Delving Into the Mystical Charm: Your Comprehensive Guide of Things to Do in Taos, New Mexico
If you have been following our blog for a bit, you know that we have a deep love for the desert and culture. We have family history in New Mexico -- green chile is part of our regular diet and we dream of building a quaint adobe bungalow someday. We frequently turn to each other and say, "it's time to go to New Mexico to eat." New Mexico truly is breathtaking, with some of the most stunning sunsets in the US, but if we're being honest, it's the food that wins us over every time.
New Mexico's state motto is The Land of Enchantment. It has vast desert landscapes, snowcapped mountains, some of the best food, and Native American culture that's unique to the region. Each time we have driven over the Colorado border into New Mexico (usually to Santa Fe), we feel a shift inside ourselves. Peace surrounds us.
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Taos, New Mexico is an iconic destination for all types of adventurers. Whether you are an outdoor enthusiast looking for a smooth ski slope in the Taos Ski Valley, a raft trip down a cool river, a foodie seeking unique experiences unlike any in the world, or a culture and art lover, Taos has it all. We are here to tell you -- go experience this destination before it becomes overcrowded!
Enjoy our full things-to-do guide to Taos. When you are done with that, head over to our guide on where to eat in this foodie destination!
Enjoy Sunrise or Sunset at the Rio Grande Bridge and Gorge
Imagine yourself driving down a long straight road. The landscape directly surrounding you is flat but there are mountains off in the distance, the sagebrush that covers the desert floor is blowing in the wind, and it looks like you're driving to the middle of nowhere. All of a sudden, you find yourself crossing a massive steel bridge and looking 600 feet down into the giant gash in the earth known as the Rio Grande Gorge. Don't keep driving! Pull over and check it all out, especially if it is sunrise or sunset.
On the east side of the Rio Grande Bridge, there is a large parking lot with restrooms. Here, you can park and walk all around the bridge to gain different vantage points of this magical place. We showed up just before the sun was coming up over the Sangre de Cristo mountain range and we were in awe of this beautiful landscape and the depths of the natural gorge.
This destination is an absolute must and best things to do if you are in the Taos or Northern New Mexico area. It is the only living Native American community still run by the tribal government and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Taos Pueblo has been inhabited for over 1,000 years -- well before any western explorers stepped foot on these lands. The structures are made of traditional adobe material, a combination of dirt, water, and straw.
Entry to the Taos Pueblo is $16 per person and they offer discounted rates for students, groups of 6+, and children under 10. The operating hours are every day from 8am to 4:30pm except on Sunday when it opens at 8:30am. The Taos Pueblo is just east of downtown Taos.
Since the Taos Pueblo is still run and managed by the tribal government, please respect their wishes around photography, entering restricted zones, and respecting tribal traditions. Find a list of those here!
Downtown Taos and Historic Taos Plaza
Downtown Taos is the central bustling hub you'd expect. Walking around the streets feels like you've been swept away to a different culture with its adobe buildings, farolito lights, hanging red ristras, and Native American art gallery shops. It's certainly one of the best things you can do whether you have a few hours or a few days to spend in Taos, New Mexico.
Right at the center of it all, you'll find the Historic Taos Plaza which is surrounded by local shops, restaurants, and every shade of tan and turquoise you could dream of. The Historic Taos Plaza is a fantastic place to people-watch, shop for local artisan goods, find local cuisine, or enjoy local cultural events that might be happening while you're in town.
Sleep Under the Stars in a Vintage Trailer
This vintage trailer "hotel" has become one of the most Instagrammable spots in all of New Mexico. Located a few miles outside of town, Hotel Luna Mystica has 20 unique trailers, each with their own kitchen, bathroom, deck, fire pit, and adorably vintage design. Spend the evening drinking green chile beer at the Taos Mesa Brewery, right across the street, and return to your trailer to build a campfire. The stars at night are absolutely unreal and unlike anything we've seen before. We chose to stay in a pink trailer named Louise -- the most secluded trailer with an uninterrupted view of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
Enchanted Circle Drive Scenic Byway
Make sure to save a couple of hours to take a drive on this scenic byway known as the Enchanted Circle. This is a great way to get a taste of all the diverse landscapes Northern New Mexico has to offer. You'll witness vast open valleys, jutting mountains, mystical deserts, and woodland areas.
