5 best reasons to visit Santa Fe this summer

Santa Fe has a lot of special annual events throughout the year, but summer really shines. If you’re looking for something other than the natural beauty, art, history and culture of the area to build your visit around, Here are five 2017 summer happenings that we think are some of the best reasons to visit Santa Fe this summer.

Santa Fe Opera

best things to do in Santa Fe this summer - Santa Fe Opera, photo Robert Godwin, courtesy Santa Fe Opera

Santa Fe Opera, photo/Robert Godwin, courtesy Santa Fe Opera

The Santa Fe Opera celebrates its 61st season this summer. Every year opera lovers from around the US, and even the world, head for The City Different to hear world-class opera. The contemporary opera house, which looks a bit like it’s poised to take off, is partially enclosed and partially open to the elements. One of the highlights of a visit is watching the sun set through the opening behind the stage. If a thunderstorm hits during a performance you’re in for an unforgettable experience. Nothing adds to the drama of an opera like flashes of lightning followed by loud claps of thunder. While you may gasp, the pros on the stage don’t miss a beat. One of the highlights of the 2017 season is the world-premier of The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs. The highly anticipated opera is predicted to be a sell-out. Last summer’s world premier of Cold Mountain was such a success they added an extra performance to meet the ticket demand.

best reasons to visit Santa Fe this summer - People take opening-night tailgating at the Santa Fe Opera seriously! photo Steve Collins

People take opening-night tailgating at the Santa Fe Opera seriously! photo/Steve Collins

Not a big opera fan? Choose Die Fledermaus, Johann Strauss’ light operetta. The Santa Fe Opera is about more than music. It’s an experience. Start with dinner. Tailgating is a long-standing tradition at the SFO. Opening nights are especially festive. People set out anything from a simple take-out dinner on a card table to elaborate spreads, replete with linen, flowers, candlelight and gourmet food. Dress may be anything from black tie to jeans, some even don costumes inspired by the evening’s opera.. It’s an event! Or if you’re not into DIY, book a table for the Opera Buffet or pre-order a boxed picnic dinner to be picked up onsite. A night at the opera, Santa Fe-style is a memorable experience!

best things to do in Santa Fe this summer - The prop studio at the Santa Fe Opera, photo/Steve Collins

The prop studio at the Santa Fe Opera, photo/Steve Collins

Can’t make it to a performance? Take the SFO’s behind the scenes tour. They’re offered at 9am Monday to Friday from early June to late August.  The last Friday of June, July and August they offer the Opera Ranch Tour takes visitors to see the beautifully landscaped grounds. There is a charge for these tours.

International Folk Art Market

best reasons to visit Santa Fe this summer - A colorful retablo from Mexico at Folk Art Market, photo Billie Frank

A colorful retablo from Mexico at Folk Art Market, photo/Billie Frank

The 14th annual International Folk Art Market, the largest market of its kind, will bring people from around the world to Santa Fe the second weekend of July. It’s the first of Santa Fe’s big three summer markets. The others are Spanish Market and Indian Market (see below). The 2017 Market will be held on Saturday July 15th and Sunday, July 16th with a benefit Market Preview on Friday, July 16th.  Folk artists from around the world come to market their handcrafts. Museum Hill’s Milner Plaza becomes a colorful foreign bazaar as craftspeople, many in native dress, set up their wares under tents. The market is very important to many of these vendors. They can often make enough money to last them for the following year. Some of the artists are part of cooperatives who give back to their communities. Artists have used money earned at the Market to feed their families, add glass windows, plumbing and other conveniences to their homes. Things we take for granted may be luxuries to them. There are as many uses for the money earned as there are artisans. Besides traditional folk art, some artists bring more contemporary items; art is always evolving. Besides folk art, the market offers international entertainment and a food area where local food trucks and vendors offer foods of the world. Parking on Museum Hill is limited so attendees must take shuttle buses to the site. These run from the PERA parking lot on Old Santa Fe Trail just north of Paseo de Peralta or the South Capital Railrunner station off just south of Cordova between Cerrillos Road and St. Francis Drive. Shuttles run continuously and are free.  If you want to go when the Market’s less crowded consider the Friday night benefit preview or early bird shopping on Saturday morning.

