We hate this pandemic. We hate the lives lost, the business and home economies upended and all the things we are missing. We hate not having parties. We hate not hugging people and being hugged back.

But we still love Santa Fe. And we're pretty sure that if you are reading this, you do too. This annual feature has become a way to offer shoutouts to the new and old in the city. It's a totally unscientific, undemocratic process, yet one that is based on SFR's deep immersion in the community—even if most of the time, for now, it happens from a distance. You'll find what we love to eat, where we love to walk, who we love to buy from, watch and so much more.

We offer this compilation to mark the beginning of our annual Best of Santa Fe 2021 reader poll, but it's not always about us. Nominate the things you love at www.sfreporter.com/bosf starting Feb. 1.

The Art Has Gotten REALLY Good

While there's no minimizing the pandemic terrors, there's also no denying artists of all stripes have had a chance to hunker down and focus on work. Whether this has been Terran Last Gun (Amskapi Piikani) creating affordable line drawings, Winoka Yepa (Diné) at the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts digitizing entire exhibits, AMP Concerts producing live drive-in concerts or even just people kicking out commissions, smaller-scale gallery shows, online events, streaming, socially distanced openings…the list goes on, but the output has been extensive. Maybe it's oddly easier to create when faced with sadness, or maybe it's just that being forced to slow down and look for beautiful things has been a secret Godsend. Either way, if you're living in Santa Fe and you haven't noticed the art game blowing up, you're not paying attention. (Alex De Vore)

We Have Great Repair People

Why are we so addicted to new stuff? Why not just choose good quality items to start with and then take good care of them and repair them when they break? As Americans, we typically treat both our stuff and our Earth as if they were disposable, and it's time to shift our mindset before we destroy the one and only planet we call home. Luckily there are some very talented and hard-working people in this town who specialize in fixing things. For shoes, we recommend City Shoe and Boot Repair, 847 Ninita St. We go to Patrick Romero at the Santa Fe Farmers Market to sharpen our knives, and to Studio Lighten Up, 1143 Siler Park Lane, to fix lamps. When we need a vintage treasure hemmed we go to Alterations and More, 2864 Cerrillos Road. (Leah Cantor)

Nobody Expects You to Be Anywhere Anymore

It's pretty tough that we can't all congregate or go about our business, but it's honestly a little nice to have a go-to excuse for not going anywhere. "I'd love to check out your weird thing, so-and-so," we say, "but, like, COVID, you know?" We're doing doctor's appointments by phone, even interviews that would normally mean driving to someone's house, being barked at by the dog, doing the whole pleasantries thing and then being stuck there for an hour all like, "Cool that you're doing a thing, we guess?" Now our lives are full of "I totally get it," statements when we beg off. We're also pretty lucky in how seriously most of the people we know are taking this. Presumably, they, too, are thrilled expectations have lowered. And with that, it's nap
time. (ADV)

Canyon Preserve(ing my sanity)

There is one place we are forever thankful for after this year, and that's the Santa Fe Canyon Preserve. It's got to be one of the best places in Santa Fe to escape, and during the March-May turmoil it was one of the few places out of the house where we found any peace. During spring the snowmelt sogs up the place. In fall the aspens crisp up. Summer sun brings out the juniper and pine scents. Occasionally you get to see ducks fight, and all with minimal human interaction. The trail itself is short, so it's less of a huff-and-puff hike and more of a detour to clear out your mind a little bit. But man, it's a great place to work out your quarantine woes. (Riley Gardner)

Takeout Has Become Pretty Amazing

I placed an order for Felipe's Tacos by phone. Ten minutes later, owner Felipe Martinez handed me a sealed bag of still-hot burritos with a smile. Days earlier, post after post on social media announced locals trying chef Martin Rios' new Build-a-Bowl popup were in love. Even earlier in the pandemic, a call to Second Street Brewery ended with killer fish and chips and a six-pack placed right into my car by a friendly worker. Kohnami has also placed sealed bags of absurdly affordable sushi/salmon/tempura in my car. If the landscape of foodservice as we know it will never be the same, we'll have to support the places we'd like to see survive this mess. In Santa Fe, though, the hard part is whittling it down. Good luck. (ADV)

Online Yoga Classes 

One of the most relaxing pandemic-era ways to easily pass an hour and a half, whether it's an endless weekend or a lunchtime break on a Wednesday. YogaSource is my go-to. It's easy to pay for and sign up for classes at yogasource-santafe.com and the pricing is reasonable. In fact, drop-in prices for classes are on a new sliding scale from as low as $5 up to $25. The set-up is easy—roll out your mat on the floor and open your laptop in front of you to watch the instructor. We love all the various schedule options: On an average Friday there are nine different classes to choose from starting at 7:45 am and ending with a last class at 7 pm. Any time you feel like doing yoga, there's a class available from wherever you are. Namaste.
(Katherine Lewin)

