Let’s be frank (after all it’s my last name), travel is expensive. While planning your trip you probably look for things to do at your destination; most activities cost money. Luckily, there are a lot of very cool free things to do in Santa Fe. Here are our favorite free things to do in Santa Fe for you to check out.
Santa Fe is an art destination. Here are a few tips to allow you to see a lot of art without spending a penny.
- Visit galleries. While buying something will set you back a few bucks, look at them as museums. Just browse, don’t buy. Check the back section of Pasatiempo, the weekend magazine in our newspaper, The New Mexican, for gallery openings.
- Visit a sculpture garden. Several are at galleries and Shidoni, a foundry in Tesuque, has a a big one you can wonder.
- Visit museums when they are free. Admission to the New Mexico Museum of Art (and the New Mexico History Museum) is free every Friday evening between 5 and 8pm. All the state-run museums are free to NM residents all day Sunday and to NM Seniors all day Wednesday. The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum is free to NM residents the first Friday of every month. Site Santa Fe is free on Fridays and on Saturdays from 10am to noon.
- Go to an art market. Santa Fe offers two free major ones every summer. Spanish Market falls the third weekend in July and Indian Market, the biggest event of the year in Santa Fe is the third weekend in August. The Santa Fe Artists Market sets up in Railyard Park on weekends from April through November.
There are free concerts throughout the year. Again, check Pasatiempo. In summer, Santa Fe Bandstand offers free concerts on the Plaza several nights each week. Wednesday evenings in June and July there’s Music on the Hill TM on the St. John’s campus.
Take a walk
Santa Fe is a great walking city. Walk around the downtown area; Canyon Road and many Eastside streets have many historical homes, many with great gates, windows and doors. Also take a stroll along the usually dry Santa Fe River. The Guadalupe/Railyard area is another interesting place to stroll. Make sure to get to the Santa Fe Farmers market in the Railyard. There’s great people-watching, entertainment and food to sample. Bring your camera along the city offers one photo opportunity after another.
Take a hike
Santa Fe offers great hiking. You can access Dale Ball Trails, 22 miles of interconnected trails, at several points in the city and one off Hyde Park Road on the way up to Ski Santa Fe. You can take a challenging hike up Mount Atalaya from St. John’s College off Camino Cruz Blanca. There’s also excellent hiking throughout the Santa Fe National Forest.
Take a day trip
There are some great day trips that you can take. Some of our favorites:
- The High Road to Taos takes you up to Taos the back way through the Sangre de Christo Mountains. The ride to Taos is about two hours without stopping, but you’ll want to stop along the way. The road goes through historic mountain villages that have largely maintained their character over the years. You can go as far at Pe head towards Dixon or continue on the High Road to Rancho de Taos. You can read more about it here.
- Georgia O’Keeffe fans will particularly enjoy a drive to Abiquiu and through O’Keeffe Country. There are a lot of places to explore and great photo opps. You’ll see the landscape that the iconic artist fell in love with that kept her coming back each summer before she moved there for good in 1949.
We love Las Vegas, NM for a number of reasons: it’s rich history, the great Victorian and Craftsman homes, the historic Plaza backdrop for the TV series, Longmire, as well as a host of other films. You can even soak in hot springs for free.
- Fort Union National Monument, located about 30 minutes north of Las Vegas, is another gem it. Visit the haunting remains of this fort that was instrumental in the settlement of the Southwest. It’s an underappreciated site, so much so that the National Park Service decided to make admission free rather than hire people to collect it. Pecos National Historical Park, on the way to LV, is also free.
- Los Alamos, home to the Manhattan Project and the Atomic Bomb is an interesting place to visit. Visitors can view Bathtub Row where big shots such as Robert Oppenheimer lived, visit the free Bradbury Science Museum and the Los Alamos Historical Society Museum and the ride up is beautiful. You can take a slight detour and check out the White Rock Overlook with great views of the Rio Grande and the Sangre de Christo Mountains.
There are lots of free things to do in Santa Fe. I’ve probably missed some great ones, but the list above will keep you busy for a while.
What are your favorite free things to do in Santa Fe?