It doesn't take long to feel at home in the City Different. For centuries, Santa Fe has opened its arms to travelers with diverse interests and different backgrounds, who come in search of discovery, wonder, and adventure. Filled with Old World charm, but sophisticated and up to date, Santa Fe's nook-and-cranny-filled downtown, human scale, and welcoming population also make the city right for those in search of a romantic getaway. As the second-oldest city in the U.S., founded in 1610, Santa Fe has a long and varied history that lives today in its architecture, food, people, and traditions.
Santa Fe is one of the top art markets in the country with hundreds of galleries, a dozen museums, and some of the largest art shows of their kind in the world. In the early 20th century, Santa Fe began growing as an artists' haven, welcoming a varied group of writers, painters, socialites, and photographers eager for new subject matter and a different life. That same open spirit remains today and Santa Fe is second only to San Francisco among U.S. metro areas in per capita percentage of households headed by same-sex partners. In addition, the City of Santa Fe is proud to include sexual orientation in its non-discrimination polices and offers benefits to same-sex partners of city workers. Santa Fe is gay friendly indeed.
There is no one gay area or neighborhood or district in Santa Fe. Rather, its GLBT businesses and residents are an integral part of the whole community. One notable exception is Rainbow Vision, the first retirement community of its kind in the country for allies and GLBT residents and a model for future properties. Opened in 2005, Rainbow Vision attracts residents and the public alike to its popular Silver Starlight Lounge. Otherwise, one will find gay owned and operated businesses of most every kind throughout Santa Fe's historical districts, centered around downtown.
Where to Stay in Gay Friendly Santa Fe...
Santa Fe has a room for every budget but values its downtown lodging the most. Small inns, boutique hotels, B&B's in old adobe homes, large full-service properties, vacation rentals, and historic lodging can all be found in and around the downtown area. As a perfectly sized walking city, many of Santa Fe's finest accommodations, restaurants, attractions, and shops are within easy strolling distance of one another. There are several high-end resorts just outside of town and less expensive lodging can be found throughout the city and along Cerrillos Road.
Not to be overlooked is the Guadalupe Street/Railyard area. While it is right next to downtownâ€“a 10 minute walk from the Santa Fe Plaza, the heart of the cityâ€“it has a distinct feel, offering its own choice of fine hotels, B&B's, and moderately priced lodging.
Of note are several gay-owned B&B's; El Farolito, Inn of the Turquoise Bear, and the Four Kachinas. However, Santa Fe's lodging community is gay friendly throughout, and a growing number of accommodations have IGLTA membership.
What to See and Do in Gay Friendly Santa Fe
Santa Fe's size is deceptive. With a population of about 70,000, making it New Mexico's fourth largest city, Santa Fe might not seem like a place for endless exploration. But no one trip can include all that is worthwhile and of interest in the city and its environs.
The Santa Fe Plaza is the heart of the city where the Spanish first settled. The Plaza itself sits in the middle of downtown and is surrounded by shops, museums, and galleries. Taking time to wander around the several square blocks radiating from the Plaza provides a good start on discovering some of what Santa Fe has to offer. Take a stroll along the portal at the Palace of the Governors where Native American artists sell their work most every day of the year. The Palace is the oldest public building in the country, built in 1610, and is the signature attraction of the New Mexico History Museum, a new museum that opened in 2009. The museum is home to the state's huge collection of historic artifacts and worth a visit to get a grasp on the New Mexico's, and Santa Fe's, remarkable past. Other museums downtown are the New Mexico Museum of Art, across the street from the Palace, the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, and the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts dedicated to contemporary Native American art. Also notable is the Cathedral Basilica de St. Francis de Assisi, the heart of the Catholic faith in the city and an architectural anomaly.
Shopping is abundant with hundreds of individually owned stores throughout the city, especially in the Plaza area. From art to clothing to home furnishings and on and on, the shops of Santa Fe are diverse in their appeal and distinctive in their independently owned flavor.