Turns Out All Your Friends Make Cool Shit

In some ways, supporting your friends' creative endeavors has never been easier. This year, the COVID hustle pushed business online and suddenly everyone's Instagram feed was flooded with beautiful things made by creative acquaintances. And in Santa Fe, that seems to be most people. We find it super inspiring to scroll through our feed and see all the cool stuff our friends make, or search Santa Fe by place and discover even more treasures made by locals. People like Zara Southerd, whose Instagram @maggiesweddingcakes shows off stunning wedding cakes painted with surreal Southwestern landscapes and adorable cat-faced cookies, or printmaker Kaitra Robbins, who recently posted a Valentine's Day bandanna printed with pretty little birds with heart-shaped chests @sacred_things_studio. (LC)

Frozen Tamales Are the Bomb

Fewer drive-thrus and more freezer-worthy entrees are part of life now. We have been passing on the microwave burritos lately, though, and have reconsidered the humble tamale. What we love right now is to pick up a frozen dozen and steam them for a rapid and regional treat. You don't even need a fancy steamer, just a half inch of water in any pot with a lid will do. We like the fancy duck version from Santa Fe School of Cooking ($39 per dozen, santafeschoolofcooking.com) and the vegan hemp variety from Skarsgard Farms (skarsgardfarm.delieverypro.com), which has home delivery of a ton of products two days a week in Santa Fe. But you'd be surprised just how many options there are
around town. Bonus points if you make your own from scratch and freeze them. (Julie Ann Grimm)

And Cocoa bombs Are Really Good Too

We first saw this dessert phenomenon on social media right before Christmas and then a gracious Santa Fe giver dropped a few at our new HQ. Hot cocoa bombs are our new favorite nonviolent, non alcoholic, celebratory winter beverage. And we were over the moon when local home business Pretty Sweets by Krystal whipped up a custom dozen for us, resplendent with Reporter red. Simply pour hot milk over the chocolate ball to activate the explosion in your mug and induce smiles. Candymaker Krystal Herrera has been running her home-based business in Pecos for eight years and she met us in a parking lot for delivery. Find her on Facebook. Then, find some firewood: You can't beat social-distance hot cocoa and a backyard kiva with a few buds. (JAG)

People Are Supporting People

We've been doing it every day. Just ask your friends who wound up battling the virus, or those who had to quarantine alone; ask the people who received groceries and kids' items, art supplies, internet assistance, utility bill help or even fresh, hot meals from local chefs—they'll tell you the folks in the Santa Fe community have come together in a big way. This has been most evident through the Earth Care Facebook page (the admins for the Santa Fe Mutual Aid Network). Spend even a few minutes scrolling and you're bound to find resources. Yes, pages like this are available in most communities all the time, but the pandemic shines a light on how much harder we're all working to take care of our own. (ADV)

You Can Attend City Meetings in Your PJs

We hated Zoom meetings at first, and we still would rather talk to our fellow humans in person when we can, but we have come to love virtual city meetings. While they do cause accessibility issues for anyone without internet, overall virtual meetings offer a lot of advantages for the average Santa Fean trying to participate in city government. You don't need to hire a babysitter for five hours on a Wednesday night while you attend the City Council meeting downtown. You don't have to pay for parking or worry about whether you'll be able to catch the bus at 11pm when the meeting ends. Best of all, you can watch in your PJs and eat ice cream while you're at it and call in to comment from bed. What could be better? (LC)

12-TeaHere's the Tea

Who knows what we did to be blessed with the sheer amount of tea shops in Santa Fe. Tea is so abundant here the British are ready to invade. You've got the classiness of The Teahouse, where you can grumble about tourists at 821 Canyon Road. We love the laid back atmosphere at Annapurna's (1620 St Michael's Drive), or getting a cup at 35 North (60 E San Francisco St.) or Henry & The Fish (217 W San Francisco St.) and strolling downtown in early fall. If you're not feeling it and want to mope around at home, you can pick up a bag at Artful Tea (101 W Marcy St.) and doomscroll in solitude. We are a town of teas—CafecitoDragonflyTerra Verde. Even if you just need to overlook the masses, Optunia's new Railyard location in the Market Station Building lets you hawkeye over the Railyard in peace from its new balcony, judging the people below. One day we'll be able to do that in groups again, too. (RG)

