Tune Into the Holidays in Santa Fe

Wherever we may find ourselves over the holiday season, making merry simply wouldn’t be the same without a musical backdrop. A familiar carol heard in the distance, the strains of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker welling up, a haunting Baroque composition sung a cappella … these are the beautiful sounds that accompany the distinctive quality of a holiday spent in Santa Fe.

It’s our festive good fortune that talented performers of all stripes have chosen to make the City Different their permanent home. And the fact that guest artists from all over the world welcome an opportunity to perform here is an additional blessing, particularly at the holidays, when Santa Fe sparkles with color, excitement, and music.

Hallelujah for Handel

We know the holidays have well and truly begun when the Santa Fe Symphony Orchestra and Chorus treat us to the annual performance of Handel’s Messiah. As always, this festive holiday tradition takes place at the Lensic on November 24, under the baton of conductor Tom Hall, with an informative preview talk taking place before the performance. I love that the program always includes the words so I can follow, and I’d like to meet the person who doesn’t like to hum along to the Hallelujah chorus!

It takes a village, or at least a whole chorus, to bring Handel’s Messiah to the stage of the Lensic in Santa Fe.
It takes a village, or at least a whole chorus, to bring Handel’s Messiah to the stage of the Lensic in Santa Fe.

The 30th season of the Symphony takes the holiday spirit to towering heights, with a glittering performance of Christmas Treasures at the fully bedecked Lensic. This concert of choral favorites, conducted by Joseph Young, includes holiday favorites from the Middle Ages all the way to the 20th century, with standards like Irving Berlin’s White Christmas and a suite from the movie Polar Express – there’s one for the kiddos! Be sure to mark this December 15th performance on your musical calendar. This all-ages performance is a sure bet for bringing a melodious close to the afternoon, and you can close out a magical day with a festive Sunday dinner downtown.

It’s a BIG Sing, and You’re Invited to Sing Along

The Santa Fe Desert Chorale, in its 31st season of choral concordance in Santa Fe, has become one of our most beloved musical groups, and they pay back the love with a return of The Big Sing, a local hit when it was inaugurated in 2012. This concert of song features performers of all ages, with appearances by the University of New Mexico Concert Choir and the UNM Children’s Chorus, in addition to the Desert Chorale led by its esteemed director, Joshua Habermann. Each of the three choral groups performing collected its own set of seasonal selections to infuse our hearts with holiday spirit. The Santa Fe ambiance of the venue, Cristo Rey Church on Canyon Road, adds to the flavor of this one-day only performance on December 15. And throughout the concert, the audience will be invited to sing along – I don’t know about you, but I am always ready to bust out some Silver Bells!

The Santa Fe Desert Chorale makes the rafters ring in Santa Fe’s beautiful Basilica Cathedral of St. Francis
The Santa Fe Desert Chorale makes the rafters ring in Santa Fe’s beautiful Basilica Cathedral of St. Francis

Not content with just a community sing-along, the Desert Chorale also brings their annual Carols and Lullabies concerts to the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis for five stirring performances in December — and there’s a truly spiritual uplift on hearing an ancient lullaby echo through the rafters of our beautiful Cathedral. For those of you looking to lighten the holiday mood up a bit, here’s just the ticket: The Lighter Side of Christmas benefit concert for the Chorale on December 17 at Lewallen Gallery in the Railyard. This fa la la la laugh-inducing evening culminates in a silent auction famous for offering enticing treats on which to bid. The Chorale then winds up the year with sass and swing with a special New Year’s Weekend Concert December 28-31 by Voasis, the Chorale’s new contemporary a cappella ensemble, produced by Deke Sharon of NBC’s The Sing-Off. And if you’re really looking to step out for New Year’s, Warehouse 21 is a super-stylin’ venue for sassy selections with which to usher on 2014.

Nutty for the Nutcracker? Me Too!

I’ve seen The Nutcracker more than once, and I’ll see it again and again, because it’s simply part of my holiday tradition. And it only gets better every year, as the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet grows in stature and competence. Tchaikovsky’s memorable music forms a luscious backdrop for sugarplums and Russian dancers, snowflakes, and an epic battle between the King of the Rats and the stalwart Nutcracker, who fortunately wins every time. It’s always a delight to see the students of ASFB’s ballet school learn to face an audience and take their bows – that’s an artistic community in action. Two performances each day December 21-22 leave plenty of room for other holiday activities, so be sure to get the balletomanes in your family on board.

The King of the Rats — or as we might call him in Santa Fe, El Rey de Ratons — will never defeat the Brave Nutcracker
The King of the Rats — or as we might call him in Santa Fe, El Rey de Ratons — will never defeat the Brave Nutcracker

Going for Baroque

The Loretto Chapel, famous for its miraculous staircase, offers the perfect architecture and ambiance for a concert of baroque music and Santa Fe Pro Musica takes full advantage of the backdrop for A Baroque Christmas. This beloved chamber orchestra has been delighting Santa Fe audiences for over 30 years, and the holiday concerts are a highly anticipated part of our holiday tradition. From Friday, December 20 straight through to Christmas Eve, Pro Musica offers two concerts nightly, alternating between a pair of fabulous mezzo-sopranos, Deborah Domanski and Dianna Grabowski. The program includes works by Baroque masters Bach, Telemann, and Handel, along with a selection of traditional carols guaranteed to bring old memories to new life. A very important heads up: Since the Loretto Chapel is an intimate (read: limited seating) venue, these concerts will definitely sell out to those whose holiday décor includes beautiful music.