Canyon Road is the center of Santa Fe's prolific art scene and has the city's largest collection of galleries. Santa Fe is filled with public art and nowhere is it more apparent than along Canyon. With more than 240 galleries in town, Santa Fe has been ranked the third largest art marketâ€“by salesâ€“in the country. Every Friday and Saturday evening the public is invited to galleries along Canyonâ€“and elsewhere in the cityâ€“hosting openings of new exhibits and artists receptions. This is a fine tradition during which visitors and locals get to see new works and meet artists up close. A stroll up Canyon, peeking into galleries, exploring the various alleyways, and pausing to rest in a teahouse or restaurant, can easily fill a half day. Discovering the rest of the Santa Fe's galleries around downtown and throughout the city can take several trips.
Four of Santa Fe's most popular museums are located a bit out of downtown on Museum Hill. The Museum of Spanish Colonial Art, Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, Museum of International Folk Art, and the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian are all set next to the foothills within easy walking distance of one another. Each is recommendable. It's easy to spend a day exploring the hill with lunch at the Museum Hill Cafe and some quiet time spent sitting on Milner Plaza, the center of the area, gazing across the width of the Rio Grande Valley.
Guadalupe Street is the old railroad warehouse district. Now mostly shops and restaurants, the area along the rail line has been developed into the Santa Fe Railyard. At over 50 acres, it is now the site of a 10-acre park, a performance area, permanent year-round home for the Santa Fe Farmers Market, retail center, underground parking, green space, and live/work housing. The project opened in the fall, 2008 and is still being completed. SITE Santa Fe, a contemporary art museum without a permanent collection, is one of the anchor attractions of the Railyard in addition to the Museo Cultural event center, and the Santa Fe Southern Railroad. The shops and restaurants along Guadalupe Street and at Sanbusco Market Center flesh out this vibrant neighborhood. The Railyard is also the terminus for the New Mexico Rail Runner Express, a commuter train linking Santa Fe to Albuquerque and cities to the south.
Santa Fe sits at the base of the Rocky Mountains, is surrounded by public land, and is the stepping-off point for outdoor activities including hiking, camping, fishing, white water rafting, horseback riding, skiing, mountain biking, road cycling, hunting, and more. The Santa Fe National Forest is over 1.5 million acres and its boundary lies just 7 miles from downtown Santa Fe. The Rockies to the east of town and the Jemez Mountains to the west dominate the landscape and provide the city with a beautiful and ever-changing natural setting.
For a quick hike, the Dale Ball Trail System on the city's edge offers 30+ miles of maintained trails that interconnect, making it easy to pick just the right distance. The Aspen Vista Trail is higher up in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and provides more of a challenge and outstanding views, as do the network of trails connecting to the Winsor Trail. Ski Santa Fe is 16 miles from the Santa Fe Plaza and provides 660 acres of alpine skiing in the winter. Many of the warm-weather hiking trails become Nordic ski and snowshoe trails when the snow falls.
Long before the Spanish came to the area in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, the ancestors to the Pueblo Indians called it home. Today there are 19 Pueblo tribes in the state, in addition to the Navajo Nation in Western New Mexico and two Apache tribes. North of Santa Fe are 8 Pueblo tribes that offer a glimpse into both the past and the present of Native culture. San Ildefonso Pueblo has been in its present location for over 800 years and welcomes visitors throughout the year. This Pueblo community is on the way to Bandelier National Monument, a huge cliff dwelling occupied for several centuries by the ancestors of the Pueblo culture. A visit to both Bandelier and San Ildefonso offers a thorough primer in Native American history and is a good day trip. In town, the Native American Vendors program is held each day under the portal at the Palace of the Governors. This is an excellent spot to find authentic Native American craft at reasonable prices and provides a chance to meet with local Native artists.
