I grew up in Taos and to be honest, I had a hard time. Taos has an internationally renowned ski resort, a famous art community, and more history packed into it than we ever could cover in school. But before any of those, Taos is a tourist town. Everything seemed created for tourists and not for me, not for any of us that lived there.
But I see what everyone was talking about now that I’m an adult (and maybe a bit of a tourist myself): in Taos, there’s a painting around every corner, I always see a new shop or gallery has opened up, and I feel comfortable being myself (read: weird). I have qualms about him, but Tony Hillerman said, “In Taos, a certain amount of eccentricity is required for conformity,” and I agree 101.9%.
So this will function more like a local’s guide than strictly a visitor’s guide because Taos has places for everyone: outdoorsy peeps, museum geeks, locals and visitors, niñosyabuelitos alike. But this is also my home so take care of it like it’s your own, deal?
If you are or ever have been in awe of Taos’ natural beauty, that is due in part to its original stewards. Before you do anything here, you need to respect the original inhabitants of this land–Taos Pueblo and its occupants. Taos had a long history before any of the places or people on this list existed. In fact, Taos Pueblo’s two main houses are the oldest continuously inhabited communities in what is now the United States.
There are a few ways to be a good guest of Taos and Taos Pueblo if you’re thinking about visiting this World Heritage Site. Check their website before you visit for rules and best practices, and respect directions from the gate guards. They will be able to help you with parking or let you know when the Pueblo is closed for visitors. As always, ask before you take photographs, and don’t forget to stop at Tiwa Kitchen, Home of the Blue Corn Frybread!
Hotel Luna Mystica sits on 12+ acres of star-studded Taos Mesa. With 20 vintage trailers, an RV area, and campsites to choose from, your stay at Hotel Luna Mystica will probably have the best views around. From their grounds on the mesa, you can see the town, the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, and the full expanse of the Milky Way. Bring your traveling buddy because Hotel Luna Mystica is also dog-friendly!
Owned/operated by The Attiyeh Foundation 501(c)(3)
The former home of 20th-century writer and art patron Mabel Dodge, this tranquil Pueblo Revival inn and conference center is a ten-minute walk from Taos Plaza. After moving to Taos and marrying Tony Luhan of Taos Pueblo, the East Coast socialite made her new home into a salon for the prominent artists of the day, including Georgia O’Keefe, D.H. Lawrence, and Ansel Adams. The historical structure was even briefly owned by Easy Rider star, Dennis Hopper. Unlike some others on this list, this historic inn is not pet-friendly but it is artist and writer friendly!
See also: Millicent Rogers Museum, Mabel and Tony’s gravestones in the Kit Carson Memorial Historic Cemetery
If your Taos vacation features snow activities at the Ski Valley, consider staying at the SnowMansion in Arroyo Seco. Your drive to, or from, the slopes will be much shorter, with walking access to shops, boutiques, restaurants, Taos Cow Ice Cream (don’t worry, more on this later), and PeacefulEarth Botanic Garden next door. Offering both shared dorm accommodations and private suites, the SnowMansion does its best to stick to its hostel roots.
Sagebrush Inn has sheltered weary travelers for close to a century. Located on the south side, you’ll have a shorter drive down to Taos Canyon if you’re rafting, fishing, or visiting Dixon. Their courtyard, dining patio, and bar are great places to hang out off the river.
If you like to be in the middle of everything, Taos Inn is the spot for you. This historical hotel has been on the main drag since the 1800s, with many memories (and ghosts) of lodgers past. Around the turn of the century (the 20th century, not the 21st), Doctor Thomas Paul Martin patched up plenty of folks in his former house next door (some of whom still linger). If you're heading up to your room after dinner at Doc Martin’s Restaurant, don’t be surprised if you encounter more than other living guests on the stairs. Dogs are welcome!
El Monte Sagrado features a Living Spa and Wellness Center, and is one of New Mexico’s premier wedding destinations. The expertly landscaped grounds offer stellar views of the mountain, and are home to the Anaconda Bar and De La Tierra Restaurant, so you don’t even have to leave the resort to enjoy Taos. Just order a mimosa to the spa and relax. Pets are welcome!
“shed – (verb) to set apart, to resist being affected by, to cast off or let fall off by natural process, to promote new growth.”
