Best of Santa Fe

Best of Santa Fe—Arts & Entertainment

The bands, the bars, the bards etc.

Best Art Collective

1. Meow Wolf

After squeaking through the pandemic and dealing with the challenges therein, everybody’s favorite Midtown arts corporation is back with a slate of live music stunners, new exhibits, updated rooms and more. There’s a reason people come from far and wide to get weird inside the House of Eternal Return; there’s a reason the shows sell out so fast. With its location in Las Vegas jumping and Denver opening soon, you can still see where it all began—Santa Fe.

1352 Rufina Circle, (505) 395-6369

2. Santa Fe Artists Market

The Santa Fe Artists Market consists of local juried artists offering some of Santa Fe’s best in pottery, jewelry, paintings, photography, sculpture, furniture, textiles and more. It’s located in the Railyard at the West Casitas, north of the water tower, and runs on Saturdays from March through December.

Market Street (near the intersection with Alcaldesa Street), (505) 310-8766

3. Vital Spaces

The local nonprofit rents out otherwise empty buildings and in turn sublets space to artists for shockingly low prices. Throw in community art shows, a weekly free art supply closet and three locations across downtown, Midtown and the Southside, and Vital Spaces wins.

222 Otero St.

Best Band

1. Nosotros

OK, Santa Fe, we get it—you love this band. This year marks about the umpteenth time you’ve said Santa Fe’s most notable Latin/salsa/jazz/rock outfit is tops in your heart, and we totally get it. Nosotros is fun and funky, highly danceable and infectiously catchy. They’re the kind of band that plays a safe, socially distanced show in a park during the pandemic sadsies and then turns around and goes more intimate on the outdoor stage at Tumbleroot Brewery and Distillery.

2. Alex Maryol Band

Alex Maryol and his ever-evolving band takes the concepts of blues, indie rock and straight-up guitar shredding to a place of experimentation, riffing prowess and good old-fashioned rock goodness.

3. Bill Hearne Trio

Oh, we’ve always loved Bill Hearne for his flat-pickin’ honky-tonk goodness, and someplace between his high-quality, unpretentious country-Western goodness beats the heart of a poet and one of the hardest-working musicians our town has to offer.

Best Bar

1. Cowgirl

If you wanna talk a honky-tonk ton of fun, look no further than the iconic downtown eatery and watering hole. The C-Girl took a three-month pause during the height of the pandemic to ensure its future, and now that the future is here, it all seems worth it. Musicians are back on the patio, the pool hall’s opening soon and you can still get all the great beers, cocktails and margaritas the restaurant’s always served up—plus one of the greatest patios in town.

319 S Guadalupe St., (505) 982-2565

2. Coyote Café & Rooftop Cantina

Where else are you going to find such a massive cocktail and comestibles list with such good people-watching, plus fine dining and more affordable fare in one place? Nowhere.

132 W Water St., (505) 983-1615

3. Santa Fe Brewing Co.

The short drive out of town is more than worth it now that owner Brian Lock and company have transformed Santa Fe’s oldest brewery into a bucolic paradise of beer, food trucks and family-friendly fun. Don’t forget downtown’s Brakeroom, either.

35 Fire Place, (505) 424-3333; 510 Galisteo St., (505) 780-8648; 7 Caliente Road, Eldorado, (505) 466-6938

Best Bartender

1. Chris Romero, Radish & Rye

“I just love doing what I do, and I do it because I want to create an experience for people,” says Radish & Rye bartender Chris Romero. “That people can understand that means a lot. I love this city, I’m a local cat—it feels good.” Romero says he studied up under some of the local greats like Tonic’s Winston Greene and Coyote Café's Quinn Stephenson, among others. If you pop by his bar, he says, try the vieux carré, a classic New Orleans drink that’s easy to overthink. “I love the simplicity of the three-ingredient cocktail,” Romero adds.

505 Cerrillos Road, (505) 930-5325

2. Katie Valdez, Dinner For Two

Bartender Katie Valdez says she sees a mix of regulars and travelers, all of whom appreciate her commitment to classic drinks made well. Wanna go more contemporary? Valdez is namesake of the Katie’s Legendary cocktail, a vodka-cranberry number with muddled cucumbers and a satisfying foam element.

106 N Guadalupe St., (505) 820-2075

3. Bobby Lazo, Low ’n’ Slow

There’s something glorious about living in a town with a bar dedicated to lowriders, particularly when its friendly barstaff mixes ‘em, pops ‘em and otherwise serves ‘em up right. Lazo’s ready with a friendly word and a drink—you ready to party?

