In case you haven't noticed, Santa Fe is over-priced. The homes are expensive. The attractions are expensive. But if you look beyond the glitzy, tourist-approved exterior, you’ll find a trip to Santa Fe is well within your budget. Gas may still cost a pretty penny (unless you take a shuttle or wait for the Rail Runner to extend into the City Different), but the cost of spending an afternoon or a weekend in our state's capitol can be a mere pittance. This list of 10 things to do for $10 or (much) less should help you find the bargain behind the bulge.
Make your own fashions by learning how to silkscreen with Aftershock Studio at the Creative Arts Space (1235 Siler Road) every Tuesday from 4 to 6 p.m. $5 for teens, $10 for adults, www.warehouse21.org/
Fields of Bronze
Shidoni is one of the top fine arts foundries in the United States. The artisans working within its gardens pour over 30,000 pounds of bronze a week. On Saturdays, Shidoni is open to the public for self-guided tours from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., including a bronze pouring. Shidoni is five miles north of the Santa Fe Plaza on Bishop's Lodge Road, (505) 988-8001, www.shidoni.com.
Explore the Solar System and beyond at the Santa Fe Community College Planetarium (6401 Richards). There are different shows every month and each only costs $5 for adults and $3 for seniors/students. (505) 428-1677.
The Birds and the Trees
The Randall Davey Audubon Center is home to a 135-acre wildlife refuge and the historic residence of artist Randall Davey. The refuge is ideal for a quick hike and excellent bird and animal watching. The grounds are open from 8 a.m. to dusk every day. Trail usage is $2 for adults and $1 for children. All proceeds go toward the preservation of the refuge. Guided bird walks are free every Saturday at 8:30 a.m. You can also take tours of Randall Davey's historic home on Mondays at 2 p.m. for $5. Located at the end of Upper Canyon Road. (505) 983-4609, www.nm.audubon.org.
The Santa Fe Opera
People fly from as far as Los Angeles and New York City to see world-class productions at the Santa Fe Opera. They come dressed in tuxes and evening gowns—or T-shirts and flip-flops—ready for a sophisticated evening of entertainment—and you can, too, just make sure to wear conformable shoes with that three-piece suit. The Santa Fe Opera offers $10 standing-room tickets (not including service charge) for every performance, but you won't find them advertised on their website. www.santafeopera.org, (505) 986-5900.
Multitude of Markets
Every summer, downtown Santa Fe is packed with artists for the Traditional Spanish Market (July 28-29, www.spanishmarket.org) and the Santa Fe Indian Market (Aug. 18, www.swaia.org). There's no fee to walk around the plaza and check out the artwork. Try to find a bargain piece of art for $10 or just get some roasted corn and a funnel cake.
Pancakes on the Plaza
Spend this Fourth of July slathered in maple syrup! The United Way of Santa Fe has held a pancake breakfast on the plaza for more than 30 years now, inviting community members to stuff their faces full of pancakes for charity and enjoy fun activities like arts and crafts, face-painting and more. Tickets are $5 and food is served from 7 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. www.uwsfc.org.
Cross of the Martyrs
Hike up the brick path to the Cross of the Martyrs just before dusk, then watch the picturesque New Mexico sunset over the city. Sightseeing is free, so bring along a disposable camera, sparkling cider, cheese and crackers for a sunset picnic.
Prairie Dog Town
Jackalope (2820 Cerrillos Road) not only hosts a wide variety of home décor, it also hosts a habitat for our favorite furry friends—prairie dogs. There's no charge to see Prairie Dog Town, and the funky doodads about the store are fun to look at, too. (505) 471-7757.
Art and History
Most of the museums in Santa Fe have free or discounted days for New Mexico residents. The Museum of International Folk Art, the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art, the Wheelwright Museum, the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture (all on Museum Hill, 710 Camino Lejo, www.museumhill.org) and the Santa Fe Children's Museum (1050 Old Pecos Trail, 505-989-8359, www.santafechildrensmuseum.org) are free on Sundays,. The Georgia O'Keeffe Museum (217 Johnson, 505-946-1000, www.okeeffemuseum.org) and the Museum of Fine Arts (107 W. Palace, 505-476-5076, www.mfasantafe.org) are free on Fridays from 5 to 8 p.m.