Cover Stories

25 Things We Love About Santa Fe Right Now

...and we really love them

(Anson Stevens-Bollen)

The longest, darkest nights of the year are upon us, making it the perfect season for an infusion of light via the annual list of “25 Things We Love About Santa Fe Right Now.”

SFR offers these shout-outs about programs and people working for the greater good; fun facts about some of our city’s distinctive features; highlights of meaningful events that warm our hearts; tips for don’t-miss destinations for shopping, entertainment and more.

It’s also the final issue of the year, so please take your time. SFR will return with its blend of news and culture in print on Jan. 3.

Plus, there’s always more on the way: Consider this a gentle reminder about our annual Best of Santa Fe reader poll, which kicks off just a few weeks into the new year. Nominate the people, places and events you love during the first round at starting Feb. 1.


1. You can watch little kids shred

Hear ye, hear ye, hard-hearted cynics. An afternoon watching children perform covers of KISS songs, Pat Benatar ballads and—dare we say it—Guns and Roses classics (to name just a handful) will wipe those sardonic smirks off your faces. Generally speaking, few events featuring children attract the childless, but music store and education center Candyman Strings and Things’ Summer Rock Camp performances provide the happy exception. No Jack Black required: Instead, the school’s instructors—local musicians—lead groups of children ages 8 to 18 through an intensive two-week program in which they form a band, learn songs and prepare to slay in front of a live audience. That live audience consists of Santa Fe parents and anyone else who shows up to enjoy the shows held at all-ages venue Tumbleroot Brewery and Distillery. Candyman’s program also includes a visit to 98.1, Radio Free Santa Fe, for on-air interviews, and recording at CD Kitchen Sink Studios and Frogville Records—just like real rock stars. Jealous? Don’t be: There’s a rock camp for adults too. (Julia Goldberg)

(Anson Stevens-Bollen)

2. Fusion Tacos come by the dozen

With its newest location in the Cities of Gold Casino in Pojoaque, Santa Fe-born and bred food truck mini-empire Fusion Tacos can now count 12 locations in the area, and that, friends, is good news for everyone. Why, it was only a few weeks ago when practically the entire SFR staff sat down to a big fat order from Fusion Tacos, and we’ve been daydreaming about them ever since. What makes the tacos so special? Quality ingredients, for one thing, and a strong showing of birria, a meaty stew-ish/soup-esque concoction that goes great with just about anything and which Fusion’s expert cooks use to make certain menu items. Our vote for the top order, though, might be the crunchy carnitas tacos. For a scant $12, you get four of ‘em, and they even made their way to our food newsletter’s 25 Dishes We Love in Santa Fe Right Now list. (Alex De Vore)

(Anson Stevens-Bollen)

3. Weed comes to your doorstep so you never have to go without

If the legalization of recreational cannabis in New Mexico in 2021 wasn’t good enough already, to-your-door delivery services mean you can completely skip that weekly (...or daily, we don’t judge) trip to the dispensary. Priscotty, a cannabis delivery service, has made it to the City Different, partnering with Sacred Gardens, Dreamz Dispensary and PurLife to bring the goods right to your front door. CEO Scott Prisco told SFR’s Leaf Brief that Santa Fe’s mix of older residents and tourists makes the city ideal for deliveries. And, have no fear of prying neighbors: His company uses unmarked vehicles for privacy. Several dispensaries are joining the club with their own services: High Desert Relief offers a delivery service in the Santa Fe area, and Deep Sky Cannabis introduced its own delivery system in 2022. To make things even more tempting, some deliveries are free for a minimum order amount. Order all your essentials for the month online, then kick up your feet and wait for that sweet knock on your door. (Evan Chandler)


4. Southside school kids get special art museum trips

This year, Santa Fe Public Schools Fine Arts Director Cristina González set a goal of engaging more students in Santa Fe’s art community, including through exposure to the city’s multiple art galleries and museums. Her perseverance is the reason students from Gonzales Community School were among some of the first visitors to the brand new Valdem Contemporary—a satellite of the New Mexico Museum of Fine Art in the Santa Fe Railyard, which opened last September. The school district collaborated with the Community Educators Network, SITE Santa Fe, the Thoma Foundation’s Art Vault and the Vladem to create COMPASS (COMPrehensive Arts for Student Success). The program promotes more field trips focusing on the art hubs downtown and in the Railyard in general. Getting students tuned in to the industry and its career potential has far-reaching benefits: The nonprofit arts and culture sector generated $353.8 million in economic activity in the City of Santa Fe, according to a national study released last week. (Mo Charnot)