125 Washington Ave., (505) 988-4900

Best Casino

1. Hilton Santa Fe Buffalo Thunder

Golf, slots, pools, parties, dancing, dining, spa-ing, sleeping, resting, relaxing, gambling, winning—Buffalo Thunder really has it all, which means you could be doing any of the above (and who even knows what else) after a tiny little 15-minute drive north out of town. We’ve always had a good time in the casino and have even caught a few notable concerts up there, and it sounds like you have, too, Santa Fe; you just keep loving it.

20 Buffalo Thunder Trail, (505) 455-5555

2. Tesuque Casino

Relatively speaking, it’s the new casino on the block, but with a dedicated love of locals (both as guests and performers), good food and fun times, the opera is no longer the only reason to head out that way for hot nights.

7 Tesuque Road, 800-462-2635

3. Sandia Resort and Casino

Santa Feans love this casino so much that we won’t even bother pointing out that it’s actually just north of Albuquerque. Oh, wait, we just did. Eh, nonetheless—when you’re ready to catch a show, play some slots or check the cards, you don’t mind the drive.

30 Rainbow Road, Albuquerque, (505) 795-7500

Best Dance Company

1. NDI New Mexico

On its website, the National Dance Institute says it was founded “with the knowledge that the arts have a unique power to engage and motivate children.” Amen to that, NDI. With countless classes across the region plus countless young lives touched, affected and otherwise shaped, it’s no wonder this is Santa Fe’s go-to spot for getting the kids dancing.

1140 Alto St., (505) 983-7646

2. Aspen Santa Fe Ballet

Sadly, the long-running dance company dissolved in March, but its nonprofit portion continues! All the same, you’re clearly going to miss it, Santa Fe. Stay strong. It’s what the company would have wanted.

3. Wise Fool New Mexico

It’s not just about strict circus or dancing regimens at Wise Fool—it’s about movement, openness, activism and acceptance. Maybe that’s why the nonprofit has been such a mainstay in our town and our hearts since...forever.

1131 Siler Road, Ste. B, (505) 992-2588

Best DJ

1. Your Boy Re-Flex

Don’t call it a comeback—he’s been here for years. Your Boy Re-Flex, aka Felix Cordova, ranks tops on your list after a year off, and he’s just glad to be here. “I’ve always been about positivity, love and, most of all fun,” Cordova tells SFR. “Thank you so much, Santa Fe, from the bottom of my heart, for 12 years of memories and more to come.” Bottom line: You need a party facilitator? Here’s your man.

2. Raashan Ahmad

Anyone who stopped by the Juneteenth Love & Happiness event on the Plaza while Ahmad was doing his thing knows exactly why he’s on this list. Dude’s fly as hell and knows his way around hip-hop, funk, soul and dance jams.

3. DJ Badcat

Jennifer Castro caught the DJ bug in the early ’90s and has been slingin’ jams ever since. She’s got her Legion of Boom radio show on KSFR every Sunday/Monday from midnight til 2 am, holds down the fort at live shows across town and, frankly, is super-nice and makes great macarons.

Best Gallery

1. Nedra Matteucci Galleries

With what might be a strong contender for most gorgeous indoor and outdoor gallery space on Earth, Santa Fe’s Nedra Matteucci Galleries has been keeping it real with the 19th- and 20th-century American arts since 1972. In that time, a mix of contemporary and classic artists and pieces have come in and out of the gallery like you wouldn’t believe, cementing a decades-long reputation and adding a whole heck of a lot to Santa Fe’s claim to fame as the artsiest town in the country.

1075 Paseo de Peralta, (505) 982-4631

2. Hecho a Mano

Gallerist Frank Rose tends to focus on fine prints from Mexico (a recent showing of Posada works slayed, for example), but he’s known to go local, including shows from Reyes Padilla, David Sloan (Diné) and others. Don’t sleep when you’re on Canyon Road.

830 Canyon Road, (505) 916-1341

3. Keep Contemporary

The house that Katie O’Sullivan and Jared Antonio-Justo Trujillo built plays host to unfathomably excellent artists from around the world and right here in Santa Fe. Can anyone say Nico Salazar, Sienna Luna and Dylan Pommer?

