Visit Sante Fe, NM on a Budget

by Joy O.

Going on vacation doesn’t have to break your budget – there are a plethora of picturesque destinations right here in the United States that can be explored on a limited budget. My family and I recently took a weekend trip to Santa Fe, the capital of New Mexico, and were amazed by its rich Native American and Spanish cultural influences and flourishing art scene. We were able to find so many things to do that didn’t break the bank and still allowed us to immerse ourselves in everything Santa Fe had to offer. 

Here are some of my favorite budget-friendly attractions in Santa Fe and its surrounding areas that I definitely recommend for your next visit to the Land of Enchantment. 

Santa Fe Plaza and the Palace of the Governors

Santa Fe Plaza has been the heart of Santa Fe since the city was founded in 1610. As a National Historic Landmark, the Plaza showcases Santa Fe’s rich cultural heritage through Native American and Spanish markets and monuments and is also home to quaint shops, numerous art galleries and some of the city’s best restaurants. The Plaza hosts many events throughout the year, so make sure to see what’s scheduled during your trip. 

One of the Plaza’s main attractions is the Palace of the Governors, the country’s oldest public building.  Over the years, the Palace of the Governors has served as a governor’s residence and Spain’s government seat in the American Southwest. Today, it serves as a museum chronicling New Mexico’s state history. Admission is $12 for non-residents and free for children under 16. 

The Railyard

The Railyard serves as a gathering place for Santa Fe residents and visitors alike. Historically, the Railyard was the main focal point for transportation in Santa Fe. Today, attractions include studios, art galleries, museums, local businesses, restaurants, a year-round farmers market, the Warehouse 21 teen center, retail spaces, and a 12-screen movie theater. The Railyard Park is 13 acres of open space with bike and hiking trails to explore. 

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi

The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi was constructed between 1869 and 1886 in the French Romanesque Revival style by Jean Baptiste Lamy. The Basilica was built on the site of a church destroyed during the 1680 Pueblo Revolt and provides a stark contrast to the surrounding clay adobe buildings. The Basilica’s ornate exterior and interior are appreciated by both residents and visitors. 

Hyde Memorial State Park 

If you’re outdoorsy, just a short drive from Santa Fe you’ll find New Mexico’s first state park. Hyde Memorial State Park is set in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and the surrounding Santa Fe National Forest. This state park offers multiple hiking trails with spectacular views of the surrounding landscape, including the Chimisa Trail, Dale Ball Trail, Circle Trail, and Waterfall Trail. Park visitors can also enjoy camping and picnic areas, and in the winter, cross-country skiing, sledding, and snowshoeing are popular entertainment. If you’re interested in camping, campsites range from $8 to $18 per night and yurts are available for $80 a night. 

Kasha Katuwe Tent Rocks

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

The Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument located on the Pajarito Plateau is famous for its distinctive cone-shaped rock formations created 6 to 7 million years ago by volcanic eruptions. The monument is only accessible by foot but offers opportunities for hiking, birdwatching, geologic observation, and plant identification. Entrance to the monument costs $5 per vehicle. 

Canyon Road Arts district 

Canyon Road is a half-mile stretch boasting more than 100 galleries, boutiques, and restaurants in the Historic District of Santa Fe. Canyon Road has early Native American and Spanish roots and originally served as a farming community. Now one of the top destinations for fine art, this is a destination everyone can enjoy, even if you’re not planning to spend money. 

Madrid, New Mexico

Located 23 miles south of Santa Fe, Madrid (also known as the Turquoise Trail) is a former mining town turned art destination. The small town is home to many galleries, shops, studios, eateries, and hosts an annual blues festival each year in May. In the winter, Madrid is known for its traditional Christmas light display. Visitors can also stop into the Old Coal Mine Museum to learn about Madrid’s mining days.  

Cross of the Martyrs 

The Cross of the Martyrs is a historical monument commemorating 21 Franciscan priests who died during the Pueblo revolt of 1680. Twenty chronologically ordered plaques surrounding the cross guide visitors through Santa Fe’s history and the blending of its primary cultural influences – Native American, Spanish, and Anglo. You will have to make a short trip up to the hilltop, so make sure to wear appropriate shoes for a moderate hike. 

Randall Davey Audubon Center and Sanctuary 

Encompassing 135 acres, the Randall Davey Audubon Center and Sanctuary is home to 190 different species of birds. Visitors can explore the wildlife and view the protected animals in their natural habitat. The Center and Sanctuary are open to the public Monday through Saturday.

La Cienequilla Petroglyph Site

La Cienequilla Petroglyph Site 

Step back in time at the La Cienequilla Petroglyph Site above the Santa Fe River. Here, visitors can witness ancient petroglyph drawings carved by Puebloan people between the 13th and 17th centuries. The site can be accessed year-round via a short trail. 

Georgia O’Keeffe Museum 

Art lovers will enjoy the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, which features 140 O’Keeffe oil paintings, 700 drawings, and hundreds of additional works completed by the beloved artist. The museum’s namesake was a New Mexico resident and her home and art studios located in the northern part of the state are open to tours by appointment. Museum admission is $18 for adults and free for children under 18 years of age.  

New Mexico Museum of Art

Founded in 1917, the New Mexico Museum of Art is the oldest art museum in the state. The museum is unique in that is has an open-door policy, meaning New Mexico-based artists can submit their work for exhibit. This policy makes the museum a vibrant space, bringing together both established and emerging artists. Admission is $12 for adults and free for children under 16. 

Pecos National Historical Park

Pecos National Historical Park encompasses thousands of acres of landscape surrounded by the Sangre de Cristo mountains. The park’s main attraction is the Pecos Pueblo, an ancient Native American community abandoned long ago. Pecos National Historical Park is also the site of the furthest west American Civil War battle. Access to the park is free, and guided tours are offered on different days of the week. 

Santa Fe Children’s Museum 

The Santa Fe Children’s Museum offers indoor and outdoor activities for children 12 and under. The museum specializes in hands-on, interactive exhibits designed to foster play and imagination. Admission is $7.50 for adults, $5 for children, and free for infants under 1 year. 

Museum Hill 

Visitors to Museum Hill can enjoy not one, but four museums – the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art, Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, Museum of International Folk Art, and the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian. Museum Hill also features a botanical garden, café, and retail shopping. 

Traveling with the entire family doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg. Do your research and search for free or inexpensive activities the entire family can enjoy. For more budgeting tips, check out the Cash Store blog


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