A guide to Santa Fe’s art districts 

A huge draw to Santa Fe is its incredible art scene. Santa Fe hosts art fairs and festivals throughout the year, and it’s home to over 12 museums and numerous galleries. Santa Fe is the third largest art market in the US after New York and LA, and it has the highest concentration of galleries of any city its size. And most of those galleries are packed within a two-mile radius, making it an incredible destination for art enthusiasts to explore on foot.

Here’s a brief overview of Santa Fe’s arts districts, but each one is worth exploring in depth while you’re here. 

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Canyon Road
Canyon Road is perhaps Santa Fe’s most famous art district, and understandably so. It’s been a hub for creative types since the early twentieth century, and as home to over 80 galleries, it makes for fun outing that appeals to almost everyone. We love Canyon Road, and it’s the focus of our most popular tour, the Canyon Road Quickie

Last week, we shared five reasons to love Canyon Road, as well as some Canyon Road history, so head over there for more information about this beautiful neighborhood. We’ve also put together a short Canyon Road Cheat Sheet of tips for visiting Canyon Road – covering everything from parking and restrooms to restaurant recommendations – that you can snag for free by signing up for our newsletter at the end of this post.

The Plaza
The area around Santa Fe’s historic Plaza is perhaps more well known for its retail shops and restaurants than its galleries, but it’s actually home to quite a few fabulous art spaces. You just have to poke around a bit and maybe even venture up a staircase or two to find some tucked-away venues. 

In the Plaza area, you’ll find lots of figurative artwork that's a bit more traditional in style, but in a good variety of media. There are some excellent galleries for painting and sculpture in the area. Other spaces specialize in art jewelry, pottery, and photography.

Our Discover Downtown tour highlights the Plaza area, showcasing some of its unique and off-the-beaten-path art spaces. We also know a couple of artists who have studios in the area, so if you’re interested in arranging a studio visit, give us a shout.

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As you explore the Plaza, don’t forget to wander up Lincoln to Marcy, a pretty little street that’s filled with more galleries (a few of which specialize in New Mexican modernism), specialty shops like Design Warehouse and Cheesemongers, and cute eateries such as La Boca. It’s just a tiny bit off the beaten path, though, so visitors often miss it. 

Local tip: On the Plaza, like in the rest of downtown Santa Fe, public restrooms are hard to find. (It’s really kind of a problem.) Your best bet is the Convention Center, on the corner of Marcy Street and Grant Avenue. You have to kind of mosey through the Center to find the restrooms, but they’re nice and clean. The Convention Center is not right on the Plaza, but it’s just a short walk away, and you’ll also find ample garage parking and a Tourism Santa Fe Visitors’ Center there. 

The Railyard
The Railyard Arts District, part of the historic Railyard, is home to several galleries. Most of these are housed in sleek, warehouse style spaces evocative of the Railyard’s industrial past. And as you might guess, the work is largely contemporary and often a bit sleeker and edgier than what you might find on the Plaza and Canyon Road. 

The Santa Fe Railyard is also home to SITE Santa Fe, a cutting-edge space dedicated to contemporary artwork, Warehouse 21Santa Fe Clay, the Museum of Encaustic Art, as well as the Jean Cocteau Cinema, owned by George R R Martin, and the Violet Crown Cinema, which provides a posh movie-going experience (think smaller theaters, comfier seating, a full menu, and beer and wine on tap).

Courtesy of Santa Fe CVB

Courtesy of Santa Fe CVB

Finally, the Railyard is also where you’ll find the famed Santa Fe Farmers’ Market. When creating a tour of this area, we wanted to highlight both the Farmers' Market and the galleries – a seemingly tricky task, but our guide Liz designed a unique tour that seamlessly weaves together these different aspects of the Railyard experience.

If you’re here on a Saturday, definitely try to catch her Farm to Canvas tour for an immersive, hands-on exploration of this arts district.

Local tip: Again, restrooms are important! Look for them at the Farmers’ Market pavilion during market hours. Don’t miss the Railyard Park, and be sure to check out the events calendar to see what’s happening while you’re in town.

Baca Street
Technically an extension of the Santa Fe Railyard, the Baca street area was once a coal and fuel storage yard for the Denver & Rio Grande and New Mexico Central railways. Today part of the neighborhood retains much of that industrial feel, with airy warehouse-style structures that now house shops, restaurants, studios, and other retail spaces. Further north, Baca Street is mostly residential and lined with historic adobe homes. 