(Courtesy Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce)

5. Immigrant and Spanish-speaking small business owners finally received much-needed priority resources

Santa Fe’s schools, stores and restaurants resound with the sounds of Spanish. In fact, New Mexico is a dual language state. So, in the words of Lizzo, it’s about damn time the City of Santa Fe’s Office of Economic Development partnered with the Chamber of Commerce and launched several initiatives targeting immigrant and Spanish-speaking entrepreneurs. In August, the chamber launched its educational telenovela miniseries called Entre El Negocio y El Amor, that followed the stories of Bella and Carlos—two entrepreneurs working to start their own businesses. City officials also hosted the second annual Feria Southside, where local business owners gather to promote and learn about entrepreneurship.

“It’s surprising to me as a community that is so rich in culture and the amount of Spanish speakers we have here that we haven’t tapped in sooner to support them,” Chamber President Bridget Dixon told SFR earlier this year. Now, as a Gateways for Growth grant recipient from the American Immigration Council and Welcoming America, the economic development office is working alongside Somos Un Pueblo Unido to create a strategic economic development plan for immigrant workers. (EC)


6. A young, queer person made it to City Council

In a four-way race during the local elections, Café Castro owner, labor organizer and mariachi musician Alma Castro snagged a seat in District 1 on the City Council. Now approaching a swearing in on Dec. 29, the Agua Fría resident at 35 will become the youngest member sitting on the governing body. Castro shows signs of being one of City Hall’s most left-leaning voices, winning her seat on a platform based around increased affordable housing and wraparound services, higher wages and preservation of the environment. The Santa Fe native and community organizer had endorsements from two of her predecessors: outgoing Councilwoman Renee Villarreal, and Patti Bushee, the councilor whom Villarreal replaced. An added plus? Castro is a queer person who uses both she and they pronouns, bringing a valuable new perspective to the chambers. “I have a lot to learn from everyone, and I think it’s gonna be really fun,” she tells SFR of her upcoming term. “Is that weird?” (EC)

(Julia Ann Grimm)

7. El Paisano stocks all the Ingredients to make mole, plus bongs and burritos

Even though Santa Fe’s Southside still has proportionally fewer grocery options than other parts of the city, it’s the region of the city with one of our favorites grocery stores. We love shopping at El Paisano’s newest store at 4353 Airport Road. (It’s not called Super Paisano, but that’s how we like to think of it.) For starters, we dare you to find a better collection of peppers anywhere in the city: fresh poblano; whole dried morita in bins; tiny packages of tepin, ground ancho and a wall full of others; plus a whole range in canned form. We tried two new recipes from this year’s The Official Cookbook of the Chile Pepper Institute and found all the ingredients, plus tons of other kitchen inspirations there. The meat counter is well-stocked and the butchers are friendly. Plus, there’s a toy section and a glass case in between the cash registers and the liquor section that contains bongs and pipes in a crazy variety. We also like to pick up dinner at the counter, where burritos come in an astounding array of options. Our lips are still burning as we type this. (Julie Ann Grimm)

(SFR File Photo)

8. The International Folk Art Market moved to Railyard Park (and somehow avoided parking nightmares for nearby residents)

When the renowned annual International Folk Art Market announced it would leave its longtime Museum Hill digs—where it had hosted its globe-spanning ode to commerce since its inception in 2004—for the pastoral sights of the sprawling Railyard Park, most locals were kind of like, “Woah, how’s that gonna work? Badly, probably.” Those fears, it turns out, were unfounded, and the market was a resounding success without ruining the lives of everyone who lives nearby. “I would call it a success,” says IFAM Director of Market Operations Jared Smith. “I shared some of the anxiety about the impact on the neighborhood. It’s an entirely new space for us, and we had a million questions. Looking back, we know so much more now.” That ought to make 2024′s market, also slated for the Railyard July 11-14, even more easy-breezy. As always, you can expect artists and craftspeople in the triple digits, and given Smith’s assertion that 2023 was “the most successful financial market of all time,” who even knows what the future holds? “The audience is so loyal and dedicated,” he adds, “but bringing it to a more central location that’s a lot more accessible so people can so easily come? I think it’s a huge success.” (ADV)

