Best of Santa Fe

Best of Santa Fe 2022 — Arts & Entertainment

Cowgirl (Joy Godfrey)

Best Art Collective

1. Meow Wolf

Surprise! The biggest and baddest arts corporation wins your hearts once again, Santa Fe, and we’re starting to think this place might be around for the long haul. It was a year of change for Meow Wolf, from recouping pandemic losses, its workers unionizing and new CEO Jose Tolosa joining the fray. But new location announcements, the same old spate of killer shows and all the weirdness you’ve come to expect all pointed to one thing: People like ‘em.

1352 Rufina Circle, (505) 395-6369

2. Santa Fe Artists Market

When folks don’t much care for operating within the established gallery system, more DIY markets like this one make a huge difference. You’ll find ‘em over in the Railyard selling their paintings, photos, sculptures, jewelry and more, plus you get the warm and fuzzy feeling that comes from buying direct instead of cutting in some middleman.

Market and Alcaldesa streets (505) 310-8766

3. Wise Fool New Mexico

From classes in ballet and queer burlesque to local markets, circus arts, activism, community and more, this Midtown powerhouse once again proves that giant puppets, aerial gymnastics and backflips make change. Inclusivity? Yeah, they’ve got that.

1131 Siler Road B, (505) 992-2588

Best Band

1. Nosotros

At this point, no one can doubt that Santa Feans love Nosotros (even if they’re technically more of an ABQ band), as this is, like, the 175th consecutive win for the local mega-band. Think rock and salsa with elements of jazz, cumbia, dance and funk when it comes to Nosotros. Think sweaty dancing on the Plaza or in a park. Think about the infectious grooves and hot-ass beats. Now think about how you can catch ‘em on the regular. Not too shabby, right?

2. JJ & the Hooligans

You wouldn’t think a band of self-professed hooligans would top your list, Santa Fe, but with all the rock, Americana, covers, originals and community vibes, one forgets the whole hooligan part. If you like dancing, you’ll probably like this.

3. Lone Piñon

When a group of music nerds with a penchant for the traditional music of our region get together, the next few years prove great for stellar releases and live shows. Guitar, fiddles, guitarrons y mas—plus that solid New Mexico sound. Bueno!

Best Bar

1. Tumbleroot Brewery & Distillery

What once stood as Club Alegria in the formerly too-far-to-drive area of town has since become one of the most exciting mid-level venues in Santa Fe, and that’s before you even get into the beers and spirits. Tumbleroot has it all, really, from delicious local drafts and enticing snacks, to the metal and punk shows folks actually want to see. Ben Harper just played there with Quasi, for example, and consummate punk act Fucked Up is soon to take the stage. This means options for younger folks, plus DJs on the back patio, sometimes food trucks and that warm feeling that comes from keeping it local.

2791 Agua Fría St. (505) 393-5135

2. Coyote Cafe & Rooftop Cantina

Always good for either a little people watching and a complex cocktail, or a quiet upscale meal with a fine dining ambiance. The house that Quinn Stephenson built expands on its early popularity into something all its own—and it’s pretty dang famous, too.

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

3. Cowgirl

The tourists might love it, but you’ll find plenty of locals at this downtown haunt that takes up a full-on block. Weekly specials, some of the best strawberry margs in the game, plus snacks, pool, live music and an ice cream dessert that looks like a freaking baked potato.

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

Best Casino

1. Hilton Santa Fe Buffalo Thunder

Oh, it’s always worth a slight drive out of town to catch a great show, sit by the pool with a drink in hand or even try your luck at games of chance. Real talk? You could easily spend a weekend here, and country music fans have a lot to look forward to this year. Throw in special events, food and music festivals and some shockingly reasonable rates, and you’ve got a good thing going. Did we mention the golf yet?

20 Buffalo Thunder Trail, (505) 455-5555

2. Tesuque Casino

The newest (and closest) casino on your list popped up just outside town only a couple years ago, but has quickly become a go-to for locals to do all the things, drink all the drinks and hit all the slots and games.

7 Tesuque Road, 800-462-2635

3. Sandia Resort & Casino

If it doesn’t bug you this casino isn’t even close to being in Santa Fe, it doesn’t bug us either. It must be pretty amazing, too, if our readers are willing to plead its case, make the drive and so on.

