Best Art Collective
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
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 santafeartistsmarket.com
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
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.
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.
“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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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. evangeloscocktaillounge.com
Best Lecture Series
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 bandcamp.com.
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
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
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 Body, Nightmare on Elm Street 2 and The Babadook during Pride last month? Brilliant.
418 Montezuma Ave., (505) 466-5528
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
“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
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
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