The sonic glories of Baroque composers come annually to the beautiful Loretto Chapel thanks to Santa Fe Pro Musica
The sonic glories of Baroque composers come annually to the beautiful Loretto Chapel thanks to Santa Fe Pro Musica

Concerts to Cherish from Christmas to New Year’s and Beyond

I am so thankful that the Santa Fe Concert Association has been treating music-lovers like me to world-class talent for an astonishing 76 years, and this year’s slate of performances is no exception. The Association kicks off the winter season with A Celtic Holiday Concert at the Lensic on December 2, when The Leahy Family, eight Canadian brothers and sisters who’ve have been playing together all their lives, will set feet to tapping and hands to clapping with joyous and accomplished musicianship. Even when there’s a hint of a mournful minor key, Celtic music just makes me feel happy.

Hark to the holiday spirit with a merry Celtic mood when Santa Fe Concert Association welcomes the Leahy Family.
Hark to the holiday spirit with a merry Celtic mood when Santa Fe Concert Association welcomes the Leahy Family.

I’m totally psyched to hear The King’s Singers, the renowned ensemble of masculine voices, in their one-night-only performance at the Cathedral Basilica December 6. Their musicality melds in a medley of anything and everything from Mozart to Henry Mancini — guess we’ll just have to wait and see — I mean, hear — what’s on the music stands.

SFCA celebrates Christmas Eve with a festive concert at the Lensic, when conductor Joseph Illick leads the SFCA Orchestra in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 4 and welcomes soloist Caroline Goulding to perform a Beethoven Violin Concerto. The Concert Association’s holiday spirit toasts New Year’s Eve at a Lensic concert December 31, with guest soloist Claire Huangci, said to have “the fastest fingers in the world” joining Mr. Illick to perform Poulenc’s Concerto for Two Pianos, and a rendition of Brahms’ Second Symphony.

A Gala New Year’s Eve Dinner and Dance are in the works too, with fun and friends, drinks, dinner, and dancing to tunes by local favorite Soulstice — stay tuned to the SFCA website to hear more!

And if holiday music keeps you at home this year, the Concert Association still has something up the conductor’s sleeve when 2014 rolls round. Rossini’s The Barber of Seville is on the boards for January 10-12 in the stunning setting of the historic Scottish Rite Center. How often do you get to see a real Masonic temple so lovingly and vibrantly re-purposed? And best of all, these opera performances are free, yes, free!

Wrapped up in white, the architectural beauty of Santa Fe's St. Francis Cathedral is a holiday delight.
Wrapped up in white, the architectural beauty of Santa Fe’s St. Francis Cathedral is a holiday delight.

Harmonious Holidays Happen in Santa Fe
Are you hearing a delightful ditty already? Feel your feet tapping to a festive tune? Then make tracks to Santa Fe to compose magical musical memories for playback all year long. As J.K. Rowling says in Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone, “Ah, music … a magic beyond all we do here!” Santa Fe is tuned to the enchantment of holiday harmonies, and the more who join our party, the merrier it will be.

Santa Fe Puts on a Perfect Fall Peep Show

The mountains above Santa Fe received their first snowy frosting on the first day of autumn, a timely reminder the leaves are about to treat us to their colorful autumnal appearance. Our city is renowned for its diverse visual arts, but Mother Nature herself manages to put on a pretty stunning exhibit at this time of year. With so much beauty nestled under the azure Santa Fe sky, it’s a good thing there’s more than one way to experience it.

Golden aspens give notice that autumn has come to Santa Fe.
Golden aspens give notice that autumn has come to Santa Fe.

Take the High Way

Looking up from the heart of downtown Santa Fe to see the 12,000-foot peaks of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains turn bright gold is pleasant, but wouldn’t you like to get closer … lots closer? Catch this fleeting fall drama by taking an upper-level tour of the mountainside on the Ski Santa Fe scenic chair lift service. This bird’s eye view is mesmerizing, as aspens leaves shake and shimmer below in all their glimmering glory. It may even entice you lovers of winter to return for a visit when the hillsides are covered with fluffy white powder, especially since season passes are now on sale. Just be sure your camera is fully charged, because you’ll be snapping away non-stop from this heavenly height.

Lift your spirits with fall highlights at the Santa Fe Ski Basin.
Lift your spirits with fall highlights at the Santa Fe Ski Basin.

Pedal Power Puts You at the Leading Edge of Color

A quick getaway may preclude bringing your own beloved mountain bike, but Santa Fe’s bike buddy Mellow Velo can quickly fill the gap for avid pedal pushers. With a unique collection of high-end people-powered vehicles on hand, this well-established rental and service shop will spend time getting you outfitted appropriately and send you off the trail they think will best suit you. Yes, you can bring your own pedals for them to install! And it’s not only the mountainsides that change hue – the city has some mighty colorful cottonwoods (one of Georgia’s O’Keeffe’s favorite trees) turning yellow each fall, so taking a trip around the city by bike is also an admirable autumn option.

Take it to the top on two wheels with Mellow Velo.
Take it to the top on two wheels with Mellow Velo.

Feet, Don’t Fail Me Now

Santa Fe Baldy is the mountaintop we locals scan to see what the weather has in store for us. Baldy is a rather jocular way to refer to being above tree line — altitude 12,631 feet, in case you were wondering — but a sense of humor is always helpful on an upward-bound hike. Located 15 miles northeast of the city, Baldy is the last tall peak in New Mexico, as the mountains slowly lower on their way down through the state. The well-marked trail climbs to a saddle about 1,000 feet below the summit, and the remaining distance is a steep trek up along the ridgeline. The walk 7 miles up takes you through golden aspens and stands of stately Ponderosa pines, until you pass the tree line at about 700 feet below the peak. Just don’t forget it’s also 7 miles back down.