There aren’t as many art spaces here as there are on Canyon Road, near the Santa Fe Plaza, or even in the Railyard, but you will find a bit of everything: glass blowing at Liquid Light Glass (try to catch a demo if you go – it’s pretty mesmerizing!), hands-on classes and workshops at Baca Street Pottery, unique vintage clothing and local artwork at Art.i.fact, and tasty eats at Counter Culture Cafe.

Siler Rufina Nexus
Yet another area that was once largely industrial, the neighborhood near the intersection of Siler Road and Rufina Street has recently seen an influx of arts spaces and creative projects. Meow Wolf has everyone talking about The House of Eternal Return, an interactive art installation that feels a bit like a psychedelic funhouse. The project was backed by George R R Martin and combines arts and entertainment in a super creative way: the installation doubles as a venue for world-class musicians. 

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Guests on tours often ask me if Meow Wolf is worth a visit. The short answer: yes. It’s definitely unique, and you could at least squeeze in a short visit. While many people spend hours exploring the installation, I always find an hour to be plenty. Talk about sensory overload! If you’re visiting with kids, they’ll definitely love it, although the experience may be a bit much for younger children. If you’re visiting with a group of adults, they’ll enjoy it, too.

The Siler-Rufina district is also home to 5. Gallery, the Adobe Rose Theater, and Teatro Paraguas, along with several eateries including Duel Brewing and the Rufina Taproom.

Have fun exploring!

Five reasons to love Canyon Road

When I suggest to Santa Fe locals that they check out our Canyon Road Quickie tour, it never fails: they sigh and say that they’ve seen it all already, or they chuckle and declare that they avoid Canyon Road at all costs. 

Indeed, Canyon Road doesn’t have the best reputation among Santa Feans. We tend not to go gaga for borderline gaudy landscapes and giant bear sculptures. That all can feel a bit cliche and redundant after a while. 

But after spending hours touring Canyon Road over the past two years, I’ve developed a huge soft spot for it. Not only is it quintessentially Santa Fe; it also offers a more varied and nuanced experience than one might think. And almost always, the locals who do hop on one of our tours are surprised to find an art venue or two that they’ve never visited. 

Emmi Whitehorse's work can be viewed on Canyon Road. Courtesy of Chiaroscuro Contemporary.

Emmi Whitehorse's work can be viewed on Canyon Road. Courtesy of Chiaroscuro Contemporary.

This historic arts district may be rooted in tradition, but it is steadily evolving and offers an unforgettably rich visual experience to anyone visiting Santa Fe. Here are just five reasons to love Canyon Road.

The atmosphere
Canyon Road is undeniably charming. The galleries are housed in low, rambling, historic adobe homes; the sidewalks are lined with vibrant hollyhocks and coyote fences; the painted doors and windows are some of the most photogenic you’ve ever seen. There are hidden sculpture gardens to explore and patios to enjoy while sipping a glass of wine – or a margarita. And of course, there’s art everywhere! For those of us who seek out memorable sensory experiences, Canyon Road won’t disappoint.

Step back in time on Canyon Road

Step back in time on Canyon Road

The neighborhood feel
Canyon Road was largely residential at one time, and it has somehow managed to maintain that friendly neighborhood feel. As you saunter from gallery to gallery, you’ll see locals who live nearby out jogging, walking their pups, and riding bikes.

Wander inside any gallery space, and you’ll almost always be greeted with a smile. The aloof art associate is a rare breed here. Most everyone is warm, chatty, and as long as they’re not occupied with pressing business, they’re happy to geek out with you over the work on view. At this point, I’ve walked Canyon Road so many times I do feel like I’m visiting old friends. Often, before tours, I’ll pop in just to say hello and catch up with whoever’s on gallery duty.

The food
A couple of my favorite restaurants in Santa Fe are nestled at the end of Canyon Road – the perfect spot for a restorative snack or a happy hour indulgence after gallery going. The Teahouse, a local favorite, boasts over 150 different types of tea, along with tasty scones (gluten-free scones, even!) and other sweet treats. They also offer a full menu for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. 

Newer to the scene is Milad Persian Bistro, a cozy eatery that serves up delicious small plates and boasts a healthy wine list. Make your way over before it gets too cold to sit on the patio and grab some happy hour eats. 