(Katherine Lewin)

9. The Southside Library has your back

Remember last year when a dump truck took out Santa Fe’s internet for practically the entire day and no one—not the city, the state or Xfinity—could provide one word of explanation or assistance? Good times. But the Southside Library, as is its wont, remained calm and online: offering reassurance to callers that they could connect on the premises and sending certain anxious workaholics home with a mobile hotspot (available for check-out to all cardholders). The library also offers AC on hot days; a nonprofit bookstore with many deals to be had; and ongoing programs that cast a wide net across the city: from hosting a plant swap today (Dec. 20) from 1 to 2:30 pm; to arts and crafts gingerbread making activities (Dec. 22) to serving as the location for The Food Depot’s mobile pantry (Dec. 28). To be fair: We’re partial to the Southside Library, which serves as a community center as much as a library for a side of town often lacking in attention, but the city’s library system as a whole—from its Booked Solid in Santa Fe blog to its access to everything from seed libraries to museum passes—deserves more credit than it usually receives. Plus: In our experience, the librarians at all the branches go above and beyond. (JG)

(Cara Romero)

10. Cara Romero gallery salutes her fabled photography career

For folks who focus on the arts in Santa Fe, Chemehuevi photographer Cara Romero’s name has been a constant in recent years. Oh, it’s not that Romero hasn’t always been a notable photog with dope shots in galleries, museums, private collections and whatnot. Heck, if you’ve been around since ‘98 and had even a passing interest in dramatically imagined and executed photography, the name is familiar. Still, Romero’s vision and output in, say, the last 10 or so have been nothing short of prolific and remarkable. Right now, Romero’s work is going up in the Railyard space Art Vault for the forthcoming Beyond the Interface show opening Dec. 29; and the 2022 short documentary film Cara Romero: Following the Light from filmmaker Kaela Waldstein has been a film festival darling. But when all is said and done, Romero can call the Cara Romero Photography gallery at 333 Montezuma Ave. a true bastion to everything she’s built across her fabled career. Even better? Should you happen to meet Romero and wanna talk turkey, she’s as kind as can be and humble, too. (ADV)


11. Southside Teen Center opens its doors at last

After more than a decade in the works, youth can access study rooms; shoot hoops both indoors and outdoors; create arts and crafts; play video games; and even cook and do laundry at the city’s new Teen Center located directly across the street from the Southside Library. The center, which opened in September, came in the wake of the shutdown of longstanding nonprofit teen arts center Warehouse 21 in the Santa Fe Railyard. Even after ground broke, several construction delays pushed back the opening. “This is really going to serve the need to give teens resources to help build them up and provide leadership for the future as they grow into their adulthood and set them up for success,” Community Services Director Maria Sanchez-Tucker told SFR the week before the center’s ribbon-cutting event. Several community partners, including the Boys and Girls Clubs of Santa Fe and Earth Care, teamed up to provide services for teens at no cost. At a price tag of $11.8 million, it’s a decent investment in an area of town and a demographic that deserves it. (EC)

(SFR File Photo)

12. You Just Can’t Keep the Center for Contemporary Arts Down

In April, arts and movie lovers spent a good few days freaking out over the surprise news that the Center for Contemporary Arts announced quite suddenly that its board had voted to shutter the long-suffering institution. Newly-minted Executive Director Danyelle Means (Oglala Lakota) was out, the staff was let go, there would be no more movies or art shows on Old Pecos Trail. Then, Santa Fe rallied. Through a mad dash of last-minute community-raised funds, the CCA managed to keep its doors open. The organization brought on longtime filmmaker Paul Barnes in a volunteer director kind of position, the projectors started running again thanks to No Name Cinema founder Justin Clifford Rhody and, before we knew it, we were all watching Oppenheimer and Joan Baez documentaries. With performance nonprofits like theater troupe Exodus Ensemble and neo-chamber music outfit CHATTER taking over space in the CCA’s tank garage, it would appear we can expect smooth sailing for the time being. (ADV)

