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Best Santa Fe Nightlife

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Santa Fe nightlife doesn’t tend to run much past midnight. This is largely an early-to-bed, early-to-rise city—but what it lacks in party-till-dawn opportunities, it more than makes up for in local color. Bars have a wild west or old Spanish ambience, and tequila lovers are spoiled for choice by bartenders vying to serve the best margarita in town. To many Santa Fe locals, nightlife equals the performing arts. Santa Fe Opera is a top pick during its July and August summer season, with tailgating parties before the performance at the stunning open-sided opera house set high on a hill north of Santa Fe. The Lensic Performing Arts Center, formerly a 1931 vaudeville and movie palace, hosts the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, Santa Fe Symphony orchestra, and international and regional performers year round. The Santa Fe Playhouse is the oldest continuously running theatre west of the Mississippi. On an evening stroll around Downtown you'll hear live music drifting out of many bars and restaurants.

Buffalo Thunder Resort & Casino

Neighborhood: Santa Fe Plaza/Downtown
The newer and more upscale Buffalo Thunder Resort and Casino is a Hilton property on Pojoaque Pueblo, with poker, blackjack, roulette, craps, and slots.  Talking of Las Vegas, don’t be one of the disappointed visitors who confuse Las Vegas New Mexico (a charming Old West town) with gambling capital Las Vegas in Nevada.

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Rize

Neighborhood: Santa Fe Plaza/Downtown
This nightclub has gone through changes in recent years—it was Swig, it was Fusion, and most recently it’s re-launched as the colorfully remodeled Rize. It’s the only real nightclub in Santa Fe, with one dance floor, several lounge rooms, and the Koi Restaurant with Asian tapas. Friday night Hip Hop and R&B pulls in the younger, twenty-something crowd, but rock and pop on Saturday draws a wider age mix. And on Thursday’s Latin Night, anything goes with dancers aged from their twenties to their sixties. From the upper floor location, look down on the non-partying folk in the street below, which somehow helps one feel extra special.

Camel Rock Casino

Neighborhood: Santa Fe Plaza/Downtown
Don’t expect Las Vegas, but if you’re feeling lucky, you’ll find casinos on Indian lands north of Santa Fe, and off I-25 from Albuquerque. Many host music concerts, with a tendency towards blast-from-the-past bands. The nearest casino is Camel Rock on Tesuque Pueblo, 15 minutes north of Downtown Santa Fe. Indian reservations are exempt from New Mexico’s prohibition on smoking in public places, and Camel Rock allows smoking. Gaming includes slots, blackjack, and roulette.

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Dragon Room

Neighborhood: Santa Fe Plaza/Downtown
The Pink Adobe restaurant, opposite the San Miguel Mission, opened in 1944, the name inspired by the rosy glow of the restaurant’s three-centuries-old building. The lively Dragon Room Lounge, off one side of the restaurant’s courtyard, is extraordinary, even in the City Different. Trees grow up through the roof, a medieval-stroke-Moorish wine cellar is twisted with grape vines, and a monkey swings from the vigas, holding a chandelier. (He’s not real, but you wouldn’t be surprised if he was.) This is a—come see and be seen’ local scene, and the Lounge has its own dragon fare bar menu. Music ranges from Cuban to rock/Native fusion.

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El Farol

Neighborhood: Canyon Road
Santa Fe’s oldest bar and restaurant quickly convinces you that yes, you do have fiery Spanish roots, even if you’re so fair of skin you make a Norwegian look swarthy. El Farol, in an 1835 Canyon Road adobe, is packed with atmosphere and live entertainment nightly ranges from blues, Latin and folk to Flamenco. Passion does its thing and people will get up and dance. You can eat in the restaurant first and you won’t be disappointed, or just head for the bar, perhaps ordering tapas and a glass from the great wine list. Some nights require a cover charge, and there’s a charge for the Flamenco dinner show.

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Cowgirl BBQ

Neighborhood: Santa Fe Railyard / Guadalupe Street
Cowboy boots are not compulsory, but no doubt you’ll wish you’d worn them to this rollicking, kick-up-your-heels Santa Fe favorite. Expect some kind of live music or entertainment seven nights a week, from country to karaoke, and an impressive array of Western memorabilia. Barbecue is on the menu, washed down with frozen margaritas, but you can just come to the bar for a drink, with a cover charge for entertainment on some evenings. Warm starry nights draw a spirited crowd to the patio out front. The only shooting done at The Cowgirl is at the pool tables.

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