Best random weed (not that kind)
Santa Fe is a land of unexpected delights. If you haven't turned around and been gobsmacked by a sunset you thought just moments ago would be only ho-hum, you haven't been paying attention. Or that knock-you-on-your-butt taco that you ate only because you were going to die if you didn't consume something and the taco truck was right there, so …
Add to that the appearance of hollyhocks every summer. They look for all the world like an out-of-control weed that someone forgot about and now is too big to pull up by the roots without wrenching your back. Until they bloom.
There's deep red, bright pink, cotton candy pink, white, purple—and the best part is they grow anywhere around Santa Fe. When we proposed this bit for BOSF, at least three people in the office knew about that one red hollyhock growing between the curb and the sidewalk by the Methodist church on Old Pecos Trail. Random and beautiful.
Scott Canning, the head horticulture guy at the Santa Fe Botanical Garden, says hollyhocks love to grow next to fences, walls and in cracks. We have a lot of those.
Anyone who's been living here for more than a generation has an even better connection to the malvarrosas or Las Varas de San Jose ("rods of St. Joseph"). They grow exceedingly well in New Mexico and have a history with the Spanish, the English, the Middle East and even China. We get it: Colonial flower. But also, it's just a flower, and one that dates back centuries or even millennia.
Hollyhocks have to shoot their stalks skyward to bloom, so when they do, they're a glorious eyeful. Canning tosses out the apt term "tower of flowers." They love sandy soil and full sun and you kind of get where this is going. You can for sure plant your own (unless you're our copy editor, who kills everything, like Voldemort in a field of young, upstart wizards) but the Santa Fe Botanical Garden reminds you that they're biennials. The first year, they throw out a mess of ground-level leaves that make you think you've failed. You haven't. In year two, they literally bloom themselves to death. It's the stuff of opera.
So, if you're planting, put some in each year for two years. But we think the best kind are the ones you least expect. The ones that make your commute home along Old Pecos Trail a little happier this time of year. The ones that make Santa Fe the best. (Matt Grubs)
Best place to go when you gotta get outta dodge, and best time to go there
Colorado in June
The dog days of summer each July and August are the hottest of the year in most parts of the country. But in New Mexico, monsoons have (hopefully) hit by then, providing some merciful drops in the mercury. June, however, is an apocalyptic hellscape of dust and dry bones, thirsty snakes and wildfires. June is almost always a nightmare. June is the actual worst. June is when we all wonder, "Will it ever rain again? Will we all burst into flames? Why am I even here? What's that smell?"
Take June, then, and head to Colorado. Sure, seems weird to recommend going to another state in a newspaper about what's best in our town—but hey, using less of our water and more of someone else's water at such a time is actually a good thing.
Take a drive up the Western Slope, poke around in the weirdness of Leadville, get a cheap(er) room in Aspen in the offseason, hit local breweries or bop around Denver for a weekend. Then come back and tell us how the rivers were raging, it was 73 degrees in Eagle County, how you went way up in elevation and it snowed. Go on, tell us, we won't hate you at all. Actually, no. You know what? Whatever, man, just stay there next time. You and your June snow. Psh. (Charlotte Jusinski)
Best reason for your long-distance partner not to move to Santa Fe
No jobs coupled with rising rents
Sometimes you find affirmation in unlikely places. So it was that in a recent conversation with new Christus St. Vincent CEO Lillian Montoya, SFR commiserated with the hospital admin about how bad it sucks to be a young adult in Santa Fe—specifically, a young adult in a long-distance relationship. The issue came up when Montoya discussed who the hospital tries to recruit for its workforce.
"The challenge that we face is the same challenge faced by other businesses and companies in Santa Fe," she said, continuing: "Several of our folks who move here ask, 'Where's my partner going to work?' And that one we can't do much about, we can't personally fix it ourselves. That's why it matters how Santa Fe and Northern New Mexico do [economically], so they can bring their spouse with them."
That sounds cool and all, but then you consider the reality that being single in Santa Fe seems to suck, too: "You're forced to recruit people who are single, but then you get the question of nightlife." There is no question of nightlife in Santa Fe, of course, because pretty much the only places open past 9 pm are Taco Bell and Albertsons. Combined with a paucity of housing options that are only getting more expensive anyway, maybe you can entince your lover to Santa Fe with squatting and dumpster diving. (Aaron Cantú)
Best way to be a good local
Give a tourist directions
In Santa Fe, there are a half-dozen legitimate ways to get anywhere you need to go. It's convenient, but in a town that depends on tourism, it can also be maddening.
