A 1920s musical shared the time-honored notion that the best things in life are free. That rings especially true in the City Different. And though I love the stellar entertainment Santa Fe offers year-round, I’m extra-jazzed when the fun is free. So if you’re looking for the scoop on Santa Fe’s best summer freebies, I’m happy to share my two cents.
Give My Compliments to the Plaza
The heart of our historic town was, is and always shall be the Santa Fe Plaza. I love waving at brides whose limo is honking happily as they circle the Plaza post-ceremony. I appreciate wandering to window shop when family comes to town. And I’ve often stopped mid-stroll to whistle admiringly at a line of low-riders out for a car club cruise. After all, walking - the cardiologist’s wisest travel advice – doesn’t cost a cent.
We’re free to be you and me when the Santa Fe Bandstand invites us to the Plaza to rock the night away. From June 23 to August 28, lucky locals and visiting friends will hear two full months of music completely gratis. The folding chairs are ready for loading and my pals are ready for the party. And it’s no problem if the munchies hit. We can snack on pizza and look down on the action from the Draft Station, or fuel up right on the Plaza on nights when the food trucks pull in!
And there’s still time to take in some Music on the Hill! St. John’s College makes the midweek blues disappear on Wednesdays through July 23 when you park your carcass there (not your car - parking is limited, so head for Museum Hill and the free shuttle, which runs every 15 minutes from 5-9pm). Spread your picnic blanket on the grassy lawn and let Walter Burke Catering handle food duties while you enjoy hot jazz in the cool mountain air.
A Trip to the Railyard is On the House
I love living in such a walkable town. The Plaza will always be my love but the Santa Fe Railyard has become a fabulous friend. With oodles of goodies now in season, the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market is open both Tuesday and Saturday mornings. Flowers decorate the stalls, live music floats on the air and as summer progresses, beautiful fresh produce will be joined by the scent of roasting chile. Even when the fridge is full, a walk to the Railyard is a morning-must. You just never know what you’ll find!
Axle Art parks the mobile art van at the Railyard most weekends, and this petite gallery on wheels is always a gas. The Santa Fe Artists Market is stretched alongside SITE Santa Fe on Saturdays and the Railyard Artisans Market pulls into the Farmers’ Market Pavilion on Sundays.
Last Friday Artwalks, free movies on the lawn, youth jam nights at Warehouse 21, slide lectures at Santa Fe Clay – these are only a few of the Railyard’s blessings. Not to mention just walking the dog (or your BFF) through 10-plus acres of sustainable landscaping. Everything blooms in thoughtfully planned succession, with a well-tended community garden, a working acequia in the trestle garden and bocce players out on the pitch. Railyard, I love you!
Claim Freedom for Artistic Adventure
Art to hang on your walls may cost, but looking before buying is no-charge amusement. Santa Fe deserves its reputation as the Southwest’s art capital. And with over 200 galleries, an afternoon of admiration is easy to create. A jaunt up Canyon Road or through the West Palace or Gala Arts Districts makes any day artful and free Friday evenings at the museum are great meet-and-greets.
A short drive leads to the Shidoni Sculpture Garden in Tesuque, open daily until the gates close at 5pm. Shidoni is a super spot for artistic selfies — just pose next to your favorite piece and click ‘til you have a masterpiece.The Foundry has been turning artists’ visions into bronze realities since 1971, and works created onsite are showcased in the gallery. Watching a Saturday bronze pouring isn’t free but it’s sure worth the $5.
The only cost involved in the Santa Fe Studio Tour is fuel for the car. I enjoy meeting Santa Fe’s up-and-coming art stars in situ, spying on their studios and picking their brains about their crafts. As I wander from one studio to the next, I find myself inspired, not just to put brush to canvas but to renovate my space for a fresh new look.
Dancing Through the Past
Keep the car fueled up because the countryside is calling. Since New Mexico didn’t become a state until 1912, the relative isolation served to keep our Pueblo culture beautifully intact. It’s no wonder that every August Santa Fe plays host to North America’s largest Native American arts festival, SWAIA Indian Market. I attend that talent-fest annually but I also never miss the chance to see a pueblo dance.
Celebrating the patron saints assigned by Spanish friars, Pueblo Feast Day Dances are truly one-of-a-kind experiences. Summer means Corn Dances, honoring the vital importance of this Old World crop to the Pueblo people. On June 24, Ohkay Owingeh (formerly San Juan Pueblo) and Taos celebrate their patron St. John, and Cochiti Pueblo honors St. Bonaventure on July 14. Santo Domingo feasts St. Dominic on August 4. On August 9, Picuris Pueblo pays tribute to St. Lawrence and Santa Clara Pueblo (honoring St. Clare) dances on August 12.
Cancellations can and do happen; it’s a good idea to call the individual pueblo a day or so before (no one answers on feast days). Pueblo dances are akin to church ceremonies, so it’s critical to observe Pueblo etiquette: No cameras, sketchbooks or notebooks. Stay off the dance plaza. Turn off cell phones. Do not applaud, ask questions or talk to dancers and never enter a home without being invited. If you’re lucky enough to score an invitation, eat modestly, thank the hosts and depart in timely fashion so others can dine.
The Best Things in Life are Found in Santa Fe
Any vacation that has free entertainment in the mix is bound to be memorable and Santa Fe always has a surprise or two for those in the know. Charge up the enjoyment factor with these insider tips and you’ll get a full dose of fun at no extra charge. Santa Fe is rich in culture, history, tradition and adventure but believe me, you don’t have to be rich to enjoy it!