(Alex De Vore)

13. Santa Fe chefs are killin’ it around here

After a recent meal at new-ish downtown eatery La Mama was so good it practically broke our brain, a thought occurred: Santa Fe chefs are not messing around. Whether it’s La Mama enlisting Las Cruces’ Jordan Isaacson to develop a fine yet affordable dinner menu; Crepas-Oh! expanding its sweet and savory delights to the Railyard; Market Steer’s Kathleen Crook taking over the old El Mesón space for the future home of her insanely popular steak joint; Legal Tender reopening to full dining rooms and a bustling bar out in Lamy; or Mille branching into a commercial kitchen to keep up with the demand for 1,000 pastries a day, the post-pandemic food landscape is clearly driven by people who are, well, driven. “It’s moving fast,” says chef Fernando Ruiz, whose incoming Escondido taco spot is under construction and slated for an opening this June. “We’re going to have tacos, ceviche, the chile en nogada I beat Bobby Flay with. I want to cater to a little bit of everything.” Speaking of which, Ruiz says he’ll continue his catering side hustle even after Escondido opens. Otherwise, his brick and mortar, at 1101 Paseo Corazón just off Agua Fría, will stay up late. “There’s nowhere to eat late,” he says. And he’s right. (ADV)


14. Local theater thrives with stellar productions

Take a quick glance around Santa Fe’s theater-sphere and you’ll find way more companies, troupes, performers, designers, directors and so on than seems possible for such a small town. Yet they’re there, and they’re pushing out bangers left and right. New Mexico Actors Lab, Teatro Paraguas, Upstart Crows, Pandemonium Productions, Tri-M Productions and the Santa Fe Playhouse have slayed in recent years with shows like The Baby Monitor, Spring Awakening, Seascape, Sweat…it goes on. Even cooler? All of Santa Fe’s companies seem to come to a sort of unspoken harmonious consensus when it comes to how they’ll all work over time. “I feel like the community is thriving,” says Antonio Miniño, associate artistic director at the Santa Fe Playhouse. “It just shows a need for the performing arts and for connection through theater.” The Playhouse is even switching to a trio of artistic directors in 2024, for which they’re currently interviewing, and though Miniño is staying mum on that for now, they suggest checking all the companies’ websites to see how you might make 2024 more theater-ful than ever. (ADV)

(Anson Stevens-Bollen)

15. Small vet care expansion brings pet health home

Pet health care in Santa Fe became increasingly inaccessible over the pandemic—just at a time when lots of households adopted new companions and rates of spaying and neutering dropped off. But love finds a way, and a handful of small providers have popped up to fill needs. This year’s SFR fiction contest winner Gretchen Yost won the guest judge’s attention with an essay about her work establishing a mobile euthanasia service for pets called Angel Paws. Sadly, we also know from first-paw experience how kind and caring the folks at Santa Fe-based Rollin’ Paws can be, (505)-954-1671. Not only did they provide excellent care for our blind senior kitty over the last year of her life, but when it was time to say good-bye, it happened in the backyard where she loved to lounge. And by way of breaking news: An emergency veterinary practice is set to open here next May or June. Murad Kirdar, director of community engagement at Española Humane, called the planned arrival of Turquoise Trail Veterinary Urgent Care a “holiday miracle” on a recent podcast. (JAG)


16. Geronimo’s Books adds another feather to our reading cap

Tucked into a small space in the Cerrillos Road corridor, Geronimo’s Books opened this September at 3018 Cielo Court, Ste. D with a model of giving customers store credit for trading in their own used books, along with a great selection of titles with local interest for all shoppers. In an interview with SFR when they first opened the shop, owners Phil Geronimo and Lauren Ayer said they hope to transform the space into a community hangout for writers, poets and readers. So far, the events they’ve organized have had a broad appeal. The small and cozy store has plenty of armchairs available for customers who want to take the time to sample their selections and colorful tapestries for sale on the walls, along with signed editions of new releases displayed above the shelves. Readers on a budget can also find solace in the shelf dedicated to “$2 books,” which also offers a sale of three for $5. It’s likely you will leave with more titles than you brought, but that’s OK. (MC)