Finally, for classic Canyon Road ambiance, hit the recently renovated El Farol. The oldest restaurant in Santa Fe now features a new menu and a freshly updated interior that highlights historic murals painted by the artists who lived, worked, and reveled on Canyon Road during the early 20th century. 

The cozy dining room at Milad. Courtesy of Milad Persian Bistro.

The cozy dining room at Milad. Courtesy of Milad Persian Bistro.

The artwork
Now, I’m going to be honest here: not every artwork is created equal, and that’s true on Canyon Road too. A local once told me that at least it’s “good bad art,” meaning that while the subject may be cliche, the technique is alright. But I’ve seen my share of technically questionable work on Canyon Road, too.

That said, Canyon Road is home to some amazing stuff. Where else can you see an exquisite Thomas Moran watercolor or a buttery Edward S. Curtis goldtone photograph, lithographs by Marc Chagall, classic black-on-black pottery by Maria Martinez, contemporary sculpture by Rose B. Simpson, and cutting-edge computer and digital art all within a couple of blocks?

Playing with digital art at Art House on Canyon Road

Playing with digital art at Art House on Canyon Road

The variety of work on Canyon Road is inspiring – and perfect for family and group outings. Canyon Road is home to over 80 galleries, so there’s truly something for everyone.

The challenge is finding the good stuff! But that’s why we created our signature Canyon Road Quickie tour.

The pace
Some visitors to Santa Fe set aside an afternoon to "do" Canyon Road. I feel like that's not the best approach, even if you only have a limited amount of time to explore the area. Part of what makes Canyon Road so special is that, if you let it, it encourages you to slow down and enjoy yourself.

I know, I know – when you see all of those galleries, the panic sets in and you feel like you have to see everything. I can almost guarantee that you'll have an even better time if you saunter. Listen to what your surroundings are telling you. That historic sidewalk? You'll trip at least once if you hustle. Those oh-so-picturesque doors and windows? Go ahead – stop and snap a photo. That almost-secret garden? Wander in and sit for a moment. Investigate open gallery doors; wander down alleyways. Take a moment to sit and savor a drink on a patio, or to stop and watch an artist at work. 

For some of us, it can be a real challenge to slow down, but Canyon Road is the perfect place to practice a little mindfulness and stop and smell the roses – figuratively and, sometimes, literally. And, if you need a little more encouragement, check out our Canyon Road Cheat Sheet and get inspired. (Get the Cheat Sheet by signing up for our newsletter at the end of this post!)

A quintessential Canyon Road vignette

A quintessential Canyon Road vignette

A final note on Canyon Road's history
Here’s the thing – while scenic and picturesque, Canyon Road also carries a long history of cultural and economic displacement, and we always try to acknowledge this on our tours of the area. 

The brief, CliffsNotes version of Canyon Road’s history goes a little something like this:

Originally, it was a trail dating to the 13th century that lead from Ogha Po'oge, a pueblo located in the area of present-day Santa Fe, into the mountains.

After 1610, when Santa Fe was founded by Pedro de Peralta, Spanish colonists began building an irrigation ditch (Acequia Madre, which still flows today), small homes, and agricultural gardens along the trail.

Fast foward to the mid 19th century: New Mexico became a United States territory in the aftermath of the Mexican-American War. More people came to town, including merchants who made use of the Santa Fe Trail. One of them, James L. Johnson, bought and expanded an old adobe home that’s still on Canyon Road today.

Toward the end of the century, the railroad arrived in Santa Fe, ushering in curious travelers. Many were artists and writers suffering from tuberculosis – the area’s dry, clean air was thought to be curative. Others came to visit friends. Enchanted by the light and landscape, some chose to stay, and several trickled onto Canyon Road. Some bought old adobe homes and restored them; others built their own, transforming the area into a rumble-tumble bohemian artist colony.

The next big change happened in the 1960s, when the area was rezoned and commercial art galleries began to move in at an increasingly rapid rate. Today, it’s pretty much all galleries, restaurants, and upscale vacation homes.

While you enjoy it for what it is today, also keep in mind that the galleries weren’t always there. Canyon Road – like Santa Fe, and like New Mexico – has a nuanced and complex history.

You can read more about Canyon Road's development as an arts district here.

For some insider tips on how to get the most out of your Canyon Road experience, sign up for our newsletter to get our free Canyon Road Cheat Sheet.

