Queer Girl City Guide: Santa Fe, New Mexico

0. 2/20/2012 – Here/Queer Call for Submissions, by Riese
1. 3/02/2012 – Queer Girl City Guide: Montreal, Canada, by Sid
2. 3/05/2012 – Playlist: Here/Queer, by Riese
3. 3/05/2012 – Queer Girl City Guide: Portland, Oregon, by Lesbians in PDX
4. 3/07/2012 – Queer Girl City Guide: Brighton, United Kingdom, by Sarah Magdalena
5. 3/07/2012 – Oh But To Be A Queer in Sicily, by Jenn
6. 3/08/2012 – City Guide: Seattle, by Marley
7. 3/11/2012 - City Guide: Washington DC, by Keena
8. 3/13/2012 – Here/Queer: Sydney Mardi Gras Is On Your To-Do List, by Crystal
9. 3/14/2012 – Queer Girl City Guide: Spokane, Washington, by Ana
10. 3/15/2012 – Queer Girl City Guide: Cleveland, Ohio, by Lora
11. 3/16/2012 – Madison, WI and W4W Entertainment, by Emily
12. 3/16/2012 – Queer Girl City Guide: Dublin, Ireland, by Una
13. 3/19/2012 – Queer Girl City Guide: Vancouver, Canada, by Kathryn
14. 3/19/2012 – Things We Wrote That You Loved, by The Team
15. 3/20/2012 – Here/Queer: Boogie Down Bronx, by Gabby
16. 3/21/2012 – Queer Girl City Guide: Columbus, Ohio, by Dominique, Annie, Kat, Liz & Mila
17. 3/24/2012 – Queer Girl City Guide: Santa Fe, New Mexico, by Sam

I’ve lived in Santa Fe for about nine months and I’ve never fallen in love with a place as quickly and fiercely as I have with the “City Different.” Others feel this way too, as evidenced by the local economy’s driving factor—tourism. People love to come here (and stay here!). The city’s near-perfect weather, massive art scene (second only to NYC in the United States), and cohesive architectural style (Pueblo Revival) draw many different types of people to Santa Fe all year long. Santa Fe is an “escape” of sorts — it’s quiet and mountainous and some people find it magical. Residents welcome tourists, despite the fact that they might butcher the pronunciation of the Spanish-named streets and crowd the tiny, one-way dirt roads with their massive SUVs. We welcome outsiders because that’s what Santa Fe is all about. That’s what makes Santa Fe awesome for residents, awesome for visitors, and especially awesome for the gays. Because I’m a lesbian, and I’m 24-years-old, and I’ve already done all this, and it only makes sense that things will be easy for you too!

Free hugs!

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The Lonely Bar

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Santa Fe is very small (there are only 70,000 or so full-time residents), the majority of the people are old enough to retire, and the nightlife in general is pretty quiet. That said, there is one gay bar/club: The Rouge Cat (101 W. Marcy)! It is female-owned, but it’s also pretty male-dominated and tend to have a 30+ crowd. On the main level, there’s a comfortable but chic sitting area and small bar. Most of the cocktail-drinking folks here are in their thirties (or forties/fifties?) and male, so go on the weekends (even though you’ll have to pay a cover) and head downstairs. It’s darker and there’s a DJ, another bar, and many more women.

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Food and Friends

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Mostly all places in Santa Fe are gay-friendly. I say this from experience because I have been (and am) that girl who drunkenly “takes on the town” whilst having zero regard for anything but myself and the girl I want to make out with right then.

If you’re downtown, I’d recommend Marble’s Taproom (60 E. San Francisco) because you can sit outside all year round (there are heaters!) and get in some prime hippie watching.

Coyote Café’s Cantina (132 W. Water) is only open in the summer, but it’s also an awesome outdoor spot with some great lady-meeting potential.

If you’re in the Railyard area (which you should be!), head to the Cowgirl (319 S. Guadalupe) or the Second Street Brewery‘s new location, which is attached to the Farmer’s Market Pavilion (1607 Paseo de Peralta). Chances are you’ll meet a crunchy, most-likely-artistic, possibly-musician-ish lady at one of these places. I recommend you embrace collapsible hula hoops AKA the best conversation starters of all time.

