Be Enchanted in Taos
New Mexico is called the Land of Enchantment for a reason. There is a subtle, unnamable magic about it. You can’t quite put a finger on it, but you can feel it, and it will put you under its spell.
In Albuquerque, this magic might be tough to discern, but it’s noticeable in Santa Fe. In Taos though, it’s palpable. Taos is smaller, more rustic, and slower-paced than Santa Fe. Its collection of galleries, shops, hotels, and dining options pales in comparison to what you will find in the state capitol, but the mystical New Mexico spirit is closer to the surface.
Taos is just less commercial and more… authentic. It’s also a fantastic two-day getaway, for two days is really all you need.
Getting to Taos is not quite as easy as getting to Santa Fe. It isn’t difficult, though, and yields great rewards. It’s about a 10-hour drive from Fort Worth, an hour-and-a-half drive from Santa Fe, or two-and-a-half hours from Albuquerque. There are shuttles from both cities if you don’t want to rent a car, and there are also flights out of Love Field to Taos Regional Airport, which has free shuttles to town or the ski area.
Speaking of skiing… Yes, we are aware this is our May/June issue and ski season is a long way off, but it’s never too early to start planning. Taos Ski Valley offers world-class skiing in a breathtaking setting. The mountain isn’t huge, but there’s plenty of terrain for anyone. From sweeping groomers to seriously steep and difficult terrain, when the snow is good, Taos does not disappoint. Couple the fantastic skiing with a pretty base area with plenty of dining, shopping, and lodging options, and Taos Ski Valley is itself a compelling destination. But with the ski hill only 20 minutes from town, it’s easy to have the best of both worlds.
The town of Taos itself is situated at the base of the beautiful Sangre De Cristo mountains. It is bracketed to the north by Taos Pueblo, a National Historic Landmark and UNESCO designated World Heritage Site, and to the south by Ranchos de Taos, a census-designated place also known as Old Town.
Like pretty much every historic town in New Mexico, Taos has a town square, or plaza. Surrounding the Taos Plaza are shops and galleries, as well as the Hotel La Fonda de Taos. Frequent Santa Fe visitors will recognize the name, and as in Santa Fe, the Taos La Fonda is a great place to call home during your adventure. Other lodging options include The Blake at Taos Ski Valley for those with few, er, budgetary constraints. In town, Taos Valley Lodge is a fun and affordable option housed in a remodeled 1960s-era motel with perhaps the best coffee shop in town.
Kit Carson Street, named for the famed frontiersman (who is buried about five minutes away from the Plaza), boasts a small but engaging collection of shops and galleries. Be sure to go to tea.o.graphy for a delicious variety of teas and the friendliest shopkeepers around. The Benedictine Monastery of San Juan Diego has a gift shop on Kit Carson, where the monks sell their handmade soaps and leather goods, as well as devotional items. It’s a great way to shop local and support the local monastic community.
Other shops you should not miss include Boxie Tees for an attractive collection of women’s apparel and accessories. Bryan’s Gallery is the place for Native American art and jewelry. On your way from town to the ski area is a little village called Arroyo Seco (don’t blink!) that is home to Rottenstone Pottery, an eclectic pottery studio that’s well worth a visit.
There are dining options aplenty in Taos but be sure to indulge Northern New Mexican cuisine while you’re there. Be sure to try Antonio’s the Taste of Mexico. Antonio’s has a small dining room so call ahead or prepare to wait. Other New Mexican cuisine options include Doc Martin’s in the historic Taos Inn and the delicious Guadalajara Grill. Martyr’s Steakhouse is a great choice for finer dining. For breakfast, you must go to Michael’s Kitchen. The wait can be long, but it’s worth it. Michael’s also has a fantastic bakery for grab-and-go pastries and coffee. A single cinnamon roll will likely feed your entire tribe.
Be sure to make time to explore. The Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, 10 minutes outside of town, spans an 800-foot-deep gorge that will take your breath away. It is truly stunning. Park at the end of the bridge and walk out onto it to get the full effect. Afraid of heights? Wait in the car. Ranchos de Taos is home to the historically significant 17th-century San Francisco de Asis Catholic Mission Church. A painting of the church by Georgia O’Keefe hangs in Fort Worth’s own Amon Carter Museum.
A trip to Taos Pueblo is illuminating. The Pueblo is one of 19 pueblos in New Mexico and maintains the traditional Puebloan way of life. There is no electricity or running water in the Pueblo. All Puebloans, including the children, speak Tiwa, the language of their ancestors. The Pueblo is open to visitors most days but closes at night and for ceremonies. A visit to the Pueblo is a visit to a different country. You are on Pueblo land. It is a sacred place.
The Land of Enchantment can feel over-touristy sometimes. But if you seek it out, if you allow yourself to see and hear rather than simply look and listen, there’s an energy, a holiness, a spiritual depth within the rich and diverse culture of New Mexico, and it’s not too hard to find in Taos.
Two Day Itinerary
Lunch at Martyr’s Steakhouse
Visit the shops and galleries on Kit Carson Street and around the Plaza
Drive out to the Rio Grande Gorge and catch the sunset on the Sangre de Cristo Mountains
Enjoy drinks and dinner on Doc Martin’s patio
Breakfast at Michael’s Kitchen – be sure to buy some pastries for a snack
Visit Ranchos de Taos and San Francisco de Asis Church
Lunch at Guadalajara Grill
Visit Taos Pueblo and just absorb the sacred
Stop at Rottenstone Pottery in Arroyo Seco on your way back to town.
Dinner at Antonio’s the Taste of Mexico
Ski Trip Itinerary
Head straight to the ski area and don’t leave unless you’re dining in town