Best of Santa Fe

Best of Santa Fe 2023 - Arts & Entertainment

Performers, creatives and the best places to hang out

Best Art Collective

1. Meow Wolf Santa Fe

The Santa Fe-born arts corporation has expanded into locations across several states, but our readers still love the original flagship Meow Wolf in the old bowling alley. We get it—especially for people who like live music. You can still take your kids most days, too, plus there’s the impact on tourism, the local jobs angle, the way artists from around here can actually get paid for their work? Word.

1352 Rufina Circle, (505) 395-6369

2. Santa Fe Artists Market

Ah, the democratization of art, that realm where a nonprofit can establish a jury, welcome countless artists over countless years to take part and then take over the Railyard on the regular with affordable stuff. Not bad!

Santa Fe Railyard, Market and Alcaldesa streets

3. Wise Fool New Mexico

Our smart readers love Wise Fool’s one-stop-shop for acrobatics, aerials, burlesque and political activism. With classes for people of all ages and abilities, the circus arts come alive in Santa Fe year after year.

1131 Siler Road B, (505) 992-2588

Best Band

1. Nosotros

At this point, is it a surprise at all that this local band of Latin music lovers takes top prize? Nosotros tops this category each and every year, it seems, and it’s no fluke. We’re talking multiple albums, legions of fans, awards, a highly danceable live show and, frankly, a bunch of seriously nice musicians at the top of their game. Expect Latin sounds, but elements of jazz and rock, too.

2. Lone Piñon

Santa Fe’s favorite stringed ensemble provides a stalwart presence. They’re just as comfortable taking over the Plaza Bandstand as they are a museum opening or local market. Find sounds from a variety of cultures but an obvious New Mexico bent.

3. JJ & the Hooligans

One of the hardest-working bands in local show business, this ferocious five-piece merges dance and rock covers with original elements and stone-cold fun, making a JJ show borderline annoyingly peppy no matter where your music allegiances lie.

Best Bar

1. Tumbleroot Brewery & Distillery

“This is the second year in a row we’ve won, so it’s quite amazing,” says Tumbleroot co-founder Jason Fitzpatrick. “We opened a little over five years ago, and the whole idea was to try and create a space where Santa Fe could gather.” Oh, Tumbleroot has done that, both by serving up top-notch locally made drinks and by embracing just about every kind of music you could want—even punk and metal!

2791 Agua Fría St., (505) 303-3808

2. Del Charro

Just assume you’ll find Del Charro on this list of Santa Fe faves, particularly thanks to generous drinks, a cozy atmosphere, enclosed patio great for larger groups and an affordable bar menu. Plus, sports on the TV, fires in the winter and friendly service.

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

3. Cowgirl BBQ

Between the live music, drink specials, servers who remember you and the pool room, Cowgirl is as locally legendary as it gets. Don’t sleep on the frozen strawberry margarita! Find plenty of beer and cocktails as well.

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

Best Comic

1. Carlos Medina

It’s actually glorious to have a puro nuevomexicano comedian out there winning hearts and making yuks, and Medina doesn’t take it for granted. “It feels awesome, and I’m grateful for everybody’s support!” he says. Watch for an upcoming video special, alongside projects with Meow Wolf and local casinos and at the Jean Cocteau Cinema, the venue where Medina cut his teeth and continues to make ‘em laugh.

2. Ricardo Caté

We already knew Caté had jokes, thanks to his ongoing Without Reservations comic strip. Seems he’s been able to transfer his eye and wit to the standup stage, too. Caté's been performing a lot lately, so catch him when you can.

3. Isabel Madley

We’ve seen Madley pack multiple shows in a single night, and there’s no denying her ability has grown in recent years. She’s an improv master, a champion of timing and a keen voice—all while reveling in good bad taste and tactful tastelessness.

Best Dance Company

1. NDI New Mexico

Santa Fe’s identity as an arts town most definitely includes dance. We’re kind of spoiled for choice here, actually, but your go-to outfit, dear readers, is that of the nonprofit National Dance Institute. Whether it’s teaching ‘em young, helping ‘em grow, providing opportunities for the future or even just filling the void after school, NDI keeps youths at the forefront and stokes a lifelong love , of movement.