Insider tips

  • Buy tickets in advance.  The market can sell out. You can also get into the market more quickly with ticket in hand.  if you have your ticket in hand.
  • Take the shuttle from the South Capital Railrunner station; there’s more parking and fewer people use it.

Spanish Market

best reasons to visit Santa Fe this summer -- Bultos and santos at Spanish Market photo Steve Collins

Bultos and santos at Spanish Market photo/Steve Collins

The 66th Spanish Market, the second of Santa Fe’s big summer art markets, takes place on Saturday July 29th and Sunday, July 30th.  The Santa Fe Plaza will come alive with over 250 artists from New Mexico and Southern Colorado will display their traditional Spanish Colonial art for sale. Spanish Colonial art grew out of necessity. Trade in 17th century New Mexico was sporadic and expensive. If you needed something you had to make it. The craftspeople took pride in their work and made things to look good as well as to be functional. These arts have been passed down through generations of New Mexicans. Young artists, aged 7 to 17, are encouraged to carry on these arts and are an important part of the Market. You’ll see their work in the market’s emerging artists section. Also that weekend: Contemporary Hispanic Market. Artists of Hispanic descent working in more contemporary art forms set up their wares on Lincoln Avenue just north of the Plaza.

Indian Market

best things to do in Santa Fe this summer - Jody Narajano's prize-winning pottery photo Steve Collins

Jody Narajano’s prize-winning pottery, photo/Steve Collins

The 96th annual Santa Fe Indian Market sets up in the historic Plaza and the streets around it on Saturday, August 19th and Sunday, August 20th held in and around the historic Plaza. The event, the largest market of its kind in the world, is the busiest weekend in Santa Fe each year, bringing over 100K people. Some of the finest American Indian and First Nations artists participate in the juried show that takes from 7am to 5pm on Saturday and from 8am to 5pm on Sunday. The park and the streets around it are lined with tents displaying the artists’ work. Serious collectors from around the US and even the world attend this special event. The Friday preview, a ticketed event, is very popular with serious buyers. It’s their chance to view the prize-winning art and perhaps make buying decisions. Shopping at Indian Market here can be a competitive sport. The early bird really catches the worm! Some of the prize-winning artists and well-known collectable ones, already have lines at their booths when the Market opens. People have been known to camp out overnight or arrive pre-dawn to be first in line at a booth.

Besides the official Indian Market events, there are a number of art shows taking place before and during Indian Market to take advantage of the art collectors and dealers who are in Santa Fe for the Market. Shows include Objects of Art Santa Fe, the Antique American Indian Show and the Antique Indian and Ethnographic Art Show. It’s an amazing time to be in Santa Fe, but book early; Santa Fe hotels fill up.

Great summer museum exhibitions

best things to do in Santa Fe this summer - Hector Garcia, 1954, “Frida Kahlo Casket Leaving Bellas Artes,” photo/courtesy Throckmorton Fine Art

Hector Garcia, 1954, “Frida Kahlo Casket Leaving Bellas Artes,” photo/courtesy Throckmorton Fine Art

This summer there are four very special museum exhibitions that, IMO, are worth a trip to The City Different! Three are art shows and one looks at the hippie counterculture in post Summer of Love New Mexico.

Mirror, Mirror: Photographs of Frida Kahlo at the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art is a stunning and moving exhibition of over 50 photos of iconic Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo. The mostly black and white shots, from the collection of gallerist Spencer Throckmorton, chronicle her life from 1925 shortly after her life-changing accident, to her death in 1954. Curator, Penelope Hunter-Stiebel, has thoughtfully arranged the photos for maximum impact. In addition to the photos of Kahlo, her husband, muralist Diego Rivera, and her family and friends, the exhibition has color photos taken by Santa Fe photographer William Frej of Casa Azul, the Kahlo family’s Mexico City home. There’s also a room of colorful art by Spanish Market artists inspired by Kahlo. The show runs through October 29th.

