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5 Things to Do in the Santa Fe Area

We spent nearly two weeks in Santa Fe and were out every single day exploring. There are tons of interesting things to see in a 90-minute radius around this area and I wanted to share my 5 favorites with you.

Rio Grande Gorge

5 things to do in the Santa Fe area Rio Grange Gorge Bridge

When I was younger my father was stationed at Fort Bliss in the El Paso, Texas area. During the three years, we lived there I got to see a lot of the Rio Grande River (and some fun trips to Juarez as well – think back 30 years ago and not to the cartel-damaged town that it is today. Anyway, I digress.)  I never saw the Rio Grande Gorge area. And it is impressive.

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Of course, it is not as massive as the Grand Canyon, but I find it more appealing as there is more green mixed into the brown of the canyons and you have the mountains behind Taos that make for a gorgeous landscape. The route we took was through state NM route 570 which flows along the river and there is great fishing, hiking, rafting, and camping. When 570 turns into 560 to go to the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge it gets pretty gnarly unless you have a 4×4 but it is a great opportunity to see bighorn sheep and I love driving on top of the canyon.

5 things to do in the Santa Fe area Big Horn Sheep
Photo credit: Sel & Poivre Photography

This area by itself would be great to stay in for a week, but probably in warmer spring or fall weather!

Abiquiú – Plaza Blanca

5 things to do in the Santa Fe area Abiquiu Plaza Blanca
Photo credit: Sel & Poivre Photography

Probably most known for Georgia O'Keefe's home and Bode's General Store (or maybe this Breaking Bad episode), Abiquiú is a small town about an hour from Santa Fe that has a magnificent rock formation called Plaza Blanca. The photo above is just a slice of what the rocks look like, to see a beautiful panoramic of one part of Plaza Blanca at sunset.

We visited twice. We hiked around the canyons in awe of their beauty and tried to imagine what this place meant to earlier peoples. It is still considered a sacred place and when we went behind some of the rocks we came across this which appears to be ceremonial.

5 things to do in the Santa Fe area Abiquiu Ceremonial Rocks
Photo credit: Sel & Poivre Photography

Don't be surprised as you drive to Plaza Blanca. When you leave County Road 155 the entrance to Plaza Blanca is actually on the grounds of the Dar Al Islam mosque and Islamic education center. Visitors are welcome to access Plaza Blanca which is in a different area from the mosque.

It is worth the trip as the rock formations are stunning.

Rio Chama

5 things to do in the Santa Fe area Rio Chama
Photo credit: Sel & Poivre Photography

Chama is a cute little town with a heritage of railroad history. The drive from Santa Fe to Chama offers some great options for visiting as well. There is a spot along US-84 after Angel's Drive where the Rio Chama bends, there's a lookout and you can see the gorgeous river, the farm below on the river, and mountains in the background, it's stunning.

Continuing on you'll come to the Abiquiú Reservoir where you can fish, camp, hike. We picnicked for lunch overlooking the water, it was quite nice.

Then we visited Ghost Ranch, which is a religious retreat site. We didn't go for that, but to capture the era-correct ranch house that they have on the property against the red rock canyons. We came back a few days later for a sunset shot and were not disappointed.

High Road to Taos – Santuario de Chimayo

5 things to do in the Santa Fe area El Santuario de Chimayo
Photo credit: Sel & Poivre Photography

The High Road to Taos (and who doesn't want to take the high road!) is a scenic drive between Santa Fe and Taos. I am going to be honest with you, winter is not the best time to do this route. Most everything in terms of artist's studios, shops, etc are closed and the weather makes the roads tough to drive on in some of the smaller villages. But in the spring or fall it has got to be fantastic.

We drove about 2/3 of the route, before cutting over to the Rio Grande Gorge.

One spot not to be missed is the El Santuario de Chimayo historic site. It is visited by hundreds of thousands of people every year including 10,000 during Easter. This place is tiny so that's a lot of people to cram in there! But the grounds are beautiful to walk through, we spent well over an hour there, which is a lot for someone who isn't very religious! It is probably the most important pilgrimage site in the United States, and there is a large amount of history to absorb.