Your companions? Day Hikes in the Santa Fe Area, published by the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club, and the maps in the wonderful High Desert Field Guides. Both are available for purchase at Collected Works Books. Your reward? Seeing dazzling Lake Katherine under the spotless sky of New Mexico.

Take a moment to revel in the beauty of Lake Katherine before making your descent.
Take a moment to revel in the beauty of Lake Katherine before making your descent.

Driving Around on a Santa Fe Day

Not a hiker or biker? No problem. Take in the scenery from the cozy comfort of the car and park for a pretty picnic when your appetite bests the outlook. The High Road to Taos winds through the plateau west of the mountains, slowly rising until it pops out at the Truchas Peaks, named for the trout (truchas) that have fed northern New Mexicans over the years. Along the way, you’ll see scattered villages and clusters of old adobe homes, no doubt at this time of year with a wisp of pinon smoke drifting from the chimney. This scenic byway takes you through Chimayo, with its famed Santuario, the villages of Truchas and Las Trampas, Picuris Pueblo and finally on into Taos via Talpa and Ranchos de Taos. Return via the Low Road before the sun sets, and you’ll see vivid yellow stands of old cottonwoods casting color over the waters of the Rio Grande.

Trees glow as the river waters flow along the Low Road from Taos.
Trees glow as the river waters flow along the Low Road from Taos.

Curious to know what happens to the landscape long after a volcano explodes? Point your vehicle westward and visit the Valles Caldera National Preserve, a 13.7-mile wide crater created 1.5 million or so years ago. The massive scope of the Valles Caldera encompasses so much – archaeology, wildlife, history, geology – and autumn is a great time to see the grasslands turn gold and watch hawks soar overhead. Valles Caldera has miles of ranch roads, livestock and game trails, including a network of trails designated for horseback riding. The many outdoor activities are open to the public, but some require reservations, especially things like winter sleigh rides (definitely something to come back for).

Sometimes the Santa Fe wildlife is just as curious about us as we are about them.
Sometimes the Santa Fe wildlife is just as curious about us as we are about them.

Get Me a Guide Please

In such a pristine natural setting, you’d imagine there would be those who spend their lives out of doors, making their living doing it, and you’d be right. Having an experienced guide along to point out the things you might miss turns an autumn hike from interesting to incredible. The vast Pecos Wilderness encompasses almost a quarter-million acres to the east of Santa Fe, and that’s a lot of ground to cover on your own. The knowledgeable guides from Outspire figure it out for you with a 4-6 hour hike (don’t worry, lunch is factored in) through the mountains and valleys characteristic of this protected wilderness area spread across the Santa Fe and Carson National Forests.

Following the leader is a pleasure when the guiding is so good.
Following the leader is a pleasure when the guiding is so good.

A little closer to your home base of Santa Fe are the hiking trails of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, perched above the city on the way to the Santa Fe Ski Basin. Named by Catholic settlers) the mountains turn vibrant red and yellow at sunset, and the Sangres are a favorite destination for locals to fit in a hike that doesn’t consume an entire day. Santa Fe Walkabouts can get you out and hiking on a 4- or 5-mile roundtrip through the aspens as soon as you finish eating breakfast. These Santa Fe area hikes (and fun Pinzgauer tours) are always tailored to your ability, since Georges and Sue Mally want to leave their guests with magical memories, not sore knees.

Santa Fe Walkabouts will drive you up by Pinzgauer, but you’ll want to slow down for a walk in leafy beauty.
Santa Fe Walkabouts will drive you up by Pinzgauer, but you’ll want to slow down for a walk in leafy beauty.

Color Your Visit with Santa Fe’s Outdoor Hues

The sun shines over 300 days a year in Santa Fe, and autumn brings ideal weather for experiencing the crisp cool air and the bright blue skies of New Mexico. Lace up your shoes and pack a picnic, or let an outdoor specialist lay out an enticing plan for you, but make a visit to Mother Nature part of your visit to Santa Fe. She has so much to share, and it’s all waiting out there in the hills and valleys to enchant you.


Performing Arts on the Scene in Santa Fe’s Streets and Screens

Throughout the centuries, creative souls have sought out Santa Fe for the inspiration of its heavenly blue skies, its 300-plus annual days of sunshine, and the combination of mountain light and long shadows that makes the area so inviting to the imagination.

Let inspiration lead you to Santa Fe this fall.
Let inspiration lead you to Santa Fe this fall.

Santa Fe became the first U.S. city to be chosen by UNESCO as a Creative City, one of only nine in the world. Artists of all kinds ply their skills year-round, including those talented types who capture it all on film or canvas for us. Discover what they’ve been up to as the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival and the Canyon Road Paint-Out bring our city to an artistic apex in October.

Independent Filmmakers Make a Splash in Santa Fe

The fifth annual Santa Fe Independent Film Festival arrives on Wednesday, October 16 to occupy and intrigue film buffs for five event-filled days through Sunday, October 20. This year’s extravaganza of 80 feature-length films is frosting on the cake with filmmakers’ workshops, panel discussions and parties galore. I’m looking for a celebrity sighting of Indie Spirit Awards Winner and filmmaking legend, John Waters!

According to the New Mexico Film Commission, close to half a billion dollars were spent by film production companies over the last 10 years in New Mexico, resulting in a financial impact of nearly $1.5 billion benefitting the state. That’s a lot of action, and it has attracted the attention of both filmmakers and committed filmgoers, sure to be here for this year’s screenings. 