(Courtesy Smoke the Moon)

17. Canyon Road Has Spaces Run By Young Weirdos Again

Like most eras of social change, the time when Canyon Road became a bastion for art and artists began some years ago with the queers. Over the years, though, it has transformed into a borderline inaccessible glut of galleries that seem to exist for the deep pocket set—and, often, out-of-towners. At least two new-ish galleries have started to rewrite the script, however, by showing more locals at more affordable price points across more accessible openings. “We’re trying to showcase emerging artists, artists at an earlier point in their careers,” says smoke the moon (616 ½ Canyon Road) Director Alison Nitkiewicz. “Walking into a gallery can be intimidating for a lot of people, but we want to make it a place that feels accessible for people, artists, collectors of all ages.” Nearby, Sun & Dust (223 Canyon Road, (505) 316-3923) owner Emily Spykman tells SFR that running a gallery on Canyon does come with hard decisions, but as an artist herself, she’s familiar with the pitfalls creators face. “I know what a struggle it is to do it,” she explains. “To represent yourself, to strive and work hard and find people who believe in you; do shows, travel, make connections. I’ve seen it done really badly and I came into this thinking I was going to do so well by the artists—to be someone who understands where they’re coming from.” (ADV)

(Michael Moriatis/Stalwart Productions/AMC)

18. Native owned studio success

Long-running strikes in the film industry left New Mexicans without work this summer and fall, but productions that were underway when strikes began have bounced back and new projects are off and running as the year draws to close. Even with the slowdown, productions featuring Indigenous actors, writers and directors blew away the competition this year. Among those big hits, television viewers got to see the second season of Dark Winds in September—produced at Tesuque Pueblo’s Camel Rock Studios and with a third season from AMC due out in 2025. The series, directed by Chis Eyre, uses Tony Hillerman’s Chee and Leaphorn crime novels as its jumping-off point, and has years and years worth of material ahead. Though lots of the scenes take place outdoors, where Northern New Mexico doubles for the Navajo Nation, the converted casino that now holds Camel Rock Studios was its home base and industry insiders say there’s lots more to come. (JAG)

(Courtesy Google)

19. Movies return to Santa Fe Place Mall

Barely five months after the former Regal Cinema on Zafarano Drive closed its doors in June, another Regal door swung open at the Santa Fe Place Mall where the city’s former Southside Theater once sat. Attached to the mall’s food court (and jungle gym), the six-theater Regal location is a great place to see popular new releases (like The Boy and the Heron, the newest Hunger Games prequel. Plus pre-order exclusive $5 tickets to a mystery movie (the next one is Jan. 8) and see if you enjoy the blind date Regal sets up for you. The theaters are small, but they’ve got those fancy reclining chairs everyone loves. On top of that, you have plenty of mall-food options nearby to grab a quick dinner before the show. Or you can hide the Orange Julius in your jacket to avoid paying $7 for a Pepsi, but we obviously can’t endorse that. (MC)

(@ touristsantafe /

20. New Tourist store provides REI alternative for adventure gear

As if whiling away hours at Downtown Subscription and Garcia Street Books wasn’t already on our year-round list, now there’s a new store in the same building occupying even more of our imagination. We love that Tourist gear shop (376 Garcia St., Ste. A) offers a local alternative to Big Camping with lesser known manufacturers of goods made to last—even if some of the items the store stocks (like the Snow Peak IGT Camp Kitchen Starter Set with built-in cutting boards and a flat burner) must remain on our fantasy glamping wishlist for now. We know our giftee is going to be pumped on the wool socks made in the USA that we picked up this year, and we appreciate owner Thayne Nord’s concept of high-quality, lightweight gear that makes it possible to spend less of your energy carrying stuff and more getting where you want to go. He’s also saved room in the back for a gear-lending library for when your cousins come to town and want to take up backpacking for the weekend. (JAG)


