This week’s guest post is from gay travel writer, Andrew Collins. It’s part two of a two-part post on the Santa Fe gay scene and what LGBT travelers will find in The City Different. Read part one.
Santa Fe isn’t much for gay nightlife, but in recent years, venues have increased in number and popularity. Bar-hopping here is a very mixed affair – gays, lesbians, and straights tend to congregate together. There’s one excellent spot that does market more than most to the gay community (and is LGBT-owned), the Rouge Cat, which longtime local DJ Oona Bender opened in May 2010. It’s almost the perfect establishment – in personality and in dimension – for the city’s GLBT crowd. It’s elegant and compact, with a swish street-level lounge with warm lighting and comfy seats. Here you can hobnob, sip wine and cocktails, and even order light snacks. Head down a flight of stairs, and you reach a good-size dance floor with great music. As there are two distinct areas with two styles (and decibel levels), there’s a terrific mix of ages and personalities here, too. Even better, Rouge Cat is along a stretch of excellent, gay-popular restaurants on West Marcy Street that include La Boca (one of my favorite restaurants in all of New Mexico), Il Piatto, and – just around the corner – El Meson.
There are other mixed nightspots good for hanging out downtown, from the upscale steak restaurant Vanessie, which has long had a community following thanks to its high-caliber live piano cabaret, and the quirky Matador, a raffish basement dive bar that’s good fun for people watching.
And then out at the Rainbow Vision GLBT retirement community, the Silver Starlight Lounge is open to the public and is a beautiful space for cocktails and socializing (it’s open Wednesday through Saturday evenings, from 5 until midnight). There are often dances, cabaret, and mixers here, and happy hour tends to be quite popular.
Mostly, though, when my gay friends in Santa Fe propose heading out for drinks, it’s to one of any number of the great restaurants around town, to sip and snack at the bar or to mingle over a long dinner. This is a fantastic city for eating, and there’s not a restaurant in town that isn’t completely welcoming of gays and lesbians. A few of my favorites – factoring in both excellent food and a lively social scene – are Restaurant Martin, which is first-rate for creative contemporary regional cuisine and lovely for a special occasion; La Choza and Atrisco Cafe for authentic New Mexican cuisine – the former has the more inviting ambience; El Farol for music and terrific Spanish tapas; The Cowgirl for barbecue and terrific margaritas; and Harry’s Roadhouse (which I’ve mentioned so many times in so many articles, I’m sure it’s starting to appear as though I’m a paid spokesman). In fact, I don’t know a soul who works there, but I love Harry’s – and as much for dinner and cocktails as for lunch and brunch on sunny days.
I will always have a tremendous soft spot for Santa Fe cooking, and it’s probably the aspect of New Mexico I miss the most now living nearly 1,400 miles away.
I could easily chatter on for another few pages on the many other aspects of Santa Fe that make it such a wonderful place to visit, from the abundance of distinctive, artful hotels (virtually every lodging in town is gay-friendly) to the fascinating museums around the Plaza and a couple of miles south on Museum Hill. There’s so much to see in this welcoming, progressive city. Perhaps the one counterpoint to this observation that bears mentioning is that Santa Fe is also a wonderful place for tranquil relaxation. You can saunter slowly along the quite residential streets that lead up into the foothills, sip margaritas from the rooftop Bell Tower Bar at the historic La Fonda Hotel, or laze on a bench in the courtyard of a secluded inn or B&B, gazing up at the blue sky (or the nighttime stars).
Bio: Former Santa Fe resident Andrew Collins co-wrote and co-edited Fodor’s New Mexico 2011, produces the New York Times-owned website http://www.gaytravel.about.com, teaches food writing and travel writing for Gotham Writers’ Workshop, and has written for numerous magazines, newspapers, and guidebook publishers over the years, from New Mexico Magazine to Travel + Leisure. You can also follow him on Twitter.