11 Moments You’ll Always Remember from a Summer Trip to Santa Fe

Santa Fe fully earns its nickname of The City Differentthere’s really nowhere else like it, whether you’re talking about the world-class art, the cuisine, or simply the one-of-a-kind architecture. There’s more to explore here than you could possibly fit into a single trip. But if you’re on the hunt for a summer vacation that will create memories you’ll never forget, this is the place. Here are 11 moments waiting for you in Santa Fe.

1. Watching the summer sunset from your seat at the Opera

Photo: Kate Russell for TOURISM Santa Fe(Photo: Kate Russell for TOURISM Santa Fe)

Before the curtain even rises, you’ll find many opera-goers tailgating in the parking lot. And, as you can probably guess, this is unlike any tailgating you’ve experienced elsewhere. We’re talking attendees dressed in their evening best, hosting their own pre-show parties with Champagne and hors d’oeuvres. (White gloves optional!)

And then there's the show, the world-famous Santa Fe Opera! Thanks to the theater’s open-air adobe design, Santa Fe’s splashy sunsets and endless night skies serve as the backdrop to the Opera’s five seasonal productions. Which will you watch—the performance or the sunset?

2. Getting lost among the galleries on Canyon Road

Canyon Road Sign

Santa Fe is a city with art in its veins, and perhaps the mainline artery is Canyon Road, which has become an international destination both for collectors and art enthusiasts of all kinds. It’s a half-mile stretch of charming adobe homes that house 100+ art galleries, cafes, restaurants, and shops, and it’s the perfect place to wile away an afternoon admiring artwork and chatting with artists and curators.

Pro tip: It’s not all about art (OK, it’s mostly about art). Meander over to El FarolCaffe Greco, or The Teahouse when it’s snack time.

3. Completing your Santa Fe Margarita Trail Passport

Santa Fe Margarita Trail (May Events)

If there’s one thing Santa Fe bartenders know, it’s how to shake up a good margarita. In fact, there's an entire trail dedicated to the drink, guiding you to more than 40 of The City Different’s best salt-rimmed libations. Purchase either the paper passport (available at any Santa Fe Visitors Center) or the interactive App, which highlights all the margarita hot spots, includes delicious recipes, and keeps track of your rewards, and then, hit the Trail! For each (locally) famous margarita you drink, like the Chimayósa Margarita at Low 'N Slow or the Spicy Pepino Socialrita at Social Kitchen + Bar, you’ll get a stamp in your Margarita Trail Passport (or App), earning rewards like T-shirts, a full bartender set, and membership into the exclusive Margarita Society. It’s a tough job drinking that many margaritas, but someone’s gotta do it. 

4. Tasting local Santa Fe flavors

Photo: Kakawa Chocolate House(Photo: Kakawa Chocolate House)

Chile hot chocolate like the Aztecs used to drink? Whiskey flavored with piñon nuts? Local makers are always looking for ways to experiment with ingredients and flavors pulled from New Mexican soil. You can go nuts with chile and other goodies at the Santa Fe Farmers Market, visit the Gruet Tasting Room to sample a selection of their sparkling wines, or try apple brandies and whiskies either on the rocks or in cocktails at Santa Fe Spirits.

And if you’re a chocolate lover, stand at attention. Head to Kakawa Chocolate House for a taste of their historic chocolate elixirs, and then hit up Sweet Santa Fe for gourmet chocolate bars and truffles created with flavors like prickly pear or red chile.

5. Keeping beat with a flamenco performance

Photo: Morgan Smith for El Flamenco Santa Fe(Photo: Morgan Smith for El Flamenco Santa Fe)

When they came to New Mexico, the Spanish brought more than Catholicism and wine—they brought flamenco. The tradition took root at nightclubs and fiestas, and now The City Different is a renowned hotbed for the art form. You know you’re in good hands when you’re taking in a show at venerated local venues like El FarolEl Flamenco, or the The Lodge for an evening of sultry dance and strumming guitars. These places have been flamenco-ing for ages, making for a scene you really can’t find anywhere else in the US.

