Santa Fe: A gay-friendly city with altitude
Story and Photo by Ed Salvato; View of Santa Fe from the Belfry at sunset
As the editor in chief of The Out Traveler, I am frequently invited to speak at gatherings of professionals in the travel industry. This week I moderated a panel about gay travel at the UNESCO International Conference on Creative Tourism, highlighting the unsung contributions of the LGBT community to localities and how that translates into increased tourism.
The panel took place in Santa Fe which was perhaps the perfect location for a conference dedicated to unique, creatively rich destinations. For a population of only around 65,000, Santa Fe offers an incredibly diverse range of restaurants, galleries and historic monuments. The smallest state capital as well as the capital at the highest elevation (7,000 feet above sea level), Santa Fe will celebrate the 400th anniversary of its founding as a city in 2010.
What I love about Santa Fe is its pristine piñon-scented air, its clear light, purple mountains and its soulfulness. Few other North American destinations boast a sense of something deeper, palpable yet hidden from view: among them New Orleans' French Quarter, Boston's Beacon Hill, and Montreal's Old Town.
My speaking partner and I managed to escape only a few times from the conference but here are some of the culinary highlights for a quick visit to this super charming town. Stop for an espresso and fresh croissant or pain au chocolat at Ecco (105 E. Marcy St). For dinner, our two favorite places are Geronimo Restaurant, with its attentive service, delicious and very 'meat' oriented meals and Santa Café, with its historic location and wide range of both meat-oriented and vegetarian-inspired dishes.
There are no gay bars or gay-specific restaurants in town though you'll find lesbian and gay folks throughout Santa Fe, and the vibe is open and accepting to all visitors. You will find a strong gay (mostly male) presence at the must-visit ten thousands waves spa, a luxury mountain spa resort a few minutes by car outside of Santa Fe. The rocky, mountainous environment is included as part of the spa experience with outdoor sitting and relaxation areas and private, fence-enclosed tubs. There is a women-only Jacuzzi/sauna area (which for obvious reasons I couldn't check out) and a purportedly mixed one, though during my entire visit, there were only naked, gay men. The massage treatments are excellent, and one 'master' therapist, Wayne was highly recommended by several locals I talked with.