Silver City is just the place to visit in the heat of summer. Almost 1,000 feet higher in elevation than Las Cruces, Silver City is usually a bit cooler. It is, as locals will tell you, the gateway to the Gila National Forest and its rivers, lakes, hiking trails, and camping. Silver City itself is a magnet for art-loving travelers and those yearning to discover unique shops and restaurants (note that many are only open later in the week). It’s an exceptionally dog-friendly town, with shops and galleries often having a resident furry greeter on hand and some allowing well-behaved and leashed or carried dogs to venture inside. There’s plenty of history to explore here, too, which you can read about in this story.
Where to Begin Your Silver City Experience?
How about strolling down the sidewalk in historic downtown Silver City, allowing your eyes to be drawn to colorful art galleries? There are more than 20 of them here, easily identified by a red dot saying ART right on the sidewalk outside each gallery door. Artists are drawn to Silver City, finding a lifestyle and cost of living that agrees with them.
Light Art Space
Gallery director and photographer Karen Hymer of Light Art Space (209 W. Broadway) transformed this former hardware store into a bright and open gallery in 2018. The gallery represents nine local artists and also features juried and curated exhibitions. Karen’s especially excited about a show called Beauty is Where You Find It that opens in May.
It’s an exhibition to honor the recipients of the Denis Roussel Awards, featuring 20 artists who work with alternative photographic processes. “I’m really honored to feature this exhibition,” says Karen, who herself was a recent recipient of an honorable mention in this competition. The gallery also hosts classes in a well-supplied workshop for printmaking, drawing, photopolymer gravure printing, and other alternative photographic processes. Karen is actively involved with the Silver City Arts Association, which hosts a variety of events and activities to promote the arts.
William Lloyd and his wife, Elizabeth, have run Lloyd Studios (306 W. Broadway) for 10 years. William is a master carver and cutler who for many years sold his handcrafted knives and swords at Renaissance fairs around the country. He credits Elizabeth’s business acumen for building the business to the point that they can now stay in Silver City working out of the studio most of the year and leave for only one large fair.
William has shared his talents with others who want to learn, including his daughter. “I’ve trained a lot of people and passed this on,” William says, noting several master artists who were once his apprentices. The project he’s currently working on is especially fascinating. He is carving Jacobean-style embellishments into a tongue-and-groove canopy bed made from a walnut tree that died on a friend’s property in Leesburg, Virginia. “All of the Founding Fathers sat underneath it long ago,” William said. He explained his friend’s home was where important documents from the White House were hidden when the British stormed Washington during the War of 1812. Once complete, the one-of-a-kind bed will be shipped back to its old Virginia home.
Diana Ingalls Leyba Studio & Gallery
On Silver City’s main drag at 315 N. Bullard Street, you’ll find Diana Ingalls Leyba Studio & Gallery. Diana’s gallery showcases her own mixed-media acrylic art and that of about a dozen other talented artists working in a range of media.
Talk with Diana and she’ll quickly tell you about her other passion: the Youth Mural Program. The program started in 2003 and pairs young people with artists to design and craft murals. These partnerships have already resulted in about 72 murals, including those at the Murray Ryan Visitor Center (201 N. Hudson St.). “The kids design the murals, facilitated by the artists,” Diana explained. “There are kids that we’ve reached that it’s a light for them and a beacon when they’re struggling. It’s something positive in their lives.” In fact, some young artists helped create the murals at the visitor center when they were in fifth grade and are now working on a different project as high school students. They’re doing restoration work on a mural at the popular Penny Park on North Grant Street and finishing up a Day of the Dead mural that is being installed on the west side of the Silver City Museum (312 W. Broadway St.) that is expected to be dedicated in June. You can see their murals online at youthmurals.org.
Another gallery is Animalia Studio (214 N. Bullard St.), where partners in life and in art Karen Pritchett and Todd Shelby create functional and decorative ceramics, many expressing a lively sense of humor and love of animals. Karen also makes upcycled fiber art, silk screened cards, and painted walking sticks crafted from yucca she sources from the desert. Karen and Todd are originally from southern Appalachia and came to Silver City after living in Missouri, then Capitan, New Mexico. Their home is behind their gallery and after 32 years of traveling and doing art shows, they now work at their Silver City gallery and home.
Power & Light Press
Find cards printed the old-fashioned way and a variety of fun gifts at Power & Light Press (601 N. Bullard St., Suite F), owned by Kyle Durrie. While most of the print world has gone digital, here you discover Kyle’s and her all-female team’s love of creating with Chandler & Price letterpresses from the early 1900s as well as a Heidelberg Windmill from the 1960s. Kyle hopes to soon return to pre-pandemic activities, like workshops and concerts, in their large space. They will also soon offer an artist residency that will allow an artist to rent an apartment with a workspace. Kyle is, naturally, actively involved with the Southwest Print Fiesta.