142 Lincoln Ave., (505) 557-9574

Best Happy Hour

1. Cowgirl

If’n you’ve ever sat on that patio sipping a strawberry marg, considering a frosty Shiner and watching a rotating list of Santa Fe’s most popular musicians, you’ve probably thought, “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.” Draft beers run just $4 during happy hour (3-6 pm), plus glasses of wine see $2 off, well drinks are just $4, and you’ll find snacky foods like wings ($6) and sweet potato fries ($4). What else can even be said about this venerable institution?

319 S Guadalupe St., (505) 982-2565

2. The Dragon Room at Pink Adobe

The puro Santa Fe among us know this is a local’s favorite, but they might not know Newsweek voted The Dragon Room one of the top 19 bars in the world. The world! Get on that patio and enjoy the drink specials.

406 Old Santa Fe Trail, (505) 983-7712

3. Del Charro

One of the best and most affordable burgers in town meets margaritas with so much left over, they bring the shaker to your table. Find sports, buds and those incredibly pleasant big, open windows, plus a patio space that works in warm and cold weather and a friendly, knowledgeable staff.

101 W Alameda St., (505) 954-0320

Best Hotel Bar

1. Del Charro—Inn of the Governors

Feels like we were just singing this bar’s praises in the last set of winners, but it’s more than earned such accolades. Del Charro has the distinct ability to be attached to a hotel without feeling like an afterthought or time-killer kind of space. And though countless writeups over the years have delved into the affordable food, tasty desserts and the notably massive house margarita, don’t forget the cocktails and beers—or even how a snifter of something to warm the belly feels perfect on a snowy winter’s eve in front of a roaring fire.

101 W Alameda St., (505) 354-0320

2. La Fiesta Lounge—La Fonda on the Plaza

One of the oldest and most beautifully appointed hotels in town renovated its in-house lounge a couple years back, and it remains a favorite of guests, visitors and locals alike. Keep an eye out for country legend Bill Hearne’s performances.

100 E San Francisco St., (505) 982-5511

3. JuliaLa Posada

Go for resident ghost Julia Staab, stay for the warm and comfortable pub-like environment that opens out onto one of Santa Fe’s most pleasant outdoor drinking and dining experiences.

330 E Palace Ave., (505) 986-0000

Best Instagram Feed

1. @SimplySantaFeNM

The joint venture of Santa Fe influencers Amy Tischler and Caitlin E. Jenkins cuts a wide swath of Santa Fe culture, from food and drinks to architecture, museums, local living, sunsets, hiking, sunsets, shopping and sunsets. Did we mention the sunsets? With nearly 45,000 followers, the account has become a popular online destination for locals and non-locals alike, and it’s honestly just really pretty a lot of the time.

2. @505localfoodie

If you’ve ever wanted to see where hungry locals go through a series of artfully curated images (the chile shots alone had us drooling), this born-and-bred Santa Fean has the goods.

3. @skisantafe

Somehow, scrolling through stunning shot after shot of the snowy Santa Fe Ski Basin has proven a tonic to heat waves and a reminder that Santa Fe’s still the winter playground we all very much miss at the height of summer.

Best Lecture Series

1. El Rancho de las Golondrinas

How many towns can boast what’s known as a living history museum? Don’t answer that or Google it or anything, just get pumped on the lectures from El Rancho de las Golondrinas. In the best of times, we’d go places to see them, but as the pandemic roiled and the virtual offerings abounded, Golondrinas answered the call, staving off boredom and teaching us a thing or two. Clearly that had an impact on you, Santa Fe.

334 Los Pinos Road, (505) 471-2261

2. Lannan Foundation

The emphasis at Lannan is on “cultural freedom, diversity and creativity,” and with a seemingly endless slew of lectures featuring folks from all walks of life and fields, you’re going to learn something important, we promise.

309 Read St., (505) 986-8610

3. School for Advanced Research

When a place is schooling folks in advanced research on humanity, you pretty much know a lecture’s worth it. This org’s been around since 1907 and continually raises the lecture bar year after year.

660 Garcia St., (505) 954-7200

Best Movie House

1. Violet Crown Cinema

With respect to all the other amazing theaters in town, there’s just something so magical about taking a beer into a movie theater to either watch some indie you’d never expect at a multiplex or whatever Hollywood comic book schlock-fest is currently out. Violet Crown is the great leveler—the kind of place where you can get a sourdough pizza and fancy beer and kick back in a plush semi-reclining leather seat in the cool air and be whisked away through escapist joy. Literally everybody loves this place. Duh.