best reasons to visit Santa Fe this summer -Fra Angelico, “The Annunciation”, © Museo Nacional del photo courtesy Museum of Spanish Colonial Arts

Fra Angelico, “The Annunciation”, © Museo Nacional del photo/courtesy Museum of Spanish Colonial Arts

Art in the park takes on new meaning at The Prado in Santa Fe exhibition. Ninety-two full-scale mounted reproductions of pieces from the famous Madrid museum are on view at Cathedral Park on the north side of the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis de Assisi. The works include copies of masterpieces from Spanish, Flemish, Dutch, French, and German masters from the 14th to 19th centuries. Some of the works on view: Fra Angelico’s The Annunciation, Titian’s Philip II, Hieronymous Bosch’s masterwork The Garden of Earthly Delights and Francisco de Goya’s The 3rd of May 1808 in Madrid. The show runs through October.

best things to do in Santa Fe this summer -

Rembrandt “A Clump of Trees in a Fenced Enclosure” Image ©The Trustees of the British Museum, courtesy New Mexico Museum of Art

The international debut of Lines of Thought: Drawing from Michelangelo to Now: from the British Museum opens at the New Mexico Museum of Art on Saturday, May 27th. Santa Fe is one of only two United States cities to present this exhibition. According to the museum’s website, “The exhibition examines the many ways artists have used drawing as a means of recording and provoking thought from the fifteenth century to today.” Featured artists include Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Albrecht Dürer, Piet Mondrian, Paul Cézanne, Pablo Picasso, Bridget Riley, Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore. The show runs through September 17th.

These art shows are part of part of the city’s year-long Santa Fe Celebrates Global Art and Culture 2017.

best reasons to visit Santa Fe this summer - Kitchen at New Buffalo, photo Seth Roffman, courtesy New Mexico History Museum

Kitchen at New Buffalo, photo/Seth Roffman, courtesy New Mexico History Museum

The New Mexico History Museum’s Voices of Counterculture in the Southwest, explores the influx of hippies, who migrated to Northern New Mexico during the late 60s and early 70s. It was a time of turmoil; the Vietnam War was splitting the country, the women’s movement was in its nascent days. During this time of change a number of communes sprung up in Northern New Mexico including Lama and New Buffalo near Taos and Dome City in Placitas. Easy Rider was shot in Taos and Las Vegas, NM. It was an exciting time in the Land of Enchantment! The show, which runs through February 11, 2019, draws on archival footage, oral histories, photography, ephemera and artifacts and “examines this cultural revolution and asks how these forms of rebellion inform the ways we think about contemporary social and political questions of what it means to be an engaged citizen.” If you were part of the hippie phenomenon or had parents who were or if you’re just curious about this important counterculture, you’ll enjoy this show.

And of course, Santa Fe is full of museums and galleries worth checking out.

Read more about Santa Fe’s summer of art.

Beyond the 5 best reasons to visit Santa Fe this summer

The oldest house in the US is in Santa Fe, photo Steve Collins

The oldest house in the US is in Santa Fe, photo/Steve Collins

While these are our five beat reasons to visit Santa Fe this summer, there are so many more reasons to bring you here both this summer and year-round. Santa Fe was recently awarded first place in the Sense of  Place category in the National Geographic World Legacy Awards. Their criteria for Sense of Place is “Recognizing excellence in enhancing cultural authenticity, including using vernacular architecture and design, support for the protection of historic monuments, archeological sites, indigenous heritage, and artistic traditions.” We have our own criteria and more reasons for visiting The City Different. No matter when you visit Santa Fe, you’ll be wowed. It’s just that kind of city.

What do you think are the best reasons to visit Santa Fe this summer?



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2 Responses to “5 best reasons to visit Santa Fe this summer”

  1. Ryan Biddulph
    May 18, 2019 at 10:31 am #

    Hi Billie,

    What a spread at that tailgate! I’d love the main event but the tailgate itself seems worthy of a visit. Gotta love doing it up big time before the show.


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