Give an Unforgettable Experience

We are pleased to announce that we are now offering gift cards, so you can share the Santa Fe Art Tours experience with someone significant in your life. Perhaps someone in your family or a close friend is coming to Santa Fe, and you’d like to gift them a memorable experience while they are here. Or, you might be a Santa Fe local looking for a unique gift idea for a friend, colleague, or partner. Our tours are popular among couples seeking a fun and engaging activity for a date as well as groups of friends getting together to experience something new. 

Gift cards may be applied to any of our standard group tours, including Canyon Road Quickie, A Matter of Taste, Discover Downtown, and our Kid-Friendly Canyon Road tour. They may also be applied to a private or custom tour that we tailor to the recipient. 

Our booking partner, FareHarbor, makes the process easy, but below we’ll walk you through the steps for purchasing and redeeming a gift card so you know exactly how it works.

First, you'll need to select the number of gift cards you want to purchase. Then, you can select the gift card amount. You may select "other" to type in any amount you wish.

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Please note that after choosing the amount, you'll enter the name and email address of the recipient – not yourself! 

That comes in the next step, where you will enter your payment and contact information under "Contact." Make sure to double check your email address and that of the recipient.

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Next, you'll be invited to add a personalized message to the recipient and send.

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Make sure to hit the "Email" button after you enter your message, or your gift card will not be sent. If you somehow miss this step, don't fret. You will be send an order confirmation email, and you can also complete this step via the confirmation email.

Once you send the gift card, the recipient will receive an email informing them of your gift, along with instructions on how to redeem the gift card. It will look like this:

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Then, all the recipient has to do is visit santafearttours.com and select the tour that they would like to book. On the payment page they will click "Add a gift card" and copy and paste the gift card code into the box.

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When they hit "Apply," the gift card amount will be deducted from their total. They can also give us a call if they run into any issues or would prefer to book a private or custom tour. 

Ready to share the Santa Fe Art Tours experience? Just click the button below to purchase your gift card!

2016 Santa Fe Studio Tour – don't miss these artists!

It's already the second week of June – can you believe it? – and the Santa Fe Studio Tour is just around the corner. New Mexico is well known for studio tours that take place in towns and cities all over the state. Santa Fe's tour falls in June, kicking off summer's countless cultural activities.

What is the Santa Fe Studio Tour?
The Santa Fe Studio Tour is an annual event that provides an opportunity for the public to visit the studios of over 80 Santa Fe artists. The tour is free and self-guided, so participants can pick any number of studios and see paintings, photography, sculpture, jewelry, ceramics and other work.

The 2016 Santa Fe Studio Tour takes place the last two weekends in June. On Friday, June 17, from 5 pm-8 pm, there is an artists reception at Santa Fe University of Art & Design. From June 18-19, the studios will be open from 10 am-5 pm, and the Preview Gallery will be open as well. From June 25-26, just the studios will be open from 10 am-5 pm.

Keep in mind that most of the studios are not within walking distance of downtown Santa Fe, so you’ll need transportation in order to visit them. 

Which studios should you visit?
Although many artists participate in the tour, there isn’t necessarily a huge range of styles. If you look through this year's roster, you'll see a lot of saturated landscapes and whimsical subjects on view, and you won’t find much in the way of sleek conceptual work. That said, keep an open mind, do a little bit of exploring, and you may be pleasantly surprised. The beauty of the studio tour is that you can visit as many different studios as you want.

While many of Santa Fe's most sought after artists do not participate, there are still some incredible artists opening up their creative spaces to the public for the 2016 studio tour. Here is a list of highlights – you won't want to miss the work of these artists!

Lauren Mantecon
123A Camino Teresa
Lauren paints meditative and atmospheric abstractions – and she also teaches! We offer a tour and workshop package that you can check out here.

Melinda Tidwell and Jonathan Keeton
20 Vista Calabasas
Melinda makes collages in gorgeous color palettes; Jonathan paints striking landscapes and nocturnes.

Kristine and Colin Poole
1108 Calle Catalina
Kristine's life-size ceramic figures are incredible, and Colin's figurative paintings are just as stunning.

Sommers Randolph
1889 Conejo Dr.
Sommers specializes in stone sculpture – his craftsmanship is worth a look!

Linda Picos Clark
1401 Maclovia
Linda's process-driven, abstract paintings highlight form and color.

Martina de Avila
19 Arroyo Griego
Martina crafts unique pots made from local micaceous clay.

Karen Milstein
13 Blue Jay Drive
Another ceramicist working with micaceous clay, Karen also incorporates other natural materials, like weathered wood.

