Las Aromas Golf Course (Santiago, tel. 809/626-1288, www.hodelpa.com/golf , 6 a.m.– dusk, greens fees: RD$800 (non-members) and RD$600 (members), discounts for hotel guests) was designed by Pete Dye in the early 1980s and has 18 moderately challenging holes in the Cibao’s hilly terrain. Those who love the heartland will appreciate the panoramic views of the Cibao Valley located just five minutes from Santiago. Be sure to wear a shirt with a collar and no denim pants.
If you are visiting Santiago  for more than a day, perhaps taking in an art or music class or going to some performances will bring you closer to the culture of the area. Call or stop by and check the schedule of events at each locale since they change often. The Casa del Arte (Benito Monción, tel. 809/471-7839, 9 a.m.–7 p.m. Mon.–Sat., free) shows exhibits by local artists and holds cultural events in an outdoor gallery space.
Across the street from Casa del Arte is Galeria La 37 por Las Tablas (Benito Monción, tel. 809/587-3033). Here you can enjoy music, dance, and theater performances (also in an outdoor theater), take dance and other kinds of classes, participate in cultural talks, and attend lectures. Admission depends upon the activity or event.
The Centro de la Cultura de Santiago (Calle del Sol, tel. 809/226-5222, 9 a.m.–6 p.m. daily) has music and theater performances and classes.
The caretas (masks) of Santiago ’s Carnaval are especially ornate, making this city’s Carnaval celebration a particularly special one to take part in. Competitions for the best mask are held annually in the days leading up to Carnaval.
At the Carnaval parade in Santiago you’ll see two character masks that are specific to Santiago, the lechñn (piglet) and the pepin (a make-believe animal that looks like a duck with spiked horns). Santiago’s celebration is special in that you will see a fantastic variety of costumes and cultures represented here that have affected the overall Carnaval celebration of the whole country and throughout history. All of the characters carry the vejigas (inflated animal bladders) and hit onlookers with them. If you don’t want to be bruised, stay off the street; better yet, try to watch the Carnaval parade from a balcony.
While the most lively and best-known Carnaval celebration in the country is in nearby La Vega  (perhaps because it is the most well-organized), Santiago is trying to increase the visibility and popularity of its celebration. Festivities begin around four in the afternoon and go late into the night with live merengue and bachata music.
At the monument, there is art on exhibit and groups doing folkloric and cultural performances. Making your base camp in Santiago  (provided you arrange accommodations well in advance) is a great idea so that you can go to both towns’ celebrations. All Carnaval celebrations in the country happen every Sunday during the month of February.