If you’ve been traveling through the blogosphere with us over the last month, you’ll note that the quest for free entertainment has been an ongoing process. Travels in the east stimulated a search for some things a traveler can do for free right here in Santa Fe. As with all destinations, ideas for free fun differ, but these are a few suggestions for times when you want to save your cash for the best Santa Fe restaurant experiences, which can easily consume some hard-earned travelers’ checks. That being said, we’ll forgo a corny Top Ten list and just offer ten ideas, in no particular order of preference, for entertainments that won’t break the travel budget and are accessible most times of the year, even in the event of a unexpected springtime snowstorm!
Walk to the Cross of the Martyrs: This is one of the best spots to see an approaching summer storm or a glorious Santa Fe sunset downtown, particularly if you are here without a car. The vistas are expansive, so much so that one could actually see the devastating flames of the Cerro Gordo fire that swept through Los Alamos some years back. You’ll get some excellent exercise climbing up the short but steep hill, which is also a favored destination for those who want to watch Zozobra burn but want to stay off the overly crowded field.
Enjoy Summerscene on the Plaza: Yes, summer will be here, spring snow notwithstanding! From July 5th through August 19th, the annual Summerscene on the Plaza series offers a chance to relax on the grass with a picnic lunch or dinner or rock out with your dance partner to some of the best local bands. Performances take place at noon and 6pm most days of the week, although the 2010 roster of performers has not been posted yet.
Go Back to the Book: Sure, you’ve done it, but have you done it recently? Visited the library that is! In the world of the Blackberry and the iPad, a bit of peace and quiet in a good, old-fashioned library is a most welcome thought. Visit the Southwest Reading room at the Santa Fe Public Library and wander through the stacks looking at old, out-of-print tomes about the Southwest, which you can peruse in the hushed ambiance of this lovely room. Hard to believe that this building was once the downtown Santa Fe police station!
Hike the Atalaya Trail: If a more phyical experience is what you want, but you’re not inclined to drive too far to get one, head for the very accessible Atalaya Trail, located near St. John’s College. The vertical incline of this trail offers a sufficient challenge while not consuming an entire day of your valuable time in the City Different.
Attend a Lecture or Concert at St. John’s College: And speaking of St. John’s, this educational gem welcomes all to a series of free lectures and concerts that take place throughout the school year. While the topic can sometimes be challenging, if not downright intimidating, the St. John’s tutors are a multi-talented group who share their intellects and interests freely.
Tour the Scottish Rite Masonic Temple: Wonder what the small-scale replica of the Alhambra is? Located on the corner of Washington Street and the Paseo de Peralta, this architectural curiosity is the home of the Santa Fe Order of Masons and now hosts a variety of performances and events in its sweet little auditorium. Docent tours of this lovely building, dedicated in 1912, can be arranged by calling 982-4414.
Visit the Shidoni Sculpture Garden: Although not technically free since you have to factor in the gas for the car, this is an opportunity to see an acre plus of over-sized and whimsical art in the outdoors. Located in the beautiful village of Tesuque, just 7 miles north of Santa Fe on Bishop’s Lodge Road, this is a wonderful way to see the inspiring landscape of New Mexico and stroll past works by some of Santa Fe’s sculptural masters. In the warmer months, you are welcome to attend Saturday bronze pourings, typically held at 1pm, 2:45pm and 4pm, at which you can learn about how castings are done.
Attend a Pueblo Dance: One of the most intriguing things about New Mexico is the living Native American culture. The remoteness of the state along with its late entry into the U.S. (in 1912, with our centennial to be celebrated in 2012) allowed the Pueblo culture to continue uninterrupted and uncorrupted for years, and attending a feast day is an opportunity to see the unbroken chain of festivities. Seeing the Pueblos also requires a bit of driving and gas, but close to Santa Fe, a few miles north across the highway from Shidoni is the Pueblo of Tesuque, which holds its annual feast day on November 12, in honor of San Diego. Please be sure to observe Pueblo protocol: no photos, no recordings, no note-taking and no entry into a Pueblo home without an invitation.
Head for the New Mexico Visitors’ Center: While not strictly what you might call an entertainment, a visit to the New Mexico Tourism Visitors’ Center at the corner of the Paseo de Peralta and the Old Santa Fe Trail will yield much in the way of destination planning. The knowledgeable and friendly staff there are always happy to share their own ideas for fun, and the place is chock full of maps and guides and brochures. And if you want to “visit” before visiting, the state’s website offers a live chat option!
In Search of the Way: On the subject of maps, you can find all you need right next door to the Inn at The Travel Bug! Maps, topo maps, travel guides and travel gear, along with a friendly dispensing of information, are all at hand, and you are welcome to sit and dream about your next travel destination over coffee for as long as you like. Free parking in the rear for those not staying at the Inn!
So visit Santa Fe like the locals do….with open eyes and a slim wallet, you can still go far!