We chose to start on the south end of the Enchanted Circle loop which took us from Taos to Angel Fire to Eagle's Nest to Red River to Questa. The beginning of the drive took us through the canyon landscape of the Carson National Forest along many campgrounds and hiking trails. After that, we descended down into the vast valley that heads to Angel Fire and Eagle's Nest. These are both pretty small towns with not many services.
If you are looking to stop along the way, wait until you get to Red River. This mountain town is filled with many restaurants, shops, outdoor activities, and a small ski resort. We both agree that we have to go stay in Red River next time we are back in Northern New Mexico to experience this growing and picturesque destination.
Taos is packed with museums revolving around art and Native American culture. If you are looking to spend a whole afternoon or day exploring a museum or two, there are several you should consider.
The Harwood Museum of Art is one of the best things to do if you can only visit one museum while in Taos. It offers hundreds of local art pieces and provides the best snapshot of what the Taos art scene is all about.
Millicent Rogers Art Museum is located at the historic home of Millicent Rogers -- a famous art collector and fashion icon. The museum has 10 galleries packed with artifacts, jewelry, weaving, and pottery.
Taos Art Museum at Fechin House features several different art galleries. Most famously, a gallery featuring a renowned Russian painter named Nicolai Fechin.
Kit Carson Home & Museum is a museum in the historic home of an American fur trapper. This is a great place to dig deeper into this explorer's story. However, like many historical American figures, Kit Carson has a checkered past and museums like this don't always dive too deep into the more controversial aspects.
San Francisco de Asis Mission Church & Rancho de Taos
We visited this area during sunset and it took us right back to being in parts of Latin America. The adobe church is at the center of the Ranchos de Taos and is still an active Catholic church. The church is surrounded by various shops and restaurants. Although, most of the shops were closed when we were there -- probably due to the pandemic. There are two famous restaurants right near the church: Old Martina's Hall (drinks, food, live music) and Rancho de Plaza (classic New Mexican food).
Taos Hiking - There are many hiking trails in the Carson National Forest Canyon and the Wild Rivers Recreation Area.
Manby Hot Springs - A natural hot springs right on the Rio Grande River. We didn't make it because we read that you need a high clearance vehicle to trek the road that leads you there.
Earthship Taos - We know what you are thinking. What is an Earthship? Earthships are sustainable homes that are built using materials from the earth and are extremely eco-friendly. It has become an international movement for how we can live a more sustainable life and reduce our footprints. Taos is a hub for some of the best Earthships in the world and most are just outside of town.
You can visit the epicenter of Earthships and the global movement by spending an afternoon at the Earthship Biotecture visitor center for a self-guided tour or guided tour. You can even stay inside one of the Earthships at Earthship Biotecture!
Ojos Caliente - This destination is a natural hot spring, spa, and lodge about 45 minutes outside the town of Taos. Unfortunately, it suffered a fire in the spring of 2020 so they are closed for now. Check here to see if they have reopened. We hear this spa is a magical healing place!
Taos Ski Valley - If you are in Taos during the winter months, you have to experience the famous Taos Ski Valley with several resorts for lodging. Visitors from all over travel to enjoy the ski valley and Taos Mountain. We plan to return in winter another time to enjoy it. If you have extra time, stop in the village of Arroyo Seco and wander into some of the galleries.
Hot Air Balloon Ride - Many people come to Northern New Mexico to check a hot air balloon ride off their bucket list. This activity has become so popular due to not only the beautiful landscapes, but also the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. This balloon festival attracts people from all over the world!
River Rafting - If you're looking for a bit of a thrill or adrenaline check out New Mexico River Adventures. River rafting is an iconic activity when exploring the wild western parts of the US. The Taos Box offers a multi-day camping/rafting adventure to experience some world-famous rapids, or you can opt for a more chill one-day adventure floating and enjoying the Rio Grande Canyon scenery.
We hope you all enjoyed our full guide of things to do in Taos, New Mexico. If this destination wasn't on your bucket list before, we hope it is now. It truly is a one-of-a-kind place!
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In love and adventure,
Bre + Daniel