Peace and calm reigned amid ancient buildings with views of sacred Taos Mountain against a cobalt sky. There are many sides to Taos, a place of calm amid upheaval. These are some things to do in Taos, NM.
It’s been nearly four decades since I first visited Taos. I was unexpectedly alone and rented a car in Santa Fe. The moment I set foot on Taos Pueblo land, I felt at home. Peace and calm reigned amid ancient buildings with views of sacred Taos Mountain against a cobalt sky. Although much has changed since that first visit, it remains one of my favorite destinations. There are many sides to Taos, a place of calm amid upheaval. After closing down in 2020 because of COVID for more than two years, the Taos Pueblo has finally reopened for visitors in August 2022. Here are my recommendations on the best things to do in Taos, NM, along with ways you can best experience the culture and history of Taos.
Taos Pueblo Today
With structures built between 1000 and 1450 A.D., the beautiful lands of Taos Pueblo encompass 95,000 acres. Two buildings are the nation’s oldest continuously inhabited structures.
The first time I visited, there was no gate attendant, no entry fee, no photography restrictions, and no shops awaiting tourists. Today, visitors park outside the signature adobe walls and pay an entry fee. Cameras require a photography fee. And photography may be prohibited altogether during special ceremonies or events.
Annual festivals honor the harvest, the saints, and animals such as deer or buffalo. Each summer, the Taos Pueblo Pow Wow draws competitive drummers and dancers from across the nation. During one of my most memorable visits, I bundled up against the early morning spring chill and attended a brief mass inside the chapel. Then I watched, awestruck, as current residents replicated a centuries-old foot race.
Stop by the Taos Visitor Center to see Taos Pueblo Art. Artists from the community relocated to the visitor center during the pandemic, while the pueblo was closed to the public. You can still find many artisans there every Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Unfortunate History of Taos
When we toured Taos Pueblo with our daughters, our guide stopped at a spot where we could see the nearby mountain range. “No Teddy Bears are allowed at Taos Pueblo,” she said, “because of the land Theodore Roosevelt stole from us.”
In 1906, the Roosevelt administration declared this stolen land the Carson National Forest. The taking of this mountainous area dealt a major blow to the psyche of Taos Pueblo. They believed its Blue Lake was the spiritual source from which pueblo natives originated. President Nixon returned 48,000 acres in 1970.
For many years now, Taos Pueblo artisans have welcomed shoppers. From sterling jewelry and mica-flecked pottery to moccasins and drums, their work is exquisite and one-of-a-kind. Contemporary fine artists combine traditional and modern themes in their art too.
Since my first Taos visit, I have returned at least half a dozen times. Each visit seems infused with a bit of magic. Could the Taos Hum draw me back to this area repeatedly?
Spaniards who founded the town of Taos profoundly influenced its art and architecture, from blocks of adobe buildings to gorgeous ornate doors. This little town is a paradise for photographers on a sunny day when no clouds surround mountain peaks. Today, the Historic District features more than 100 galleries plus shops and restaurants. For a local perspective, book a narrated Historical Taos Trolley Tour.
One of my favorite shops is La Chiripada Tasting Room, a retail outpost of the state’s oldest winery. I almost exclusively drank white wines during my visit over a decade ago. But after one taste of La Chiripada’s port, I packed a bottle to share at home. Now favoring red wine, I still find plenty to like about this winery’s award-winning selections. This is a great way to check out some New Mexico wines.
Artful Pursuits in Taos
‘Creatives’ have flocked to Taos since the 1800s. After artist Joseph Henry Sharp described the town to fellow artists Ernest Blumenschein and Bert Phillips, they visited while driving from Denver to Mexico. But the pair ended up staying when a wagon wheel broke 30 miles outside of town.
Sharp and another painter launched the Taos Society of Artists in 1912. Socialite Mabel Dodge Luhan arrived in Taos in 2017. She later encouraged D.H. Lawrence, Ansel Adams, Willa Cather, Aldous Huxley, Carl Jung, Georgia O’Keefe, Thornton Wilder, and Thomas Wolfe to discover the magic of Taos. In addition, legendary Southwest artist R.C. Gorman conducted business in Taos for more than 30 years. There’s also plenty of creativity on display at Taos Art Museum at Fechin House and the Millicent Rogers Museum.
More than 1,000 visual artists currently show their work at dozens of galleries throughout the town. Many artists also live and work along Taos Canyon Road. In addition, the Taos Arts Council sponsors numerous events, including the Taos Fall Arts Festival. Running since 1974, it showcases all levels of artistic expertise.