1140 Alto St., (505) 983-7646

2. Aspen-Santa Fe Ballet

This dance company is so nice it was named for cities twice—this one is no joke, Santa Fe. Dancers paused during the pandemic, but returned for all the athletic artistry you know and love. Don’t miss the annual Nutcracker with Southwestern flair.

550 St. Michael’s Drive, (970) 925-7175

3. EmiArteFlamenco

New Mexico’s powerhouse flamenco performer Emily Grimm (aka La Emi) founded this outfit to not only help raise the next generation of flamenco lovers, but to keep its presence in Santa Fe alive and well. Mission accomplished, it seems.

3022 Cielo Court, Ste. C, (505) 660-9122

Best DJ

1. Raashan Ahmad

This city loves MC, DJ and nonprofit exec Raashan Ahmad so much, it’s kind of hard to imagine the place before he arrived years ago. Whether it’s through his ongoing Love & Happiness parties around town or at various openings, galas or parties, his DJ prowess obviously presses the right buttons. “DJing is my happy place,” Ahmad tells SFR, “so it makes me feel good to know it makes others happy, too.”

2. Dynamite Sol

Sol practically taught this city how to fall in love with DJs. Hip-hop, funk, soul, reggae, rock, mashups, mixes…Sol can do it all—and does. So, if you see the name on a flier or something? You won’t regret making it happen.

3. Your Boy Re-Flex

Felix Cordova, aka Re-Flex, knows just what you need to get the party started. That’s kind of why he’s become a self-described party facilitator. In other words: Ain’t no one gonna match his energy.

Best Drag Performer

1. Brandi

Meet Ms. Brandi, easily the sweetest drag goddess you’d ever encounter and one who transcends the art form. “It feels a-fucking-mazing,” Brandi says of her win. “Brandi’s been around for 28 years, and y’know, the thing that keeps me going is that I can help people.” Indeed. Brandi hosts parties, fundraisers, an ongoing drag brunch at the Jean Cocteau Cinema—and she looks hot as hell doing it all.

2. Coco Caliente

Ms. Caliente has not only been Miss Pride, she’s won our hearts over the years with flawless style and attitude. She’s the type of queen to make the straights feel weird and the queers feel proud. Here, here, Coco Caliente! Excelsior!

3. Rusty G. Nutz

Though drag king action is fairly new to Santa Fe audiences, Mr. Nutz joins the fray with that campy, glampy goodness we all want from our drag performers. Things are popping off lately in that scene; here’s hoping it continues.

Best Gallery

1. Blue Rain Gallery

When a Railyard gallery shows Erin Currier, Preston Singletary, Tony Abeyta and so many more big names, people notice. Our readers certainly do. “It’s always a nice affirmation and barometer for how we’re doing,” says Executive Director Denise Phetteplace. “This is our 30th anniversary year…a nice time for us to take inventory of things.” Blue Rain now has a location in Durango, Colorado, too, but Santa Fe had ‘em first and loves ‘em harder.

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

2. form & concept gallery

The Guadalupe Street mainstay has shown notable artists from Nikesha Breeze and Fawn Moss, to Alex C. Clark, Tigre Mashaal-Lively and more. Don’t forget about the film panels, live music and other events.

435 S. Guadalupe St., (505) 780-8312

3. KEEP Contemporary

Your one-stop downtown spot for lowbrow, no-brow, pop, punk, illustration, fine art, sculpture and more. We’re talking Nico Salazar, Katie Kidd, Micah Wesley, Zienna Brunsted Stewart—the list goes on and on, and it is just so very dope.

142 Lincoln Ave., (505) 557-9574

Best Happy Hour

1. Cowgirl BBQ

Every weekday from 3-6 pm, you’ll find a massive slate of Happy Hour deals at the ol’ C-Girl, including all draft beers and well drinks, plus wines by the glass, seasonal drinks and food. Wings, sliders, sweet potato fries, guac, chili, nachos and more? Uh, yes, sign us up to save money while we’re going nuts on that stuff. You might also find live music, plus those tasty , house margs.