The magnificent Lensic Center for the Performing Arts, one of the architectural jewels of Santa Fe, is a state-of-the-art venue.
The magnificent Lensic Center for the Performing Arts, one of the architectural jewels of Santa Fe, is a state-of-the-art venue.

Two downtown locations, the historic Lensic Center for the Performing Arts and the Center for Contemporary Arts, known locally as CCA, continue to act as festival venues. They are joined this year by the newly-reopened (thanks to George R.R. Martin and probably to Game of Thrones, too) Jean Cocteau Cinema in the Santa Fe Railyard. The Screen at the Santa Fe University of Art & Design on St. Michael’s Drive offers a fourth venue for experiencing the on-screen excitement.

Festival screenings kick off with 11 films beginning at 6:30 pm in the CCA Main Theater on Wednesday, October 16, and the Palace Restaurant & Saloon welcomes the sounds of Anthony Leon & the Chain in a celebratory party at 9 pm. On Thursday, October 17, CCA goes wild, with 45 different screenings between the main theater and the studio screen throughout the day 10 am to 7:00 pm. The Lensic hosts a 7 pm screening of Tapia, the compelling tale of New Mexico native Johnny Tapia, a five-time world champion boxer. At The Screen, the 7 pm screening of the documentary Pastriology will be followed by an 8:30 pm celebration of local organic foods in Studio C.  A vivacious 9:00 pm after-party takes place at Tanti Luce on Shelby Street. Two days down, three to go!

The Jean Cocteau Cinema gets into the act on Friday, October 18 with a 7 pm screening of The Suicide Shop, an amusing animated French comedy. Of course, there are 27 other films to choose from that day, beginning at 10:45 am at CCA. An hour-long writing lab with screenwriter Joan Torres (ever heard of Blacula?) at 11 am in the CCA Studio accommodates only 45 people, so sign up early. You can close out the day with a 10 pm dance party at The Rouge Cat lasting into the wee hours. 

Santa Fe Independent Film Festival Railyard
All signs point to entertainment at the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival!

If you’ve gone the distance with a full pass, be sure to eat a hearty breakfast on Saturday, October 19, since you have 38 different films to select from that day. A live cast screenplay reading of a work-in-progress by Chris Eyre (known for his films Smoke Signals, Hideaway, and Skins) helps shape his new comedic film “Up the River” at 1 pm at the Jean Cocteau Cinema.  A 100-minute Writing for the Screen workshop takes place for 45 lucky folks at 2 pm in the CCA Studio. At 4:30 pm, the Eldorado Hotel, hosts Fashion Heat – Native Fashion as Art 2013, a fashion show that highlights Native American clothing designers. Taos Pueblo native and Project Runway contestant, Patricia Michaels, will introduce her 2013 collection.

If my plan for a casual sighting of John Waters’ doesn’t materialize, I know I can see him in person at his 7 pm one-man show, This Filthy World, on stage at the Lensic. A 9 pm after-party at San Francisco Street Bar and Grill gets rocking with Native American actor and local favorite Gary Farmer and his band, the Troublemakers.

The Film Fest closes with a bang on Sunday, October 20, and another 24 films still to enjoy, along with a few signature events. At 10:45 am in the CCA Main Theater, actors Wes Studi and Maria Dhu Studi host a workshop on the craft of cold reading. Noon brings master craftsman Lee Daniel to discuss cinematography in the CCA Studio, followed in the same space at 2 pm by Ron Blumberg in a take on comedy writing, but remember that 45-person limit. The Sunday feature special for locals will be Milagro Man, a biographical documentary about John Nichols, the Taos-based author of the beloved “New Mexico Trilogy” (The Milagro Beanfield War, The Magic Journey, and The Nirvana Blues), screening at the CCA Main Theater at 5:30 pm. The festival ends with a spirited round of toasts at an 8:30 pm final after-party in the recently-opened downtown Santa Fe Spirits Tasting Room.

Get into a film-festive spirit at Santa Fe Spirits new downtown tasting room.
Get into a film-festive spirit at Santa Fe Spirits new downtown tasting room.

Painters – and Printmakers and Sculptors, Too – Put On a Paint-Out

If you feel like you’ve spent a little too much time indoors watching movies, devote some of your weekend to head outdoors for an artistic adventure. Santa Fe’s renowned museums are clustered around the city, and while there’s more than one gallery district, Canyon Road resonates with anyone who’s ever parked an easel and picked up a brush to capture the summer’s morning beauty or the color of changing leaves on a crisp autumn afternoon. If this sounds like your kind of enjoyment, you’re in luck, since the Sixth Annual Canyon Road Paint-Out is waiting in the wings to enchant you.

Nestled along the Santa Fe River, Canyon Road stretches up to the mountains where the Dale Ball Trails take you into the Santa Fe National Forest, but the heart of the street is a stunning half-mile of restaurants, shops, galleries and artists’ studios brimming with magical creations. On October 18-19 this year, over 100 artists head to the street to make artistic fantasies come to brilliant life 11 am to 4 pm.

Canyon Road is as pretty as a picture being made.
Canyon Road is as pretty as a picture being made.

Galleries will have their doors wide open both days, and the talk of the town will be the new exhibitions, as you stroll in and out of opening receptions on Friday, October 18, from 5 -7 pm. Five Theories: Painters Reception at Canyon Road Contemporary Art hosts five artists participating in the Paint-Out, and Winterrowd Gallery welcomes painter Don Quade for an exhibit entitled Global Crossroads. Sage Creek Gallery artist Kevin Courter shows Sojourn, a series of works generated in the Big Sky Country of Montana, and Mark Yearwood has his second solo exhibition in Santa Fe, Progressive Rhythm, at InArt Gallery.