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College Life For Students and Beyond

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I moved to Santa Fe from Boulder, Colorado, which is really the “quintessential” college town. For a while, I thought Santa Fe beared zero resemblance, but I slowly began to understand how awesome the college scene here is. It’s a little more subtle which is nice in comparison to a place like Boulder, which was so in-your-face with its frats and neon tank tops and wayfarers everywhere you turned.

Santa Fe Community College is a huge part of the community and is great because it offers options for all types of students. They have a student-run gallery on Canyon Road (in the heart of the art district) called Red Dot Gallery (826 Canyon). Visit it!

St. John’s College (a small, liberal college on “The Hill”) is also fairly fantastic! This much I know about St. John’s: they host a series of free outdoor concerts on their athletic fields every Wednesday in the summer called “Music on the Hill,” their dining hall serves cheap, delicious food (even for non-students) AND some of my favorite hiking starts right in their parking lots. I’d recommend the Atalaya Trail—six or seven miles gives way to totally awesome 360-degree mountain views although it is exposed so if you don’t do well in the sun, it might not be for you.

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The General Scene Around Town

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Hippies arrived everywhere in the 60s and 70s, right? A couple years later, a lot of them grew up, started families and lost (most of) their hippie tendencies. Not here! A lot of people say that Santa Fe never changed after that initial counter-culture infiltration. What I’m saying is: people here are really laid-back, very open to new and/or different people and things and overwhelmingly accepting. Sometimes, I feel like I’m living in a world that is part vacation and part Twilight Zone. Most Santa Feans do not care if their child’s five-year-old classmate has two mommies. In fact, they probably won’t even NOTICE. In terms of “support for LGBT families,” we’re basically living in Tomorrowland; differences aren’t only embraced here in Santa Fe, they’re celebrated and expected! As far as strictly gay things go, there’s unfortunately no “gayborhood” but there are plenty of gayish places like the Railyard. For those of you more advanced in years, there is one LGBT retirement community called Rainbow Vision on the outskirts of Santa Fe.

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Bookstores and More

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There aren’t any big chain bookstores in Santa Fe, so if you’re looking for a massive selection, you won’t find it here. But if you’re looking for incredible independent shops with culture and a sense of neighborhood friendliness, we’ve got the place for you.

Collected Works (202 Galisteo) is an independent and locally owned bookstore and coffee house, located downtown, with book signings/readings, live music, talks, and more.

If you’re closer to the Railyard, visit The Ark (133 Romero). Their highest-selling book, which I think is generally indicative of the feeling of the store, is 2013 Oracle by David Carson.

“The 2013 Oracle looks beyond 2012 with a powerful divination system, including a mirror-finished card deck, a colorful printed cenote cloth to contain and focus the oracular energies, and a four-color book to explain and interpret the guidance of the ancients.”

Overall, these are both great bookstores that are involved with the community, and will go to pretty great lengths for customer satisfaction.

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Arts Groups

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I could write a book about “the arts” in Santa Fe. On Canyon Road, there are more than 100 galleries in a one-mile stretch. Throughout the rest of town, galleries are sprinkled everywhere. Go to these galleries! Every one you can! Even if you don’t like the arts. Trust me, you will meet interesting people and you will learn something. Ask questions about the work, embrace your feelings about the pieces, and listen to what others and/or the artist might have to say. If the artist has a studio attached, ask to visit it; be curious and you will be rewarded. Gallery openings are a big social event–they’re usually on Fridays–and also provide a great excuse to talk to the cute artists you’ve been scoping out.

SOL at the Santa Fe Brewing Company is a cool venue that holds concerts. Besides the convention center (which brings in amazing acts like the Pixies and the Smiths sometimes), it is the only place around town to see a “real” concert. The Santa Fe Brewing Company also makes some pretty good beer.

Jeff Overlie Opening at Riva Yares

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Things get hot at the Farmer's Market

Dating Scene

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The dating scene is a little bit tricky, especially for those under 30. Like I said, Santa Fe is small and generally sleepy, so it takes some work to work the dating scene. Just remember that going to bars, getting drunk, and hooking up is not always the best way to meet girl, so be open to new dating opportunities. Try networking (meetup.com and OKCupid have been do-able, in my experience) and seek women out in unconventional settings — at book readings, on biking/pedestrian trails, in the dog park, at gallery openings, and at the Farmer’s Market.