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

2. Dinner For Two

Dinner For Two has become quite the hotspot in recent years, what with its comfy patio, DJ events and specials. For its daily Happy Hour from 4-6 pm, find crab cakes, sliders, a truffle and oyster risotto, cocktails, dessert and more.

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

3. Del Charro

According to the bartender we spoke with, “It’s always Happy Hour” at Del Charro. That speaks volumes to the hotel bar and restaurant’s commitment to affordable pricing for those staying on a temporary basis and those who live here.

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

Best Hotel Bar

1. La Reina @El Rey Court

This minimalist and mezcal-forward watering hole ingratiated itself with the locals so suddenly and so well that many are quick to forget it’s actually attached to a hotel. Find clever cocktails and two patios, plus lounging, hanging, queer nights, live music, pizza from Tender Fire Kitchen and more, all from a toned-down and comfortable space that caters to locals while making things accessible to our city’s visitors.

1862 Cerrillos Road, (505) 982-1931

2. La Fiesta Lounge @La Fonda

If you’ve ever wanted to catch a killer New Mexican meal and/or beer and cocktails while engaging with popular live music in one of the most historic buildings in the city, La Fiesta Lounge has you covered.

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

3. Secreto Lounge @Hotel St. Francis

Though the indoor environs of this classy downtown hotel bar have changed over the years, its staff’s commitment to upscale drinks, mixology and ambiance have not. Come for the drinks and comestibles; stay for the people watching and comfort.

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

Best Instagram Feed

1. @skisantafe

With nearly 40,000 followers and a mission to show the best our city’s ski resort has to offer, Ski Santa Fe’s social media people have been on fire as far back as anyone can remember. Catch glimpses of the season when snow’s afoot, or just swoon over the mountain vistas during warmer months for hikes or the fall chair lift. Even those who don’t hit that pow-pow will find lots to love. It’s plain gorgeous here.

2. @505localfoodie

Santa Fe social media lovers often cite this account as a colorful glimpse into our small city’s big food offerings. If you weren’t hungry before you hit the page, you’ll most certainly be after you do. In fact, let’s get something to eat ASAP.

3. @sfgolondrinas

This account offers intimate looks at the myriad things going down at the living history museum that is El Rancho de las Golondrinas. We’re talkin’ festivals and tours, food stuff, live music, events, happenings and more.

Best Late Night Hangout

1. Boxcar

By the time you’re reading this, Boxcar should be well into operations at its now Plaza-adjacent location. “We’ve been working hard,” says co-owner Tate Mruz, “and it has a real nice feel.” Mruz wants Boxcar to be the place the service industry folks hang out after work. Of course, any tourists or other locals who get in on the drinks and massive menu are welcome, too. Boxcar is open ‘til midnight most days.

133 W. Water St., (505) 988-7222

2. The Matador

Now in its 16th year of hot dive bar action, everybody’s favorite subterranean spot for no-frills drinks is still as strong as ever. All hail the regulars, for sure, and say hey to the badass bartenders for us.

116 W. San Francisco St., (505) 501-9799

3. Evangelo’s

Don’t bother calling yourself a local until you’ve bellied up to the bar at Nick Klonis’ joint just as your favorite cover band starts. Whatever you do, don’t ask for Bud, and don’t try to pay with a card. Be cool, man, God.

200 W. San Francisco St.

Best Lecture Series

1. Santa Fe Institute

Santa Fe Institute’s big thinkers said goodbye to author Cormac McCarthy this year, but he’s just one of hundreds of people who make the organization tick. The theoretical research center is all about uncovering and understanding the complexity of our universe. As its website explains, free lectures range “from cutting-edge research insights to the nature of human creativity.” We feel smarter already.

1399 Hyde Park Road, (505) 984-8800

2. El Rancho de las Golondrinas

One of Santa Fe’s favorite museums orchestrates some of our voters’ very favorite speakers, with lectures taking place at the St. Francis Auditorium. If you’d like to learn, ponder or otherwise evolve, attending these talks can help.