We've all been stuck behind that person with a Texas plate (sorry, but it's true) who thinks stopping in the middle of the intersection to look at their phone is "Faaan, beecuz Ahm own vaycayshun!"
It might help if you say that out loud.
But you get it, right? Come, stay, spend your Permian/Hollywood/Wall Street money! We're not that angry kind of place filled with stickers that say "My life is better than your vacation." And, anyway, most of those stickers should end with ", Dad."
We just ask that tourists recognize people do live here and have places to go and appointments to keep. As a way of making it easier on everyone, we suggest locals stop to chat with that person holding the white, turquoise and brown map (you know the one) and ask them where they're headed.
Drop your favorite spot to eat, the best kombucha, best hotel bar, what you've been drinking to get out of the IPA rut, your favorite Gruet bubbly, where you go to church, where you go to get away from church. Then give them directions.
It may sound a little strange, but trust us, it feels good. Like, really good. Think back to your last vacation. Did you have everything dialed in? You were a pain in the ass to no one? Birds landed on your shoulder and that lovely grandmother down the road mistook you for her grandchild? No? Ah, yes. Strangers in a strange land.
Engage. Say hello. Point them to a Southside spot no one else will know about. They'll love it. And so will you. (MG)
Best Plaza cruiser
That one dude in the really rusty pickup
Cruising the Plaza is an age-old tradition that can't be stopped by chains, pedestrian malls or picnic tables. Que viva los cruisers! Sitting by the open windows at Del Charro can get a little noisy, as the Plaza cruisers have had to move to side streets now that the Palace-Lincoln-San Fran-OSFT circle is not an option, but overall we love when they pass all slow.
Our favorite cruiser is that one guy in the rusty old pickup (you know the guy)—but, like an eyeglass repair kit or a plastic back-scratcher, when we went to actually look for him, he was nowhere to be found. He needs his own hashtag on Instagram so we can track how many folks think he's awesome, especially during tourist season. SFR proposes #Loco66, after his vanity license plate. Get tagging, Santafesinos.
#Loco66, we salute you. Cruise on by the SFR offices one of these days and say órale. (CJ)
Editor's Note: The owner of this truck, Pancho, called SFR shortly after the BOSF issue came out to reveal his identity. Unfortunately, a month before publication, someone crashed into him and totaled his beloved #Loco66. No wonder we hadn't seen him around! We still salute you, Pancho, and hope you are cruising in a new ride again soon.
Best elected officials who put off hard decisions about long-term student demographic changes
Santa Fe Public Schools Board of Education
In May, Santa Fe Public Schools once again deferred to a later date, some time in the future—whenever, really—the task of altering the school's zoning boundaries based on long-term demographic changes among students in the city. Here's the backstory: Enrollment for Southside elementary schools like Amy Biehl, Piñon and Nina Otero stands at just a little over 4,000, and will approach 5,000 by the 2026-2027 school year, according to the district. Enrollment numbers are forecast to stay steady or decline everywhere else.
As a solution, the school board considered shuttering a school, probably Nava, and then shuffling around a whole bunch of kids in a scheme that included repurposing a state-run charter school. But when it came down to making the decision this year, everybody blinked.
School board member Maureen Cashmon, who speaks more bluntly than all the other board members, summed up the failure best: "When it comes to the hard time for the decision, we can't make it. … Let's be honest and take this whole thing off the table." Months earlier, Cashmon had predicted the difficulty of the decision: "[It] might mean you need to make the [zoning] circles bigger. … Short-term, that's probably not a good thing for any board member to say; politically, it's not a good thing to say." (AC)
Best way to carry your shade with you
Wear a damn hat—you'll look great
Pretty much the only reason not to wear a hat in the beating desert sun is that you think you don't look good in a hat. Well, here's some good news: You're wrong. You look awesome in a hat. You just have to find the right one.
At O'Farrell Hat Company (111 E San Francisco St., 989-9666), they use a 19th-century millinery device that resembles a typewriter turned inside out. They put the gadget on your head and it measures the precise shape of your skull, and that precise shape is then used to make your very own custom cowboy hat in about six months.