Karan Ruhlen Gallery exhibits Recent Landscapes: Near and Far, the work of Martha Mans, and at Longworth Gallery, you can catch Empowerment, Kimberly Webber’s new oil paintings. New Horizons, landscapes from the 19th to 21st centuries drawn from the collections of Matthews Gallery, will be on display there, and Turner Carroll Gallery gets vibrant with Rex Ray’s Colortopia. Silver Sun brings painter Lee McLeod and Navajo Jeweler Shane Hendren to the gallery, and Light, Action, Color at Alexandra Stevens Gallery will have all seven exhibiting artists on hand to talk about their work.

In a nod to the past, Adobe Gallery presents an exhibit/sale of art by early 20th century Native American artists who attended the Santa Fe Indian School in the 1930s and 40s under the tutelage of art teachers Dorothy Dunn and Geronima Cruz Montoya. And that’s just Friday!

On Saturday, the artists return for more “plein air” – a French term for working outdoors on the spot. At noon there’s a festival parade with marching bands, followed by performances by the talented students from the Santa Fe Public Schools Music Education Program. At 2 pm, New Concept Gallery hosts a round-table discussion on Abstract Art. Streetside happenings continue until 4 pm, and there are sure to be surprises … even we locals have to wait and see!

For ideas on places to nibble and sip while you promenade, see my recent post, The Art of Dining on Canyon Road.

See Santa Fe in sun and shade as you stroll the Canyon Road Paint-Out.
See Santa Fe in sun and shade as you stroll the Canyon Road Paint-Out.

October Is the Month to Rediscover Why You Love Santa Fe

Thought you’d seen and done it all on your last visit to Santa Fe? Perhaps you’ll realize it’s time for another trip to one of the world’s premier arts destinations. The hunger to see and share artistic endeavors in a variety of visual forms never seems to abate in Santa Fe, and the City Different offers two out-of-the-ordinary visual arts experiences to enchant October visitors. Words hardly do these two exciting events justice, but seeing will definitely be believing.

The Art of Dining on Canyon Road

Ambling up along the edge of the river, Santa Fe’s Canyon Road is renowned as one of the country’s premier arts destinations. While our world-class museums justifiably draw crowds year-round, there’s nothing quite like taking a stroll through one of the city’s most historic neighborhoods under the strikingly blue sky. Canyon Road has been a haven for artistic types since settlers first parked their wagons by the waters flowing down from the mountains through the canyon. And anywhere people set down roots, restaurants inevitably crop up. Artful wandering on Canyon Road is a memorable must-do for a Santa Fe visit, and dining there becomes an artistic experience in the hands of the fine chefs who answer the creative call.

Invite your feet to lead you to the flavors of Canyon Road.
Invite your feet to lead you to the flavors of Canyon Road.

A Creative Atmosphere Calls for a Cozy Cafe

You’ve probably heard that saying that begins with “Eat breakfast like a king.” So after I settle down to a breakfast burrito filled with green chile, eggs, and cheese, along with a cup of deep, dark Lavazza coffee at Caffe Greco, I leave feeling like a queen for the day. Perched at the base of Canyon Road, this colorful cafe is a great place to spend an hour noshing over a newspaper, surrounded by galleries and unique shopping.

Caffe Greco invites outdoor refreshment...
Caffe Greco invites outdoor refreshment…
...and offers a colorfully cozy interior.
…and offers a colorfully cozy interior.

The tree-shaded patio is perfect for an al fresco lunch of tacos, or that ubiquitous signature Santa Fe treat, the green chile cheeseburger. The interior of the cafe is jewel-toned, with quirky sculptures and paintings scattered in nooks and crannies of a space that feels truly Santa Fe, and a small fireplace to guard against winter’s chill. Friendly neighborhood camaraderie flows throughout, as visitors and locals converse convivially on how best to tap into the artistic scene that is Canyon Road.

Adding Beauty Compounds the Pleasure of a Great Meal

Landmark buildings create a lovely setting, and Canyon Road is rich with historic structures. Nowhere is this truer than at The Compound Restaurant, named for the building that was once the centerpiece of a residential family compound. Back in the early part of the 20th century, this quiet edifice, nestled on a verdant swath of land by the river, welcomed the weary movers and shakers of society, before morphing into a restaurant in the mid-1960’s. The wise decision to bring in noted designer Alexander Girard (he whose massive collection of folk art forms the basis of the world-class Museum of International Folk Art) created a memorably elegant space, largely unchanged through the years.

The Compound is a sweet place to celebrate a special occasion.
The Compound is a sweet place to celebrate a special occasion.

For as long as I have been in Santa Fe, the Compound has always at the top of the list for a celebratory occasion. While chef/owner Mark Kiffin has dispensed with the silver covers once timed to lift exquisitely off diners’ plates at the same moment, the standard has remained high. Kiffin assumed the helm in 2000 and brought to the table a seasonally-tuned menu of contemporary American cuisine fusing Old World flavors of the Mediterranean with the best of New World taste. It’s no wonder that the James Beard Foundation named him “Best Chef in the Southwest” in 2005. That fresh spring pea soup and the rack of lamb definitely get my vote every time.

