1 LAS CRUCES COUNTRY MUSIC FESTIVAL (April)
Grab your cowboy hat and head to Las Cruces for the Las Cruces Country Music Festival, a revival of a past area tradition. From the 1970s into the '90s, this southeastern New Mexico city had a robust country music scene. According to Las Cruces Convention and Visitors Bureau director of marketing Chris Faivre, "People used to travel here for concerts" — flocking to the city's Pan American Center from El Paso, Texas, and Albuquerque — to hear famed country musicians as well as the not-so-famous.
Then the music died.
The festival reboot hit the stage in 2013, drawing fans from across the U.S. for its blend of heritage musicians (who play Friday night) and the next generation of country music stars (acts play on Saturday). In 2016, festivalgoers hailed from 26 states and almost every city in New Mexico. The 2017 festival featured the likes of Kacey Musgraves, Travis Tritt, Dan + Shay, Tanya Tucker, and The Marshall Tucker Band. Popular weekend events include the Thursday night VIP Party and the Sunday Country Breakfast at the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum. The 2018 festival will run April 27 to 29. lascrucescountrymusic.com
• Want to get into all events and parties? Buy the VIP package. It includes the opening night VIP Party and the Sunday Country Breakfast.
• During the day, head to the Farmers & Craft s Market of Las Cruces with more than 300 vendors or check out the annual rodeo put on by New Mexico State University. The rodeo attracts college competitors from around the Southwest.
• Bring your appetite. This event features a great selection of food trucks, all of which serve local New Mexico fare. Get your green chile on!
Enjoy the Twang of Country Music Year-Round in Las Cruces
Promoter Barbara Hubbard, who Faivre says is "legendary in Nashville," produces a few country music concerts each year at the Pan American Center. panamericancenter.ticketoffices.com
2 SANTA FE OPERA (June–August)
Photo by Kate Russell
For more than 60 years, the renowned Santa Fe Opera has filled the hills surrounding Santa Fe with the sound of music from some of the world's top performers. No other opera house offers such natural beauty: Enjoy spectacular Santa Fe sunsets as house lights dim; see lightning flashes and hear thunder during monsoon season storms, often heightening the drama on stage. The unparalleled ambiance and acoustics have served a vast repertoire of some 2,000 performances of 164 operas, including 14 world premieres and 45 American premieres. The 2017 season, which runs from June 30 through Aug. 26, brings the Santa Fe Opera's 15th world premiere with The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs. Five operas are presented each season on a rotating basis; this year's season also includes Rimsky-Korsakov's The Golden Cockerel, Handel's Alcina, Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor, and Strauss' Die Fledermaus.
• Buy tickets early. Popular operas can sell out.
• Bring a picnic dinner. The Santa Fe Opera has a long tradition of pre-performance tailgating. Opening nights are famous for elaborate spreads. Tables are often set with white linen, fine china, crystal, and even flowers and candles. Others dine on simple fare at card tables set out behind their cars or even in the beds of their pickups. Don't want to bring your dinner? The opera offers nightly preview dinners or boxed dinners. Both require advance reservations.
• Don't want to drive? Book a seat on the opera shuttle, which offers service from several locations around Santa Fe.
• Opera-goers' dress is eclectic, from jeans to black tie. Dress in layers; Santa Fe nights are cool, even in summer, and the venue is open to the air.
• Get in on the action: Take the behind-the-scenes tour offered Monday through Friday, once daily at 9 a.m., May 29 through Aug. 25, 2017.
• Want to know more about the opera you're seeing? Attend one of the two Prelude Talks, given two hours and one hour before curtain time.
• Some operas can run three or more hours. Not an opera buff? Consider one of the lighter, shorter presentations. For 2017, get tickets for Johann Strauss' comic opera, Die Fledermaus (The Bat). It will be sung in English, making it understandable without the libretto readers at each seat.
The Santa Fe Opera mounts a winter and spring apprentice tour each year, presenting free concerts in churches and theaters around the state. Find information on the 2017-2018 tour online. 505-986-5900, santafeopera.org
3 INTERNATIONAL FOLK ART MARKET (July)
Photo by Charles Mann
The second weekend of July, Santa Fe's Museum Hill turns into an exotic foreign bazaar. At the International Folk Art Market — the largest of its kind in the world — more than 160 artisans from 60 countries sell handmade treasures, including fiber art such as rugs, textiles, and clothing; as well as baskets, metal work, jewelry, pottery, paintings, and musical instruments. In 2004, four visionary founders catalyzed the first International Folk Art Market with the intent of providing master artisans a vehicle to support themselves and their communities while sustaining their cultural heritage. For example, one female artist from Cooperativa de Alfombras de Mujeres Maya en Guatemala, a group that creates beautiful hooked rugs with traditional Mayan designs, was able to install a flush toilet in her home with money she earned at the market. The 2017 Folk Art Market will be held July 14–16.
• Buy tickets online. It will speed your entry into the market.
• Don't miss the artisan procession (during which they wear their colorful native dress) followed by a free world music concert Thursday, July 13, in the Santa Fe Plaza.
• If it's in your budget, the Friday evening benefit preview is a great way to experience the market. Besides the chance to shop early, there's live music, food, wine, and cocktails. Sometimes you'll see a famous face in the crowd. It's a festive evening!
