How to Tailgate at the Santa Fe Opera -
Santa Fe Opera tailgaters

Every summer opera-lovers have flocked to the Santa Fe area to enjoy some of the most beautiful scenery, music and events available. With a short season, it’s important to soak in as much of the glory as possible; which is why we’ve compiled a list of how to make the most of your trip to the opera. Parking lots open three hours before performances.


Who to invite: People you enjoy to be around, who are interested in new experiences.

Why: The opera isn’t just for people who love classical music, or people who speak Italian. Many operas have the same intensity and drama – and often comedy, too – as your favorite movies. The costuming, set design, and music are often better, also, than movies or TV shows. And, with in-seat visual translators, you don’t have to speak Italian to understand.

Santa Fe Opera Weather

Expect the unexpected: July weather in Santa Fe is unpredictable at best. Most often, visitors will experience several different weather events in a single day. It is important to remember this when tailgating at the SF Opera because it is an outdoor theater. Before, during and after the performance, there is an equal chance of rain, sleet, wind or an extremely gorgeous sunset. Sometimes all at once.

Santa Fe Opera Dress

What to wear: Layers (for reasons above) – don’t forget something warm, something comfortable, something that expresses your style.

Why: Santa Fe Opera-goers don’t need to wear formal ballgowns – unless you’re more comfortable in formal attire. Many opera-goers wear cowboy boots, heels or flats; pants, skirts or dresses; coats, shawls, blouses – anything and everything. Style and comfort should dictate the clothing choice – not the venue. One of the most common terms in event-planning here is the phrase “Santa Fe Formal”, which means “Dress up if you want, I’ll be wearing my favorite turquoise”.

Santa Fe Opera Food

What to eat: Tailgating at the Santa Fe Opera isn’t like a traditional tailgate – you probably won’t find any hot dogs or bbq grills around the parking lot. What you will find is an assortment of sophisticated goodies: finger foods, delicious salads, wines, cheeses and truffles. Most tailgaters choose to make their food options more glamourous than their attire.

Where to get it: You can always pack your own picnic-style meal for tailgating – many of the grocery stores in town offer delicious prepared foods or snack options. However, if you’re in the mood to be treated, the opera offers a variety of tailgating options for pick-up with advance two-day ordering. Simply visit their website for more information – Santa Fe Opera. Also, various high-end grocers will prepare a picnic meal with 24 hours’ notice. The Santa Fe Farmer’s Market, open on Saturdays all summer in the Railyard downtown, is an excellent place to find locally sourced fruits and vegetables, artisanal breads and baked goods, meats and, yes, flowers for your table.

Table Settings

What to pack: Just as clothing choice is entirely up to personal taste, a tailgate table can be as elaborate as a four-star restaurant or as easy as your backyard barbeque. The idea is to make the setting something easy and lovely. Attending the opera is more than simply seeing a performance; it is an experience. Adding to that experience with carefully planned, yet easy, table, setting and chair arrangements helps to make the whole evening something to be remembered. Tailgate hosts might bring a folding table and camping chairs. Experienced tailgaters will remember a table cloth, paper plates and plastic cups for wine. Experts will have flower arrangements and silverware.

Santa Fe Opera Tickets

How to order tickets: Visit the opera’s website at or call the box office at (505) 986-5900.

This article was posted by Cheryl Fallstead

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