30 Rainbow Road, Albuquerque, ­­­ (505) 796-7500

Carlos Medina (Courtesy Carlos Medina)

Best Comic

1. Carlos Medina

It’s been a pretty good few years for the Northern New Mexican comedian, both as the de facto comic voice of the area and as an accomplished mariachi. Medina even lent his voice to the locally produced audio narrative experience Eminent Domain, which did big things through Audible-dot-com, lent a hand at the Jean Cocteau Cinema and continued to make anyone from around here laugh at themselves—and he did it all in the tightest pants you’ve ever seen. Órale.

2. Isabel Madley

You might not know there’s a burgeoning standup movement going down in Santa Fe, but there is and it kinda slaps. Madley’s all up in the mix there, makin’ yuks, and you’re gaining all the benefits.

3. Ryan Lawless

“Laws don’t apply to Lawless,” is just one example of a terrible joke the local comedian could likely punch up, but we’re not about to distract him from his own joke-writing duties. Basically, if you see this name on a flier, you want to go to there.

Best Dance Company

1. NDI New Mexico

It’s a simple enough mission to wanna teach kids to dance, but when we think of the outwardly spiraling impact such a mission might have, it starts to feel even bigger. With over 1,000 students enrolled in Santa Fe alone, NDI has proven a tireless ally of the artsier kids, the ones in love with movement, the ones who want to get exercise while flexing their creative muscles. There’s something in there about developing discipline, too, and that can be such a good thing.

1140 Alto St., (505) 983-7646

2. Aspen Santa Fe Ballet

Don’t call it a comeback, but the townsfolk rejoiced when the long-running dance company, umm, came back after the pandemic pause. You know your company’s good when you need two whole towns to contain it.

550 St. Michael’s Drive, (505) 983-5591

3. New Mexico School for the Arts

Even as adults we’re jealous of the artsiest high school’s sprawling Railyard campus. We picture it like the movie Fame, or to another extent, the television show, which was also called Fame.

500 Montezuma Ave., (505) 310-4194

Best Date Spot

1. Ten Thousand Waves

They say the classics never go out of style, and when it comes to the serene grounds of the Japan-inspired Ten Thousand Waves, they’re right. Grab a private tub or a boutique massage? Oh, yes. Hit up Izanami restaurant for some of the area’s best cuisine—while wearing a robe and smelling of tea tree lotion? Double-yes. Hot tip from your pals at SFR? Go when it’s snowing out, because that’s just plain magic.

21 Ten Thousand Waves Way, (505) 982-9304

2. Violet Crown Cinema

A varied beer list, actually decent movie theater food and stadium style seating for your screening enjoyment—how did we ever get by before Violet Crown -appeared, Santa Fe?

1606 Alcaldesa St., (505) 216-5678

3. Dinner for Two

Well, the whole deal’s right there in the title, but with a revamped patio, regular DJ performances and a killer cocktail list, there’s more to enjoy than the pithy name.

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

Best DJ

1. Raashan Ahmad

Whether it’s spinning tunes inspired by a museum opening, presiding over Juneteenth celebrations on the Plaza with his fellow hip-hop legends or running local arts-focused nonprofit Vital Spaces, it seems Raashan Ahmad’s always up to something interesting, or at least very danceable. We’ll make it simple—if you see this multi-faceted DJ/MC/community champ’s name out there, follow it to something real good.

2. Dynamite Sol

This is as legendary as the local DJ game gets, Santa Fe. No matter what kind of jamz you think you like, Sol Bentley’s always got plenty of surprises and tricks up his sleeve. You see him behind the decks, you know it’s gonna get wild. Easy.

3. Your Boy Re-Flex

When you need someone to start the party, star in the Santa Fe Playhouse’s annual melodrama or even just make you laugh and enjoy your night, look no further than Your Boy Re-Flex, aka Felix Cordova.