An ongoing meditation on home and the transitory nature of time, Shed Project gathers people together through food. Operated by Johnny Ortiz-Concha (born and raised in Taos) and Maida Branch, / shed is more than just a dining experience – it is a continuation of a way of life that is at great risk of being lost. Composed of wild and endemic plant and animal ingredients paired with beverages in the same ethos, all served in micaceous ceramics made by Johnny himself, these recolecciónes (dinners) are the most authentic Taos dining experience you may ever have.
“/ shed dinners are a sort of ceremony and prayer…a reverence of nature, our culture, and the practices that build up what makes up a dinner, where each guest is a participant.”
Tickets for these intimate dinners are available to / shed members aka parciantes. The word’s meaning runs deep in Taos as parciantes are also members of the acequia system which has irrigated the valley’s fields for centuries. Membership supports the farms and fields where / shed’s dinners are responsibly sourced, and as a / shed parciante you can support these traditions and ecosystems from afar. Once you’re seated for dinner, you can appreciate the craftsmanship, care, and beauty up close.
“In the same way that acequias and their parciantes are the lifeblood of our culture here in northern New Mexico, ‘parciantes’ of / shed are the lifeblood of the / shed ecosystem, helping to support the regeneration and perpetuation of it.”
Orlando’s has held Best Mexican Food in Taos County since 2005 (and more than two dozen other People’s Choice Awards). A family-run business, the recipes have been passed down from Grandma, and are Bobby Flay-approved. Not to miss: The Blue Corn Chicken Enchiladas are a classic Taos dish. Don’t pass up a cold slice of avocado pie either. It’s like key lime pie, but avocado-ier.
Affectionately referred to as ‘The Guad,’ Guadalajara Grill serves classic Mexican eats for the right price. Featuring such dishes as the Azteca Quesadilla, chimichangas, chile verde AND chile colorado, and even fried ice cream, the Guad is reliably delicious. And with Northside and Southside locations, it’s always close by.
Taos Pizza Outback has been a favorite of mine since I was a kid. With crayons and paper to draw with while you wait for MASSIVE pizzas, pastas, wine and beer for Mom and Dad, a fireplace inside and a patio outside–this place is home to a lot of special memories for me and maybe for you, too. Their dough is non-dairy and gluten-free crust is also available upon request, as well as any topping under the sun.
See also: Pizaños - A Taos twist on NY style pizza!
Mante’s is home to a Taos classic, the Trujillo (pronounced troo-HEE-yo OR troo-HILL, if you’re from around here)–a burrito with a chile relleno inside. What is a chile relleno, you ask? A chile relleno is a green chile pepper stuffed with cheese and then fried. AND it’s in a burrito. Yeah, go ahead and get yourself a Trujillo. And get me one while you’re out.
If you’re renting a place with a kitchen, or going up to Carson Forest for some camping, you may need a grocery store. Cid’s is locally-owned with vegan, gluten-free, and allergen-free snacks, frozen foods, fresh local produce, and a selection of natural health and beauty products, as well as some of the finest grass-fed meats and cheeses. With a new Ski Valley location, Cid’s has your next home-cooked meal covered.
Need your coffee fix before heading to the mountains or into town? Look no further than Elevation Coffee. Centrally located with great service, Elevation has espresso, drip coffees, and pastries to satisfy morning & mid-afternoon cravings. For everything late-afternoon/after-dark, El Prado Liquors is in the same parking lot.
Tucked in the foothills of Taos Mountain is the fabled Taos Cow Ice Cream. Since 1993, Taos Cow has made rBGH-free ice cream in flavors like Holy Mole, Piñon Caramel, Lavender, and Cherry Ristra–all super creamy and super delicious. While you can also get your Taos Cow fix at the plaza, beautiful Arroyo Seco is definitely worth a visit (or two or three).
If you need a gift for the sweet tooth in your life (and you think that gift might survive the ride home with you), check out Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. Upon entering, you’ll be lovingly embraced by the aroma of chocolate. And that doesn’t even cover half of what they carry–jelly beans, hot chocolate, coffee, green chile piñon brittle, and Taos Cow ice cream are also available. Just make sure to say ‘hi’ to the big bear out front (he’ll tell on you if you’re mean to him).
