It always feels like the year begins anew in autumn, even if logic tells me the year is winding toward its wintry season end. When Santa Fe’s fall leaves begin to show red and gold hues, we locals are called to the outdoors, knowing it won’t be long before sunsets sparkle over a frosty landscape. I definitely have a full fall agenda to complete before Old Man Winter arrives for his annual visit to the City Different.

Be Uplifted when You See Fall’s Foliage from Above

Santa Fe gets all dressed up in autumn colors when the aspens covering our Sangre de Cristo Mountains stage their annual show. We locals watch eagerly as the mountainside turns from green to gold, and we try to pick the perfect time to go up and bask in the resulting glow. But seeing the trees change their hue from down here on the plateau isn’t the only way to catch their fleeting fall drama. Ski Santa Fe turns the last holiday of summer into an outdoor happening, with live music and a beer garden hosted by Santa Fe Brewing Company on Labor Day weekend. Their scenic lift service begins September 7, with the Super Quad Chair Lift running daily through October 13 to give you a bird’s eye view of the mountaintop. And along the way, you lovers of winter will likely be enticed by thoughts of the same hillsides covered with fluffy white powder. Lift tickets will be on sale beginning Labor Day Weekend. 

Climb aboard for a trip down the golden line of aspens at the Santa Fe Ski Basin.

Santa Fe Welcomes Lords and Ladies

Prithee, wilt thou lend eyes and ears to the entertainments of yore? Yesteryear’s amusements will ensue when thee and thine head for the Renaissance Fair at El Rancho de las Golondrinas September 21-22. This annual funfest is full of color, music, and dramatic feats fit for the whole family. The Fair is a community event, which originated in 2007 as a fund-raising partnership with a local nonprofit. It brings out colorful locals dressed to the nines as their Medieval alter egos — thou mayest address me as Milady of Mischief. It’s gratifying to know that the proceeds benefit the continuing educational mission of Golondrinas itself, as well as the homeless outreach programs of The Interfaith Community Shelter. Look for Clan Tynker, Santa Fe’s favorite family of street performers, who will be on hand to amuse and amaze the crowd with juggling feats and some fire-eating derring-do!

It wouldn’t be a Renaissance Fair without a pirate or two.

Prime Your Palate for Global Flavors at the Wine + Chile Fiesta

The gorgeous setting of the Santa Fe Opera definitely provides many a summer delight, but it’s also the action-packed venue for one of Santa Fe’s fall signature events, when the Santa Fe Wine and Chile Fiesta holds its Grand Tasting Event there September 28. And although it’s the Santa Fe apex of an appetite for wine, that event is just one among many. Vintners and chefs from around the world gather annually to pair the best of their vineyards and kitchens with the taste of our spicy world-renowned cuisine. Winemaker dinners, educational seminars, pairing suggestions, sipping, supping, it’s all here. There’s even a sommelier throw down — we sure love a challenge in this town, especially when food and wine are involved. 90 wineries join forces with 75 restaurants, creating a vintage and a flavor for every one of us. We locals will be cheek-by-jowl with our visitors scoping out both the new and the tried-and-true bottles to stock our wine cellars.

Pace your progress as you test your wine palate at the Santa Fe Wine and Chile Fiesta.

Harvesting the Season’s Best

El Rancho de las Golondrinas just keeps ‘em coming, with the annual Harvest Fest coming hot on the heels of the Renaissance Fair. Lots to love when grapes are crushed by hand — oops, excuse me — by foot! Built in 1972 on a site with some original structures dating back to the 1700’s, Golondrinas brings the past vibrantly to life, harvesting some of the same bounteous produce found at the Santa Fe Farmers Market at this time of year. And this particularly popular community celebration mirrors all the autumn traditions of Territorial New Mexico, as chile ristras are strung and the smell of bread and fresh tortillas wafts out over the 200 acres of this living history museum. Go back in time with a visit to this historic ranch setting October 5-6, and you’ll go away with a vastly enriched understanding of the Santa Fe of today.

Chile ristras – the long strands of chile traditionally strung up to last all winter – decorate many Santa Fe porches.

Creativity Comes to Life on Canyon Road

Snaking along on the south side of the Santa Fe River, Canyon Road has been the heart of the arts for so many of the creative souls who pass through the City Different and decide to stay. You can see some of these colorful characters in action October 18-19, when the Canyon Road Association paints a picture of Santa Fe at the Sixth Annual Canyon Road Paint-out. The “plein air” technique, which is simply a French term for “in the open air,” gives the artists an opportunity to respond directly to ambient conditions and capture not only the visuals but also the sensations of the moment. And it won’t be just painters in the mix; there’ll be sculptors and jewelers and craft demonstrations and even an appearance of the high school marching band in a noontime parade. This comprehensive street side art exhibition turns Canyon Road into one big outdoor gallery, as paper, pens and paint become art before your eyes.

Art happens on the spot at the Canyon Road Paint-out.

Don’t Let Autumn in Santa Fe Escape Your Gaze

The months of September and October are my favorite time to travel anywhere, but it’s always hard for me to make vacation plans when I realize what I might be missing right here in my hometown. Whether it’s family fun, or fine wines and fine art that tickle your fancy, Santa Fe is a memorable autumn travel adventure.