This is part of a series on Taos, NM. This is part one of Things to do in Taos, read part two. Read the other posts in the series, Off the beaten path in Taos, Taos restaurant round-up and Where to stay on your Taos NM getaway.
Taos is a charming town, home to artists and other creative types. Set at the foot of the Sangre de Christo Mountains, the views are superb. It is a town steeped in history and a fun place to spend a day, or several. If you have a short time to spend in this charming town, here are our picks on what to do. If you spend the night and have more time to spend, there’s a lot more to see.
If you only do one thing while here, explore the Taos Pueblo. This ancient site is the only living Native American community designated both a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and a National Historic Landmark by the United States government. It’s one of two currently occupied historic Pueblos in New Mexico, the other, Acoma Sky City, is south and west of Albuquerque. Archeologists date habitation at Taos to around 1,000 AD and the buildings to between 1,000 and 1,450 AD. About 150 people still live in these original buildings much as they did a millennium ago, although the world around them is very much 21st Century. Walk the Pueblo on your own or to get a sense of their history, take a tour with one of the guides, all Pueblo members. Tours are on the hour and meet at the church. They’re free of charge; guides do appreciate tips. You must buy a permit to take photos (commercial photographers must go through a permit process before visiting). If you are in or Taos when there are dances or other ceremonies at the Pueblo, take advantage of your good timing. These events are always special. The Pueblo closes for about ten weeks in late winter and reopens in early spring. Check with them for the dates. Sometimes there are unscheduled closings; it’s always a good idea to call before you go.
The Millicent Rodgers Museum, northwest of town, is a must-see for fans of Native American and Spanish Colonial art and handcrafts. The collection here is superb and always growing. According to its website, the museum “collects and displays contemporary arts and designs from all cultures in northern New Mexico, with an extensive collection of two-dimensional works by 20th century Native American and Hispanic artists.” Rogers, an heiress and prominent socialite, moved to Taos a few years before her death and became a jewelry designer and serious collector of both Native American and Spanish Colonial Art.
La Hacienda de los Martinez, a fortified home built in 1804 is one of the few remaining properties of its kind (Santa Fe’s El Rancho de los Golondrinas, built about a century earlier, is another.) The no-frills twenty-one room house gives visitors a glimpse into what early 19th Century life was like in northern New Mexico.
The Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, 650 ft. above the river, is the fifth highest bridge in the United States and second highest built in the cantilever truss style. It is about a 15 minute drive from Taos on Rte 64. Park your car and walk across the bridge; the views of the Gorge are spectacular. Because the high bridge vibrates from the traffic going across, it is not the faint of heart or people with height issues.
The Harwood Museum, on narrow Ledoux Street, is worth a visit. Part of the University of New Mexico, its mission, according to its website, is: “to collect, preserve, exhibit and interpret the arts, especially those created in, inspired by, or relevant to northern New Mexico”. And they do. Their small collection offers some gems. It includes: traditional New Mexican Hispanic art and artifacts, paintings from the members of the Taos Society of Artists, Taos Moderns (post 1940 works of local artists) and the Contemporary collection that roughly starts in the 1970s. In addition they have a collection of prints, drawings and photographs.
There are a number of art galleries on historic Ledoux Street and the Blumenschein Home and Museum is here. Ernst L. Blumenschein and fellow artist Bert G. Phillips discovered Taos’ by accident, other artists followed. The two were founders of the renowned Taos Society of Artists.
The Taos Art Museum is located in the home of the late Russian-born artist Nicolai Fechin. Famous for his portraits, the artist came to Taos in 1927 to seek a tuberculosis cure. The house he built on Paseo del Pueblo Norte is a fusion of two cultures. The hand-carved doors, furniture and windows reflect the land of his birth, the architecture is Pueblo. Fetchin lived in Taos for five years and then headed west. He died in 1955. In the 1970’s, his daughter, Eya came back to Taos to live. She restored her childhood home and opened it to the public in 1981 as part of the Fetchin Institute. The museum, run by a non-profit group came into being after her death.
Heading to Taos, take the High Road.
Want to know where to dine while you’re in Taos? Click here.
Note: Santa Fe Travelers was admitted free to some of these attractions. That generosity did not affected this post in any way.