Nestled in the foothills at the Southern tip of the Rocky Mountains at an altitude of seven thousand feet is Santa Fe– New Mexico’s state capital founded in 1610. The mystique of native American culture is extremely powerful and apparent throughout the numerous pueblos (native community villages) located around Santa Fe. Coupled with abundant Spanish and adobe style architecture amidst the mountain landscape, this creates a romantic atmosphere perfect for honeymoons, anniversaries or an escape with that special friend.
Cultural legends, mystique and traditions have been handed down through generations by the Native American tribes via their unique languages, colourful dances, plus distinctive handicrafts. From one end of the State to the other, New Mexico offers a treasure trove of culture, arts and crafts.
No wonder New Mexico has been dubbed the Land of Enchantment.
This year-round, multi cultural vacation playground with recreational activities as diverse as the four seasons themselves, has recently been discovered by the gay and lesbian tourist. During the four seasons outdoor activities include skiing, snow boarding and ice skating plus mountain biking, horseback riding, golf, fishing and river rafting. Or simply browsing the craft boutiques and art galleries-ensuring there’s never a dull moment.
It will be more than the high altitude which leaves you breathless on this holiday.
The Santa Fe town site is located in a region known as North-Central New Mexico- North to Adventure and Central to Everything. Undoubtedly it’s the perfect place to call home during your New Mexico adventure and from here it’s easy to explore the various mountain ranges, pueblos, national parks, lakes, natural attractions and surrounding small towns.
The narrow, winding streets and the old town Plaza make strolling around Santa Fe an historic journey and a perfectly relaxing activity at any time of the day or night.
The Plaza has been the center, the very heart, of Santa Fe since its design was laid out by the Spanish in 1610. Just on the edge of the Plaza is the Saint Francis Cathedral built in the European Romanesque style under the direction of French Archbishop Jean Baptiste Lamy after he arrived in 1853. The renowned landmark La Fonda Hotel, just outside the perimeter of the Plaza, was recreated in the Pueblo Revival style in 1922. A short walk along Old Santa Fe Trail brings you to the San Miguel Mission built in 1710 which today contains numerous stunning examples of antique Hispanic religious artworks. Just a little further along this Trail is the State Capital known as the Round House which was designed embracing the shape of the Zia sun symbol. It houses not only the Governor and state legislators, but also an extensive art collection. The Historic Railyard is a little further from the Plaza but worthy of a visit. From the historic station building The Santa Fe Southern Railway runs excursion trains-some with entertainment and catered meals— to Lamy. In the summer months (May-September) gourmets will love the adjacent Farmer’s Market which offers home-grown chiles, produce, flowers, herbs and more.
The Santa Fe art scene is one of the most dimensional in the world and Santa Fe is the third largest art market in the United States. The city is an eminent center for contemporary art, while traditional work still flourishes. Folk art, tribal art, photography, animation art and fine crafts abound especially on Canyon Road. Originally an Indian trail this is now the hub of the art world with over forty galleries, boutiques and restaurants making their home in a short six block radius. One could easily spend a whole day or more enjoying the diversity of artworks, sculptures and crafts-in fact many art lovers or collectors come to Santa Fe just to experience Canyon Road. As you walk along the narrow street surrounded by visual feasts, both inside the buildings and along the street, the feeling is overwhelming. It’s the most impressive open-air art gallery you are ever likely to encounter in North America. It is estimated that one out of every six people living in this city is associated with the art community and very quickly one assimilates into their world.
Wherever you wander around in this city you are sure to come face to face with the past and Santa Fe is its past. However, the present and the future are evident in this modern day environment.
This historic capital city is also the birthplace of Southwestern cuisine and is also renowned for excellent gourmet dining with specialties from around the world in a multitude of cosy restaurants. Some of the world’s best chefs come to town in order to open restaurants, write cookbooks, appear on television shows and generally make their own mark in the realm of innovative food preparation. In a town with such an artistic soul the culinary arts are equally important and presentation is an art form unto itself in all of the finer dining establishments. Prepare yourself for an unparalleled gourmet experience.
Shopping in Santa Fe is an inevitable pleasure. In addition to arts and crafts there is a strong international presence for leather goods, jewelry, home furnishings, fashions and antiques. With a rich history dating back to the native American trading posts, the Spanish importers and local artisans, wonderful goods have always found their way here. That tradition continues today creating a diligent shoppers’ dream world.