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Diversity

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Opinions on racial/cultural diversity in Santa Fe (not New Mexico, not Albuquerque, etc.) differ. You might find tension between Native American populations, Spanish populations, Hispanic populations, and Anglo populations or you might not.  Economic diversity is alive and well, but varying socio-economic groups are extremely segregated which. At the same time, Santa Fe is somewhat upscale and you don’t have to do much to ignore the outside world. I’d caution you to stay educated about what’s going on!

Downtown Santa Fe

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Safety

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Santa Fe is generally a safe town when appropriate precautions are taken to avoid danger. Since it’s quiet and closes down pretty early, it gets a little bit creepy at night, so take a friend with you if you’re alone. Avoid areas that are desolate, be smart, and you’ll be fine. The majority of crime in Santa Fe theft and burglary, so just lock your stuff up!

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Cost of Living

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The cost of living is pretty significant in Santa Fe, especially close to downtown, but it’s not too too high. I’m an entry-level worker with a SUPER entry-level salary and I support myself fairly easily. The good news: Santa Fe has the highest minimum wage in the country. It’s $10.29 per hour.

New Mexico is underrated. I can’t say this enough times to make people believe me. Santa Fe is innovative, unassuming, and the air is really clean. It’s not for everyone, but if you think it might be for you, try it! I think you’ll like what you find.

Part of an ongoing series of Queer Girl City Guides.

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29 Comments

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    I JUST left Santa Fe on Wednesday after living there for two months. I could have used this!!!! I’ll just have to go back someday soon.

    IF YOU WANT TO FIND THE LESBIANS GET A JOB AT WHOLE FOODS. That’s the only place I got hit on by a lady the entire time I was there. But I guess that goes for every city, right?

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    Another thing Santa Fe has: Zozobra.
    For the past three years my friends and I have hopped on the train from ABQ to watch Old Man Gloom burn, usually after drinking copious amounts of tequila/whiskey/wine.
    If you’re into watching a giant papier-mâché effigy become engulfed in flame while dancers twirl and twist around the stage in fire costumes, then this is your scene.

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    I briefly went to Santa Fe University of Art and Design, previously known as the College of Santa Fe (and dropped out after a semester because I realized I just wasn’t ready for college.. BUT!) It is another great choice for school- it’s reasonably close to downtown, gay-friendly, and offers a lot to its students. I still keep in touch with the friends I made there. And I agree, Santa Fe is awesome.

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    Santa Fe sounds like my kind of place. Thanks so much for writing this, and for the bookstore suggestion :)

    After living in Phoenix for a while, I fell in love with the desert; the sky is so huge that it’s every whimsy becomes majestic. The people I had met there have since moved to the northwest, where the subcultures rule and the trees are divas~ hah nothing against these things at all- but you mention that Santa Fe is subtle, and that intrigues me to no end! In those kind of towns, it seems you have to really make your own experience out of only a few ingredients. I dig that. I live in Saint Louis now, and it’s totally a small town disguised as a city. I can’t go anywhere without running into a friend or former bandmate. But come summer it’ll be time to go adventuring.i heard there were some pretty cool ruins in Santa Fe too. Road trip!

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        Yeah? By former do you mean you graduated from there or transferred elsewhere? That’s not surprising, I suppose it’s good I don’t have high expectations for any kind of LGBT community within the college itself. I’m just so enamored with the program.

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          Oh, I graduated from there, and the program really did live up to my expectations. I can’t think of a better way to have spent those four years. (As for the town itself, I’m a bigger-city kind of gal at heart, but being surrounded by so much natural beauty and just being able to go walk up a mountain any ol’ time was plenty of compensation for anything I was missing.)

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          That’s good to know! Ah, and I agree about the bigger-city thing. Also, I’ve heard that it’s somewhat of an inconvenience to get from the campus to the downtown/plaza area of Santa Fe. Would you say that’s an accurate statement?

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          Oh, kind of — Santa Fe’s bus system wasn’t great (but was very cheap) when I lived there. Campus is not super close to the plaza, but you can definitely walk there in . . . 40–50 minutes, I want to say? Definitely under an hour. It’s a much quicker bike ride, of course. And Canyon Road, which has lots of adorable cafes and galleries and such, is a very easy walk for a bit of civilization. However, given how much of a tourist town Santa Fe can be, I appreciated being situated a bit away from all that during peak season.