Silver City Arts Association Events
May through December, the Silver City Arts Association hosts First Friday Art Walks, with galleries remaining open until 7 p.m. The Silver City Arts Association hosts an open studio tour over Labor Day weekend, Weekend at the Galleries on Indigenous Peoples’ weekend in October, and an Individual Member Artist exhibition Thanksgiving weekend. Find out about their events and discover many more galleries at silvercityart.com.
More Silver City Shopping
You’ll also discover numerous antique and memorabilia shops here. The Silver City Trading Company Antique Mall (205 W. Broadway) has more than 12,500 square feet with stalls run by more than 100 consignees. Browse through furniture, collectibles, coins, art, clothing, vinyl records, and just about anything else you can imagine. Owner Paul Castellano, who has run the mall since 1996, jokes, “It’s a bit much if you ask me!” On Bullard Street, you can’t help but be drawn into other antique shops like Manzanita Ridge Antiques and Furniture (107 N. Bullard St.), its neighbor at 109 N. Bullard, Dandelion Wish, and Encore at 704 N. Bullard.
6th Street Fibers
You can pick up what you need to create your own fiber art at 6th Street Fibers (519 N. Bullard St.). Anne Parker and Steve Lincoln co-own this shop. They say, “We carry really beautiful, quality yarns at a full range of prices, plus supplies and buttons.” They also teach knitting classes over three Saturday mornings, one set for beginners and one for intermediate knitters who want to advance their skills. Anne’s quilts are on display along with samples of beautiful, knitted pieces the owners have created.
Considering Silver City’s easy access to the great outdoors and the annual Tour of the Gila cycling road race, it’s pretty much expected that you can find plenty of outdoor equipment stores here. Visit Gila Hike & Bike (103 E. College Ave.), a long-time part of Silver City’s outdoor experience, for bikes, camping and backpacking gear, and more. Morning Star (809 N. Bullard) and Twin Sisters Cycling and Fitness (303 N. Bullard St.) are two other downtown sporting goods stores with a lot to offer.
Pink Store North
If you’re a fan of the famed Pink Store in Palomas, México, but haven’t crossed the border lately, try the Pink Store North (210 N. Bullard St.), which has been in Silver City for eight years. While they won’t greet you with a margarita like in Palomas, in this smaller shop you can find Talavera pottery, fiber arts, jewelry, and more.
The Saturday Silver City Farmers Market (901 N. Pope St.) is worth a visit for locally grown produce, preserves, and eggs laid by industrious chickens. Find farmers staffing their booths from 9 a.m. until noon. In May, the Wednesday market returns to the Ace Hardware parking lot at Highway 180 at the 32nd Street bypass.
The Makers Market runs Saturdays in May through October from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the Main Street Plaza. The website promises, “If it’s handmade, homemade, or homegrown — it’s here!”
Where to Eat in Silver City?
That depends on what you’re hungry for and which end of downtown you’re on. If coffee is what you need to start your day, you have some nice options. One is Javalina Coffee House (117 W. Market St.). Don’t make the mistake of pronouncing it like the wild pig-like animal you might meet in the desert: This is “java” as in coffee! Another lively coffee shop in the historic downtown area is Tranquilbuzz Coffee House (300 N. Arizona St.), with indoor and patio dining and lots of room to hang out with friends while you sip your coffee or tea.
Corner Kitchen (300 S. Bullard St.) was launched four years ago by owner Howard Richardson, meaning half of the time it’s been open has been during the pandemic. Corner Kitchen offers different menu options each day, featuring homestyle foods with many locally sourced ingredients. Howard’s restaurant managed to survive the pandemic shutdown in two ways: offering frozen meals that locals could buy to take home and through the generosity of his neighbors. “People bought gift cards, paid $100 when the bill was $7, or just shoved envelopes of money through the door,” he explained, still a bit in awe. This community support, plus the excellent quality of life, showed the New Mexico transplant that moving to Silver City was the right decision.
More Silver City Restaurants
Other options include Q’s Southern Bistro (101 W. College Ave.), Little Toad Creek Brewery and Distillery (200 N. Bullard St.), and Revel (304 N. Bullard St.), all of which were included in our January/February issue’s story on patio dining. Adobe Springs Café (614 N. Bullard St.) is an “American restaurant with New Mexico flair.” They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner, host a happy hour, and have a large patio for al fresco dining. Diane’s has long been a Silver City favorite, but it is currently only offering baked goods and to-go sandwiches from their bakery and deli in the Hub Plaza (601 N. Bullard St.).