Celebrity Spotting on the Menu at Geronimo

Santa Fe style is legendary, and Canyon Road has so many examples to prove it. After dining at the Compound, compound your enjoyment of signature architecture and fine food another night by heading further up Canyon Road to Geronimo. The Apache chief of that name is known to anyone who ever watched a Western, but the only fighting at the dinner table will be for the last morsel on the plate. The historic building that houses this elegant dining establishment was built in 1756 by one Geronimo Lopez, for whom the restaurant is named. Known to Santa Fe insiders as a great place for celebrity spotting, a dinner at Geronimo makes its popularity abundantly clear as one delicious dish follows another to the table.

A magnificent meal in a memorable setting like Geronimo is the essence of Santa Fe flavor.
A magnificent meal in a memorable setting like Geronimo is the essence of Santa Fe flavor.


Executive chef Eric de Stefano has a long culinary history in Santa Fe, and his penchant for what he denotes as “global eclectic” cuisine plays out nightly in palate-pleasing perfection. Loyal fans never permit the elk tenderloin to leave the menu, but I can’t pass up the grilled Mexican white prawns – that Yuzu basil aioli just keeps me coming back. Never fear, vegetarians, there’s a four-course tasting menu that takes care of you too. The graceful thick-walled adobe dining room is warm and welcoming, and the lounge in back is a happening place to be on a Saturday night in the City Different. And those signature cocktails are pretty happening too!

Tapas Are the Tune at a Truly Local Locale

Every town – in fact, every neighborhood – has its local cantina, and Canyon Road boasts El Farol. More than just an anchor for a meal, this is a restaurant, blues bar, jazz club, poetry space, art gallery, and a flamenco dance floor rolled up together under yet another historic roof. Built in 1835, with long-time owner David Salazar at the helm, El Farol is said to be the oldest continuously operating dining space in Santa Fe, and whether or not that’s true, there is no doubting its local appeal.

Take a trip to Spain via Santa Fe with tapas at El Farol.
Take a trip to Spain via Santa Fe with tapas at El Farol.

The broad porch on the corner of Canyon Road and Camino del Monte Sol offers great people-watching opportunities during the warmer seasons, and the interior feels archetypically Western, with dark wood chairs that push back easily for nights when feet are tapping. Tapas and a margarita, anyone? Or maybe paella and a glass of sangria is more your style. Either way, if you’re looking for a casual evening of eating and entertainment with a Santa Fe ambiance, look no further than El Farol.

Teatime Is Anytime at the Teahouse

Up at the point where Palace Avenue curves around to end at Canyon Road, you’ll find the hospitable haven of The Teahouse, a tastefully well-kept old home below street level at the end of a row of galleries. At the corner where Canyon Road turns mostly residential, this is an oasis of calm from morning to night. Charming garden seating welcomes you to linger, and the gracious white-walled adobe interior is spacious enough to find serenity with a cup of tea, or a glass of wine or a beer over dinner. Under new ownership since late 2012, the Teahouse has been a tranquil temptation for Santa Feans since it opened its doors 10 years ago.

A vegan burger at the Teahouse keeps you fueled for Santa Fe fun.
A vegan burger at the Teahouse keeps you fueled for Santa Fe fun.

Knowing that there are 150 different varieties of tea here might mask the fact that a person can get three squares a day here, should she choose. The gluten-free breadbasket is not something you often see on a breakfast menu, and gluten-free bread is available for sandwiches too. And I’m a sucker for wild mushrooms, so thanks, Teahouse, for that panini pick. And oh, the tea! You’ll have to use your own discerning taste to hone in on the one of many that suits you to a T.

Get Your Fill of the Flavors on Canyon Road

It’s a given that a day on Canyon Road really must be part of any Santa Fe getaway. Top to bottom on this historic road, richness, so much depth and discovery abound, that it’s worth visiting more than once. And sculpting three meals a day means you’ll have more than one opportunity to sample the delights for eyes and tummies along the way. Combine your hunger for the visual arts with your appetite for a great meal to create a satisfying Santa Fe art adventure surrounded by history and culture on Canyon Road.





Party Like a Local During ¡Viva! Santa Fe

As autumn paints the Santa Fe landscape in rich golden hues, we locals welcome the green chile harvest and indulge in a colorful celebration of our centuries-old heritage. When Santa Feans hear shouts of “¡Que Viva!” ringing through the streets, it’s clear that Fiesta de Santa Fe, the citywide extravaganza dedicated to Santa Fe’s history and culture, has returned. Combine this 301-year-old party with new customs like a mouth-watering green chile cheeseburger smackdown, and you’ll see that a visit during ¡Viva! Santa Fe is a fall fantasy come to life.

¡Viva! Santa Fe loosely translated means “Long Live Santa Fe” or “Living Santa Fe,” but this year the term encompasses an updated City Different experience, packed with both traditional autumn events and new festivities. Gather your friends and family, make your reservations, and get ready to party under Santa Fe’s magnificent skies for 10 memorably unique days August 30 to September 8.

Flags and coats of arms are mounted on the Plaza during Fiesta to commemorate the peaceful reoccupation of Santa Fe by Don Diego de Vargas.

History and Culture Come Alive at Fiesta de Santa Fe

As the country’s oldest continuous community celebration, Fiesta de Santa Fe has commemorated the peaceful 1692 reoccupation of the city by Don Diego de Vargas, after the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, since 1712.

The official opening of Fiesta takes place Friday, September 6, at 6 a.m., with the Pregón de la Fiesta, when the faithful gather at Rosario Chapel to hear the Mayor of Santa Fe issue a formal proclamation declaring the start of these annual festivities. Community leaders welcome the public on the Plaza at noon, then at 2 p.m. you can witness a re-enactment of the triumphant 1692 entry of the Conquistadors.

