Santa Fe Feature


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Art Galleries

Santa Fe's tourism office claims that the city has the third-largest art market in the country, trailing only New York City and Los Angeles. Granted, it's a little difficult to quantify this boast, but it seems absolutely plausible: the city has more than 200 esteemed art galleries, and a significant number of them carry museum-quality art, some of it with museum-quality prices. In few cities in the world are so many paintings, sculptures, photographs, and other artworks by so many iconic artists—dead and living—available. Even if you're not out to buy art, it's worth visiting some of Santa Fe's notable galleries just to admire it. As you might expect, it's easy to find Southwest, Spanish-colonial, Native American, and other art related to the area, but Santa Fe long ago broke out from its regional aesthetic and now represents artists of all genres and styles, from early-20th-century impressionism to African ethnography. Tree-shaded and narrow Canyon Road, which meanders gracefully up a hill on the East Side of Downtown, contains dozens of the city's galleries—it's great fun to stroll along here, ducking in and out of shops, especially on Friday, when many galleries have openings. However, more than a few locals-in-the-know write off Canyon Road as touristy and predictable and claim that the best galleries in Santa Fe lie elsewhere, mostly on the blocks around the Plaza and on Paseo de Peralta's eastern fringes. On just about any street you wander near the Plaza or east of it, you're likely to encounter acclaimed galleries.

Nightlife and the Arts

Santa Fe, especially come summer, is something of an arts powerhouse, its glittery reputation for performing-arts culture led by the presence of the internationally adored Santa Fe Opera. But the city also has a top-flight chamber music festival, world-class flamenco dancing, a fine ballet, respectable local theater, a couple of venues for arty films, and numerous spots to catch lectures and concerts or to partake of workshops. And although much of the activity takes place in summer, you can find performances of one kind or another year-round. As much as folks rave about the city's arts scene, they often complain about Santa Fe's nightlife options. But for a city its size, and one where visitors and locals head to bed early and get up early the next day, it really does hold its own. Several of the better restaurants in town have inviting bars or lounges, often with live music. And, similarly, some of the nightspots serve pretty good food. You won't find much in the way of massive warehouse discos and all-night revelry, but Santa Fe does have an intriguing mix of nightspots.


Just as Santa Fe's art scene has grown in focus from regional to international, the city's shopping options have also increased dramatically, with the strongest growth occurring in the hip Railyard District, a few blocks southwest of the Plaza. Here you can find small malls, such as the Design Center and Sanbusco Market Center, filled with stylish boutiques and shops carrying one-of-a-kind antiques, gifts, and clothing. While many stores specialize in the usual Southwest-influenced decorative items, a significant number feature housewares and collectibles from Asia, Africa, and Latin America—and it's the mix of these ethnic design influences with ones from this region that make up the vibrant and captivating Santa Fe style. Of course, the Plaza and the blocks around it may always be ground zero for retail—here you can find a real mix of authentic Indian and Hispanic arts and clothing, upscale independent and chain clothiers, fine rug and home-furnishings stores, and souvenirs stands of varying quality. Keep strolling east of the Plaza and on up Canyon Road, and you can find more of the same interspersed among the many art galleries. Shopping is a serious sport in this town, and prices tend to be higher than elsewhere in the state, but it's also a city where, with few exceptions, you get what you pay for. And don't be scared to buy something too big or delicate to fit in your suitcase—nearly every shop in Santa Fe ships items all around the globe.

Sports and the Outdoors

It's remarkable how many Santa Feans readily admit that they moved here because of the light and the mountains. For outdoorsy types, this combination of dry, sunny air, four distinct seasons, and breathtaking mountain and high-desert scenery—all easily accessible from Downtown—makes this city a bona fide recreation hub. In winter Santa Fe's a respectable ski town with impressive slopes a 20-minute-drive east of Downtown, with snowshoeing and cross-country skiing trails abounding for those who like being in snow at a different pace. In summer there are terrific off-road mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding, and bird-watching, as well as a highly regarded public golf course. Many of the top venues for these activities lie outside city limits, within a half-hour's drive.

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