Best Gallery

1. Hecho a Mano

“It’s interesting,” Hecho a Mano founder Frank Rose tells SFR. “In our first year we got third place, our second year we got second place and our third year we got first—in our fourth year we have to somehow beat ourselves, and maybe having two galleries will help us do that.” Rose did indeed open Hecho Gallery earlier this year on Palace Avenue with a more painterly focus, but Santa Fe clearly loves the prints, ceramics and more at the original Canyon Road space. “I feel like an artist in what I do in the sense that I’m creating space,” Rose adds, “and as artists...we’re in our head a lot, so it’s great to get that validation.”

830 Canyon Road, (505) 916-1341

2. Blue Rain Gallery

Regular exhibits from folks like Erin Currier, Tony Abeyta, Dan Friday, Frank Buffalo Hyde, Jody Naranjo and waaaaaaay too many more to list means voting Blue Rain a local best is a no-brainer.

544 S Guadalupe St., (505) 954-9902

3. Manitou Galleries

A contemporary bent toward more practices than you can even begin to properly rattle off, plus a dash of that Santa Fe style, makes Manitou’s Palace Avenue and Canyon Road spaces must-visit galleries for tourists and locals.

123 W Palace Ave., (505) 966-0440; 225 Canyon Road, (505) 986-9833

Best Happy Hour

1. Santa Fe Brewing Company

The oldest craft brewery in the state remains your favorite for hanging, dear readers, and we think we know why. Have you been out there lately? Seriously, the new-ish campus and flagship beer hall are stunning, and the overall hangout vibes have gone through the roof since founder Brian Lock and his staff of beer-loving buds decided they were going to make it the coolest place to beer it up within 60 miles. Don’t forget downtown outpost The Brake Room, either.

35 Fire Place, (505) 424-3333 (HQ)

510 Galisteo St., (505) 780-8648 (Brake Room)

2. Cowgirl

The good ol’ C-Girl drops prices on all draft beers and house margaritas daily, plus you’ll find wine discounts, seasonal drinks and numerous food specials.

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

3. The Dragon Room

One of the longest-operating bars in the city and a constant on national media lists for the Santa Fe feels, this-here little oasis’ daily happy hour feels more local than not and you’re bound to find it bustling.

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

Best Hotel Bar

1. La Fiesta Lounge - La Fonda on the Plaza

La Fonda revamped its famed hotel bar a couple years back, and it has since upped the ante on all things live music, drinks and snacks. It’s the type of place you go to catch a local legend in a Southwestern-soaked atmosphere, and with regular performances from musicians like Bill Hearne, Nacha Mendez and more, you’ll always have a little entertainment to go along with your bevvie.

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

2. La Reina - El Rey Court

A contempo-minimalist interior dominates the feel of the youngest bar on your list, Santa Fe. You can also get a pass for the hotel pool, where you can sip that mezcal you just picked up and, if you’re lucky, run into actual young folks.

1862 Cerrillos Road, (505) 982-1931

3. Secreto Lounge - Hotel St. Francis

Do you like mixologists? You know, the folks who craft fancy cocktails for discerning palates? This is that place. Plus, there’s a dueling bacon appetizer from adjacent Market Steer.

210 Don Gaspar Ave., (505) 983-5700


Best Instagram Feed

1. @505localfoodie

If you’ve got a hankering for anything local to eat, this-here feed has you covered with carefully conceived images of just about any food or drink item you can imagine. Chile, beer, boba, tacos, Italian, donuts—it’s really a little slice of anything and everything. One warning? If you’re feeling particularly peckish, don’t be surprised if this one sends you into overdrive.

2. @skisantafe

It needn’t even be winter to catch a glimpse of what makes Santa Fe’s ski basin such a spectacularly popular locale. The views are stunning all year long.

3. @sfgolondrinas

Is it a bit of an anachronism for a living history museum to be so on top of the online space? Maybe so, but the photos speak for themselves.

Best Lecture Series

1. El Rancho de las Golondrinas

Popping up for a second time is everyone’s favorite living history museum, and you better believe it’s worth it to catch a lecture from these folks. Note that while the museum is outside the city, lectures with authors, artists, historians and more generally go down at the St. Francis Auditorium downtown. And in a city full of lecture opportunities, taking the top spot is no joke.

