Why go now: This hidden east-side micro-hood offers a mix of shops and galleries from the funky to the sublime, all within a five-block radius; June is ideal walking weather.
The coordinates: Cross Camino del Monte Sol on Canyon Road, and you’ve unofficially entered ToCa (Top of Canyon), an alternate universe within the city’s arts community.
Stop on the way: Before reaching ToCa, you’ll pass Santa Fe’s big-time galleries, including Waxlander Gallery and Sculpture Garden (622 Canyon; 505/984-2202) and Deloney Newkirk Galleries (634 and 669 Canyon; 505/992-2850).
Sign of the times: A bumper sticker on a truck on Canyon embraces ToCa’s quirky vibe: Reality is a figment of your imagination.
People-watching: It doesn’t get any better than sangria and tapas on the front porch at El Farol ($$$; 808 Canyon; 505/983-9912), Santa Fe’s oldest watering hole.
Spend the night: Dunshee’s B&B and Casita (from $140, including breakfast; two-night minimum on weekends; dunshees.com) is the quintessential ToCa oasis, with beamed ceilings and local art.
MORE DISCOVERIES IN AND AROUND ToCa
Tool around town
ToCa’s a small slice of Santa Fe that’s easily―and more enjoyably―seen by bike or foot. Rent a city cruiser at Mellow Velo to savor the local color. Closed Sun; $25 per day, $4 helmet; 638 Old Santa Fe Trail; mellowvelo.com
Discover a vortex
Visit the Studio of Marjo Gill and Don Jerome, where you can watch Gill paint and Jerome decorate walking sticks with crystals he mined himself. Jerome may even open up about the whereabouts of energetic power centers, known as vortexes. By appointment; 505/820-1890.
If you’re in town on Friday, drop by El Milagro Herbs (closed Sat–Sun; 1020 Canyon Rd.; milagro herbs.com)―a tiny old-time mercantile run by master herbalist Tomas Enos. On Saturdays, he mans a stand at the farmers’ market (1607 Paseo de Peralta; santafefarmersmarket.com).
Getting to ToCa
From Paseo de Peralta, turn onto Canyon Road and head east to the intersection with Camino del Monte Sol.
1. Fuel up
You wouldn¹t think that a minimalist tea shop (with more than 200 varieties from around the world) would also serve Santa Fe's best BLT, but there you have it. Grab a shaded table in the Zen gravel garden at the Teahouse, and order the Usual‹made with perfectly crispy Canadian bacon and tangy chipotle dressing, and served with a generous side salad. $; 821 Canyon Rd.; 505/992-0972.
2. Hoof it
Just east of ToCa, Canyon Road crosses Camino Cabra and becomes Upper Canyon Road, a residential street that dead-ends in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. There you can access the Dale Ball Trails, more than 30 miles of single-track hiking and biking trails. Explore the Santa Fe Canyon Preserve, or tackle the steep but popular 4-mile hike to the summit of Picacho Peak for views of downtown and the desert. 505/955-2103.
3. Meet the artist
Every square inch of space is spoken for at the Ed Larson Studio, the ramshackle epicenter of Santa Fe's folk art scene. Cowboy oil paintings crowd the walls; toothy wooden fish dangle from the ceiling; and whittled horses seem to fly through the air (we love the wooden birds too). Even the artist is on display, carving creations in the sawdusty back room. 821 Canyon Rd.; edlarsonart.com
4. Eat alfresco
Johnnie Armijo was 16 when his father opened Johnnie's Cash Store. Sixty-three years later, this mom-and-pop grocery is a local institution, stocked with no-frills staples and, in a warming oven beside the register, the best homemade green-chile tamales in town ($2). Buy a couple and head two blocks north to Monsignor Patrick Smith Park, right on the Santa Fe River, for a picnic. Closed Sun; 420 Camino Don Miguel; 505/982-9506.