1606 Alcaldesa St., 505-216-5678

2. Center for Contemporary Arts Cinematheque

Indie darlings from Wes Anderson screen alongside international treasures like Parasite at this bastion to the arts (plus The Screen on the Midtown Campus). Don’t forget to hit the Tank Garage art space, too.

1050 Old Pecos Trail, (505) 982-1338

3. Jean Cocteau Cinema

We all know the legend of George R.R. Martin saving this theater from an untimely demise, but it’s also the place to catch documentaries, foreign films, classics, midnight screenings plus author events, visual arts and a full bar. We’re spoiled, Santa Fe.

418 Montezuma Ave., (505) 466-5528

Best Museum

1. Museum of International Folk Art

Shortly before the pandemic, the Museum of International Folk Art debuted its Yokai exhibit, another in a long line of incredible globally minded shows from the ever-popular shrine to art made by the people. Multiply that countless times over, and you’ve got some idea of what the Museum Hill hotspot has been doing since 1953. This one’s not just for the tourists, folks—and keep an eye out for an upcoming exhibit on Indigenous parkas; it’ll be hot.

706 Camino Lejo, (505) 476-1200

2. El Rancho de las Golondrinas

Take a trip through time at this living history museum where festivals abound, lectures hit the sweet spot and every day is a reminder that New Mexico is truly a special place.

334 Los Pinos Road, (505) 471-2261

3. Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

An endless homage to one of the most important women in the history of art puts out the siren call to tourists and locals with original works, a bustling educational program and, soon, an expanded location.

217 Johnson St., (505) 946-1000

Best Nonprofit for the Arts

1. Museum of International Folk Art

One of the more notable aspects of MoIFA is its commitment to still-living artists and makers from all corners of the world. This is where you see the creations of those who do art for the satisfaction, not the prestige or the big bucks. As such, Santa Fe is regularly treated to rotating exhibits.

706 Camino Lejo, (505) 476-1200

2. Santa Fe Opera

Returning in 2021 for an in-person season, the Santa Fe Opera continues its reign as one of the most respected institutions anyplace, and it does so in a gorgeous hybrid indoor/outdoor venue that’s even been known to host punk bands.

301 Opera Drive, (505) 986-5900

3. Wise Fool New Mexico

Santa Fe’s love of the circus arts is well-documented, and when educators within that milieu open their minds and hearts to youths, adults and all points in between, magic can (and does) happen.

1131 Siler Road, Ste. B, (505) 992-2588

Best Performing Arts Venue

1. Lensic Performing Arts Center

You’d be hard-pressed to name another place where you could see Dave Chappelle, Weird Al, Handel’s Messiah, ballet, rock, and folk all under the same roof (though not necessarily on the same night). The Lensic reopened its doors after the perilous 2020 with The Wizard of Oz, the tale of a young girl who finds that one almost always already has what they need. In Santa Fe, we need spaces like this, we have spaces like this, and it can only get better with time.

211 W San Francisco St., (505) 988-1234

2. Santa Fe Opera

We saw TV on the Radio at the Opera. And Al Green. Ditto David Byrne. We haven’t even gotten into the opera part yet—so do you understand why everyone loves this place so much?

301 Opera Drive, (505) 986-5900

3. Meow Wolf

Have you looked at the slate of upcoming shows at Meow Wolf? It’s out of control. Like, Quicksand is playing. Do you get what this means? It means you should stay glued to the website ready to snag tickets to incredible events.

1352 Rufina Circle, (505) 395-6369

Best Theater Company

1. Santa Fe Playhouse

Not only is this the oldest continually operating theater west of the Mississippi, its relatively new Artistic Director Robyn Rikoon met the pandemic with grace and virtual offerings. Rikoon has even told us she has lots more tricks up her sleeve for the coming seasons, and that’s alongside the theater’s already-robust slate of traditional shows, events, etc.

142 E De Vargas St., (505) 988-4262

2. Teatro Paraguas

This Midtown gem put on some of the best virtual productions of the pandemic, partnered with Santa Fe streaming company Xerb and continued to serve a traditionally underserved local demographic, all with aplomb. It’s easy to see why you’re into it, Santa Fe.

3205 Calle Marie, (505) 424-1601

3. Santa Fe Youth Collaborative Theatre

For those of us who are no longer young, think back to the cool drama kids from high school and prepare to love this group. Starting kids in the arts early is a no-brainer.

(505) 469-3436

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