334 Los Pinos Road, (505)471-2261

3. Lannan Foundation

Though this organization devoted to cultural freedom and diversity announced plans last year to close by 2032 and wrapped its “Readings and Conversations” series last year, most past programs are available online.

313 Read St., (505) 986-8160

Best Market/Festival

1. Santa Fe Farmers’ Market

Whereas a larger city might host the type of market that always features distance between growers and customers, Santa Fe’s intimate take on the freshest foods is all about community. You get to know the people behind the stalls and the satisfaction of knowing you’re going to eat something amazing. Take note of the market’s SNAP benefits, too, while you’re thinking about how many local chefs are devotees of this market.

1607 Paseo de Peralta, (505) 983-4098

2. Indian Market

What’s not to love about the largest gathering of Indigenous creatives in the world? In addition to the countless opportunities to expand your collection, think of the lectures, parties, panels and music organized by the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts. This year’s market runs Aug. 19-20 on and around the Plaza.

121 Sandoval St., Ste. 302, (505) 983-5220

3. International Folk Art Market

For the first time ever this year, the market for international artists left Museum Hill for the Railyard. The organization reports a great outcome and plans to use the location again.

620 Cerrillos Road, (505) 992-7600

Best MC

1. Wolfman Jack

A founding member of Santa Fe’s Outstanding Citizens Collective, Wolfman Jack (aka Dylan Delgado) tells SFR he didn’t expect to win this accolade. “I mean, it’s obviously a huge honor and I’ve been doing this for 19 years, so recognition feels great,” he explains. “I’m blessed to be with the Outstanding Citizens in a team that really gives back to the hip-hop community.” To learn more, hit up Outstanding Citizens Collective on

2. Prismatic Soul

A newer addition to the Outstanding Citizens, Prismatic Soul (aka Alexandria Hernandez) has one of the sickest flows going in hip-hop—in Santa Fe or any place. Half of OCC offshoot duo Art of Rhyme, this woman needs to be in your playlists ASAP.

3. OG Willikers

Yet another OCC member to close out the MC category, Willikers is the beatmaker, the taskmaster, the driving force behind much of what the collective does. He’s got a dope style, too, and we regard him as kind of America’s sweetheart.

Best Movie House

1. Violet Crown Cinema

Was there ever any doubt? This comfy megaplex screens the latest movies alongside short-run indies and classics, and has sweet beer and food menus. “We’re so grateful to all the moviegoers who’ve supported Violet Crown so magnificently since we first opened,” says owner Bill Banowsky. “It’s what caused me to move here permanently…and it caused me to continue to invest my time and resources into the Railyard.”

1606 Alcaldesa St., (505) 216-5678

2. Jean Cocteau Cinema

Though George R.R. Martin’s theater has been more about live events lately, you can still catch one-offs and special screenings. Did y’all catch how it featured Jennifer’s BodyNightmare on Elm Street 2 and The Babadook during Pride last month? Brilliant.

418 Montezuma Ave., (505) 466-5528

3. Lensic Performing Arts Center

How can a place that only plays a few movies a year keep making this list? We love the Lensic’s commitment to Santa Fe arts, so we’ll let it slide. Do you like the Banff Mountain Film Fest this much? You do?

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

Best Museum

1. Museum of International Folk Art

With folklorist Charlie Lockwood coming on as the museum’s new executive director last May, there might not be a better time to re-learn why Santa Fe loves MoIFA so hard. The still-running Yokai exhibit on Japanese demon lore can provide your first clues, as can Ghhúunayúkata/To Keep Them Warm: The Alaska Native Parka. Don’t forget about special events and lectures, too, plus regularly free access for locals.

706 Camino Lejo, (505) 476-1204

2. Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

The monument to arguably the most famous woman artist of our time plans to build bigger digs soon, which means expanded focus and better action for both visitors and Santa Feans alike. Don’t sleep on the Abiquiú outpost.

217 Johnson St., (505) 946-1000

3. New Mexico History Museum

A cavalcade of items fills the state repository of history across roaming exhibits, pop-ups, special events and, right next door, the literal Palace of the Governors, where folks like Lew Wallace once helped shape our city and state.

