5 hot reasons to visit Santa Fe this summer

5 hot reasons to visit Santa Fe this summer was first published in April 2015. It was updated 6/18/2017.

Santa Fe is beautiful in summer. The sun shines brightly, the skies are a brilliant blue and frequent monsoon rains cool down the temperature. The city, known for its rich history, diverse cultures and colorful landscape offers a great escape any time of the year. We partnered with Expedia to share these five hot reasons to visit Santa Fe this summer.

The sound of music

Carmen at the Santa Fe Opera, photo/2014 © Ken Howard for The Santa Fe Opera

Carmen at the Santa Fe Opera, photo/2014 © Ken Howard for The Santa Fe Opera

Summer in Santa Fe means good music — much of it outdoors. There’s a diverse line-up of annual music events as well as one-time concerts that span a range of musical genres including opera, chamber music, jazz, folk, rock, world, Americana, and reggae. The world-class Santa Fe Opera is the biggest musical event of the summer. It’s been attracting opera aficionados and music lovers from around the United States and even the world since 1957. The venue, which appears in the last scene in the film Crazy Heart, presents five diverse operas each summer. The eclectic program usually includes one or two beloved favorites, an obscure work by a well-known composer, perhaps a more contemporary work or even a world or US premier. Other popular Santa Fe summer music events are Santa Fe Bandstand drawing folks to the historic plaza on summer evenings; St. John College’s Music on the Hill; the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival; the New Mexico Jazz Festival; and the Santa Fe Bluegrass and Old Time Music Festival. Read more about summer music in Santa Fe.

Summer art markets

International Folk Art Market

International Folk Art Market Santa Fe photo/Steve Collims

The Santa Fe International Folk Art Market sizzles in summer photo/Steve Collins

Santa Fe is known for its summer art markets which attract collectors from around the country and even the globe. The first summer market is the colorful International Folk Art Market. Attracting over 150 artisans from more than 50 countries, it’s a colorful international marketplace where many of the vendors are in their country’s native attire. It’s great to be able to talk to the creators about their work. The Friday night benefit preview party is a great way to get a jump on shopping while enjoying world music, munching on tasty tidbits and sipping a libation. Buy your preview tickets early; it sells out.

Spanish Market

Next up is Spanish Market showcasing Spanish Colonial arts that have been passed down through families for hundreds of years. The event, held in the historic Santa Fe Plaza, takes place the last full weekend in July. Almost all the art on view is created using the same tools, materials and techniques that have been used for centuries. A few years ago, the show relaxed a few of its rules, but the objective is still to keep these traditional arts dating to Spanish colonial New Mexcio alive. Visitors can view diverse genres including bultos (round carvings of saints), retablos (religious paintings), tinwork, weaving, furniture making and straw appliqué.

Indian Market

The annual Indian Market held the third weekend in August is Santa Fe’s largest annual event. Collectors, museums, shop buyers as well as the merely curious flock to The City Different each summer to see the best of the best at this juried sale. Other events have cropped up to take advantage of the well-heeled buyers who flock to this event. There are a range of other events including art and antique shows as well as special gallery events, fashion shows and film showings during Indian Market Week. In 2014, the Indigenous Fine Art Market debuted. Hotels book up months in advance as do restaurants. Plan ahead!

Museums and galleries

Sculpture by Native American sculptor Estella Loretto on display on Museum Hill,'s Milner Plaza photo/Steve Collins

Sculpture by Native American sculptor Estella Loretto on display on Museum Hill,’s Milner Plaza photo/Steve Collins

Santa Fe and Northern New Mexico have been attracting artists for over a century. There’s something about the light and the landscape that spoke to artists including Georgia O’Keeffe, Marsden Hartley, Gustave Baumann, and it still does. This year, Santa Fe celebrates the “Summer of Color.” Many of the city’s art museums and galleries have exhibitions that embrace this theme.

The city is home to a lot of working artists and over 200 galleries. Most are on historic Canyon Road but there are a number scattered around the downtown area as well as the Railyard District. Friday nights bring gallery openings year ‘round, but in summer, they are numerous. They are posted on the Santa Fe Gallery Association website as well as in Pasatiempo, the Friday magazine insert in the Santa Fe New Mexican, the city’s daily newspaper.

Summer of 2017 has some not-to-miss musuem shows.

Visit historic sites

Traditional hornos (wood-fired clay ovens) at El Rancho de las Golondrinas, photo/Steve Collins

Traditional hornos (wood-fired clay ovens) at El Rancho de las Golondrinas, photo/Steve Collins

Santa Fe, the oldest and highest (7,000 feet above sea level) capital city in the United States, has a few attractions that bill themselves as “the oldest in the country.” You can visit the Oldest House, San Miguel Chapel (the oldest church) and the Palace of the Governors, the oldest public building in continuous use in the USA. Get out of the city and visit cliff dwellings and ancestral pueblos that date back over 1,000 years. If you want to learn about life in Santa Fe during Spanish Colonial times, visit El Rancho de las Golondrinas, a living history museum. They also have a range of festivals on weekends throughout the summer.

