Visit Taos if you want to experience the high desert of northern New Mexico with a wealth of historical sites and native beauty. Surrounded by the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, you will be taken aback by its exquisite beauty and mystical aura.
Native Americans have inhabited this area for centuries as evidenced by numerous adobe buildings and multistory complexes. It has bee a haven for artists for many years, and there are many museums and galleries where their work is displayed.
A Bit of History
Located in the north/central part of the state of New Mexico, it was established in 1795, and incorporated in 1934. As the county seat of Taos County it is its principal city. Originally a trading post for the Native American Taos Pueblo, it has taken on an identity of its own.
Bordering Taos’ northern boundary, Taos Pueblo was built between the eleventh (11th) and fifteenth (15th) centuries. Actually, it is one of the oldest communities in the United States which has been continuously inhabited. The population of the Taos Pueblo area is about 1,900. There you will find some of the most interesting architecture anywhere.
The pueblo is five (5) stories high in some places, consisting of individual homes with common walls. Many of the inhabitants have modern homes as well as staying within the pueblo structures during the colder months. About 150 folks live year round within the pueblo buildings.
In the early seventeenth (17th) century Spain took over the Indian Pueblo villages from the locals. Although they initially got along okay, it was not long before there was a revolt, called the Pueblo Revolt. After the Mexican-American War, Mexico ceded this area to the United States in 1848. New Mexico became a territory of the USA in 1850, and in 1912 became a state.
Artists began to inhabit the area as early as 1899. The Taos Society of Artists was established in 1915. Native Americans and the local natural habitat were often the objects of the paintings. Many of these art studios are still around and can be visited.
Some Interesting Facts
- The name Taos originates from the native Taos language which means “place of red willows”
- The population of Taos is about 5,668
- In 1992 Taos Pueblo was made a UNESCO World Heritage site
- The American flag is displayed twenty-four (24) hours per day in Taos Plaza
- The median household income is approximately $25,016 while the median family income is $33,564
- The elevation of the town is 6,967 feet or 2,124 meters
- Due to low rainfall it is a semi-arid climate with summers being warm and a bit humid. Even when it is hot during the summer the evenings cool down to a pleasant level. In the winter there is plenty of opportunity for winter sports as the average snowfall is three hundred and five (305) inches (7.7 meters).
- Wheeler Peak, just north of Taos, is the highest area in New Mexico at 13,161 feet (4011 meters)
- The airports in New Mexico are Taos Regional Airport (SKK), Albuquerque National Sunport, and Santa Fe Municipal Airport
- Waylon Jennings, a famous country music singer, sang the song “Taos New Mexico” on his 1967 album called “love of the Common People”
- Just west of Taos, near Tres Orejas, there is a continuous low-frequency noise called the “Taos Hum”. It’s origin is unknown and it has been the subject of television programs such as Criminal Minds, The X-Files, and Unsolved Mysteries.
- The Annual Celebration of the community takes place the third (3rd) weekend in July and is called Fiestas de Taos
- In the 1920s the English novelist, D.H. Lawrence had a home about twenty (20) miles (32km) northwest of Taos. Formerly known as the Kiowa Ranch, the D.H. Lawrence Ranch is now owned and operated by the University of New Mexico. It is rumored that D.H.’s ashes reside there at the D.H. Lawrence Memorial.
- A non-profit foundation called the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation provides free residency to eleven (11) artists each year
Plenty of Places to Check Out
Here’s a short video of the area to get us started:
* Check out the Architecture — spend some time viewing the amazing and fascinating architecture of this area. Some of these adobe structures are one thousand (1000) years old. These structures are constructed with clay which contains a micaceous mineral called mica, which actually glitters in the light. These buildings are mudded every year to maintain their integrity. These homes are usually passed down from one generation to another. The eldest son is usually the sole owner. The structures have a strong connection to their ancestors and way of life, and are still used for cultural and religious activities.
* Arts and Culture — Taos has three (3) museums: Millicent Rogers Museum, Taos Art Museum, and Harwood Museum of Art (site of many lectures and performances). You will find art from the Pueblo Native Americans here, and you will learn much about their culture. There are over eighty (80) art galleries in the town. A local venue for the Performing Arts is The Taos Center for the Arts (TCA) where local and nationally known performers display their talents in the Taos Community Auditorium. An independent film series is also shown here, and the Taos Chamber Music Group, Music from Angel Fire, and Taos School of Music also perform at the TCA. Local performances can also be found at the Town of Taos Convention Center. There are over twenty (20) artists who work exclusively with glass. You will find glass art displayed at several of the galleries, as well as at the Taos Institute for Glass Arts (TIGA).
