and wine list. If you happen to be there in the evening, the recently restored historic bar has Flamenco shows in the back and live music in the bar area.
Just across the street is The Teahouse which, as the name might suggest, offers tea. But they also have an array of healthy options for breakfast, lunch and dinner. If tea isn’t your thing, they offer a selection of wine and beer. And did we mention they have a great patio?
If you abstained from a cocktail on your Canyon Road walk, it’s worth heading over to the Gruet tasting room in the Hotel St. Francis on Don Gaspar. Gruet is a New Mexico winery with a quality wine portfolio that covers a range of styles. But the real standout is Gruet’s sparkling offerings. Feel free to try a tasting flight or just order a glass of your favorite style.
If that isn’t quite your speed, head around the corner to Coyote Cantina upstairs from Water Street. The rooftop bar offers tacos, chips and guac and a ton of other favorites. They mix some killer margaritas too. The Coyote Cafe, just across the hallway, was the pioneer in sophisticated Southwest food all those years ago (way before Bobby Flay) and is worth a look for dinner.
Catch a Santa Fe Sunset
If you only have one day in Santa Fe, you really should catch a sunset. Our high altitude and clear skies mean the colors are simply amazing. And the mountains perfectly frame the sun on its journey to slumber.
A great spot to watch the sun set is Cross of the Martyrs park just north of downtown. The top of the hill offers a great view of the Jemez mountains to the west and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the east. The big white cross commemorates the Franciscan missionaries who were killed in the 1680 Pueblo Revolt. Translated from Spanish, Sangre de Cristo means Blood of Christ. You’ll understand when you see them turn from gold to red to pink in the fading light.
With all that walking, shopping, eating and drinking you may be a little tired. Well, we have the perfect place for you to take a load off. A few blocks south of the plaza near the Railyard is the iconic Cowgirl. This Santa Fe landmark has one of the best patios in town and mixes a killer margarita -- either on the rocks or frozen. Both are excellent.
Relax on the patio where tourists and locals alike all gather to chow down on great BBQ, have a drink and listen to live music. In keeping with the western theme, the music usually has a little twang to it, as do the server outfits. This place can get busy, so don’t be afraid to sit at the communal table.
Some Alternate Things to do in Santa Fe
If you decide to skip some of the things in this article, or decide to extend your stay a few extra days, you won’t be short of activities elsewhere. Check out our First 25 Things to Do for an even more extensive list.