334 Los Pinos Road, (505) 471-2261

2. Lannan Foundation

Sure, the local foundation with the massive track record of lectures across countless topics announced it plans to close over the next decade, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a place in your heart.

309 Read St., (505) 986-8160

3. Santa Fe Institute

When a whole messload of geniuses get together to ask questions about math, science and whether we’re alone in the universe, people take notice.

1399 Hyde Park Road, (505) 984-8800

Best Market/Festival

1. Santa Fe Farmers Market

You know and love ‘em, and it’s not just because the Farmers Market offers double-bucks on SNAP purchases. This is Santa Fe—where we’re aware of the impact of food and food systems, and where we want to know what we’re putting into our bodies. No one is saying this regular gathering of the region’s top growers, tenders and cultivators is a simple answer to all the issues, but it’s sure a step in the right direction. Plus, there’s a Southside version with Market del Sur from July 5-Sept. 27!

1607 Paseo de Perlata; 4801 Beckner Road, (505) 983-4098

2. Santa Fe Indian Market

Throngs come each year to Indian Market—THRONGS! It’s one of the biggest events in the area, and pretty much the best way to see so many incredible Indigenous artists all in one place.

Santa Fe Plaza, 100 Old Santa Fe Trail,

3. International Folk Art Market

With dozens of artists from around the globe, this annual affair has become so packed and popular that organizers added a night market for 2022. You just missed it this year, but the market will totally return in 2023.

710 Camino Lejo, (505) 992-7600

Best MC

1. Raashan Ahmad

Welp, Santa Fe, if you’re keeping track, this is two top spots for Raashan Ahmad (he also won Best DJ). Have you caught his work with Crown City Rockers? His solo records? How about that Juneteenth celebration earlier this summer on the Plaza? Ahmad is also a dedicated community organizer, top brass for arts nonprofit Vital Spaces and, if you ever get a chance to just chat with him, a real down-to-earth and kind human. “I don’t know what to say other than this feels awesome,” Ahmad says. “I think I’m just really mindful of how great this community is without me, and I’m excited I get to contribute and that folks are supportive of how I show up in this city.”

2. Alexx Cloud

Cloud has been out there in the world making a name for himself and keeping things locked down in Florida, but he still keeps his home state of New Mexico in mind for live shows any chance he gets.

3. Outstanding Citizens Collective

Really more of a roving group of beat-makers, DJs and lyricists, Santa Fe’s most expansive hip-hop crew faced a major tragedy when founding member Benito Martinez III, aka Benzo, died last year, but they’re keeping the flow going across multiple acts and mediums.

Best Movie House

1. Violet Crown Cinema

It’s hard to remember a time before we could all just pop over to the Railyard for new films, arthouse throwbacks, indie gems and full-on beer and food menus, but Violet Crown was the thing that really kicked the space’s public hangout concept up a notch. It’s honestly worth it to grab a local draft or burger even without catching a movie, but when the summer hits and the temps are hot, it’s a cool place to while away the hours in whatever fashion works for you.

1606 Alcaldesa St., (505) 216-5678

2. Lensic Performing Arts Center

You love the Lensic so much, Santa Fe, that it doesn’t even bother you how it hardly ever plays movies anymore—you’re putting it on this list. Still, you’ll find special streaming events on the big screen from time to time, and who knows what the future holds?

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

3. Jean Cocteau Cinema

It’s here, it’s newly reopened following a pandemic-spurred re-envisioning—you can totally drink from the full bar and sit in the fancy new theater seats!

418 Montezuma Ave., (505) 466-5528

Best Museum

1. Museum of International Folk Art

With its former director Khristaan Villela having moved on to the Getty in Los Angeles, MoIFA somehow still remains a formidable presence in the museum-o-sphere and the crown jewel of Santa Fe’s Museum Hill zone. Rotating shows, thoughtful lectures and a definite bent toward the people, it’s no wonder Santa Feans love this place. Interim director Kate Macuen is holding things down as we speak, and you might want to ask yourself when the last time you popped by the Folk Art was.

706 Camino Lejo, (505) 476-1204

2. Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

This year marks 25 years for the local museum dedicated to that most famous desert-lover herself, Georgia O’Keeffe. There’s a new building in the works, plus all the same educational and academic opportunities as before—even stuff for young folks!