Robbi Firestone
621 Old Santa Fe Trail, Suite #16
Robbi's vibrant and expressive portraits capture the inner spirit of her subjects.

For a complete listing of participating artists, visit santafestudiotour.com or download the 2016 Santa Fe Studio Tour catalog. Santa Fe Art Tours is not scheduling any regular tours of the studios on the Santa Fe Studio Tour, but if you are interested in step-on guide services to select studios or other guided tour options, please contact us!  


Santa Fe Art Tours on ArtBeat Radio

Last Thursday I had the pleasure of being a guest on ArtBeat, a local radio show that explores happenings in the visual arts in Santa Fe, together with Kathleen Richards from the Carl & Marilyn Thoma Art Foundation. It was so much fun talking with host Kathryn Davis about Santa Fe Art Tours and Canyon Road. If you'd like to find out more about the SFAT approach and one of the inspiring galleries we visit, you can stream the interview online! A big thanks to Kathryn for her enthusiastic support of the Santa Fe arts community and to Kathleen for sharing about Art House and Santa Fe Art Tours.


About ArtBeat: Listen to art on the radio with art historian Kathryn M Davis. Specializing in modern and contemporary American art, Kathryn is an arts writer, editor, curator, and educator and is owner/president of ArtBeat Associates, an independent organization for cultural tourism. She chooses her guests from the Santa Fe community of extraordinary individuals in the arts.

About the Thoma Art Foundation: The Carl & Marilyn Thoma Art Foundation recognizes the power of the arts to challenge and shift perceptions, spark creativity and connect people across cultures. Art House is the Foundation's exhibition space in Santa Fe and is located at 231 Delgado Street. 

Five Fun & Romantic Activities in Santa Fe

Since Valentine's Day is just a few days away, I thought I'd put together a list of some romantic activities to do in Santa Fe, just in case you're lucky enough to be spending the weekend here! In compiling this list, I focused on unique activities that you might not think of immediately when planning a date night, but that provide a shared experience that can only bring you closer and create some awesome memories. 

While this list was created with romance in mind, these activities would also be fun to do with friends or family, anytime of the year – not just during Valentine's Day weekend. 

Learn How To Paint...

...Or just have fun exploring the medium! At Santa Fe Art Classes, Robbi Firestone leads fun and intuitive two-hour paint sessions that include all materials. You can join a group class, or if you're wanting some extra attention, book a private class. For a more in-depth exploration of various materials and media, Lauren Mantecon offers private art two-hour workshops that include wine and chocolate.

Play With Clay

Getting your hands a little dirty can be super sexy, especially when you're with your special someone. (Ghost, anyone?) There's something about playing with clay and learning to guide and shape it that is incredibly grounding and sensuous. It's also a ton of fun! Local clay artist Ginny Zipperer offers private pottery workshops that include instruction, all materials, and shipping of your fired and finished work. 

"Four Hands" by Dwayne

"Four Hands" by Dwayne


Tour Canyon Road Galleries

Looking at art can be such a meaningful and memorable experience. Our gallery tours make use of conversation and close-looking activities to encourage participants to discover more about art and connect with each other. If you're here on February 13, check out our special Canyon Road tour and wine tasting – a fun and cultured way to spend the afternoon before heading out to a romantic dinner. 

Connect In Mind, Body, & Spirit

So many possibilities here! Couples tarot, astrology, and intuitive readings – Santa Fe's got 'em all, plus life coaches, breath and movement masters, meditation retreats, and incredible experiential art installations. For an especially romantic experience to help you feel connected to your partner, Joshua Fabia at School of Self can create a guided meditation and (strictly professional) partnered massage session just for you – so you'll learn skills and techniques that will help you connect with each other even after your Santa Fe experience ends.

Be Adventurous

Santa Fe has a lot to offer if you're looking for a little adventure – hiking, skiing, snowshoeing (although the temperatures are on the rise – at least this week!) – but the one adventure outing I would love to take with my significant other is a tour of New Mexico's beautiful scenery in a Pinzgauer. Santa Fe Walkabouts offers several tour options in these unique military vehicles. Just make sure to bundle up and cuddle up while you're on (or off) the road! 

Touring new mexico in a pinzgauer. photo by santa fe walkabouts.

Touring new mexico in a pinzgauer. photo by santa fe walkabouts.


Have fun and enjoy!