21. Desperately needed family health center opens doors

About 8,000 Santa Feans have a new option for integrated health now that Presbyterian Medical Services has launched its brand-new Santa Fe Family Health Center. The 47,000-square-foot clinic began providing medical care and behavioral health services to patients in August and even earned a visit from US Sen. Ben Ray Luján, D-New Mexico, who popped in for a photo op on Oct. 11 to say he supports the growth of integrated health care to address negative stigma often associated with mental health care. The model allows for mental health and primary care providers to refer patients back and forth for a myriad of services relating to their needs. And, as the clinic hires more providers, it will expand to add more dental and pediatric services, primarily serving low-income patients. Staff will help enroll people in Medicaid and the New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange if they qualify, plus the center offers a sliding fee scale for uninsured patients, discounting up to 80% of bill charges, according to PMS Director of Legislative Affairs Larry Martinez. (MC)


22. East Wing Eatery at SFCC Reopens

Santa Fe Community College’s famously student-run East Wing Eatery began serving up grub again in October. Now that Chef Milton Villarrubia III is on the case, the eatery’s breakfast menu has been offering a variety of flavored scones, a green chile corn muffin and breakfast sandwiches, including a throwback to the permanently-closed Dee’s famous breakfast sandwich consisting of a tortilla with a hash brown, a fried piece of ham, a fried egg, some green chile and American cheese. And as he gains more student employees, Villarrubia aims to expand the menu further. Located across from the college’s Fitness Center, the eatery provides the SFCCl’s culinary students with job experience through a café practicum in which they run the dining establishment. Villarrubia told SFR in a previous interview, “My goal here is to really have students produce everything, if possible. I don’t want to buy frozen croissants. I really want the students to own it.” (MC)

(Courtesy Image)

23. Special Needs Talent Show one way Teatro Paraguas won our heart

We were still humming “The Music of the Night” days after the second annual inclusive talent showcase at Teatro Paraguas. Christian Porter not only sang the Broadway classic while sporting a silver-lined cape, black top hat and Phantom mask, he also appeared a second time in the show to perform magic tricks. Teatro Paraguas deserves a hat tip for making its space available for talent show practices and two performances, and Christian’s mom Jodi McGinnis Porter deserves everyone’s applause for producing the events. Santa Fe’s performing arts spaces host world-class artists, and we love catching them during the summer’s Santa Fe Opera season; at Santa Fe Symphony shows at the Lensic; and on the stage of the grand Cathedral Basilica and the tiny San Miguel Chapel. But this free show that included a variety of ages and abilities won our heart. We loved expressive dancing from Colin Holmes; creative costumes and choreography from Alandra Lopez; and singing by Kim Makey, whose version of The Judds’ “Love Can Build Bridge” would steal the show on any karaoke night in town. (JAG)

(Santa Fe Pride and Human Rights Alliance /

24. You never have to look very far to find great drag performers

Even as a Rupaul’s Drag Race fanatic, this writer knows nothing beats the rawness of local drag—especially in a time like this. As laws go into effect across the country banning the age-old art form of gender expression, nowhere is safe. While the nearly 15-year-old TV series shows no signs of cancellation in its future, the same cannot always be said about your favorite local drag performer’s gig. Yet, Santa Fe remains a place with regular drag performances thanks to bars and theaters. The Santa Fe Human Rights Alliance sponsors drag bingos and brunches on a regular basis at the Jean Cocteau Cinema and Tumbleroot Brewery and Distillery. For those 21 and up, The Mystic partnered with NM Drag Kings to host a monthly drag brunch. The first show of the series entitled KINGdom Brunch is planned for 11 am, Jan. 7. Tickets range from $10-200, depending on seating preferences. (EC)

(Courtesy Santa Fe Fat Tire Society /

25. Bridges make famous Winsor Trail even better

The mountains and mesas around the city sport some bodacious mountain biking trails, and the Santa Fe Fat Tire Society volunteers have made a big effort to make them even better. Biking and hiking (and this time of year, skiing or snowshoeing) the famous Winsor Trail is one of the most popular routes for visitors and locals alike. Though the club works most of the year on various trail maintenance projects, 2023 brought new bridges to three places where the Winsor crosses the Tesuque Creek. That meant getting approval from the US Forest Service for designs compliant with the agency’s regulations, then hauling in bridge pieces and tools for construction between July and October. Not only do the bridges keep our feet dry, they also benefit water quality. Win. Win. (JAG)

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