9 interesting things to do in Downtown Santa Fe

No trip to New Mexico is complete without a visit to downtown Santa Fe. If you’re looking for culture, art, sounds, and food, downtown Santa Fe is the place to be.

Surprisingly, even though I live 45 minutes south of Santa Fe in the Albuquerque metro area, I don’t visit Santa Fe all that often. After my most recent trip with some family members, I decided that needs to change.

This year, my husband and I hosted our family for the Holidays. On the day after Christmas, we decided to take a trip to downtown Santa Fe. Our plan was to shop, see a few of the local historic spots, and then have lunch.

On the day of our trip, December 26, twelve family members drove up to Santa Fe from the Albuquerque area in 3 cars. This is the most people I’ve ever had in a group in downtown Santa Fe. For the most part, we stuck together. The downtown area is very walkable, so family members can veer off and explore on their own if they wish.

The day turned out beautifully. We spent about 6 hours walking around downtown Santa Fe, which was more than enough time to catch some sights.

Here is what we did:

Oldest House in Downtown Santa Fe

There are many historic preservation sites in downtown Santa Fe but the Oldest House is the most iconic. The house, made of traditional adobe, was built circa 1646. Inside, you will find many interesting relics from that era.

A museum was added to the house in the late 1800s and now serves as a small gift shop. Admission is free and it’s open almost every day of the year. This is a great place for a photo op.

San Miguel Chapel

San Miguel Chapel is the oldest Catholic church in the United States, circa 1610. Although the church has been rebuilt several times, parts of the original structure still exist.

The chapel is only open to the public during certain hours, so be sure to check before you visit. On the day we visited, the chapel was open from 1:00-3:00 p.m., so we dutifully made our way back to the Chapel after lunch. When we got to the door, there was a small handwritten note, which stated the chapel would not be open to the public that day. Sadly, we didn’t get to go inside the church.

Loretto Chapel

The Loretto Chapel is a former Roman Catholic Church that is now a historic site, museum, gift shop, and wedding chapel. The entry fee is $5.00 for adults and is well worth it!

As you enter the chapel, you’ll notice the altar, the custom glass windows, and the special wooden helix staircase. There is a recording in the background about the history of the chapel, which is very interesting. It was made to mimic the gothic vibe of the Saint Chapelle chapel in Paris. Definitely a must see while in downtown Santa Fe!

Senor Murphy Candymaker

If you have kids in your group or you’re just looking for some nostalgic candy, this is the place to go! We just happened to be walking by and went inside this cute shop with specialty chocolates and lots of candy.

My husband and I tried some red chile truffles. My husband thought they were great but I’m not sure that I enjoy red chile in chocolate.

Santa Fe Plaza

The Santa Fe Plaza has been the center of downtown Santa Fe for the past 400 years. You will find amazing shops, good eats, Indian jewelers selling their designs, and so much more.

On the day we visited, the day after Christmas, the Plaza was packed with activity. There was a dog meetup, artists selling prints, Indian jewelers, and a violinist filling the air with music. If you get hungry at this point, you can chow down at the Plaza Cafe, which is delicious. The outdoor seating offers you a front row view of the Plaza.

downtown santa fe
So many cool sculptures all over the Downtown Santa Fe

The Shop, A Christmas Store

Located right off the main plaza, this shop has been keeping Christmas in Santa Fe since 1977. If you’re a Christmas decoration fanatic, this is your store. It has everything from hand-crafted Christmas ornaments, nativity displays, advent calendars, and more. If you want Christmas decor that is truly one-of-a-kind, this is the place to go.

Even if you’re not shopping for Christmas decor, it’s still a cool shop to visit year-round.

Santa Fe Olive Oil & Balsamic Co.

This gourmet grocery store offers the finest blends of olive oil in New Mexico. You can find unique blends such as New Mexico red chile and green chile infused oils. They offer tastings and samples right in the shop and the associates are more than willing to discuss the various flavors. I ended up snagging a full-sized bottle of infused extra virgin olive oil for $26.

Upper Crust

The Upper Crust pizza joint has been serving award-winning pizza for many years! Located in the Downtown Santa Fe area, it’s within walking distance of all the sights. They feature unique toppings such as pine nuts and green chile.

My large group of family came here for lunch during our Santa Fe outing. Although the indoor seating seemed pretty limited, we were able to squeeze a few tables together and chow down on some pizza. Also, their caesar salad is absolutely amazing with homemade dressing and croutons.

IAIA Museum of Contemporary Art

MoCNA is an absolutely amazing museum featuring the progressive, contemporary works of Native American artists, including students. When we visited, they showcased a Native American fashion exhibit on the first floor. It was breathtaking. 

After we viewed all the exhibits, we went back to the entrance and shopped at their gift shop. I purchased a puzzle and a baseball cap. Admission is $5 for New Mexico residents and all Indigenous patrons are free.

9 interesting things to do in Santa Fe

If you ever decide to visit New Mexico, Santa Fe is a must-see. There is an abundance of culture, vibrancy, art, food, and entertainment just in the downtown area alone. Although we went for a day trip, there are many hotel options in the area as well.

Let me know of other hidden gems in the Santa Fe Downtown area by leaving a comment below.

Leave a Comment