• Beat the crowds during Saturday morning's early-bird shopping from 7:30 to 10 a.m., before the market's official opening, or on Sunday afternoon.
• Public access to the market is via air-conditioned shuttle service from several parking lots around town. Arrive at the lot early so you can be one of the first admitted or go toward the end of the day when traffic is a bit slower.
• Bring your appetite; the international food court has tempting dishes from some of Santa Fe's world cuisine restaurants and food trucks.
12 Months of Folk Art
Experience folk art at the Museum of International Folk. Its colorful gift shop features selections from the market yearround. 505-992-7600, folkartalliance.org
4 SANTA FE INDIAN MARKET (August)
Photo by Gabriella Marks
Tens of thousands of people arrive in the City Different the third weekend of August for the annual Santa Fe Indian Market, the largest and most prestigious intertribal fine art market in the world presented by the Southwest Association for Indian Arts (SWAIA). Around a thousand indigenous artists and artisans from tribes across the United States and Canada operate booths around the Santa Fe Plaza to sell traditional arts, including jewelry, fetishes, pottery, weaving, sculpture, kachinas, beadwork, baskets, clothing, and paintings. Although the market is the marquee attraction, the weekend includes other events, such as the Haute Couture Fashion Show, featuring known and up-and-coming indigenous designers; Indian Market: Edge, highlighting contemporary American Indian art and performance art; and the Native Cinema Showcase, screening films from indigenous filmmakers. The 2017 Indian Market takes place Aug. 19–20.
• The popular Friday evening sneak preview, a ticketed event, is the place to see the market's prize-winning art before it is grabbed up first thing Saturday morning.
• Get to the market before the 7 a.m. opening time on Saturday and look for booths with crowds. Collectors stake out prize-winning and highly acclaimed artists early to make sure to get a piece of their work. Some people even camp out all night to get first crack at prized pieces. It's a fun process to watch even if you don't intend to buy.
• Talk to the artists. You can learn about their artistic methods and maybe something about their lives.
• Sample traditional indigenous treats at the food vendor section.
• Make your hotel and restaurant reservations well in advance. This is the busiest weekend of the year in Santa Fe.
There's Always American Indian Art in Santa Fe
SWAIA holds a Winter Market in Santa Fe for the holiday shopping season. Many quality shops and galleries specialize in American Indian art. You can also buy directly from the Native American vendors under the portal at the Palace of the Governors. 505-983-5220, swaia.org
5 ALBUQUERQUE INTERNATIONAL BALLOON FIESTA (October)
Photo by Blaine Harrington III
It started with 13 balloons in a field in 1972 and has grown to be the largest hot air balloon event in the world. More than 500 balloonists, and even more balloons, lift off from Balloon Fiesta Park the first week of October during the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta (AIBF). More than 800,000 spectators visit the field to watch these magical conveyances inflate and ascend into the morning sky. The most popular time to come is weekend mornings for the mass ascensions, when the most balloons fly, but there are activities all week at morning and afternoon-evening sessions, including special shapes rodeos, when balloons in the shape of Yoda and Darth Vader make an appearance. The 2017 Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta takes place from Oct. 7 to 15.
• Arrive by 5 a.m. to be inside the gate by launch time. Traffic is very heavy.
• Stroll the Fiesta's Main Street. Grab breakfast — breakfast burritos are a local favorite — and coffee at one of the food booths, then browse the vendor and public service booths.
• Buy your ticket in advance or bring cash; parking and admission tickets bought at the gate are cash only.
• Go on Saturday. If the weather doesn't allow for the mass ascension you can try again on Sunday morning.
• If possible, don't drive! Take the Fiesta Express Park & Ride bus service from several locations around town to and from the field. To avoid the morning crush, consider camping out on grounds in your RV. Ride your bike along more than 400 miles of bicycle boulevards and lanes in the city, and hand off your cruiser to the bike valet program while at the park.
• Dress in layers. Mornings and evenings are chilly, dipping into the mid-40s; daytime temperatures warm dramatically, often hovering near 80 degrees.
• Bring your camera. The fiesta is said to be the most photographed event on the planet.
• Evening sessions (not held every night) are fun for the entire family. Activities include glows (the balloons are fired up on the darkened field), laser light shows, and fireworks.
• Plan ahead if you want to attend AIBF. Hotels, especially for weekends, book up in advance; flights fill up; rental cars are at a premium.
• If you want to take a hot air balloon ride, book it in advance. If your schedule allows, plan your ride outside the AIBF, when prices are at a premium.
• For the VIP experience, book a spot in an on-field tent for a special event. The Gondola and Chasers' Clubs offer an upgraded experience with seating in private outdoor, on-field areas (away from crowds), with hot meals and entertainment. Visit balloonfiesta.com to purchase tickets. The Anderson-Abruzzo International Balloon Museum hosts Balloons & Breakfast events and Dine & Glow dinners. Each morning or evening event includes parking, a catered buffet, and indoor and outdoor prime viewing from the gallery and museum balcony, which overlooks Balloon Fiesta Park. Visit balloonmuseum.com for dates and pricing.
Up, Up, and Away All Year
Can't make it to Albuquerque for the Balloon Fiesta? Discover the history and sport of hot air ballooning year-round at the Anderson-Abruzzo International Balloon Museum. 505-821-1000, balloonfiesta.com