The Hub Plaza is where you can find other options like pizza, wings, and fries, and then for dessert visit Mint Chip Creamery. Here they make ice cream from scratch and their signature mint chip ice cream is infused with fresh mint rather than syrup. If you’re looking for ingredients to make your own meal or want a grab-and-go vegan option, visit the Silver City Co-op (520 N. Bullard St.). For Mexican fare, try Jalisco Café (103 S. Bullard).
Where to Stay in Silver City?
There are so many options, including bed and breakfasts and Airbnbs, but if you want to be right in the middle of the walkable historic downtown, try the Murray Hotel (200 W. Broadway) or the neighboring Palace Hotel. The Art Deco-style Murray Hotel opened in 1938 with a grand opening celebration with 385 guests who each paid $2.50 to take part in the dinner-dance. Attendees went home with a menu encased in copper from the nearby Santa Rita mine. Back then the hotel featured a restaurant, bar, and coffee shop. In 1948, a ballroom was added that is still used for a variety of events. Today, the rooms still have an Art Deco vibe but, rather than a coffee shop, you can partake in an included continental breakfast served near the lobby.
Lodging outside of the downtown area includes LuLu (3420 U.S. Highway 180 East), a modernized “metro chic motel.” Farther afield find long-time favorite Bear Mountain Lodge (60 Bear Mountain Ranch Rd.) where you can connect with nature on their 178 acres and beyond in the Gila Wilderness.
WESTERN NEW MEXICO UNIVERSITY
One of the treasures in Silver City isn’t found in a mine, but in an institution of higher education. Just outside the historic downtown, you can stroll or drive the lovely campus of Western New Mexico University. Find out more about the university museum in our companion story about Silver City history. But there’s even more to discover here, like the Francis McCray Gallery of Contemporary Art, the collection of sculptures found around the campus, and the library that welcomes you to browse its shelves. In addition, the university hosts concerts and events such as the President’s Chamber Series, the McCray Gallery & Women in the Arts Series, Transcending Borders Film Series, speakers, open mic nights, and concerts throughout the year. Learn more at wnmu.edu.
Gateway to the Gila
Ask a local what to do in the area, and they’re quick to suggest, once you finish visiting the galleries and shops in town (and Silver City, despite the name, is a town rather than a city), heading outdoors. The Gila National Forest and Gila River await birders and others who love to spend time exploring nature. You can make day trips to places like Bill Evans Lake, the Catwalk, the Trail of the Mountain Spirits Scenic Byway, and the Mimbres Culture Heritage Site. Explore the area’s mining history at the oldest active mine in the Southwest, the Chino Open Pit Copper Mine. Between Deming and Silver City, visit City of Rocks State Park. The Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument is a great place to explore.
Silver City Events
Silver City is home to many exciting annual events, many related to the community’s love of art and nature. Here are some of the top events in the region. Check visitsilvercity.org/events for more. Dates are for 2022.
Memorial Day Weekend: Silver City Blues Festival, with performances at Gough Park, Little Toad Creek, Q’s Southern Bistro, and other venues. silvercitybluesfestival.org
June 10 – 11: Wild, Wild West Pro Rodeo offers rodeo events like bull riding and calf roping, plus “mutton bustin’” with little cowboys and cowgirls. silvercityprorodeo.com
June 17 – 19: Fiesta Latina is held on the Western New Mexico University campus and features music, food, dancing, and an artisan mercado. fiestalatina.org
July 11 – 17: CLAY Festival, with CLAY Play and Mud Fun for kids, a special Makers Market, and classes and lectures, including this year an in-person five-day workshop on sculpting the face. clayfestival.com
July 30 – 31: Hummingbird Festival takes place at the Mimbres Culture Heritage Site and includes music, food, speakers, and hummingbird banding. Visit the Mattocks archaeological site and tour the Mimbres Museum while you’re there. mimbrescultureheritagesite.org
Labor Day Weekend: Rolling Stones Gem & Mineral Show with vendors, displays, silent auction, talks, and field trips. rollingstonesgms.blogspot.com
September: Gila River Festival offers field trips, presentations, and activities related to this still-wild river. gilariverfestival.org
September 21 – 24: Cliff-Gila Grant County Fair has all you’d expect from a rural county fair: animals, food, contests, music, dances, pancake breakfast, and more. grantcountyfairnm.com
October 7 – 10: Southwest Print Fiesta “promotes and advances printmaking through public outreach, educational opportunities, collaborative projects, resource sharing, artist talks, exhibitions, print sales, and community conversation.” Plus, several artists each hand-carve large-scale 36-inch square linoleum blocks to be inked by hand and printed by a steamroller! southwestprintfiesta.org
October 2023: Southwest Word Fiesta celebrates authors and the written word in odd-numbered years. swwordfiesta.org
Story and photography by Cheryl Fallstead • Additional photo courtesy
Originally published by Neighbors magazine