A very useful guide to planning your trip is Inside Santa Fe which can be easily found in many local establishments. Or you can visit online InsideSF.com before you leave home and prepare your itinerary in advance. The Santa Fe Gallery Association also publishes an Art Map which is an extremely informative guide to the arts venues and is available online for advance planning at santafegalleryassociation.org or in many local galleries upon your arrival.
Planning your vacation accommodation will present many options. There is a wide selection of charming gay-friendly hotels, inns plus bed and breakfasts throughout the state. However, staying gay in New Mexico presents some accommodation challenges depending on which towns you are visiting but Santa Fe offers some excellent choices.
The best gay experience tends to be making Santa Fe your home base then traveling the countryside for sight-seeing day-trips. We recommend the gay-owned and operated Inn of the Turquoise Bear B&B. Originally the home of Witter Bynner, a prominent gay citizen active in cultural and political life, the building dates back to the mid 1800s and is considered one of the most historically significant buildings in town. Bynner lived here with his companion of thirty years Robert Hunt and their guest list included D.H. Lawrence, Errol Flynn, Rita Hayworth and Thornton Wilder just to name a few. The current owners Ralph Bolton and Robert Frost have lovingly restored the property to its former glory and now their guest list includes numerous discerning gay travelers from around the world. The rooms are beautifully decorated in southwestern style with wood burning kiva fireplaces which come in handy on the cooler evenings at the high altitude or simply for a romantic atmosphere. The main house is perfect for a quiet time in the living room or breakfast in the dining room with a view of the city. The staff are extremely friendly and helpful with advice to help you find your way around gay friendly Santa Fe. It’s conveniently located just a few minutes walk to the Plaza, Canyon Road and most of the city’s attractions. With only ten cosy, well equipped rooms it is important to plan in advance and make your reservation early to avoid disappointment.
Other gay-owned establishments include The Triangle Inn with seven casitas offering high-end amenities, the Four Kachinas Inn with six rooms, El Farolito B&B Inn offers seven romantic rooms with private entrances and the Inn at Mountaintop provides cabin rentals with a view from high up in the mountains above the city. Each of these accommodations offer a range in prices to suit every budget.
Worthy of mention is the gay-friendly Inn Of The Five Graces a new twenty-three suite inn with a wide selection of room choices. This is no ordinary inn— it is a fantasy woven from the arts and crafts of the Orient and assembled in a warm adobe setting making the rooms as beguiling as walking through a souk. The ceilings are thatched or hand-carved and the bathrooms have Gaudi-inspired mosaics made of shattered urns. Part of the charm here, is that it borders a lane of courtyards where flowers bloom and fountains sparkle. Located within walking distance of the town center this is a very convenient hotel.
Travelling to Santa Fe usually means a flight to Albuquerque and a car rental for the pleasant one hour drive to the capital city. Your car rental will be essential to enjoy the many sights around New Mexico.
One of the most enjoyable day trips is the circular tour on the “high road” which takes you through the mountainous countryside and small villages to Taos north of Santa Fe. This is a small town with quaint and winding streets, adobe architecture and the legacy of famous past residents including D.H. Lawrence and Kit Carson. A few miles west of the town is the Rio Grand Gorge suspension bridge where you can take in a breathtaking view of the snake-like river 650 feet below. On your return journey the Taos Pueblo is a must visit. This is the largest surviving multi-storied pueblo structure and a living community which has welcomed visitors for over one thousand years. Just inside the entrance is the St. Jerome Church built in 1850 which is a National Historic Landmark and is named after the pueblos’ patron saint. The states highest summit Wheeler Peak is visible in the distance and there is an eerie feeling of calm and peace in this aboriginal village.
Other attractions worthy of a visit include the Bandera Center Ice Caves, the Bisti Badlands, the Santa Rosa Blue Hole for scuba diving, Cimarron Canyon, Chama Valley, Christ in the Desert Monastery, Carlsbad Caverns and the International UFO Museum in Roswell-just to name a few popular destinations.
This high-altitude wonderland comes with a warning— allow a couple of days adjustment to having your head in the clouds, drink lots of water and always use a sun screen—- in order to enjoy being closer to the heavens. Follow this advice and you’re sure to enjoy the enchanting romance and mystique that New Mexico offers every gay visitor.