Eats & Drinks in Taos, NM
Creativity extends to restaurant kitchens throughout Taos. My favorite breakfast spot is Michael’s Kitchen, Restaurant & Bakery, where cinnamon rolls are the size of dinner plates and breakfast enchiladas are to die for. The local favorite opened in 1974. I realized just how much Taos felt like home when I provided directions for another visitor as I left the restaurant one morning.
Dinner at Orlando’s New Mexican Café is a real treat. I never knew about this family-owned restaurant until a high school friend and resident recommended it. Brilliant painted images cover every inch of walls in the tiny dining room, with its spacious patio. For the shortest wait, dine early or late because the café does not take reservations. And check whether they take credit cards. Payment used to be cash-only, so check before you dine.
During one trip, we enjoyed live music, ‘world famous’ margaritas, and tasty appetizers at the Adobe Bar inside the Taos Inn On that beautiful evening, twinkling lights complemented bright patio umbrellas and outdoor seating. There’s upscale fare inside the adjacent Doc Martin’s, which opened in the 1970s. From locally sourced bison to garden-fresh greens, this New Mexico cuisine has received kudos in the New York Times, and Bon Appetit once dubbed it ‘Legendary.’
I enjoyed a luxurious stay at the El Monte Sagrado Living Resort & Spa during one Taos visit. Bright colors and handcrafted art decorated my spacious Mexican global suite. Mountains and waterfalls, tropical plants, and streams full of fish surround the property, too. On my next visit, I want to book an eco-conscious spa treatment with indigenous ingredients. Many additional lodging options in Taos range from small hotels to casitas and condominiums.
Natural Beauty of Taos
Taos lies at 8,000 feet elevation. Taos Ski Valley opened in 1955, and its Ernie Blake Ski School is ranked among the nation’s best. One of the best skiing destinations in the U.S, it also rivals European ski areas.
Catch some beautiful views of the Rio Grande River along N.M. Highway 68-N, between Santa Fe and Taos. Eight miles northwest of town, one of the world’s highest bridges has traversed the dramatic Rio Grande Gorge since 1965. And horseback and llama treks, or river rafting, offer closer connections with this area’s natural beauty.
Holiday Magic in Taos
There’s something magical about snow-kissed adobe, and Taos celebrates throughout December. The Millicent Rogers Museum hosts an annual holiday fiesta, and the Yuletide Art + Craft Fair takes place at the iconic Sagebrush Inn. Ski valley activities include the Taos Winter Wine Festival, which has been operating for more than 30 years. The ski area also hosts the Taos Ski Valley Brewmaster Festival and a New Year’s Eve Fireworks and Torchlight Parade.
I often tell people I left my heart in Taos. And every visit inspires me again.
Taos Travel Tips
January and February are the coldest months here. Average summer temperatures range from nighttime lows in the 40s to daytime highs in the 80s. The highest precipitation typically occurs in May or July. No wonder I drove through a May snow squall between the ski valley and the plaza during my first visit.
Acclimating to local elevation upon arrival (and perhaps before):
- Wear a hat and sunscreen
- Take it easy and get extra sleep and/or rest.
- Drink lots of water. Decrease your salt, alcohol, and caffeine intake, and select low-fat foods. Eat plenty of carbohydrates, including breads, cereals, grains, and pasta
- Walk barefoot or in stocking feet for 5-10 minutes after arrival. The theory is that because the Earth’s magnetic charge varies with elevation, this helps you adjust to your new environment.
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When You Visit Taos Pueblo and Taos, NM
Taos, NM, truly is a magical place. It has experienced many changes during its long history. The Taos Pueblo dates back nearly 1000 years, with the main buildings still standing today, likely from the years between 1000 and 1450 AD. Today, there are about 150 permanent residents living at Taos Pueblo.
Any visit to Taos, where you can explore the unique art culture throughout the city, must include a visit to the Taos Pueblo. But you must be courteous, respectful of the culture, and follow the rules. The Pueblo remained closed from early 2020 through July 2022. Reopening in August 2022, it is available for tours Thursday through Monday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. All visitors must register, pay the admission fee, and leave by 5 p.m. daily. Admission is $16 per adult; $14 for seniors and students; groups of 8 or more adults are $14 each; children 10 and under are free.
Remember that all photos are for personal use only, and there are NO PHOTOS of tribal members without permission. If you plan to use photos for commercial, documentary, educational, and/or artist renderings, you must have prior approval and pay all fees at the Tourism Office.
When you are ready to set out for Taos, check Wander for more of our favorite things to do in New Mexico or elsewhere throughout the Southwestern US.
The Best Things to Do in Taos, NM