* Visit the Studios and Homes of Artists — these homes and studios comprise some of the nicest historical sites in the town. There is the Doc Martin Restaurant in the Taos Inn, the Leon Gaspard House, the Ernest Martin Hennings House, the Mable Dodge Luhan House, the Nicolai Fechin House, the Harwood House, the Ernest L. Blumenschein House, the Eanger Irving Couse House–Joseph Henry Sharp Studios also known as the Couse/Sharp Historic Site. There are more than enough places to keep you busy taking in the art, architecture, and culture of this area.
* Winter Fun — a great place for some skiing is Wheeler Peak with its high elevation. There are four ski resorts in the Taos area: Sipapu, Red River, Angel Fire, and Taos Ski Valley. Other things to do in the winter include snow shoeing, horseback riding, ski skating, cross-country skiing, snowboarding, ice fishing, snowmobiling, ice-skating, and hot air ballooning.
* Summers are Fun Too — when the weather is warmer there are a variety of activities such as llama trekking (or llama hiking/caravanning where llamas come along on your hikes from a few hours to up to a few days — check out Wild Earth Llama Adventures), hot air ballooning (Pueblo Balloon), fly-fishing (Taos Fly Shop), horseback riding, golfing, mountain biking, and rafting (New Mexico River Adventures). The best mountain bike trail in New Mexico is the South Boundary trail which is east of Taos. Along the Taos Mountains and the Rio Grande River you will find plenty of hot springs to enjoy. In this area you will find a historical site called the Stage Coach, which was also used as a brothel in the Old West. You can take a ride through the Toltec Gorge and Rocky Mountain passes on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad.
* Shopping — there are plenty of small shops which will easily put you into a shopping trance. For example, there is the Moby Dickens Bookshop where you will find works from many local writers, and you can relax in a comfortable chair with the company of the two family cats. For leather products, you will enjoy browsing around Letherwerks where the owner, Kristian Moore, works on creating some custom items. For sophisticated designer clothes, there is the Substance of Taos which is loaded with fine fabrics such as organic cotton, cashmere, linen, and silk. For gifts, home goods, and teas, Wabi-Sabi is the place to be. The kids will love Twirl Toystore and Playspace which is the place where the artist Agnes Martin once lived. Within the Playspace there is a magical garden where kids can explore and have fun with the enormous climbing structure. You will find plenty of games and educational toys here as well as free activities all during the week.
There are Many Reasons to Visit Taos
Traveling through this area you will be totally captivated by the stunning landscapes and animated sunsets. It is no secret why so many artists, musicians, and artists call this home. Add to this the hospitality of the local folks, and you have found a place to spend some quality time.
The locals are a combination of families who have lived here for several centuries, as well as transplants from large cities seeking solitude and a connection to nature. This combination of cultural traditions keeps Taos vibrant with change, which is reflected in the food and creative arts. As far as food is concerned, you will find family-owned cantinas as well as upscale fine dining. One place to check out is Graham’s Grille which has many world-class dishes, some even gluten-free.
There are also plenty of places for you to get your java fix such as Michael’s Kitchen Cafe and Bakery, World Cup Café, and at Black Diamond Espresso’s cabin kiosks in Taos Ski Valley.
All year long there are plenty of art festivals as well as the Taos Pueblo Pow Wow, Taos Lilac Festival, Taos Mountain Balloon Rally, and Yuletide in Taos. Add to this the numerous microbreweries scattered about, and you have the makings of a year long party.
The home of writer Mabel Dodge Luhan in the 1920s has now been transformed into a beautiful bed and breakfast called Hacienda del Sol B&B. This inn, which is adjacent to Taos Pueblo land, offers magnificent views in a cozy atmosphere. At the Taos Inn you have comfortable accommodations including the Adobe Bar and Doc Martin’s Restaurant.
All in all this is an area of the world worth exploring. Especially for those who have never been to the Southwest part of the United States, it will be a special treat.
Happy travels to All,