7 Ways to Find True New Mexico in Santa Fe County

Looking for adventure that feeds the soul? Check out our top seven things to do including an adobe church, hot springs, the Turquoise Trail and a national monument.
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1. Chimayo

El Santuario De Chimayo in Santa Fe, N.M.

El Santuario de Chimayo

Why go: Built in 1816, the quaint adobe El Santuario de Chimayó attracts thousands of people each year to attend mass, tour the grounds and collect the miraculous holy dirt found inside the chapel. Apparently, numerous miracles have happened on site with people leaving crutches and other medical devices behind to be hung on the walls.

Tip: Head to longtime legendary Rancho de Chimayó Restaurante, which has been serving traditional New Mexican dishes for more than 50 years. Try the hand-rolled tamales, blue corn enchiladas or the legendary carne adovada. In 2016, it won the prestigious James Beard Foundation America’s Classic award.

2. Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway

The stage at the Mine Shaft Tavern in Madrid, N.M., in Santa Fe County

The stage at the Mine Shaft Tavern in Madrid, N.M.

Why go: This 62-mile route is dotted with extraordinary scenery and colorful towns like Madrid, pronounced “MAH-drid.” A former mining town, Madrid is an art district filled with boutiques, galleries and cafes.

Tip: Order a green chili cheeseburger at the Mine Shaft Tavern and sit at its 40-foot lodgepole pine bar. The tavern is rumored to have ghosts.

3. Cerrillos

Why go: Five miles of trails in Cerrillos Hills State Park offer you a glimpse of more than 1,000 years of area mining history, plus magnificent views of four mountain ranges. Some of the turquoise mined here ended in the Spanish crown jewels collection and later was used in Tiffany & Co. pieces.

Tip: Stop in The Black Bird Saloon in Cerrillos for a drink and food. You’ll find burgers, elk and lamb, along with saloon snacks like the Lawless Bandit, fresh-made guacamole and six-gun salsa with blue corn chips.

4. Bandelier National Monument

Bandelier National Monument

Bandelier National Monument

Why go: See ancient ruins that are easily accessible by foot in an uncrowded environment.

Tip: Hike (and climb ladders) along the Tsankawi prehistoric site, a 1.5 mile walk on a mesa, viewing cavates (human-carved alcoves), petroglyphs and the ancient village of Tsankawi.

5. The Santa Fe Opera

Santa Fe Opera at night

Santa Fe Opera at night

Why go: One of the most spectacular settings on a hill overlooking Santa Fe, the Santa Fe Opera is an open-air theater with a roof over all seating areas.

Tip: Tailgate up to three hours before in the opera house's parking lot with a pre-ordered picnic or make reservations for a preview dinner that is opera-themed on the rehearsal grounds’ open-air cantina. During dessert, a speaker will introduce the night’s opera.

6. Pecos National Historical Park

Pecos National Historical Park near Santa Fe, New Mexico

Pecos National Historical Park

Why go: Wedged between the Sangre de Cristos and Glorieta mesa, this park preserves ruins left behind from Pecos Pueblo, a regional powerhouse in the 1400s, and the later Spanish colonization.

Tip: Hike the 1.25-mile round-trip Ancestral Sites Trail and pass the remains of the Pecos Pueblo and the mission church. 

7. Ten Thousand Waves

Soak at Ten Thousand Waves in Santa Fe

Soak at Ten Thousand Waves

Why go: Just 10 minutes from downtown Santa Fe, Ten Thousand Waves offers spa treatments, massage and hot tubs inspired by Japanese mountain hot springs resorts.

Tip: Dine at izanami, a higher-end restaurant on site that offers “izakaya” dining, which is the sharing of small plates that come out of the kitchen as they are prepared.

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Cliff Palace Tour in Mesa Verde National Park

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