Taos, New Mexico: Arts, History and Scenery

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The Taos Pueblo lies just outside of town and has been continuously inhabited by Native Americans for more than 1,000 years. Tours are available.

Taos is a gem: This beautiful town is located at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, astride the deepest part of the spectacular Rio Grande Gorge.

It enjoys more than 300 days of annual sunshine, breathtaking scenery and abundant wildlife. Moreover, it is a haven for whitewater rafters, skiers, photographers, mountain bikers and smart tourists galore. That alone makes the New Mexico town a magnet for travelers seeking a great travel experience. But there is more.

Despite it being a bit off the beaten path, generations of artists and nature seekers have found a trip to Taos so rewarding that many decided to settle there. Today, it is justly renowned as an art center.

Chock-full of art galleries, museums and good restaurants, it has been home or a temporary residence to renowned artists for more than a century. Drawing people like Georgia O’Keeffe, Ansel Adams and their peers, the clear air, remarkable light, gorgeous natural vistas and many picturesque buildings contribute to Taos’ reputation as a significant art colony.

The Spanish colonial influence can be felt and mixes with the New Mexico western ethos in the area’s architecture, food and shopping. The town has a thriving music scene and many restaurants serve an eclectic cuisine that is heavily influenced by New Mexico culture.

Nearby, the UNESCO World Heritage Site Taos Pueblo, continuously inhabited for more than a millennium, holds guided tours that offer insights into Native American life as well as beautiful views of the surrounding mountains.

Put it all together and today’s Taos is a multicultural, multilingual experience that attracts throngs of tourists and is a magnet for those seeking art and nature.

Before You Go:

Getting There:

Taos can be reached by highway, with regional connections to air or train terminals.

  • By car, Taos is on U.S. 64, near the New Mexico 68 junction. Since Taos is off the beaten path and attractions are widely spread, a car is recommended.
  • By air, the nearest major airport is Albuquerque Sunport (ABQ). It is 137 miles from Taos. Santa Fe Municipal Airport is 65 miles away and  has service to Dallas, Denver and Phoenix.
  • By train, the nearest Amtrak station is in Lamy, N.M., 89 miles away.
  • Taos is inland and no cruise ports are in the vicinity.

Must-Sees for a Short Trip:

  • The Taos Plaza, with its shops, galleries and restaurants
  • The Taos Pueblo, continuously inhabited for more than 1,000 years. Tour with Historic Taos Trolleys are recommended.
  • Taos Art Museum at Fechin House
  • An evening at Doc Martin’s Restaurant and the Adobe Bar for food and entertainment. The Love Apple and Martyrs Steakhouse are also highly recommended.

If You Have Several Days:

  • The Rio Grande Gorge and bridge. Explore by car, raft or hiking.
  • Harwood Museum of Art. Buy a combo ticket for five local museums.
  • Tour the Millicent Rogers Museum.
  • Explore the Couse-Sharp Historic Site.
  • Visit and tour the Earthship Biotecture community of futuristic off-the-grid homes occupied year-round.
  • Enjoy a mountain hike with Wild Earth Llama Adventures.

Ginny O’s Tips for Dressing the Simply Smart Travel  Way for Taos:

This is the West, so casual dress suitable for seasonal activities fits in well. Resort casual is fine for restaurants and museums. Bring a bathing suit and water-compatible shoes for the hot springs.

This Destination at a Glance:

Over 50 Advantage:

Art, shopping and good food are readily at hand on every turn in Taos. A leisurely pace is just right for the Taos visitor.

Mobility Level:

Low to moderate. There are some hills, but the area is walkable and handicap-accessible.

When To Go:

Summer or winter. With sunshine year-round, abundant snow in the nearby mountains and beautiful summer weather and activities, Taos’ high season is May through September, but winter draws throngs of skiers and outdoor adventurers.

Where to Stay:

The Historic Taos Inn is a good choice. Hotels and bed-and-breakfasts are in the area, too.

Special Travel Interests:

New Mexico art and cuisine, Native American culture, art museums and photography.

Jewish Taos

Jews have been involved in New Mexico life since their arrival, having important roles in education, politics and commerce.

Jews, practicing or not, have been in New Mexico since the mid-16th century, according to records of the Spanish Inquisition trials.

Referred to as Crypto-Jewish culture, Jewish traditions can still be found among the Hispanic community. It retains such practices as lighting of candles on Friday night, observance of the Saturday Sabbath, eschewing the eating of pork and other customs, although they do not recognize themselves as Jews, though, long having assimilated into the prevailing Catholicism of this formerly-Spanish region.

After the influx of the original Crypto-Jews fleeing the Spanish Inquisition, German (Ashkenazi) Jews emigrated to northern New Mexico in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They built a temple in 1885 in Las Vegas, N.M. (77 miles from Taos), and were involved in mercantile trade throughout the region.

In 1885, Henry N. Jaffa was elected as the first mayor of Albuquerque and U.S. Rep. Steven Schiff represented central New Mexico from 1989 to 1998.

In Taos proper, the Taos Jewish Center opened in 2000 and holds services, lectures and community activities. There is also a Chabad congregation in Taos and a Jewish cemetery, which is the only stand-alone Jewish cemetery in New Mexico.

Ernie Blake was a leader in the development of the Taos Ski Valley, a world-class ski complex adjacent to Taos.

Nearby Santa Fe has an extensive Jewish community.

Jeffrey and Virginia Orenstein are travel writers from Sarasota, Fla.

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