Santa Fe’s natural beauty, relaxed lifestyle, unique architecture, rich cultural heritage, and varied recreational options make it one of the country’s most popular destinations. Whether you’re planning a quick getaway or a lengthy stay to explore our city in-depth, Santa Fe offers an array of exciting, intriguing, illuminating, and satisfying summertime experiences you won’t want to miss.
One of the city’s longtime summer attractions is the famed Santa Fe Opera (seven miles north of Santa Fe on U.S. Highway 84/285, 800.280.4654 or 505.986.5900, santafeopera.org). For more than half a century, the company has been presenting both canonical and innovative operas to audiences from around the world. The opera’s unique open-air setting blends seamlessly with the dramatic landscape — you can enjoy a breathtaking sunset or the occasional thunderstorm along with your opera. The season runs during July and August, and this year’s productions include Verdi’s Rigoletto; Daughter of the Regiment; Salome, Strauss’s 1905 adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s play; Mozart’s La Finta Giardiniera; and the world premiere of Jennifer Higdon’s Cold Mountain.
Back in the heart of town, the lively Railyard District is fast becoming a vibrant center of activity. Anchoring the area is the world-renowned contemporary art exhibit space SITE Santa Fe (1606 Paseo de Peralta, 505.989.1199, sitesantafe.org), which features year-round exhibitions of contemporary art with regional, national, and international significance. This year SITE celebrates its 20th anniversary with 20 Years/20 Shows, a yearlong series of exhibits and installations that change with the seasons. The summer collection features work by Dario Robleto, Harmony Hammond and Francis Cape, Ann Hamilton, Amy Cutler, and Janine Antoni and runs through early October. SITE is open Thursdays and Saturdays from 10 am to 5 pm, Fridays from 10 am to 7 pm, and Sundays from noon to 5 pm. General admission is $10; students and seniors $5; admission is free on Fridays and on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon.
Just across the street, the Santa Fe Farmers Market is held on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 7 a.m. to noon inside and around the pavilion at 1607 Paseo de Peralta. Vendors offer a wide variety of produce, locally made cheeses, and New Mexico–raised meats as well as arts and crafts. Musicians contribute to the inviting, festive ambience. When you’ve finished strolling through the market, stop in for lunch and a sample of the one of the many beers at Second Street Brewery, one of Santa Fe’s original microbreweries, where you can relax and enjoy the clean, fresh air on their shady patio.
If you need a break from the sunshine, hop across the tracks to the new Violet Crown Cinema (1606 Alcaldesa St., 505.216.5678, santafe.violetcrowncinema.com/), which shows popular and independent films on its 11 screens. Few things can spoil a nice meal more than having to rush through it to get to a movie on time, but here you to carry your meal — whether it’s a popcorn, a sandwich, tacos, or a pizza — to your seat, which will include a cup holder and a retractable tray built in to one of the arms. You can slurp down an ice-cold soda or bring along a frosty pint of beer — the theater offers a rotating draft selection of 30 brews and ciders — or a glass of wine.
Santa Fe’s newest hotel is the Drury Plaza, a sleek renovation of the city’s former downtown hospital that offers 182 modern, light-filled rooms; a rooftop swimming pool and bar with stunning mountain and sunset views; and Eloisa, the new outpost of John Rivera Sedlar, who left Los Angeles to return to his hometown of Santa Fe and offer new modern Northern New Mexico cuisine in a stylish contemporary space. Try the signature pastrami tacos and a Fresa cocktail. The hotel is located at the corner of Paseo de Peralta and Palace Avenue (800-378-7946; druryplazasantafe.com; eloisasantafe.com).
Chef Estevan Garcia, Sedlar’s onetime partner and beloved for his years at the helm of Café San Estevan, has also made a comeback at his eponymous restaurant at the Hotel Chimayó (125 Washington Ave., 505.930.5363, http://www.hotelchimayo.com/estevan), where he serves artful but hearty regionally inspired dishes at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Don’t overlook the restaurant’s refreshing balcony, which overlooks Washington Street and is enveloped by the leafy branches of tall trees.
Across town at the Four Diamond–rated Eldorado Hotel (309 West San Francisco Street, 505.988.4455, eldoradohotel.com) has added the Cava Lounge, designed to be a “community living room and meeting space.” The short menu includes foods inspired by the Basque region of Spain and South America along with an array of wines and well-considered cocktails. Live music is featured many nights of the week.
Hiking is an ideal way to work up an appetite (or to work off last night’s dinner), and the majestic Sangre de Cristos offer some fine trails with views of Santa Fe, the Rio Grande Valley, and other mountain ranges in the distance. The extensive Dale Ball Trail System is nestled amid thousands of acres of piñon and juniper woodlands. As you hike the more than 30 miles of connected trails, you might spy cottontail rabbits, jackrabbits, owls, piñon and Steller’s jays, coyotes, or even bobcats and mountain lions. Park and access the Dale Ball Trails on Hyde Park Road, three miles northeast of downtown; on Upper Canyon Road, three miles east of Santa Fe; or the Cruz Blanco Trailhead, southeast of town. Parking is free.
Regardless of where you stay and how far you venture, you’ll almost certainly find yourself on the Plaza, the heart of the city. Some of the best tacos and burritos in the city are served by El Chile Toreado. You can visit their original location at 950 W. Cordova Road (505.500.0033), but the Medina family now has an outpost — a wooden food cart — right on the Plaza. Their breakfast burritos and carnitas are revered citywide, but whatever you order, be sure to top it with El Chile Toreado’s mystifyingly delicious green sauce. After that, relax and enjoy a view of the goings-on at Draft Station (60 E San Francisco St. 505.983.6443, draft-station.com), where a rotating selection of beers from a number of local microbreweries is on tap and a fantastic balcony overlooks the Plaza.