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Out of Town

Weekend in Santa Fe

Andrew Collins | January 28, 2004

The Little Black Book
  • Cafe Pasqual's (121 Don Gaspar, 505-983-9340)
  • The Compound (653 Canyon Rd., 505-982-4343)
  • El Farolito (514 Galisteo St., 505-988-1631 or 888-634-8782)
  • Georgia O'Keeffe Museum (217 Johnson St., 505-995-0785)
  • Geronimo (724 Canyon Rd., 505-982-1500). Hotel St. Francis (210 Don Gaspar Ave., 505-983-5700 or 800-529-5700)
  • Hotel Santa Fe (1501 Paseo de Peralta, 505-982-1200 or 800-825-9876)
  • Il Vicino (321 W. San Francisco St., 505-986-8700)
  • Inn of the Anasazi (113 Washington Ave., 505-988-3030 or 800-688-8100)
  • Inn of the Turquoise Bear (342 E. Buena Vista St., 505-983-0798 or 800-396-4104)
  • Kasasoba (544 Agua Fria, 505-984-1969)
  • Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument (I-25 south to Cochiti exit 264, 505-761-8700)
  • Lensic Performing Arts Center (211 W. San Francisco St., 505-988-1234)
  • Longevity Cafe (Plaza Mercada, 112 W. San Francisco St., 505-986-0403)
  • Maria Benitez Teatro Flamenco (Radisson Santa Fe, 750 N. St. Francis Dr., 505-955-8562 or 888-435-2636)
  • Museum of International Folk Art (706 Camino Lejo, 505-476-1200)
  • Museum of Spanish Colonial Art (750 Camino Lejo, 505-982-2226)
  • Palace of the Governors (Palace Ave., 505-476-5100)
  • Paramount (331 Sandoval St., 505-982-8999). (72 W. Marcy St., 505-982-8738)
  • Santa Fe Convention and Visitors Bureau (505-955-6200 or 800-777-2489)
  • Santa Fe Opera (U.S. 285/84, just north of town, 505-986-5900 or 800-280-4654)
  • The Shed (113 E. Palace Ave., 505-982-9030). Swig (135 W. Palace Ave., third floor, 505-955-0400)
  • Ten Thousand Waves (3451 Hyde Park Rd., 505-982-9304) 315 Restaurant and Wine Bar (315 Old Santa Fe Trail, 505-986-9190)
  • Triangle Inn (Hwy. 11, off U.S. 285/84, Arroyo Cuyamungue, 505-455-3375)
  • One of the best things about Santa Fe - apart from the fact that it's exceptionally gay-friendly - is that the weather here is delightful year-round. This city of 60,000 is a sunny four-season destination, surprisingly cool in summer (because of its 7,000 foot elevation and frequent afternoon thunderstorms), with low humidity and temperatures seldom above 90 degrees. Knowing that the odds favor wonderful weather, it's always safe to plan a weekend getaway here, especially in July and August, when the city's acclaimed performing-arts scene comes alive.

    A favorite local ritual is attending the architecturally magnificent Santa Fe Opera, an open-air amphitheater set among pinon trees and sagebrush, with endless views of the 12,000-foot Sangre de Cristo mountains. Five productions are presented in repertory from late June through August, and tickets can be hard to score, so book well ahead if possible. The opera sometimes overshadows other opportunities around town to enjoy the arts, such as the beautifully restored Lensic Performing Arts Center, a 1930s Moorish- and Spanish Renaissance-style theater that hosts the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, the Santa Fe Symphony, and the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, along with pop musicians and plays and musicals. A dazzling entertainment option is the Maria Benitez Teatro Flamenco. Benitez, one of the most accomplished flamenco dancers in the world, gives concerts throughout the summer at the Radisson Santa Fe.

    Santa Fe has no shortage of charming accommodations, including a handful of gay-owned B&Bs; and inns. One nice thing about B&Bs; in northern New Mexico is that they typically comprise a small compound of casitas (adobe-style cottages) or a cluster of rooms with separate entrances, thereby affording plenty of privacy. Among the longest-running and most enjoyable such properties is the lesbian-owned Triangle Inn, a compound of nine casitas about a 15-minute drive north of downtown. Units have lovely southwestern furnishings, VCRs, stereos, and kitchenettes, and many can sleep four.

    The Triangle draws mostly gay folks, whereas the other gay-owned B&Bs; in Santa Fe cater to a mixed crowd. If you're looking to stay in the heart of downtown, try El Farolito, a collection of airy casitas with fireplaces, striking Mexican and Southwestern furniture, and original art and photography. The Inn of the Turquoise Bear occupies the rambling Spanish-Pueblo Revival estate of Witter Bynner, a gay poet and socialite of the 1920s and '30s who threw lavish parties here that drew the likes of Willa Cather, Errol Flynn, W.H. Auden, and Stephen Spender. It's a warm and inviting inn surrounded by secret gardens and run by friendly hosts.

