The Best Museums in New Mexico

Experience New Mexico through a vast and storied collection of past and present-day art. New Mexico’s best museums are a rich treasure trove of Native American history, folk art, regional works, and paintings by iconic local masters such as Georgia O’Keeffe. At the New Mexico Museum of Art, view the photography of noted 20th-century artist Ansel Adams. A Culture Pass gives you access to each of the 14 state museums.

108 Cathedral Pl, Santa Fe, NM 87501, USA
There is so much art to see in Santa Fe, it’s endless. Along with artisan markets, small galleries, the Georgia O’Keeffe museum and numerous small shops, we visited the MOCNA. It’s a museum that is connected to the Institute of American Indian Arts and is a very manageable space. There are all sorts and time periods of art and revolving shows. Definitely worth an hour or so if you are in Santa Fe. There is also a great gift/book shop as well. **The artist in the picture above is Keith Braveheart
710 Camino Lejo, Santa Fe, NM 87505, USA
When most people look at a piece of turquoise, they see a pretty blue stone. The people of New Mexico see water, sky, bountiful harvests, and a source of health and protection. Turquoise has been a valuable stone—in jewelry, for ceremonial purposes, and as an object of trade—for more than a thousand years. Many works of art incorporating turquoise are on permanent display in New Mexico, at institutions like the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture in Santa Fe. You can also, however, see (and touch) them at street festivals and markets along with weaving, pottery, silverwork, Kachina dolls, and more. You may even decide to take a bit of New Mexico home with you.
217 Johnson St, Santa Fe, NM 87501, USA
Located in downtown Santa Fe, this perfectly sized museum is dedicated to the artistic life of Georgia O’Keeffe (1887–1986) and houses the single largest collection of the artist’s work in the world. Rotating exhibits often include O’Keeffe’s iconic desert landscape paintings alongside lesser-known gems painted in Lake George and Hawaii (where she was commissioned by the Dole pineapple company). Often, notable pieces from established peers and contemporaries like Ansel Adams, Jackson Pollock, and Andy Warhol join hers on the walls.
105 W Palace Ave, Santa Fe, NM 87501, USA
The entire north side of Santa Fe’s downtown plaza is taken up by the 1610 Palace of the Governors, the oldest continually occupied public building in the United States. Its front adobe facade is completely shaded, and in this “portal,” the Native American Vendors Program has been operating for over six decades. A daily lottery ensures a rotating selection of artisans from the various pueblos throughout New Mexico. Yes, there might be some “finer” pieces available in the chic boutiques elsewhere in Santa Fe, but here, in the shade of a four-century-old adobe building, you can meet the artists and even haggle a bit. Be respectful, though—these are not cheap trinkets made in a sweatshop abroad: The crafts and the jewelry are usually made by the person with whom you’ll be conversing. (An interesting side note: The Palace was taken over in 1680 and occupied by Native Americans during the Pueblo Revolt until 1692, when the Spaniards returned. This is the only government seat in the U.S. to have ever been taken over by Native Americans. It then served as the residence of the governor during the Spanish, Mexican, and U.S. territorial regimes, until 1907. In 1912, New Mexico became a U.S. state. Today, the Palace serves as a museum.)
1801 Mountain Rd NW, Albuquerque, NM 87104, USA
This popular museum showcases a permanent exhibit of all things dinosaurs including rare finds and Jurassic era life-size replicas. It’s like walking back into time, a scene out of Jurassic Park -dating back a mere 200 million years ago. There’s also a naturalist center and a walk-through simulated volcano. The museum’s advanced planetarium, a full dome theatre, is where the live action happens. Don’t miss “Enchanted Skies,” a very cool look at constellations, planets and the far, deep sky.
1350 Central Ave, Los Alamos, NM 87544, USA
Just like an episode of the X- Files, you can’t actually visit the Los Alamos National Laboratory (shhhh, The Truth is Out There). However, the next best thing is the Bradbury Science Museum, a great spot for history and science buffs interested in Los Alamos and the Manhattan Project - which produced the atomic bomb. There’s ample display of declassified experiments from the laboratory, artifacts and documents from the World War II along with life-size replicas of “Fat Man” and :Little Boy: the atomic bombs dropped on Japan.
704 Camino Lejo
Part of Museum Hill, the Wheelwright, founded in 1937 by Mary Cabot Wheelwright, is a small private museum with a stellar collection of pottery, sculpture, baskets, weavings, and historic and contemporary works by Native American artists. The hidden gem remains the lower-level Case Trading Post with a fantastic selection of jewelry, kachina dolls, weavings, and pottery from over 200 Native American artists.
107 W Palace Ave, Santa Fe, NM 87501, USA
A handsome pueblo revival adobe building with a peaceful garden and courtyard, the New Mexico Museum of Art mounts small, rotating exhibits from its impressive 20,000-piece permanent collection. It includes well-known artists like Georgia O’Keeffe, Gustave Baumann, and members of the Taos Society of Artists (Ernest L. Blumenschein, Bert G. Phillips, Joseph H. Sharp), and noted 20th-century Southwest photographers like Ansel Adams. Don’t miss the special exhibits or the free Friday evenings (5–8 p.m.). The adjoining gift shop is a great place to pick up books, postcards, and jewelry.
100 West 11th St
Let’s put aside the sci-fi Roswell UFO hysteria for this worthy museum (with free admission) including an excellent collection of Southwestern artists ( John Marin, Walter Mruk, Georgia O’Keeffe) and modernist works from Santa Fe and Taos art colonies. Spend time studying Robert H. Goddard (the “father of modern rocket propulsion”) extensive collection consisting of a private building room, journals and supplies. The gift shop has an ample selection of art books, American Indian Arts and a children’s corner.
1606 Paseo De Peralta, Santa Fe, NM 87501, USA
The work exhibited in this progressive and edgy nonprofit space is a far cry from the art in the galleries along Canyon Road. SITE Santa Fe, which opened in 1995, hosts provocative biennials as well as a wealth of multimedia productions and notable international and contemporary art exhibits. After the building’s striking renovation and expansion (by the New York–based design firm SHoP Architects), its dramatic new glass facade sits beneath a triangular front, welcoming visitors inside.
1301 Alta Vista St, Santa Fe, NM 87505, USA
The New Mexico Capitol Art Collection is a surprising find: an extensive art collection focusing on nearly 600 New Mexican and Southwestern artists, housed in the State Capitol Complex. This awesome assemblage incorporates paintings, photography, mixed media, textiles and handcrafted furniture. And, it’s free to the public.
113 Kit Carson Rd, Taos, NM 87571, USA
The rugged American frontiersman and trapper Kit Carson purchased this territorial style 4-room adobe in 1843 for his wife. Step back into time; furnished rooms remain as Carson and his family once dwelled. The adventurer and military buff will appreciate the display of old rifles, stunning beaded leather cases, Caron’s Masonic hat and early Taos artifacts and antiques. The courtyard reveals a cool adobe baking oven (called a horno). It’s a small museum with deep, historical roots. The onsite gift shop carries comprehensive Carson and southwest biographies.
AFAR Journeys
More From AFAR