217 Johnson St., (505) 946-1000

3. New Mexico History Museum

Attached to the historical-as-hell Palace of the Governors, find ever-changing exhibits, an incredible photo archive and a love of all things New Mexico at this moderately-sized but potent institution.

113 Lincoln Ave., (505) 476-5200

Santa Fe Opera (Curtis Brown for the Santa Fe Opera)

Best Nonprofit for the Arts

1. Santa Fe Opera

By the time you’re reading this, opera season will be in full swing and back to its full powers following the same pandemic slowdown so many organizations faced. What can even be said for the venerable institution that hasn’t been already? The views are, of course, fabulous, and the talent is among the best on the planet. You can catch the pre-show tailgate action like you always have and come away from the world-class experience knowing it quite literally doesn’t get better than that.

301 Opera Drive, (505) 986-5900

2. El Rancho de las Golondrinas

Living history, sweet lectures, wine fests, lavendar fests, Renaissance fests...there’s so much to do out there you’d be mad to ignore it.

334 Los Pinos Road, (505) 471-2261

3. Museum of International Folk Art

Yeah, that’s right—MoIFA isn’t in the game for the profit, it’s in it to change lives and show people art. Some of our recent faves have run the gamut from tattoos and Indigenous distance runners to Japanese demon lore.

706 Camino Lejo, (505) 476-1204

Best Outdoor Venue

1. Santa Fe Plaza

As anyone who has attended just about any of the free events this year will tell you, our little historical Plaza is the sort of space that does exactly what it’s meant to do. Sometimes you’ll see activists forever changing history by toppling a monument, sometimes you’ll catch a hip-hop legend or two. One never really knows what’ll happen in a given year, but one should know it’s worth it to find out.

100 Old Santa Fe Trail

2. Santa Fe Opera

If you’ve ever seen an opera at the open concept venue, you know the sunsets and/or rainy nights are among some of the best outdoor sights to see. And it’s not just opera and classical music, catch touring acts and other shows.

301 Opera Drive, (505) 986-5900

3. Santa Fe Railyard

Over the years we’ve all seen some amazing free shows in the Railyard. Just this summer alone has been pure fire. Make sure you catch the Santa Fe Salutes Tribute to the Beatles on July 29, which just so happens to be the Best of Santa Fe party, too!

332 Read St., (505) 982-3373

Best Performing Arts Venue

1. Lensic Performing Arts Center

Whether you’re looking to see big-name musical touring acts, standup comedy legends, special screenings, symphonies, dance performances or just about anything else artsy, the Lensic has you covered all year long. It’s a gorgeous space, too, and full of history. Lucky us!

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

2. Santa Fe Opera

You know the drill, right? Unparalleled opera performances from one of the most beautiful venues in the world, plus tailgating, fancy dress and, sometimes, fancy drinks.

301 Opera Drive, (505) 986-5900

3. Meow Wolf

If you’re on the younger side and want to catch DJs, indie bands, hip-hop royalty and even masters of metal, Meow Wolf is likely behind whatever show you end up seeing. We saw Quicksand there! Do you know how cool that is?!

1352 Rufina Circle, (505) 395-6369

Best Theater Group

1. Santa Fe Playhouse

Having been around for 100 years, the Santa Fe Playhouse just keeps on getting better. Under the custodianship of Artistic Director Robyn Rikoon, Executive Director Colin Hovde and Board President Kent Kirkpatrick, the last couple years have heralded a more thoughtful and challenging lineup of shows, from the evolving Everybody to the classic Albee show A Delicate Balance. Simply put? This transcends community theater to become akin to a public service. Everyone should go.

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

2. Teatro Paraguas

Not many local theaters are dedicated to centering Latinx voices, but Paraguas sure is—plus it hosts special classes for kids, does things in a bilingual fashion and even partnered with streaming service to bring theater right into your home.

3205 Calle Marie, (505) 424-1601

3. Santa Fe Youth Collaborative Theater

Fresh off a production of William Finn’s Falsettos, this ragtag group of youngsters is out to prove that kids get theater, and by all accounts they’re making their point and then some.

Read more Best of Santa Fe 2022:

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