"But SFR!" you say. "I can't afford an O'Farrell!"
Au contraire. The shop has a special locals-only sale each April, and you can get the beautiful beaver felt headwear at a steep discount. Just talk to the staff—they're super friendly and want to see you look badass.
Other locally made options include impossibly hip Stith Collection lids (@thestithcollection on Instagram), Santa Fe Hat Company (118 Galisteo St., 983-3909)—or, over at SFReporter.com/shop, yours truly sells black or red SFR snapback baseball caps. Most folks on staff here have them and we are all fly as hell, so you can use us as a guidepost. (CJ)
Best new “Best of” category
All of them
If you've gotten this far, you know that SFR polls our readers on their picks in more than 100 categories for the annual Best of Santa Fe awards—but that it's never enough. Every year, we agonize over how long to make the ballot, which categories to keep and which ones to get rid of. The decision is sometimes arbitrary and at other times based on what appears to be waning or waxing interest in a particular topic or service area.
This year, real estate, veterinarian and hardware store made big comebacks, and best festival, cigar store and vape store got the ax. Readers also didn't disappoint with their ideas about categories to add. Next year, we might consider adding pest control, ski equipment, physical therapy, crafting store and some surprises.
In the meantime, here's a shout-out to all the businesses that didn't get a category and might never get one. Huzzah to the cabinet makers, auto detailers, body piercers, building contractors, flooring installers, broom re-bristlers, artists, RV parks and charity golf tournaments. You're the best, too. (Julie Ann Grimm)
Best thing your neighbors can do when you live in one of those cramped little neighborhoods where everyone is right on top of each other
Say "bless you" from their house when you sneeze in yours
So let's say you actually do find a place to live. You're likely to experience the joys of living in old Wild West-era neighborhoods. Tubs that cough up woodchips during rain storms, internet that only works when it's windy, trap doors into secret booze basements, pitched floors and janky-framed dining rooms. (Yes, you used a level to hang that painting, but it's still crooked on the wall.) Barrios that were built before zoning laws tend to be pretty tight squeezes, but if you have cool neighbors, this actually ends up being kind of fun. You can text the person in the next house to say their dinner smells good while sitting at your open window, and hear their phone ding. You slip and call the person across the driveway your roommate. If you sneeze particularly loud, someone will holler a blessing across the alley. Some might even say it's quite nice to have folks so close by. All the more reason to be polite during allergy season. (CJ)
Best arguably dangerous drinking game for backyard BBQs
Alcohol and hammers. What could go wrong?
Stump does not require the alcohol, of course, but as with most games involving hardware, it helps things get a little more interesting as the night gets longer.
Here's how you play: Get a stump. Any stump. Get a package of 3-inch carpentry nails (they all need to be the same length). Get a hammer. Get some people. Get some cups. Put some stuff in the cups. Hold your cup in one hand, and hold the hammer in your dominant hand by its head, with the bang-bang part in your hand, pointing up. Now here's the clincher: You need to toss it in the air, flip it 180 degrees, grab it by the handle, and bang the head of your nail, all in one fell swoop and without hesitation. You hesitate or readjust, you lose a turn. The first person to bang their nail all the way in wins the satisfaction of knowing they won.
Sounds easy. Looks easy. Is not easy.
Invariably nails get bent, people bang other peoples' nails, drinks spill, hammers get dropped, and soon folks start pointing at their nails and getting their fingers directly in the path of the falling hammer. But also invariably, when you gather a quarter of your partygoers and start swinging hand tools, others start to wonder what's going on—and the rest is party history. (CJ)
Best places to help keep cool because holy hell, what’s going on with this summer?!
If errands you must run during this abominable heatwave we're experiencing, pepper in a few handy local joints to cool down the old internal thermostat.
Obvious locations abound from the likes of movie theaters, swimming pools and even grocery stores, but stopping by a big box like Target (3550 Zafarano Drive, 471-9600), a library (we have a whole bunch of them) or, surprisingly, I-Vape Clouds (1966 Cerrillos Road, 438-3747) might help recharge your batteries.
Bonus to the list? Bank lobbies—even if you're not a member—partly for the AC, partly for the usual spread of cookies and coffee. We hear tell Wells Fargo may be one of the better snacking lobbies around. If anyone asks what you're doing there, feign something about curiosity over reverse mortgages, then act like you need to get something out of the car. (ADV)