113 Lincoln Ave., (505) 476-5200

Best Nonprofit for the Arts

1. El Rancho de las Golondrinas

The living history museum’s aim includes preservation of traditional Spanish Colonial art. “It’s a testament to everything we do at Golondrinas that we’ve been able to consistently place in at least three categories,” says Director of Development Jackie Camborde. “It’s a testament to our fanbase, our staff and volunteers—to the people who just love El Rancho de las Golondrinas.”

334 Los Pinos Road, (505) 471-2261

2. Museum of International Folk Art

Let the capitalist gallerists and snooty academics worry about art as a commodity and/or prestige position for the privileged. The rest of us will be busy checking out cool shows that democratize the arts to beautiful results.

706 Camino Lejo, (505) 473-1204

3. Santa Fe Art Institute

Across numerous residencies, podcasts, initiatives and public engagement projects, the little nonprofit that still calls the Midtown Campus home has created a name for itself as one of the most vital and intriguing arts organizations around.

1600 St. Michael’s Drive, #31, (505) 424-5050

Best Outdoor Venue

1. Santa Fe Opera

The Santa Fe Opera’s Crosby Theater is an impossibly beautiful space that has impressed folks of all stripes with its open air stage and breathtaking terraces. If you’ve been, you know; if not, get on that ASAP. “We’re thrilled, we’re honored, we’re delighted,” says Opera General Director Robert K. Meya about the win. “There’s a mood here that’s so upbeat, so excited to be back doing what everyone loves to do.”

301 Opera Drive, (505) 986-5900

2. Santa Fe Railyard

The new Lensic360 program has a doozy of a summer season lined up for the public space, and with the breweries and coffee joints and ice cream parlors lining the streets, of course we love it so much we hold our Best of Santa Fe Party here on July 28. See you there!

Market and Alcaldesa streets (505) 982-3373

3. Santa Fe Bandstand

The Plaza bandstand in the heart of the city provides space not just for public speaking and community gatherings, but for the fully free Summer Bandstand series, also from the Lensic360 people. Neat, right?

100 Old Santa Fe Trail

Best Performing Arts Venue

1. Lensic Performing Arts Center

“Obviously we feel like the Lensic is a jewel of the community, but we’re just happy this is a place people feel comfortable,” says Lensic Executive Director Joel Aalberts. “Everyone has a distinctive Lensic experience…and there is so much to come.” From shows like The Pixies and Weird Al, to John Waters, comedy, classical music, international superstars and more, we might even say the Lensic stands at the height of its powers.

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

2. Santa Fe Opera

If it was good enough for RBG, it’s good enough for you. The Santa Fe Opera hadn’t even kicked off its 2023 season when it announced its 2024 shows. This year we’ve gloried in classics from Wagner to Puccini, plus lesser-performed works, and the city is gearing up for another world-class program next summer.

301 Opera Drive, (505) 986-5900

3. Meow Wolf Santa Fe

It’s not just about the bands and DJs in the concert space at Meow Wolf. Find performers roaming its hallowed halls every dang day, not to mention plenty of drag and other weirdo arts types.

1352 Rufina Circle, (505) 395-6369

Best Theater Group

1. Santa Fe Playhouse

Now more than a century old, the longest continually running theater west of the Mississippi has upped its game under the watchful eyes of Robyn Rikoon, Colin Hovde and Kent Kirkpatrick. “I mean, it feels great, man,” Rikoon, the Playhouse artistic director who recently directed the much-lauded Sweat, tells SFR. “We’ve been working super-hard on our practices and our product and…yeah, it just feels really good.”

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

2. Teatro Paraguas

A Midtown bastion for locally created theater, plus poetry and stuff for the kids, Paraguas provides an emphasis on accessibility, both in terms of physical space, but also language and opportunity. Brag about this program when you visit other places.

3205 Calle Marie, (505) 424-1601

3. New Mexico Actors Lab

Theater pro Robert Benedetti is behind this much-loved theater. It’s so important, in fact, that Hugh Jackman sent ‘em $15,000 earlier this year just to keep it real (not kidding). Clearly, they’re up to something good over there.

1213 Parkway Drive, (505) 395-6576

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