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    Oh my god. I was born there and spent 22 years of my life in Los Alamos, just 45 minutes north. The landscape alone gives the state its nickname, the Land of Enchantment. The art scene is so incredible and ever changing with new shows and emerging artists. I once modeled for a painter who shows his work on Canyon Road. One summer night a couple years ago, I went to karaoke at Tiny’s, a bar/restaurant at the intersection of St. Francis and Cerrillos. There were about 30 lesbians there, you might give that a shot. Thank you for writing about this pretty much unknown gem of a city! I can’t wait to visit in August, attending a songwriting workshop on the campus of St. John’s!

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    Santa Fe also has a pretty amazing (and pretty) roller derby team, the Santa Fe Disco Brawlers. Although there are some awesome hetero ladies on the team as well, the Santa Fe Disco Brawlers are unofficially the gayest team in the Duke City Derby league. They practice at Herb Martinez Park most of the year, but travel to Taos and Albuquerque for bouts. Check ‘em out! https://www.facebook.com/pages/Disco-Brawlers/198977443519318
    Season Schedule: http://dukecityderby.com/

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    Autostraddle’s Queer Girl City Guides are literally the best thing to ever happen to me via the internet. Next time I move they will probably be my one and only reference so I can find a place to live queerly… can someone PLEASE make a guide for Denver and San Francisco?? I need to be able to compare them to Portland (another option for my life)

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    THANK YOU! This is great for a newcomer! I grew up in ABQ (guide coming shortly) but I really love Santa Fe. It’s like no other city in so many ways. I also like the Atomic Grill (if it’s still open), Cafe Pasquals, and I second Tiny’s.

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    It’s 2AM and I graduated after four years at St. John’s in May and just a couple weeks ago moved to Portland which is wonderful and I can’t believe I’m typing this but god do I miss Santa Fe. I’d like to take this opportunity to share some things I learned while I lived there. It won’t be specifically queer focused, since I haven’t been out long, but if you’re thinking of going to school or moving there or just visiting, I hope it helps.

    +Your hair in Santa Fe is different from your hair anywhere else. It’s the humidity (none) or the elevation (lots). Be prepared to get acquainted with the strange new creature living on your scalp. Also buy super-chapstick, because your everyday sort will not cut it there.

    +The last picture in this post? The sky looks like that or better every night. Every. Night. It’s goddamn magical is what it is.

    +The correct answer to the question “red or green?” is “Christmas.”

    +The streets are not laid out according to any known geometric principles. The best way of getting around is to get lost. If you are suddenly alone in the middle of the desert you went too far, get out of the car and breathe some and then go back.

    +I have a lot of feelings about The Food, here are some of them:
    -If you are hungry and it’s after midnight on a weekday, there are not a whole hell of a lot of choices. You can go to the IHOP on Cerrillos, which is an IHOP. You can go to the Denny’s on Cerrillos, which for some reason has markedly higher food quality after 10PM and doesn’t mind when you and your study-friends group up and cover all the tables with your laptops and side-ruled notebooks and fetal positions because the essay is due in six hours and you haven’t slept in the last 32. You can go to the Atomic Cafe, which is delicious but more ‘spensive and open until 3AM. Or you can go to Burrito Spot and have a fantastic cheap giant burrito, but it is possible you will feel uncomfortable being there late at night on your own. Bring friends, throw nachos at them.
    -For affordable authentic New Mexican food, you must eat at The Pantry. Order sopapillas and a chorizo breakfast burrito, or maybe the green chile burger. See how happy that made you? If your parents are coming into town and want to sample the local fare, take them to Tomasita’s and have them pay.
    -Speaking of other people paying, I had one of the best meals of my life at a place called Dinner For Two. ~$35 per person if you drink water and tip modestly, but the soup was so good I almost cried. The service is also very friendly, and the ambience is terrifically cozy and romantic. Great destination for Restaurant Week (Santa Fe Restaurant Week, Google it, know forever), which is over for this year, but keep it in mind!
    -Go to the Teahouse on Canyon Road, order the oatmeal, even (especially!) if you do not usually like oatmeal. With fruit, please. It will be blue and taste like heaven. You could also get some tea if you want, their tea menu is like 6000 pages long.
    -Flying Star Cafe at the Railyard has free dessert with a dinner entree on Tuesdays. Go get you some giant-ass devil’s food cupcakes or bread pudding. Some of my friends work there; be nice.