Taos and Taos Pueblo

Taos is a destination in and of itself. But with it being 90-minutes down the road, it can be visited while staying in Santa Fe. We visited after going through the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge as well as a separate trip to photograph a few spots. Like the San Francisco de Assis Mission Church in Ranchos de Taos Plaza, a cute little area in Taos with shops and restaurants in adorable adobe-style buildings that surround the church.

5 things to do in the Santa Fe area San Francisco de Asis Mission Church
Photo credit: Sel & Poivre Photography

The church has very interesting architecture and my hubby spent time photographing it from different angles while I walked around and admired the buildings – I love the adobe-style! I also followed some Japanese tourists around to get their impressions!

We also visited the Taos Pueblo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where the Tiwa Native Americans live and have been living in for thousands of years. Their pueblo homes are fantastic browns with pops of turquoise and red. There is one main living area that hosts a dozen homes as well as other homes in the town that have been beautifully preserved.

5 things to do in the Santa Fe area Taos Pueblo
Photo credit: Sel & Poivre Photography

It costs $16 per person to visit and I highly recommend you go on a free tour with one of the residents as you will get more information and access than wandering on your own.

Bonus – Classical Gas Museum

5 things to do in the Santa Fe area - Classical Gas Museum
Photo credit: Sel & Poivre Photography

My absolute favorite place we visited was the Classical Gas Museum! We visited the first time on the way back from the Rio Grande Gorge. We almost missed it! It's located in Embudo, close to Dixon on Highway 68 and you have to stop!

Started as a passion project in 1997, Johnnie Meier, opened the museum to share the gasoline-related items he had collected over the years. But it isn't just gasoline, there are other vintage items like ice cream parlor paraphernalia, etc. You can get lost for hours looking inside, outside and around the buildings – I loved it.

Best of all it's free! No charge at all to wander around. Of course, there are a few items for sale and if you spend long enough there that you feel guilty (like I did) there is a box to donate to the Dixon Humane Society.

Don't miss it!

How about you? Were any of my five things to do of interest to you? Have you been to Santa Fe and done these or other activities? Do you think you want to visit in the future? Do tell!

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  1. clojo9372 says:

    These pictures are magnificent! And as someone who grew up with sheep and goats, I find the picture of the Big Horn sheep particularly striking. Santa Fe looks like such a beautiful place! 🙂

    1. Andi Fisher says:

      @Chloe, they were so great! I just saw a herd of them last week, it was amazing!

  2. Vi Dotter says:

    I live in Big Bend area of Texas and this is so similar to my neck of the woods – So love! Great images and it sounds like a great time to me!!

    1. Andi Fisher says:

      @Vi, you should definitely come check out this area since it is not too far from where you live.

  3. Lyndsey R. says:

    I would love to visit Santa Fe one day! Such a beautiful looking city! Also, this photographer is amazing!

    1. Andi Fisher says:

      @Ellie, thanks so much.

  4. Sante fe looks like a beautiful place to visit

  5. Hung Thai says:

    Santa Fe is just beautiful! Great pictures and great write-up as well 🙂 I went to New Mexico last year but went South mostly – next time I’m there I’ll definitely be staying in Santa Fe.

    1. Andi Fisher says:

      @Hung, you should definitely come back and explore more!

  6. Tammilee Tips says:

    I love exploring places with older buildings, the history is so much fun to learn. I have never heard of High Road to Taos  sounds like a great place to explore. The older churches would probably be my favorite destination in Santa Fe!

    1. Andi Fisher says:

      @Tammilee, I was unfamiliar with this scenic route as well, but it was a really cool drive!

  7. Cindy (Vegetarian Mamma) says:

    I have never been to Santa Fe, but from the looks of it I am missing out. There are so many great things to do. I like the looks of gas musuem. I think my kids would be a huge kick out of seeing all the old gas pumps!

    1. Andi Fisher says:

      @Cindy, your kids would love it! They will be entertained for at least an hour!

