Santa Fe is a hot spot even when it’s cold. The winter air is crisp – not a bone-chilling, damp cold, but dry and generally sunny. When it does snow, Santa Fe turns into a magical, snow-globe scene with icy crystals sparkling in the light of thousands of farolitos.
Piñon smoke scents the air. Santa Fe, romantic in the summer, becomes even more intimate in the winter; it’s the Season of Lights, thanks to the glowing lanterns lining the rooftops. (Farolitos and luminarias are the same thing, but natives use the traditional term.)
If shopping is your bag, you’re in the right place. Boutiques abound and art is king. With more than 100 galleries, exploration of Canyon Road galleries could consume several days, but Edmond residents Bob and Kathy Thomas, veteran art collectors, suggest several of their favorites: The Nedra Matteucci Galleries specializes in historic paintings, including works by Taos Society artists, sculpture, pottery, jewelry and contemporary western works. The Meyer Galleries features contemporary representational works; Manitou Galleries has locations on Canyon Road and in downtown Santa Fe; and the well-respected Acosta-Strong also has a sister gallery in Oklahoma City. Sculpture and modern/contemporary works are on display at Patricia Carlisle Fine Art, which represents David Pearson, sculptor of several works in the Edmond Public Art collection.
For contemporary art, the Railyard Arts District is a choice destination. The Blue Rain Gallery, another favorite of the Thomases, includes contemporary Native American and regional contemporary paintings, Pueblo pottery, sculptures, glass art and southwest jewelry – or check out Evoke, named one of the top three contemporary galleries for 2016 by readers of the local alt pub Santa Fe Reporter.
The big news this year is that the annual Winter Indian Market has been moved to Dec. 16-18 at La Fonda. Check the hotel site for special packages.
For museum junkies, Santa Fe has plenty to satisfy. At the New Mexico History Museum, the prime exhibit is actually a whole building – the historic Palace of the Governors, the oldest government building in the nation. That, with the modern addition, covers stories of the area from the earliest native inhabitants to contemporary times.
Take a trip to Museum Hill, southeast of downtown, to find The Museums of Spanish Colonial Art, Indian Arts and Culture and International Folk Art. And no trip to Santa Fe would be complete without a stop at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, with a collection covering more than 80 years of the artist’s works.
Almost a dozen other museums draw visitors to their exhibits, as well. There’s even a bug museum – one I’ve managed to miss.
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• Downhill skiing: a wintertime must in Santa Fe
• Strings of dried peppers are popular as decorations, as well as cooking ingredients.
• For more than six decades, Native American artists have sold their wares under the portal of the Palace of the Governors. The vendor program assures buyers that the works are authentic to the artist and his or her tribe.
• Trees in the historic Plaza are decorated for the Season of Lights.
In terms of eating and sleeping, there’s nothing bare about the variety of choices in Santa Fe. The historic La Fonda, right in the middle of the Plaza’s activity, is my favorite stay.
Hand-crafted chandeliers, tin and copper lighting fixtures, colorful tiles and handmade furniture take guests back in time while they are pampered with every modern convenience. And the rooftop Bell Tower Bar is the perfect spot to watch the sun set.
North of Santa Fe is the Hilton Buffalo Thunder Resort and Casino, owned by the Pojoaque Pueblo. Amenities include a golf course, spa and a great collection of Native art. It’s handy to the excellent Poeh Cultural Center and Museum, and would be convenient for attending the Pueblo’s Night Dances, Vespers and Procession on Dec. 11, Our Lady of Guadalupe Feast Day (Dec. 12) or the Kings Day celebrations (Jan. 6). For information about Pojoaque Pueblo events, call 505.455.3334.
As for eating spots, great options abound. For New Mexican cuisine, some prefer The Shed, but I like its sister restaurant, La Choza, better. For a wider selection of entrees, Edmond foodies Jerri and Terry Dillon recommend the Tune-Up Café, which offers an eclectic menu. Jerri says the flat-iron steak is the best she ever ate and “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” featured their El Salvadoran pupusas. For breakfast, the Dillons give all their thumbs up for the Chocolate Maven. This spot is a great place to kick-start your day.
To end the day, the Dillons suggest a stop at Vanessie’s Lounge, where Doug Montgomery rules over the Piano Bar. A blend of Liberace with a bit of Borge thrown in, Montgomery entertains guests with R&B, show tunes, jazz and even the occasional classics several nights a week. Check the schedule and get there early.
Santa Fe is the whole package tied up with a bow. And, if you’re a skier, toss in Ski Santa Fe, 10,350 feet in elevation, with lessons for all levels and 79 trails. All this fun – and it’s just an eight-hour drive from Oklahoma City. What are you waiting for?
Dec. 9 Christmas at the Palace, 5:30–8 p.m., a free family event including hot cider, cookies, live music, piñatas, crafts, Mr. and Mrs. Claus and more
Dec. 11 Las Posadas, 5:30–7 p.m., a traditional candlelight procession around Santa Fe Plaza with a few added surprises – stay for cookies and carols afterward
Dec. 16–18 Winter Indian Market, La Fonda
Dec. 16–Jan. 1 (closed Dec. 24-25) GLOW 2016, Santa Fe Botanical Garden – winter lights, children’s activities, Santa, live entertainment
Dec. 24 Canyon Road Farolito Walk: farolitos and luminarias light the way while open galleries host guests with hot drinks and traditional biscochitos
Dec. 24 Noche Buena: Midnight mass at the Cathedral Basilica of St Francis of Assisi
Dec. 25 Community Menorah Lighting, 3 p.m., downtown plaza
Dec. 31 New Year’s Eve on the Plaza, 10:30 p.m. with live music and a digital media/light show countdown
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Tree lights by Jack Parsons | peppers by Elaine Warner | Palace of the Governors by Chris Corrie | Skier by Lee Klopfer