    Among larger, mainstream lodgings, excellent choices include the ultraposh Inn of the Anasazi, a 59-room boutique hotel with kiva fireplaces (common in Santa Fe, they're shaped a bit like beehive ovens), handwoven fabrics, organic toiletries, and highly personalized service; and the more economical and historic Hotel St. Francis, which dates to 1912 and has cozy, simply furnished rooms. Both are steps from the Plaza and have inviting bars; the Anasazi has a particularly outstanding restaurant. Another hotel that makes a terrific base is the upscale Hotel Santa Fe, which fringes the funky Guadalupe District, an artsy and hip neighborhood on the south edge of downtown that's still an easy walk from the Plaza. The hotel is owned principally by one of the area's Indian pueblos (the Picuris tribe), and talks and dances relating to New Mexico's indigenous cultures are often held in the lobby.

    When you arrive Friday night, try dining somewhere casual and informal. Serving some of the most authentic northern New Mexican fare in town, The Shed is an excellent choice. The setting inside a 1692 adobe is ideal for sampling such local favorites as green-chile stew with pork and potatoes, and red-chile enchiladas. Or drop by Il Vicino, an inexpensive, gay-friendly pizza place serving delicious thin-crust pies topped with gourmet ingredients, microbrewed beers, and a cheerful courtyard.

    Saturday morning, particularly if you're not yet acclimated to Santa Fe's high altitude, you might want to take it easy and limit physical activities. Start with brunch at fabulous Cafe Pasqual's, where you might sample buttermilk biscuits with sage-bacon gravy, homemade sausage, and poached eggs. Take a walk around the Plaza; check out the numerous shops and cafes; admire the city's adobe-clad Pueblo Revival, Spanish Colonial, and Victorian buildings; or stop by the circa-1610 Palace of the Governors, a state history museum set inside the nation's oldest public building. There are several museums nearby, dealing mostly with art (such as the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, which has a superb cafe).

    If you're a die-hard museum explorer, make the short drive (or bus ride) up the Old Santa Fe Trail to Museum Hill, a complex of outstanding cultural attractions, the highlight being the Museum of International Folk Art. The recently opened Museum of Spanish Colonial Art is another top draw. If you'd rather spend most of your time outside, saunter up Canyon Road, a narrow, winding lane of historic adobe bungalows containing some of the most prestigious art galleries in the Southwest.

    That evening, make plans for a leisurely, romantic meal at one of Santa Fe's many temples of fine contemporary cuisine, such as The Compound or Geronimo, the latter being a popular gay-date venue. A locals' favorite with stellar regional American fare and reasonable prices, Paul's occupies an intimate storefront cafe a couple of blocks from the Plaza.

    Santa Fe is one of the most popular places in the country for gay couples to live and visit. Singles, on the other hand, are in the minority, and it can be difficult to meet people here. If you're looking to cut loose a bit during your visit and possibly meet others, Saturday night is the perfect time to do so. The bustling nightclub Paramount pulls in a fair share of lesbians and gay guys for dancing, as does the supertrendy and swank cocktail lounge Swig, which also serves some of the best bar munchies (of the mod Pan-Asian variety) in town. There's a mellower scene at the groovy Longevity Cafe, a New Age-y teahouse and smoothie bar with plush seating.

    There's spectacular hiking all around Santa Fe, but if you have time for just one ramble, head to Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, the trailhead of which is about a 45-minute drive south of town. Save this 2-mile, moderately steep hike for Sunday, and go late in the afternoon when the sun isn't directly over you. The trail passes through a narrow, dramatic box canyon and then rises up to a lofty promontory affording panoramic views of the mountains and mesas. The monument is named for the bizarre rock formations that rise high out of one end of the canyon and look a bit like sandstone tepees.

    Return to town in time to enjoy Sunday dinner at one of the places mentioned earlier, or if you've had your fill of New Mexican fare, head to the first-rate Asian noodle house Kasasoba or the dapper 315 Restaurant and Wine Bar, which serves expertly prepared French bistro fare. Whether you're alone or with your honey, it's always fun to end a day of hiking with a soak in one of the outdoor hot tubs at Ten Thousand Waves, a gay-popular Japanese-style spa in the foothills on the east side of town. It's a memorable spot for star-gazing, and the perfect place to relax during your final night in Santa Fe.

    Andrew Collinsis the author of 10 travel guides, including Fodor's Gay Guide to the USA.

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