Locally-owned Loteria Paleteria boasts an impressive array of tasty, handmade paletas in flavors like Lavender Lemonade, Bizcochito, Mangonada and Root Beer. These paleteros have a rotating schedule and can be found at events around town, like Taos Plaza Live (Thursdays in the Plaza gazebo), or near the John Dunn Shops. You can find Loteria paletas at Cid’s, Taos Herb Co., and Tea.O.Graphy.
Usually on Taos Plaza/Kit Carson Park for events
“I love this town. All about community!” –Freshie, aka Brian Freshman
Freshie’s Juices opened in 1999 and has been a Taos staple ever since. Locals will recognize the lemonade and juice stand by its iconic yellow Cadillac bumper (tailfins included). Go to the plaza or to a music event at the park and Freshie’s car-cart will be there, beloved Juice Girls serving up ice cold lemonade, watermelon juice, and the Taos Splash (a 50/50 mix), and giving out directions to a good lunch or dinner spot.
Host to local and international acts, the Mothership is located on the road from both Ojo Caliente and the Ski Valley, near Hotel Luna Mystica. The Mothership sits on the Hondo Mesa just outside of town so it isn’t exactly walkable, but that just means their view of the stars and Taos Mountain is unparalleled. TMB also has a taproom located in town on the main hill with artisanal wood-fire pizza, if you’re doing your adventuring within city limits.
Are you new to Taos and experiencing any of the following symptoms: headache, feeling sick, dizziness, tiredness, loss of appetite, or shortness of breath? Keep an eye on your symptoms, as some travelers may have issues adjusting to Taos’ elevation (6,969 feet/2,124 m). Taos’ Hospital is located here just in case you have altitude sickness, but you can also visit Pro Oxygen for a selection of natural aromatherapy and unscented oxygen treatments that will help you get on this level.
Do you like to get high? See Taos from above in a hot air balloon! New Mexico is home to the International Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, but in Taos, at an elevation higher even than the mile-high Burque isEske’s Paradise Balloon guides. These pilots will help you see some of the area’s most iconic sights from mid-air.
Another way to get gorgeous views without hiking to them is by visiting the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, which is 650 feet above the river. For a while, there was no funding to continue the road on the other side, hence its nickname: The Bridge to Nowhere. Featured in films and local legends alike, the bridge is too shaky for me (especially when trucks go over) but if you’re into that kind of thing, have fun.
It’s in Taos Valley and you ski there. Oh, you can snowboard there now, too. What more do you need to know?
Located in Taos Ski Valley, ask for directions at the Visitor Center.
The Ski Valley is still open when there’s no snow on the slopes. About a 3.5 mile hike, the elevation change up to Williams Lake is breathtaking (literally, be careful and take enough water) and the views even more so. Taos from 13,000 feet is indescribable so if you’re a camper, settle in by the lake and summit Williams Peak in the morning. Or do it all in one day, just start early.
If you’re like me, your attention (or your back) will only hold up during outdoor activities for so long. Sometimes you need a museum visit. Especially a weird one. Consider the Bent Museum. Home of New Mexico’s first American governor, this museum is a trove of indigenous and colonial artifacts. Not to miss: a stuffed two-headed, eight-legged lamb from the 1800s and the bloodstain on the wall from when Governor Bent was scalped during the 1847 Taos Revolt. Aho.
See also: Taos Historic Museums, Morada de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe Historic Site
People have been making art for millenia in Taos and the surrounding areas. But the Taos Art Studio Tour focuses on those artists living and creating now. Thirty artists in Taos open their studios for this tour but if contemporary art isn’t your thing, there are plenty of house tours of the original Taos colony members to visit.
See also:Paseo Project, D.H. Lawrence House, Blumenschein Museum, Harwood Museum of Art, Taos Art Museum at Fechin House
Imagine a place where you can grab a drink and listen to live music right at the foot of Taos Mountain during golden hour. Such a magical place does exist and of course, it’s in the Solar Capital of the World. It’s KTAOS, the solar-powered radio station and concert venue. Signals from this 100,000-watt solar radio station are so strong they can be received clearly in a 300 mile radius, and can even be picked up in the middle of the ocean! Home to local stations 101.9 and LUNA 103.7, KTAOS is also host to the Taos Fiesta Music Festival, a celebration of music and solar power that has featured such groups as Ozomatli and Los Lonely Boys.
