Santa Fe: Walking back in time: Canyon Road- galleries, shops, restaurants, a sense of time and place

This is part 3 of a series on self-guided walking tours of Santa Fe. Read part 1 and part 2.

“How do you get to Canyon Road?” is a question frequently asked by people visiting Santa Fe. And rightly so; in a city of over 200 galleries, this historic street boasts the largest concentration. Before the economic hiccup in the fall of 2008, Santa Fe, with a population of around70,00 people was the third largest art-market in the US, behind New York and LA. For a city this size that statistic is startling. A walking tour of Santa Fe would not be complete without a stroll up this almost mile-long street.

Ela Zaguan Canyon Road Santa Fe

Entrance to the historic El Zaguan on Canyon Road, Photo/Steve Collins

The street, one of the oldest in Santa Fe, teems with history. There is one historic building after another. The Territorial-style El Zaguan, circa 1850, is about halfway up the road. The house, now home to an artist in residence program, is named for its long, interior breezeway. It’s been a refuge for artists since the 1920s. Visitors are welcome; the building and lush gardens are open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and you can also visit the garden on Saturdays.

There’s a common misconception that southwestern art dominates the Santa Fe gallery scene. The truth is, while there is some “southwestern” and a lot of world-class Native American art, the galleries represent diverse genres and artists from around the country and the world. The Santa Fe Gallery Association has a listing of galleries by category, on their website.

Ventana Gallery Santa Fe

Ventana Gallery is in an old schoolhouse dating to 1906, Photo Steve Collins

Friday nights are traditionally the time art show openings are held in galleries around town. There’s usually a few up on Canyon Road, especially in high season (Memorial Day through mid-October) and holiday weekends . It’s fun to amble up the road and pop into the ones that interest you. Frequently, wine (and non-alcoholic beverages) and hors d’ oeuvres are served; sometimes there’s even live music. Often, the featured artist is on hand to greet guests and talk about the work on view. It’s always a great place to people-watch. In warmer weather, the openings spill out onto the street and there’s a festive atmosphere up and down the road.

Geronimo Cayon Road

Geronimo, Canyon Road, Photo Steve Collins

Canyon Road is more than just galleries. There is an eclectic collection of shops and two of the city’s most popular upscale dining establishments, Geronimo and The Compound call the historic street home. El Farol, close to the top of the road, has been called the oldest restaurant in town. The truth is, they’ve been serving up tapas there since 1968, but there’s been a restaurant in that building since 1835. Most nights they have live music and they host a weekly Flamenco evening.

Christmas Ever on Canyon Road

Farolitos lit on Christmas Eve on Canyon Road photo Steve Collins

If you’re fortunate enough to be in Santa Fe on Christmas Eve, Canyon Road is the place to be. The street (and surrounding ones) is closed to traffic and people abound; it may seem like the whole town is there. Farolitos (paper bags filled with sand with a candle on top) line the street and there are piñon bonfires (luminarias) here and there. The scent of the burning wood perfumes the air. People visit with friends, spontaneously break into carols and generally have a good time. Some stores and galleries are open for last minute shopping; some offer hot coco or cider to take the chill off. From here, people head to dinner and midnight Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis de Assisi.

If you want to get a sense of this historic city, add a walking-tour of Canyon Road to your itinerary and savor the art and history of this centuries-old street.

Read Part One and Part Two of this series.

If you are interested in a private tour of the the historic Plaza area, Canyon Road or any other place in Santa Fe, our travel planning and tour business, The Santa Fe Traveler can  design a personalized for you.

Authors’ note: As a former hotel concierges and owners of a travel concierge and trip-planning business in Santa Fe, the writers may have been guests of business or services mentioned in posts on this site. While these experiences have not influenced us in any way, this information is provided in the spirit of full disclosure.


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One Response to “Santa Fe: Walking back in time: Canyon Road- galleries, shops, restaurants, a sense of time and place”

  1. Charles Higgins
    February 22, 2019 at 10:08 pm #

    Very cool stuff..thanks..


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