Santa Fe’s is a small city with a population of around 70,000, and most of the places of interest to a visitor are located in a few compact areas. You're likely to spend a bit of time in the downtown district. It's centered around Santa Fe Plaza which serves as a point of orientation for everywhere else. The other key areas for visitors lie south of the Plaza. The Railyard and Guadalupe district is home to quaint shops and a 10-acre park. In the Canyon Road area, you'll find the Santa Fe arts colony. There are four great museums in Museum Hill and if you're just looking to blow some cash, head to the modern commercial strip of Cerrillos Road.
Greater Santa Fe
The Santa Fe Ski area is 16 miles north east of Downtown in the Sangre de Cristo (blood of Christ) mountains and Santa Fe National Forest. It’s a scenic drive into the mountains, past the Ten Thousand Waves spa, but the ski area closes outside ski season. Also to the north, Highway 84/285 leads to The Santa Fe Opera House, Tesuque, then past other Indian pueblos with resorts and casinos, through Espanola (the turn off for Abiquiu and Georgia O’Keeffe country) and finally up to Taos. Interstate 25 passes across the southern edge of Santa Fe and on to Las Vegas N.M., paralleled by the Old Las Vegas Highway.
Canyon Road leads off the east rim of the Paseo de Peralta loop, under half a mile from the Plaza. The heart of the Santa Fe arts colony, this pretty narrow road is lined with art galleries, restaurants, and some homes, in old adobe buildings—a couple date back to 1750. We especially love hanging out here on Friday evenings when the city comes out to stroll between the gallery open-houses.
Santa Fe Plaza/Downtown
Santa Fe Plaza is the historic and social center of town, and the tree-shaded square is a pleasant spot to sit and watch passers-by. The Plaza and the greater Downtown area within the Paseo de Peralta loop contain most of the major sites to see, and a wide choice of restaurants, shopping, and nightlife. The State Capitol, known as the Roundhouse, is about 8 minutes walk south of the Plaza. It’s the only round state capitol in the United States, and is open to self-guided tours on weekdays.
Santa Fe Railyard / Guadalupe Street
The first train arrived in Santa Fe in 1880, and the newly-revitalized Railyard is now home to the New Mexico Rail Runner Express Depot along with a growing number of shops, galleries, and restaurants, the Santa Fe farmers market. There's also a picturesque plaza and a 10 acre park with bike and walking trails. It’s bordered by Cerrillos Road to the south and colorful Guadalupe Street to the east with more shops and restaurants. The 1781 Santuario de Guadalupe at the top of Guadalupe Street is considered the oldest shrine to the Virgin of Guadalupe in the country.
Museum Hill on Camino Lejo is 2 miles southeast of the Plaza, off the Old Santa Fe Trail. It’s home to four excellent museums dedicated to international folk art, Spanish colonial art, and Native American arts and culture. The Santa Fe International Folk Art Market is held here in July. We love the views from this peaceful spot, but apart from the museums and a café, there’s nothing else out here.
Cerrillos Road runs from Downtown southwest to I-25. The charm of Santa Fe’s historic area fades as you proceed down this long (about 8 miles) and busy commercial strip, but it’s where you’ll find the big box stores, chain restaurants, and the chain hotels. It's not the Santa Fe visitors come for but you're bound to pass through here at some point. At the south end of Cerrillos, you'll find a handful of smaller, more interesting restaurants are on Zafarano Drive by the Regal Theater complex.