Taos tip: listen to Trash and Treasures for some good deals on cool and weird Taos stuff for free or for sale by owner.
“Arrowsoul reflects an account of what it was like to grow up in Taos, and our experiences create new lanes and pathways in NM for upcoming young artists. We are unfiltered, no gimmicks, and locals and tourists can appreciate a shop that represents Taos in a real way.”
ArrowSoul Trading Post is a Native American-owned and operated gallery/hip-hop co-op located in downtown Taos. It is a partnership composed of four co-owners (SABA, Jisk, Liphe Tracks, and Neight Larsen) and 15-20 artists. Carrying bandanas, stickers, hats, Saba Hut threads, and every color of spray paint under the sun, ArrowSoul has everything you need to create your art, your look, or even your business. ArrowSoul is committed to helping up-and-coming NM artists develop not only their artistic style and practice but their business and entrepreneurial skills as well. Their family-friendly monthly events are open to all, full of great art and chill vibes. For an authentic art, hip-hop, and shopping space, ArrowSoul is your spot.
Eponymous owner Michelle is passionate about fashion and independence, and it shows in the style she brings to Taos Plaza. Her boutique’s curated selection is 80% Fair Trade, and full of one-of-a-kind, handmade treasures from local and international artists. The second story used to be an artist’s studio and has fantastic light, so it’s no wonder that’s where the mirrors/dressing rooms are.
Mudd n Flood is your one-stop shop for all things outdoorsy–hiking stuff, biking stuff, climbing, rafting, and backpacking stuff. Chris even has UFO stories for you if you ask politely. Centrally located near the plaza and ready to get lost with you. (note: do not get lost)
“Supporting the potential of children in Taos through inspirational, community-wide opportunities to gather, learn, create, and play is not just our mission–it is the heart of all we do.”
If you have kids in Taos, you already know about Twirl. If you’re visiting and your kids are begging to go to Meow Wolf, Twirl is an excellent place for learning, art, and fun as well. Centrally located in Taos’ traditionally creative community, this flexible playspace lives in a historic plaza building, and opens the door to wonder and creativity for kids of all ages (plus kids at heart). Magic is right around the corner at Twirl.
But Twirl is more than a toy store. It’s also a nonprofit, and any day of the week the Twirl Van might rock up to a school or community event filled to the brim with fun and inspiration. Local artists and creators design all of Twirl’s exhibits and the indoor playspace, making them unique while also fostering connections to place, imagination, and creativity. It’s no wonder Twirl has and does everything kids need. It’s not only mom-approved, it’s also mom-founded and owned.
Have you lost your luggage and need a few outfits to tide you over? Perhaps you feel an urge to donate all of your designer clothes and get one nice pair of broken-in Wranglers instead. Maybe you’ve decided to move to Taos this very minute–you’ll need dishes, a mattress, and a Precious Moments baby figurine for your nightstand (oh, and a nightstand). Maybe you already live in Taos and want to take your abuelita to get matching Cows Against Violence t-shirts before bingo. You can find all of this and a lot more at the Community Against Violence Thrift Store, all while helping CAV fund services for survivors of domestic/sexual violence.
See also: Lili’s Thrift Store, Metamorphic SecondHand Vintage and Collectible
If you’re like me, you like to get one great souvenir to remember a trip by, and if I don’t have to cram it in my luggage, even better. For all your tattoo needs, head to Muerte Tattoo. Just get your ink AFTER you’ve already gone rafting or to Ojo, because you do NOT wanna go swimming with a new tattoo.
As a kid without many places to hang out in Taos, Popolo’s changed the game for me (pun intended). Loitering is encouraged here and you can do plenty of it. With a selection of Magic the Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Pokémon cards, video games, plus Wednesday and Friday Night Magic, and an assortment of sodas and snacks, Popolo’s is perfect for the game-oriented kid/teen/adult in your life.
Taos has some of the coolest places, people, and sights in the world, but sometimes tourism can be detrimental to a thriving local community and culture. Try to spend money and time at local establishments, and respect your hometown hosts by using your manners, picking up your trash, and slowing down to Taos Time (which is notoriously 10-15 minutes late). You’ll be happy you did.