Don Diego and his Cuadrilla triumphantly ride into town every year during Fiesta.

The Desfile de Los Ninos, the annual Pet Parade, takes place Saturday, September 7, at 9 a.m. This is a truly uniquely Santa Fe event, where you can coo over ever-so-patient family pets dressed as conquistadors or admire a happy family of Smurfs.

Pets and Smurfs at the pet parade have a happy case of the Blues.

Sunday, September 8, brings the Desfile de la Gente, colloquially referred to as the Historical/Hysterical Parade. This lively, local, anything-goes conglomeration of floats mixes local high school bands, mariachis, and sports teams with queens and politicians of every stripe, all of whom eventually end up on the Plaza.

All you need is LOVE to enjoy the Hysterical/Historical Fiesta Parade.

The official closing of Fiesta takes place at 5:15 p.m. on the Plaza and is followed by 7 p.m. Mass at the Cathedral and a solemn candle-lit procession through the historic downtown, ending at the Cross of the Martyrs, where small vigil bonfires known as luminarias flicker in the dark.

Given that Fiesta actually takes all year for the Fiesta Council to plan, a celebration this large means a lot is happening, so we encourage advance scheduling to make your Fiesta experience complete.

Let Zozobra Take the Heat Off Your Worries

What is that crazy name you’ve been hearing? Pre-dating Nevada’s Burning Man by decades, Zozobra, familiarly known as Old Man Gloom, is Santa Fe’s prescription for recovering from the year’s disappointments. Zozobra was created in 1924 by artist Will Shuster and is now lovingly re-created each year by the Kiwanis Club.

This 50-foot-tall puppet is stuffed with bits of paper bearing all manner of gloomy thoughts and goes up in smoke at an annual burning in Fort Marcy Park. Though Fiesta’s official start date is Friday, September 6, the September 5 conflagration on Thursday night tells the locals it’s on! Entertainment on the field begins at 3 p.m., but the burning and subsequent fireworks display take place well after dark. Note that this is NOT for agoraphobics, the faint of heart, or the youngest children.

Check out this vintage photo of Old Man Gloom and his creator, Will Shuster, in 1954.

Santa Feans like me can’t get enough of Zozobra, and there’s a new event honoring our sacrificial lamb Friday, August 30, from 3 to 10 p.m. when ZozoFest pulls into the Santa Fe Railyard. The annual Zozobra poster will be unveiled and signed by the artist, and an exhibit of all things Zozo opens to the public. You can stuff your worries right into Zozobra and gaze in awe at his massive head. I feel better already! This family-friendly Friday has live entertainment under the water tower and a screening of “Rise of the Guardians” at the performance green, with a fun fair on Saturday, August 31, 11a.m. – 6 p.m.

And though you might think Old Man Gloom would be feeling old and out of touch at 89, Zozobra has gone digital this year! Submit your worries online, until September 5, and watch them burn on the Burning of the Virtual Zozobra at the ¡Viva! Santa website.

Santa Fe’s modern-day Zozobra evokes the original. Photo Credit: Albuquerque Journal

Cheeseburger Smackdown Arrives at the Green Chile Harvest Festival

Roasting and eating the green chile that infuses our world-renowned cuisine — and delights the palates of foodies everywhere — is always on our autumn calendar. But this year, Santa Fe welcomes the First Annual Green Chile Harvest Festival September 7, with the finale of Green Chile Cheeseburger Smackdown as its centerpiece. The green chile harvest is eagerly anticipated, so an official celebration at the renowned Santa Fe Farmers Market is an idea whose time has come. Although it’s a maiden voyage for this event, it’s sure to sail back next year once we get a taste of the excitement.

Plan to be a People’s Taster at the Green Chile Cheeseburger Smackdown.

This tasty challenge kicked off in July when Santa Fe chefs were invited to submit their best green chile cheeseburger for online voting by locals and visitors, and boy, was the competition fierce! Now the top six burgers, along with a Lucky 7 additional burger to be announced later this month, will tantalize at the Smackdown. A panel of judges will crown the king of cheeseburgers the Reigning Chomp. If you want to be a judge for the People’s Taste Burger, you’ll be able to buy tickets at the event, so stay tuned to Facebook for news and make sure your taste buds are tuned to green chile.

Live It Up at ¡Viva! Santa Fe

Autumn is a time for creating the memories that carry us through the long winter ahead. We locals look forward to revisiting the treasures of our historic and cultural traditions, and we welcome you to join us on this colorful journey of celebration. Experience the magic of Santa Fe this fall and take part of one of the liveliest long-standing parties around. ¡Viva! Santa Fe – ¡Que Viva!

Santa Fe Nature is All Around Us

It’s so satisfying to wake up on a summer morning with a cool breeze playing through the piñon tree outside my windows. One terrific – and often unsung – benefit of living in Santa Fe is the weather. Santa Fe’s high elevation keeps it cooler than other parts of the state in summer. Standing in the shade of an old cottonwood is sublime, but instead of just standing, I recommend you heed the call of the wild and let an experienced guide reveal the summer beauty of the unique Santa Fe landscape just beyond the trees.

Santa Fe Walkabouts — So Much More than Walking

Ever heard of a Pinzgauer? I hadn’t either until I met Georges and Sue Mally of Santa Fe Walkabouts. This all-terrain Swiss vehicle is an off-roader like no other, able to climb a peak for an incomparable sunset view, or rock across a muddy streambed. Occasionally bumpy, but definitely memorable. Try traveling by Pinz on old Route 66, or hold your breath as Georges navigates a switchback tour ending with a dip in Cochiti Lake. Or let Walkabouts customize a family reunion with an off-road adventure through the New Mexico back-country.