    +I never dated a girl in Santa Fe. If I had, here are some things I would have liked to have done with her:
    -Dancing at the Rouge Cat.
    -Moon Rabbit Toys, an amazing fair-trade toy (not the sexy kind) store, founded by an alum of my school. Get to know an inner child, yours or somebody’s anyway! It’s a beautiful, quirky, nerdy place, and there is nary a Barbie in sight. Plenty of board games and weird little doodads to interest any age group. My one complaint is that it’s fairly small, and probably not quite enough to merit being a date destination on its own. Great spot to hang out while you wait for the show to start at the Lensic down the street, though.
    -In the toys (totally the sexy kind) department, Au Boudoir is your local feminist, friendly/awesome source for all things that go buzz in the night. Very helpful, kind staff ladies.
    -DO YOU LIKE BATHS? You must, YOU MUST, go to 10,000 Waves. Drive up into the mountains a little ways until everything is beautiful everywhere, then pay $20 to get unlimited access all day to swimsuit-optional (really, either way, no one cares, I promise) women-only (or co-ed, if that’s your speed) hot tubs, saunas, and relaxation areas. It’s styled after Japanese onsen, and you will absolutely feel like the best possible version of yourself after a few hours there. If you have more time and money and reeeeally dig hot springs, Ojo Caliente about an hour’s drive from the city is your jam.
    -Corazon is the bar/club/venue to hit up for strange music from bands you’ve never heard of but it seems like everyone else in here has. I saw Murder By Death and the Red Elvises there. Gets real crowded and I don’t know if the drinks are any good, but sometimes you wanna be where the music is, right?
    -The Matador is a dive pub off the Plaza. I went there just after my 21st and when I told the bartender that (as an explanation for why I had no idea what drink I wanted), he gave me something pink that I am fairly sure contained whiskey, said it was called A Single Gentleman and, quote, “it’ll knock you on your ass.” All I remember from the rest of the night is disturbingly earnest conversation about threesomes. I have never been back to the Matador. Maybe you should go?
    -The DeVargas mall has a great little movie theater full of Oscar bait. Go to a later show, then wander around the rest of the closed mall and pretend you and your date are survivors of the zombie apocalypse. I know, it’s incredible I’m still single.

    +If you’re looking to get inked, I have friends who swear by Four Star. Or you could head on out to ABQ and get it done at Evolution, where you can also get some quality piercing.

    +You should probably take up blues dancing. It’s super sexy, easy to learn, and really queer-friendly. Take a couple free classes on Wednesday nights at St. John’s, and look up High Desert Blues Dance on Facebook to hear about upcoming events.

    +The most beautiful time to be in Santa Fe is in mid-autumn when the aspens everywhere are turning gold. The other most beautiful time to be in Santa Fe is in the summer when you’re lying on the warm grass under a clear blue sky and watching a thunderstorm roll across the desert miles away. The other most beautiful time to be in Santa Fe is on Christmas Eve, wandering the Plaza after dark when the pueblos are dusted with snow and the paper-bag lanterns are shining wherever you look.

    It’s now 4AM and I’ve told you some things I remember about Santa Fe. The weather was crap most of the year and a person can get real sick of adobe and memories. Santa Fe and me, we didn’t work out. At least I’ll always have that song from RENT/Newsies. But you! You should go!

    You won’t believe how big the sky is.

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      Ahhh does it make me feel old that there are now Johnnies out there who have matriculated and graduated in the time since I left. But happy that some of the traditions are still the same! Yes to Burrito Spot (where I first discovered horchata, their “Orange Bam” drink is also amazing) and Atomic Cafe and that Denny’s as late-night havens. And I worked at the DeVargas movie theater for a summer and change, which was among the most miserable jobs I’ve ever had, haha. I ended up feeling the same way about SF in the end, too, with respect to both the adobe-burnout and the Newsies.

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    moving to santa fe as well from the ATX .. where the hell do people live here? would it be best to go there and seek or just try to rent a casita off the craiglist? Also good to know I will be with like-minded folks.. thanks for writing this will be of great help!

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    Thanks so much for this guide!! My girlfriend and I are doing a cross-country road trip and staying in Santa Fe tonight, and we are going to the Cowgirl BBQ for dinner because they have gluten-free options and allow dogs outside! :)

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