  8. What a great destination! I dream of doing a southwestern road trip and Santa Fe just made the list! Thanks for all of this great information!

    1. Andi Fisher says:

      @Rachel, yes for sure, if you come to the Southwest, this is a must stop!

  9. We haven’t been to Santa Fe in about 10 years. It is definitely time to take another trip there. I thought we saw just about everything when we were there, but after seeing your photos, it couldn’t be further from the truth. I didn’t even know there were horned sheep there. As an animal lover, I’m not sure how I missed it. We also didn’t see Taos Pueblo. I find the culture and history of the native Americans very interesting and visited some of the sites in Arizona, but really want to see this! Thanks and I love your photos! 🙂

    1. Andi Fisher says:

      @Nancy, so glad that I could share new spots for you. There was stuff that we didn’t get a chance to see or do as well. Definitely calls for another trip!

  10. Brittany Bly says:

    This trip looks so fun! I especially want to check out the Taos Pueblo and the Classical Gas Museum! What a couple of slices of history and completely different eras.

    1. Andi Fisher says:

      @Brittany, so true! The owner of the museum is such a gem!

  11. I have always wanted to visit out west and you’ve provided me with a perfect place to start! I always just assumed there wasn’t much to New Mexico outside of Roswell (for obvious reasons), but there are a lot of interesting places to visit it seems. Is it sad that the one I found most interesting is the classical gas museum?

    1. Andi Fisher says:

      @Cassie, I was sort of under the same impression about New Mexico before visiting, but my eyes have been opened! There is SO much to do here, all year round as well.

  12. Who knew that Santa Fe was so beautiful! We have plans to visit family in New Mexico and after seeing your pictures, I believe I need to visit Santa Fe!

    1. Andi Fisher says:

      @Echo, if you are heading to NM you should definitely make time for Santa Fe, it is pretty awesome.

  13. Oh I am so saving this post. We are trying to plan a trip with the family to Santa Fe and this will help us decide where to go and how to sight see. Thank you so much. These pictures are amazing too!

    1. Andi Fisher says:

      @Censie, oh I am so glad you found it helpful, the kids will love it!

  14. Those places look awesome! The Grand Canyon looks absolutely wonderful. I haven’t been to Santa Fe, but aside from scenic areas, I am also interested to know about the most recommended restaurants in the area. 🙂

    1. Andi Fisher says:

      @Roch, there are a lot of good ones. We went to Bite and The Shed and The French Pastry Shop – all were delicious.

  15. Rio Grande Gorge looks absolutely beautiful! I’ve been wanting to visit new mexico for quite sometime now. Mainly for the hot air balloon festival and white sands. Santa fe looks inviting! I’ll def check it out.

    1. Andi Fisher says:

      @Jenna, New Mexico was pretty amazing! I was so surprised at how much there is to do. We want to go to the festival to, so we will definitely be coming back.

  16. Santa Fe definitely looks like a great destination spot! I would love to check off a few of these from my Must Do/See List…

    1. Andi Fisher says:

      @Tiffany, I was so surprised at how much there was!

  17. tiffany dover says:

    Yay! I have always wanted to visit Santa Fe and we’ve been talking about actually going through with vacationing there! Thanks for the great suggestions on things to do!

    1. Andi Fisher says:

      @Tiffany, you’ll have a great time, it’s such a fun place!

  18. Stephanie says:

    I’ve never spent much time in Santa Fe. Only passed through but it is beautiful.

    1. Andi Fisher says:

      @Stephanie, I only spent a week there and definitely want to go back for more!

  19. Chasa Fulkerson says:

    The pictures are so pretty, and I would love the stop at the gas station. What I am about to say has nothing to do with your blog post: your social media icons at the top are so freaking cute! I love the luggage!

    1. Andi Fisher says:

      @Chasa, thanks so much! I designed them about five years ago and really love them! I’m glad you like them too!

  20. Wow what amazing pictures. Especially love the bridge picture!

  21. Looks like such a cool place to visit! Love the Breaking Bad reference, it’s my favorite 😉