The great outdoors

Hiking in the mountains near Santa Fe Joy C. Frank-Collins

A family hiking in the woods near Santa Fe photo/Joy C. Frank-Collins

Santa Fe, nestled between the Sangre de Christo and Jemez ranges of the Rockies, offers outdoor lovers a range of activities to keep them busy including hiking, camping, mountain biking, ballooning, horseback riding as well as water activities like river rafting, kayaking, paddle boarding and fly fishing, to keep them busy. There are also golf courses, tennis courts, and running trails.

A few suggestions for outdoor safety

  • Hike in the morning; summer afternoons can bring severe thunderstorms and flash flooding especially in canyons. It’s also cooler in the morning.
  •  Hike with a buddy, stay on the trail and let someone know where you’re headed.
  • Hire an experienced guide. In addition to knowing about the flora and fauna of the area, they know some of the best places to hike.
  • You can also arrange guides for biking and fishing.
  • Various companies offer rafting and balloon rides. Talk to a few to see which one is best for you.

Santa Fe travel offers diverse prospects all year. Summer brings great weather and a number of special annual events. It’s also the perfect time to take advantage of Santa Fe’s many outdoor dining options. Make your plans early as things can book up. The City Different is waiting for you. What are you waiting for?

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24 Responses to “5 hot reasons to visit Santa Fe this summer”

  1. Donna Janke
    April 27, 2015 at 8:22 am #

    I recently stopped in Santa Fe, but only for an overnight stay on my way home. I intend to come back sometime and really explore the place. It’s unlikely that will be this summer, but I would love to see the summer art markets.

    • Billie Frank
      April 27, 2015 at 2:37 pm #

      Should have given us a holler Donna! The summer art markets are wonderful as are all the other summer art events.

      • Donna Janke
        April 27, 2015 at 3:13 pm #

        If we’d been there longer, I’d have given you a holler. We arrived in the evening, very tired, and left the next morning. Next time, when we’re there longer, we’ll connect.

  2. michele Peterson (A Taste for Travel)
    April 27, 2015 at 9:33 am #

    Great tips! I’ve been caught in one of those summer afternoons with a sudden severe thunderstorm…scary stuff!

  3. Paula McInerney
    April 27, 2015 at 8:14 pm #

    Love music, art and history so this is my type of place

    • Billie Frank
      April 28, 2015 at 9:36 am #

      There’s so much of both and so much more. Santa Fe is a very rich city in so many ways.

  4. jenny@atasteoftravel
    April 28, 2015 at 3:54 am #

    I keep hearing a lot about Santa Fe and now I can see why. It looks such an interesting town with so much to do. I love the idea of all the different markets through the summer.

    • Billie Frank
      April 28, 2015 at 9:37 am #

      Santa Fe is a very special place. It has an amazing amount of resources for a small city.

  5. Betsy Wuebker | PassingThru
    April 28, 2015 at 1:30 pm #

    Would love to visit the galleries and historic sites. Such a wonderful place with a rich culture.

    • Billie Frank
      April 28, 2015 at 2:28 pm #

      It is. The galleries are wonderful representing a lot of genres. Contemporary art has a strong presence. There’s certainly a rich history and lots of sites that are only found in the southwest especially the ancestral pueblos.

  6. Irene S Levine
    April 28, 2015 at 2:59 pm #

    You are so fortunate to live in a city that seems to have beauties throughout the year!

    • Billie Frank
      April 29, 2015 at 8:49 am #

      We are and it does. We count our blessings every day.

  7. The Gypsynesters
    April 28, 2015 at 4:18 pm #

    More great reasons to visit one of our favorite cities. (Not that we needed any more.) Thanks!

  8. Carole Terwilliger Meyers
    April 28, 2015 at 4:47 pm #

    Great reasons to visit Santa Fe in summer. #1 for me next time is the opera. I’ve heard great things about it.

    • Billie Frank
      April 29, 2015 at 8:48 am #

      The opera is amazing. If you come in August you can hear the entire summer’s repertoire.

  9. A Cook Not Mad (Nat)
    April 30, 2015 at 6:36 am #

    Sound like five great reasons to me, especially El Rancho de las Golondrinas!

    • Billie Frank
      April 30, 2015 at 10:04 am #

      I love El Rancho too. The recreated Spanish Colonial era village is amazing and their weekend festivals all summer are fun and often informative.

  10. Lisa Chavis
    May 1, 2015 at 1:58 am #

    Love “The City Different” moniker for Santa Fe – looks like so much to do and explore. I would really enjoy the art markets – heck, I would enjoy all of it! 🙂

    • Billie Frank
      May 1, 2015 at 3:18 pm #

      It is different- come check it out, you will love it!

  11. Patricia
    May 29, 2015 at 8:40 am #

    I am coming…..to Santa Fe

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