6. Grooving at the Summer Plaza & Railyard Music Series

Music Week

Santa Fe is also home to a thriving and eclectic modern music scene. For proof, check out the annual Summer Plaza & Railyard Music Series, where local, regional, and national acts—ranging in style from Opera to country to funk to mariachi to rock— come out to perform, drawing huge crowds that pack the historic Plaza and the Railyard. Events are marvelously FREE, and there’s something going on almost nightly from June 9 to September 1. And then there's the overlapping fun of Santa Fe Music Week, which promises 8 days of additional melody, rhythm, and beat at local venues through September 3.

7. Soaking in Santa Fe’s healing powers

Photo: Ten Thousand Waves(Photo: Ten Thousand Waves)

Spiritualists, healers, poets, yogis, aura readers—they all flock to this corner of New Mexico, long regarded as a “spiritual vortex.” That’s hard to prove one way or another, but having a Santa Fe spa day sure is a good excuse to seek The City DIfferent's healing energies.

Here are just a few ideas: At Ten Thousand Waves—a secluded spa built in traditional Japanese style—an average day includes specialty massages, facials, herbal treatments, and the chance to soak in eight separate open-air hot tubs. Ojo Santa Fe offers hot ojos (Spanish for holes, as in tubs!) and a full menu of restorative treatments, including "Sound Healing" (yes, you heard it right!), which involves roving vibrating tuning forks to move stagnant energy and promote relaxation. At Nidah at Hotel Eldorado Hotel & Spa, in addition to a list of standard treatments, consider the "Energy Work" option, which includes Reiki, Spiritual Healing and Polarity Therapy or the “Spirit of Heritage” treatment, a journey into balance, using techniques from the Puebloans.

You may not walk away having found a vortex, but you’ll be too relaxed to notice!

8. Eating your first meal with red and green chile

Photo: TOURISM Santa Fe(Photo: TOURISM Santa Fe)

Chile is one of the cornerstones of New Mexican cuisine and once you’ve had your first bite of green chile stew or Christmas—red and green chile—enchiladas, you’ll be looking for more.

Luckily, in Santa Fe you’re never more than a few steps from a good restaurant that can satisfy that craving. And if you want to learn how to prepare New Mexican chile yourself, the Santa Fe School of Cooking and Las Cosas Cooking School offer classes led by entertaining instructors who teach a variety of delicious recipes to take home and show off to your friends. You’ll have them asking the official Santa Fe question: “Red, green, or Christmas?”

9. Cruising adobe casita-lined streets on two wheels


Thanks to its small size and ever-increasing network of bike paths, Santa Fe is a super easy place to explore on dirt or road via bicycle. And in summer? The weather is blue sky fantastic (just bring your sunscreen).

A great place to start is downtown, where you can rent a bike from a local outfitter like Mellow Velo or New Mexico Bike N Sport. Hit the trails to check out the Plaza, the Railyard, Canyon Road, Museum Hill, and, if you’ve got nothin’ but time, the neighborhoods of adobe casitas alongside the Santa Fe River.

10. Chatting with a blacksmith at El Rancho de las Golondrinas

El Rancho de Las Golondrinas

If you’re fascinated by yesteryear and relish the idea of visiting a frontier town in its heyday, you’ll love El Rancho de las Golondrinas. This living history museum—located on the actual Camino Real and dating back to the 1700s—recreates life as it was lived in tiny Southwestern settlements of the 18th and 19th centuries, complete with actors in period garb and demonstrations of skills like blacksmithing and weaving.

During the summer and fall, the ranch also hosts tons of festivals: events like the Santa Fe Wine Festival, the Santa Fe Renaissance Fair, and the Harvest Festival will beckon you here as much as anything else might!

11. Stepping out of this dimension at Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return

Meow Wolf Neon Trees

Once you go, you can say you entered an alternate dimension through a washing machine portal! Created by local art collective Meow Wolf, this interactive funhouse—known as the House of Eternal Return—tells the story of a family whose Victorian home was at the center of an inter-dimensional event. It caused parts of the house (like the chimney and the fridge) to connect to all sorts of places throughout space and time, such as a psychedelic rainforest, outer space, and the inside of a fishbowl. Or something like that.

Alive with sights, sounds, and endless nooks and crannies, a day spent exploring here is sure to expand your mind—and then you can come back at night to the real world for concerts and parties. At least, the real world in a place as alive as Santa Fe.

Get a taste of The City Different! Order your Official Santa Fe Visitors Guide now or browse our deals and specials to help you plan your next trip to Santa Fe.

Blog courtesy of Matador Network

The Santa Fe Travel Insider