There’s Not a Racist Monument in the Center of Town Anymore

While I fully expect to be screamed at for this, I must say it's rather nice knowing the community rallied on Monday, Oct. 12, 2020 to remove the Plaza obelisk after more than 150 years of Indigenous people letting it be known it hurt them. History is chock-full-o' incredible, moving moments wherein the populace of wherever grew sick of waiting around for the government to live up to its so-called promises and took things into their own hands. The energy on the Plaza that day was of solidarity and beauty. Change is in the air everywhere, friends, and knowing we can swing by the heart of the city and take in the soft
Santa Fe air without eyeballing a precariously erected reminder of racism feels so right. (ADV)

Local Landscape Serves as Backdrop for Western Movie Marathon

Santa Fe prides itself on being a movie industry town, but how many movies can you name that were made here? After so much time indoors we can now name a lot, and several are actually pretty good. Most are Westerns, which we weren't that into before COVID, but after embarking on a made-in-Santa Fe movie marathon our appreciation for the genre has grown. Here are our top three: True Grit, the story of a teenage girl who hires a US Marshal to avenge her father's murder; A Million Ways to Die in the West, which is a gloriously silly
paradoy of classic Western tropes; and News of the World, a brand new Western that came out at the end of 2020. Great non-Westerns at least partially shot in Santa Fe include Rent and Terminator 2. (LC)

Secret Skate Park 

We're not gonna say where because we don't want to hassle you and we don't want the cops or neighbors to hassle you, but we see you doing tricks in the tiny patch of concrete around the drainage to the arroyo and we think it's cool that now you have added some rails and obstacles to your secret course. The city's many sanctioned skate parks have been sanctuary both before and during the pandemic, but we get the allure of spending the last few minutes of sunlight on a clear day in this otherwise wasted space. In the summer, weedy buffalo gourd will try to crowd you out. For now, it's all yours for the ollies, grabs, grinds and slides. Don't get captured. (JAG)

Foster Dogs from the Santa Fe Animal Shelter 

Animal shelters are reliant on fosters, since not every animal thrives in that kind of setting. Our very own Santa Fe Animal Shelter and its New Hope Foster Program is one of them. Eleven months into the pandemic, I fostered a disabled dog from SFAS and it's the best decision I have made in 2021 so far—or in the entirety of 2020. It's easy to sign up to become a foster at SFAS. Simply call 983-4309 x1270 or email newhope@sfhumanesociety.org. "As a no-kill shelter" says shelter spokesman Murad Kirdar, "the Santa Fe Animal Shelter's fostering program is a vital part of our work and fostering a dog is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have…other than adopting, of course." (KL)

Fridge Art and Free Pizza

We've eaten more than our fair share of takeout in recent months, and have become big fans of Back Road Pizza's magnet rewards system. For every pizza you take home you get one round red magnet to put on your fridge, and once you've collected 10 you get a large, two-topping pizza free. Sure, tons of places have loyalty programs or punch cards. But Back Road, 1087 2nd St., is the only place we know of that uses magnets, which come with the added bonus of being able to keep photos of all the relatives you can't see in person pinned to the fridge or create bright red magnet mosaic art. You could even use them to frame an important message to your roommates forbidding them to eat your leftovers.(LC)

The Little Screen Ain’t So Bad After All 

Oh how we've groaned and moaned over the loss of movie theaters. There's something very special about a darkened space with strangers, the lady to your left reading out the titles, another guy shaking his drink, teenagers in front checking Instagram. Ah, memories.

Santa Fe's abundance of theaters did some pretty sweet jumps to the digital sphere, surprisingly well for a town that's, well, old. CCA's Living Room has virtual poetry, lost film classic seminars, and hard-to-find documentaries at ccasantafe.org. Violet Crown's virtual cinema at santafe.violetcrown.com gets to keep films running longer, and now there's a drive-in! One day we'll be before the big screen again, and going back will rock (flaws of other humans aside). But here's hoping the small screen additions are a permanent option in our futures. (RG)

Earthseed Black Arts Alliance’s Public Schools Project

Formed over the summer as a means for Black New Mexicans to check in on each other, the collective might of artists Nikesha Breeze, Tigre Bailando and Raashan Ahmad has already heralded a community altar in the Railyard Park, a bevy of upcoming art and music shows and, perhaps most importantly, Black Story/Black Song: History Through the African American Lens. The video curriculum featuring notable Black artists, historians, writers, etc. is meant to be rolled up in New Mexico Public Schools' Black History Month lesson plans, and includes information from Black New Mexicans in eight key areas including history, literature, hip-hop, science and more. No place has ever had consistent access to relevant (or even accurate) info on Black history. This is straight up thrilling. (ADV)

