One of the few places in the US that experiences all four seasons as if they were crafted with a painter’s brush, there is no bad time to visit Santa Fe, just different color palettes. At an altitude of 7000ft, winters are white – but not wicked – and summers are hot – but not hellish – making this the perfect get up and go destination all year round.
Here’s a guide to decide which time of year will make your heart skip the most beats.
High Season: July To September
Best all-around season
Beginning in July and ending in September, the New Mexico monsoon season makes this time of year the most enchanting of them all. Wildflowers are blooming and the high summer heat is breaking with afternoon showers that cool off the day and create epic cloud formations and dramatic sunsets. Taking a timeout to sip a margarita on the patio and watch the rainfall, sometimes while the sun is still shining, will make you feel as if you’ve fallen into one of the thousands of paintings that fill the plaza galleries.
And speaking of art, summer in Santa Fe is celebrated with many of the country’s most prestigious art markets, which is why this time of year can also see some spikes in lodging prices and even a scarcity of accommodations during key events. To get the best places to sleep, booking accommodations six to twelve months ahead of a trip to Santa Fe in summer is advised.
Shoulder Season: December
Best season for the poet at heart
Fast forward to December for a romantic walk down snow-dusted adobe corridors, magical luminaria-lined buildings, skiing, and winter art markets. Arguably one of the most memorable times to visit Santa Fe and ideal for those who like cooler weather, fewer tourists and more reasonable lodging.
This is also a great time of year for photography; getting cozy around a piñon fire; and taking in the Christmas spirit with plenty of pageantry, lights and Pueblo dances in the surrounding communities.
Low Season: November & January to April
Best bang for your buck
Mid-October sees the International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta in neighboring Albuquerque, which results in a spike in tourists day-tripping to Santa Fe. Afterward things start to feel a bit like the beginning of hibernation until a spike in wintertime activity through December. January brings back the lull of long nights and lazy mornings until Labor Day, when the temperatures start to stabilize and spring bulbs poke their heads up along the legendary Canyon Road.
This is an excellent time of year to budget travel in Santa Fe and experience a taste of what makes this place so prominent in the mystique of the West. The chile is just as hot and the sunsets just as lovely as during peak season, but with lower costs and less congestion on the donkey trails turned paved roads around the historic downtown.
Just like the rain falling through the sunshine in late summer, now is the time for temperatures in the teens and snow falling while the sun is out for a wintery vibe that isn’t gloomy. Socially this is a very sleepy time of year to visit but is ideal if you are interested in skiing or snowboarding.
If Santa Fe had a “blah” month, this would be it.
Key Events: First Friday at the Coe Center
Winter is over! Or it will be once that last freak snowstorm hits. Ski season has a last hurrah before the melt-off, and a few families looking to culture their younguns are liable to forgo Cancun and show up in the City of Holy Faith for Spring Break.
Key Events: Santa Fe Railyard Artisan Market
April is the calm before the storm as the hospitality industry readies itself for the coming tourist season. For those interested in witnessing, or partaking in, a truly unique experience, Holy Week in Northern New Mexico is steeped in Old World traditions. Enjoy Easter Mass in any of the historic churches, including San Miguel Chapel, the oldest church in the United States, built in 1610.
Key Events: Observing or partaking in the Holy Week pilgrimage walk from Santa Fe to El Santuario de Chimayo
It’s getting toasty in the sun, but the breeze is cool, making May a pleasant time to get out and walk the winding one-way roads of the Historic Plaza, popping into shops and restaurants without too much hustle and bustle.
Key Events: Tequila Tasting at Sazón
The flowers are blooming in the immaculate gallery gardens along Canyon Road, the breeze tinkles through the aspen leaves, sunscreen disappears off the Five and Dime shelves and the locals are grumbling about parking and out-of-towners… Tourist season is here!
Key Events: Summer of Pride, Rodeo de Santa Fe
July finds the beginning of art market season and one of the most exciting times to visit Santa Fe for those who like a full schedule of outings without having to travel around an unfamiliar place. The following are all just a skip and a jump away from the heart of the city, the Plaza.
Key Events: Folk Art Market, Traditional Spanish Market, Santa Fe Plaza Concert Series, Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, Contemporary Hispanic Market, Santa Fe Opera
Building on the party July’s got started, August is bursting at the seams with festivities. The belle of the ball is the Santa Fe Indian Market, which draws in around 150,000 visitors every year to immerse themselves in the largest indigenous art market in the world, with a weekend packed with events from a fashion show to gala.
The month ends with a bang with the burning of Zozobra — the larger-than-life Old Man Gloom puppet that is burnt annually to rid us of the blues.
Key Events: Santa Fe Indian Market, Santa Fe Wine Festival, Burning of Zozobra, Santa Fe Music Week
Late September kicks off with the Santa Fe Fiestas and ripens into a magical season with crisper days and the changing of the aspen leaves in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains that overlook Santa Fe. Trips into the mountain for leaf viewing parties are something of a local tradition.
This time of year you will smell roasting chile everywhere you go as green chile gets harvested from the fields in Southern New Mexico and hauled up in trucks overflowing with gunnysacks of the iconic state food.
Key Events: Fiesta De Santa Fe, Santa Fe Wine and Chile Fiesta
Wrap up in a Pendelton blanket or two, breathe in the piñon smoke from fireplaces roaring across town, and get ready to cuddle up in a cute adobe casita with a bowl of green chile stew and a good movie.
Key Events: Santa Fe Independent Film Festival
A hush falls across the city… Now is the time to reflect on the year gone by while you soak in hot water and watch the stars come out. This is one of the best times to soak it up at one of Santa Fe’s outdoor spas where moon gazing is on the menu.
Key Events: Ten Thousand Waves, Ojo Santa Fe
The Christmas season in Santa Fe is a picturesque experience of snow-dusted adobe buildings, streets lined in glowing luminarias, and coyote fences decked in piñon bows, all at the ready for their photo to be taken. But don’t skip town without enjoying a tamale or two and a handful of biscochitos, the preferred treats of Christmas.
Key Events: Santa Fe Aspen Ballet’s Nutcracker, Canyon Road Farolito Walk, mid-December Plaza Las Posadas candlelight procession and reenactment of the Holy Family’s search for a room at the inn