Pinz pride! Take a break to take it all in.

Georges has biked through Europe and the United States, so if you like to be at the wheel, join him for a mountain bike tour. You can ride along a mesa, tour O’Keeffe Country, or navigate carefully along the rim of the Rio Grande, as Georges provides a scenic travelogue.

Georges does the talking, you do the admiring and pedaling.


Hankering for a hike? Walkabouts lives up to its name, with easy-to-strenuous private guided tours. One of the Walkabouts’ specialties is a trip through the otherworldly terrain of Kasha-Katuwe, the Tent Rocks. This easy 5-hour scenic hike winds through soft post-volcanic forms that line a slot canyon and lead to a stunning mesa-top view.

Sue says tours deepen visitors’ cultural awareness about Santa Fe. “We showcase our nature and scenery, but what we add is the history,” Sue says. “The experience takes you beyond the typical vacation and we make it easy to surround yourself with Santa Fe’s natural beauty.” Walkabouts offers full-service tours, including a pick-up service.

Avid lovers of New Mexico, Georges and Sue have hiked and biked all the scenic byways, and their enthusiasm is contagious. Their mission is to promote responsible enjoyment, foster respect for wildlife, and experience physical and mental well-being in natural surroundings. It culminates in just a few words: let’s have fun outdoors!

Be Inspired with Outspire

Taking a hike can be as simple as lacing up your shoes and hitting the trail, but it becomes much more with an experienced guide. Biologist-turned-guide Karen Denison has been leading hikes in Santa Fe since 1997, and she’s assembled a deep roster of talent at Outspire — there’s even a geologist available for rock hounds.  Karen says that “a good guide always remembers that the outing is not about what they know or what they think is fun or important. It’s about the guest.  But if you really love a place, your guests can see that.”

A hike in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, named for the color that the setting sun casts on this terminal range of the Rockies, can be easy or challenging, planned for your level of ability. Along the way, Outspire guides point out seasonal alpine flowers, take you through a fragrant stand of towering pines or lead you to listen to the chattering of a grove of aspen trees high above Santa Fe. And if you just want to see the sun changing the peaks to a rosy red, Outspire’s short sunset walk does nicely.

Hiking in the green grass of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains is a wonderful way to begin or end your day in Santa Fe.


Native American ruins dot the northern New Mexico landscape, and Bandelier National Monument, named for archaeologist Adolph Bandelier, is one of my hands-down favorite places. Settled, then abandoned, this ancient Puebloan ruin has been lovingly restored to reveal the legendary history and culture of New Mexico. Seeing the archaeological treasure of Bandelier in the interpretive company of an Outspire guide brings Native American New Mexico history to vivid life. Climb a ladder to peer into a cliffside cave dwelling or gaze down into a ceremonial kiva as you learn about the religious rituals of these Pueblo ancestors. A leisurely stroll through the park or a full-day backcountry hike, the choice is yours. Outspire’s guides want your outdoor experience to be fun, but Karen also hopes that “ … guests take away a deeper appreciation for all the interconnections here in New Mexico. Not only the land and wildlife but the people as well.”

The Name Tells You the Game Plan at Santa Fe Mountain Adventures

If you want to spend all your vacation time having fun, and none of it in pesky planning, Santa Fe Mountain Adventures will do the work for you. Owen Perrillo’s Mountain Adventures program lets you experience the best of outdoor Santa Fe, while his staff handles the logistics of a wide roster of adventures for groups and families.

Taking a trail-ride brings the Old West back to life in an unforgettable way. The blue sky spread high above the pines and fresh mountain air makes you feel right at home in nature’s magnificent forest cathedral. Bouncing along a high-alpine path on the back of an experienced horse from Tererro Riding Stables may bring Jeremiah Johnson to mind, but you won’t need mountain man skills, since snacks and beverages come along on the ride. What you will need to bring are the usual suspects: appropriate clothing and footgear, a sun hat and sunscreen, and a camera, of course, to capture your memories. Not to worry, Mountain Adventures will make sure you’re prepared before you saddle up.

Adventure Director Kerry Helke notes that these adventures are also great for those on business travel. Work colleagues have gotten to know each other and the city by discovering the joys of downtown scavenger hunts, which are a fun and unique way to discover the beautiful nature and history of Santa Fe. SFMA can accommodate travelers with limited time by customizing hikes in nearby mountain trails. “People don’t realize that we have a national forest right in our back yard,” says Kerry. “We go a mile or two up the trail, and we’re on a scenic mountainside.”

Remember those scavenger hunts at your neighborhood slumber party? SFMA turns the hunt into an orienteering feat with their family-friendly geocaching hike. Combining an enjoyable physical activity with a learning experience, a GPS device helps you find clues and locate cool treasures for the kids as they develop an understanding of how coordinates tell them where they are. It’s a family-bonding adventure and summer-school math lesson in disguise.


Geocaching always brings out everyone’s inner adventurer.


Santa Fe Is an Outdoor Adventure

I treasure the world-class museums and galleries of Santa Fe, our musical and performing arts, and I relish our world-renowned cuisine. But when I wake up each morning, the first thing I do is look outside to see that azure sky beckoning me. Let Mother Nature welcome you outside into her glorious landscape for a memorable time in the pristine wilderness. Experiences like a Pinz tour down arroyos transport you to a side of Santa Fe you never even knew existed.