Public Library Programming for Everyone 

The Santa Fe Public Library system has been busy setting up a variety of virtual public programming in 2021 for people of all different ages, on top of the convenient curbside pickup it already offers for all of your literature needs. There's an entire committee made up of library staff that exclusively discuss ideas for programs and plan them based on certain themes or happenings in the community. For example, the library received a $15,000 grant to host the National Endowment for the Arts Big Read and its coinciding activities from March through June. The chosen book is Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea. Nothing like reading a book with thousands of your
nieghbors! For the little ones, there are storytimes several times a week. It's easy to find out what's happening at santafelibrary.org/
calendar. (KL)

Kitchenality for your Pandemic Cooking Skillset

The number of people who got into baking bread and making pies and experimenting with all manner of cuisine during these lockdown days is staggering. Also of note is the great need in our community for the services of Kitchen Angels, a volunteer organization that cooks and delivers meals to seniors. Combine these two facts into a retail therapy mission at Kitchenality. The thrift store that benefits Kitchen Angels is the third part of the building the organization shares with The Food Depot at 1222 Siler Road. Find a slightly used loaf or pie pan; a set of Jello molds for re-enacting ancient aspic recipes; canisters for sugar and flour, and other kitchen gear delights at a fraction retail. If you've been purging your cabinets, donations are welcome. Current hours are 10 am to 2 pm, Monday through Saturday. (JAG)

New Biz are Still Opening Even Though the Economy is Scary

You have to hand it to humans who refuse to surrender. While a number of local businesses have folded during the pandemic, a few brave souls have launched new ventures. Hat tip to the Palace Prime's chef Fernando Ruiz for launching a fine dining restaurant in an old favorite haunt on Palace Avenue at the beginning of winter, along with Manolla Cafe holding it down with a fledgling venture at 223 Canyon Road and the new game butcher shop Beck and Bulow at 1934 Cerrillos Road to name a few. Way back in the summer, which we admit feels like hundreds of years ago, we also grooved on a new food truck, Rose's Kitchen, co-located at the Reuinty Resources Farm at San Ysidro Crossing. (JAG)

You Can Still Get a Tattoo (Safely)

Trust us—if there's anyone prepared to handle the sanitary needs of COVID-19, it's tattooers. At least those working in reputable shops. In order to get licensed in New Mexico, artists must regularly get certified in bloodborne pathogens, and while we know that's not the same as this stupid virus, they're additionally on top of deep cleaning procedures at every turn. Even better, the options for good, clean work have become many over the years, with shops like Dawn's Custom, Shrine, Four Star Tattoo, Talisman, Lost Cowboy and The Dungeon churning out quality work on the regular—not to mention the small, private studios where social distancing isn't so much a mandate as it is the norm. Do your research, don't rush, get cut real good. Tattoos are cool. (ADV)

Everyone Can Learn Santa Fe’s Original Name

Driving along an unassuming stretch of West Alameda you'll spot, behind a metal guardrail, an enormous mural that spells out "O'Ga Po'Geh," which means White Shell Water Place—the name by which Santa Fe was known to Natives long before the Villa Real de Yadda Yadda bit ever came to be. The painting completely covers the wall with soft blues, purples and yellows. Inside the lettering, Native artists painted a Tewa pueblo as a way to honor the original name and people of Santa Fe, according to the Three Sisters Collective, a local art and activist group. The local Native youth who painted the piece are from nearby pueblos as well as Navajo Nation and the Oglala Lakota tribe. "Remembering and honoring place is one of the fundamental aspects of modern day Pueblo people," the collective writes on social media, "long live O'Ga Po'Geh!" (KL)

Driving Through the Hills and other Simple Pleasures

These days there aren't many places to go after working from home all day, so we've found ourselves taking a page from the Santa Fe teen playbook and driving up into the northwest hills to get a view of the city at sunset. If you too feel the tug of nostalgia, grab your sweetheart, roommate, or whomever you're sharing enclosed spaces with, turn on your favorite tunes, and head towards the intersection at Hyde Park Road and Gonzales Road. Take a left, then approach your route as a choose your own adventure story ending in the perfect hilltop lookout. Be forewarned: The setting might inspire you to make out like teenagers or casually delve into conversation about something sensitive and personal. But
that, or course, is the magic. (LC)