Santa Fe in the Summer – Really?

Santa Fe in July and August—stifling heat, sand, desert, not much water, and maybe even some rattlesnakes—are you kidding?

Our son finally convinced us that Santa Fe was not like that at all, and that we should make the trip. He was correct.

On our first visit we flew to Albuquerque. When we left the Albuquerque Sunport (it is not called an airport), and stepped outside, we discovered the true definition of “summertime in the high desert”: 95 degrees.

But it was supposed to be a “dry heat”, right? In reality, it was, as the humidity was 42%, definitely an improvement over summertime humidity in Chicago.

We rented a car and drove north to Santa Fe.

What we learned in our 1-hour drive was that the temperature dropped 12 degrees, as we gained over 2,000 feet in elevation.

Maybe this wouldn’t be too bad after all, we thought.

Then we started to discover just some of what Santa Fe has to offer. After all, people have been flocking to this capital city in north central New Mexico during July and August for well over 60 years, so there must be a reason.

How about breath-taking scenery and sunsets, abundant museums, national parks and monuments, a whole host of wonderful and varied restaurants, hiking, and all kinds of outdoor activities?

And, if you like music, art, or history, you’re in for a real treat.

The Santa Fe Opera presents world-class opera in a truly unique and inspiring setting. During July and August, it is the destination for opera lovers, as almost all of the other opera houses throughout the world are dark.

The Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival brings together the finest musicians from all over the world to perform chamber music in all its forms. Performances are given during the lunch hour as well as in the early evening (allowing the opera lovers to also attend the opera that same evening).

For art lovers, Santa Fe is one of the top art centers in the Western Hemisphere – a local was once heard proclaiming that “except for New York City, Santa Fe has more art galleries than any other city in the world.” While you might not appreciate some of the different styles of art, you will quickly realize that all of the art is of high quality.

Conde Nast Traveler, in its 2017 Readers Choice Awards, asked its readers to list their favorite cities in the world for arts and culture.

Santa Fe, with a population of some 85,000, came in 5th behind Florence, Rome, Paris, and Kyoto, and ahead of Vienna, Venice, New York City, Barcelona and London!

So, there is lots to like.

This coming July (2019), we plan on revisiting Santa Fe—it will be our 8th consecutive annual trip!

A few of the highlights we have enjoyed:

Santa Fe Opera:

A few days after arriving, it was suggested that we tailgate before attending the Opera.

We had previously enjoyed tailgating, but only before local high school, college and professional football games.

What we found out is that tailgating at the Santa Fe Opera is at a whole different level.

Candelabra, china, crystal, fresh flowers, and linen table cloths and napkins, were all on display in the parking lots and adjacent picnic areas. The wine flowed freely, some wore expensive Stetson cowboy hats and Lucchese boots, and bolo ties, while many others were adorned with exquisite turquoise jewelry.

The performance of La Traviata was superb.

For some of the operas, the set design is open, allowing the audience to view the performance with the sun setting over the Jemenez Mountains as the backdrop. Spectacular.

Canyon Road: Offers a pleasant half-mile stroll to view over a hundred galleries, boutiques and restaurants. Everything from traditional to contemporary abstract works, sculptures (including wind sculptures), and jewelry can be found. While Canyon Road is “where the galleries are”, there are many additional galleries throughout downtown Santa Fe.

The Loretto Chapel: Take a peek at the Miraculous Spiral Staircase.

National Parks and Monuments:

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument: Located near the Cochiti Pueblo about 40 miles southwest of Santa Fe, just off of Interstate 25. The rock formations here are hard to describe—suffice it to say they are fabulous. A must see, and a great place to hike.

Suggested Day Trip: San Ildefonso Pueblo - Bradbury Science Museum - Bandelier National Monument: An absolutely gorgeous 43-mile drive from Santa Fe to the Bradbury Science Museum in Los Alamos.

San Ildefonso Pueblo: Not too far outside Santa Fe, and just off the highway leading to Los Alamos. The Pueblo, consisting of some 60,000 acres, dates back to 1300 A.D, and is known for its traditional polished black on black pottery with matte design.

Bradbury Science Museum: Admission is free. A good place to start is to watch the documentary/movie entitled The Town That Never Was. The museum contains approximately 60 interactive exhibits highlighting the World War II Manhattan Project, as well as the historical and current projects of the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Lunch: Enjoy lunch in Los Alamos. Suggestion: the Blue Window restaurant, and reservations are recommended.

Bandelier National Monument: Located approximately 19 miles from Los Alamos on your drive back to Santa Fe. Over 33,000 acres containing some of the most unusual and interesting ancient ruins and petroglyphs, and steep narrow canyons. The hike from the Visitor Center offers both flat and more advanced trails.

Second Suggested Day Trip: the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, and the Taos Pueblo: Another absolutely gorgeous drive of 71 miles north to Taos.

Rio Grande Gorge Bridge: Just slightly west of Taos, the bridge is the 5th highest in the U.S., and sits 650 feet above the Rio Grande River.

Taos Pueblo: Designated as both a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, and as a National Historical Landmark. Taos Pueblo is a living Native American community that has been continuously inhabited for over 1,000 years.


Breakfast: Clafoutis; Tia Sophia.

Lunch: Clafoutis; Harry’s Roadhouse (just south of Santa Fe on Old Las Vegas Rd – for dessert, try the home-made ice cream sandwich); Santa Fe Bite (green chili cheeseburgers), Vinaigrette; La Fonda Hotel.

Dinner: Arroyo Vino (just northwest of Santa Fe); Santacafe.


Georgia O’Keefe Museum: Houses over 3,000 works, including 140 O’Keefe oil paintings, nearly 700 drawings, and hundreds of additional works.

Museum of Contemporary Native American Art:

Museum Hill: 4 world-class museums located in one location:

Museum of Spanish Colonial Art

Museum of Indian Arts and Culture

Museum of International Folk Art

Wheelright Museum of the American Indian

Santa Fe Botanical Gardens

Suggestion: lunch at the Museum Hill Cafe


International Folk Art Market – in July

Traditional Spanish Market – in July

Santa Fe Indian Market – in August

Categories: Our Travels