Jean Cocteau Cinema
418 Montezuma Ave., Plaza
Local celebrity George R. R. Martin purchased this 1970s-style movie theater a few years ago, and after renovating and upgrading the place began curating one of the most progressive cultural calendars in the city. The single-screen plays a wonderful selection of avant-garde and indie films, including midnight screenings Friday and Saturday nights, and there's live music on Mondays. It's a major hangout for the city's younger set.
207 Old Santa Fe Trail, Plaza
Legend has it that when the Loretto Chapel was first built, the choir above the main space could only be accessed by a rickety ladder, because the tiny church was so tight on space. In hopes of a better solution, the Sisters of the Chapel prayed to St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters—a few months later, an unnamed craftsman arrived and built a beautiful spiral staircase, only to leave without giving his name or asking for payment. Today, architects and mechanics consider the staircase to be a structural marvel, as it contains two full rotations with no central support (not to mention that it was built entirely using wooden pegs, with no hammers or glue of any kind). It's just a few blocks off the Plaza, so plan to stop in when you're making your way through town. P.S. The bar at the Loretto Hotel next-door is a great place for a drink after.
100 Old Santa Fe Trail, Plaza
Smack in the middle of downtown Santa Fe, this market square is the bustling heart of the city. In 1821, it served as the final destination for wagons completing the 800-mile Old Santa Fe Trail from Independence, Missouri. These days, you can count on the Plaza to be a busy hub of Native American and Spanish markets, annual events, community gatherings, and concerts. You could certainly spend an afternoon exploring the shops, galleries, and restaurants that line the streets—as well shopping for turquoise from the local Native American traders selling handmade jewelry on the sidewalk.
Aspen Santa Fe Ballet
The Lensic, 211 W. San Francisco St., Plaza
As the name suggests, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet (ASFB) has two home cities, a hybrid business model that allows two small (but highly creative) cities that might not be able to support a full ballet company on their own to experience high-quality contemporary ballet for half the year. They often commission original new works, which means—to both communities' great delight—you never know what's going to be on the calendar. What's more, the company values community outreach and education, offering dance schools in both cities.