Santa Fe is known as a spiritual place and a center for alternative healing and has added a number of new spas over the last several years. Many of Santa Fe's downtown hotels offer spa services in on-site facilities and there are stand alone spas throughout town and in the nearby foothills, including a Japanese style bathhouse. Santa Fe is home to a school of massage, the New Mexico Academy of Healing Arts, the Scherer Institute of Natural Healing, and the Southwest Acupuncture College, so the city is filled with first-rate therapists skilled in many disciplines.
Dining in Gay Friendly Santa Fe
With over 200 restaurants featuring foods ranging from the region's savory cuisine to modern Southwestern fare to internationally inspired meals, Santa Fe has developed as a destination for food lovers of all kinds. The city's year 'round farmers market has been recognized as one of the top markets in the country, providing restaurants and home chefs with the freshest of locally grown products. The Saturday and Tuesday markets are great for visitors wanting to pick up small items to take home and a prime spot for people watching. Annual events such as ArtFeast, Taste of Santa Fe, New Mexico Restaurant Week, and the Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta are perfect opportunities to sample the range of styles the city's restaurants offer. In addition, the Santa Fe School of Cooking provides classes to help master the art of cooking with chile, the city's most ubiquitous ingredient.
Unlike some cities, hotel restaurants in Santa Fe are recommendable not just to hotel guests, but to anyone with an imaginative palette. This is especially true downtown, where hotels prize their chef's creations. Independent restaurants abound downtown as well, where every turn seems to offer a new choice of cuisine. The same holds true in the nearby Guadalupe Street neighborhood. Outside of downtown are found some of the city's native Mexican and more New Mexican restaurants along Cerrillos Road, with a number of new dining spots in the Zaferano complex of stores, shops, and multiplex theater.
No matter what one's tastes are, there is no getting around the ever-present chile in Santa Fe. Whether on top of eggs or steaks, in enchiladas or tacos, or used in some inspired way, red and green chile can be found in most every eatery, including the local sushi bar. In fact the state's official question, as passed by the legislature, is "red or green?" referring to a waiter's query as to a diner's choice of chile. Green chile is made with chopped green chile; red chile is the same fruit that was allowed to ripen and turn red and is then typically ground and made into a sauce. There is no rule for which is hotter, so ask how a restaurant's chile is on any given day. And by all means try some chile during a visit; it's more savory than purely hot and very habit forming.
Santa Fe's relaxed pace, pedestrian friendly downtown area, and welcoming attitude make it an easy choice for a gay getaway, especially couples who will find the city's natural beauty and romantic setting ideal inspiration for togetherness. The city is filled with creativity, history, cultural diversity, attractions, and services but is also an excellent choice for just soaking up some sun and letting go of the day to day.
Getting to town is as easy as flying into the Albuquerque airport and either hopping a shuttle or renting a car for the one-hour trip north to Santa Fe. Rental cars are also available in town for those not in need of a daily car. American Eagle now flies non-stop to the Santa Fe Municipal airport from Dallas / Fort Worth and Los Angeles LAX on a daily basis. Rental cars and shuttle service are available at the Santa Fe airport.
Gay Friendly Santa Fe... where the slogan is "Our Streets are Narrow - our Minds are Not!"
Gay Nightlife in Santa Fe... Gay Bars and Clubs
Santa Fe is gay friendly throughout but only has one, true dedicated gay establishment, the Silver Starlight Lounge at Rainbow Vision. This spot offers a little of everything, from drag nights to DJ parties to salsa and Latin fusion bands and other live music to a relaxed piano bar. The cabaret is open to residents and the public and quickly developed a following within the gay community in town.
Other gay hot spots include Cowgirl BBQ which features live music most nights and the bar at El Farol, one of the city's best bar scenes with nightly live music. Max's Santa Fe is a popular restaurant with the gay and lesbian community and sits next to El Corzaon, a restaurant and dance club that has gained favor with GLBT locals. The venerable Vannessie Restaurant and Piano Bar is a gay favorite while the Dragon Room at the even more august Pink Adobe draws a mixed crowd most every night.