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Aside from serving as one of the West's premier art colonies, Taos is the site of the ancient Taos Pueblo (continuously inhabited for at least 1,000 years) and New Mexico's highest mountain, Wheeler Peak. The city's 5,500 residents support a high number of A-list restaurants, inns, galleries, and museums, though it's also an ideal base for recreational fun, like skiing Taos Ski Valley, white-water rafting on the Rio Grande, hiking, horseback riding, and more. Of course, part of the charm of Taos is slowing down to its unhurried pace and soaking up the bohemian, New Age vibe.

Things to do in Taos

Encounter Living History at Taos Pueblo

Dedicated a UNESCO World Heritage site, Taos Pueblo is believed to have been occupied as far back as 1,000 AD. The main multi-storied adobe complex still today provides residence to Taos Indian families dedicated to preserving their ancestral heritage, right down to foregoing modern conveniences like electricity or running water. Discover the customs and traditions of the Tiwa-speaking Taos Pueblo Indian tribe on a walking tour of their homes, plaza, and chapels - several ground-floor dwellings have been converted to Indian craft stores. Be sure to have an authentic Taos Indian lunch at Tiwa Kitchen, located within the pueblo. Entrance fee includes an informative guided walking tour, led by Pueblo residents. Note that festival times can be an exceptional time to experience the pueblo. The Pueblo closes for private religious observances annually in late winter; be sure to call ahead to confirm opening schedules if you plan to visit during this time.

Veterans Hwy, NM, 505-758-1028, www.taospueblo.com
Tags: things to do | history | walking tour

Explore the Hacienda de los Martinez

Listed on the National Historic Registry, this adobe hacienda provides visitors with a glimpse into the austere lifestyle of Spanish colonial settlers in the area in the early 1800s. Built in 1804 by wealthy merchant, and eventual mayor of Taos, Severino Martinez, the complex today features 21 rooms starkly furnished with period pieces, as well as two large placitas, or courtyards. Living history demonstrations of working blacksmiths and the like are regularly held.

708 Ranchitos Rd., NM, 505-758-0505, www.taoshistoricmuseums.org
Tags: things to do | history | museum

Get a Birds-Eye View in a Hot Air Balloon

New Mexico has held a long love affair with the hot air balloon, and Taos is no exception. Taos-based hot air balloon operators offer unique excursions that soar above the Rio Grande Gorge, with the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the distance - some of them even do "splash-and-dash" in the river. We recommend Pueblo Balloon Company - their 60- to 90-minute rides ($225 adults; $100 children aged 6-12) are followed by a champagne brunch and flight certificates are awarded; hotel pick-ups are provided.

Varies, NM, 575-751-9877, www.puebloballoon.com
Tags: smart splurge | things to do

Head out Horseback Riding

There are few better ways to encounter Taos's Wild West landscapes than by horseback. We recommend Cieneguilla Stables (located 15 minutes south of Taos) for their custom-designed trail rides into the forested mountains, sage-dotted deserts, or even to an old miner's cabin. Seasoned guides provide insight into the flora and fauna, geology, history, and cultural lore of the area along the way. Reservations are necessary; most trails are suitable for beginners. Rates start from $50 for a one-hour trail ride.

2961 Highway 68, NM, 575-751-2815, www.horsebacktaos.com
Tags: things to do | horseback riding

Look Out from the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge

This lofty bridge holds the title of the fifth highest suspension bridge in the U.S., but ranks second to none in the awe-inspiring views it affords of the Rio Grande Gorge and River, snaking its path some 650 feet below. Elevated walkways offer pedestrian access to the bridge, but be warned - the vertigo-inducing views and vibrations produced by passing motor vehicles make it a trek that's not for the faint of heart. Interesting side note: Movie buffs may recognize the bridge from the wedding scene in Natural Born Killers.

8 miles northwest of Taos on US 64, NM,
Tags: things to do

Raft the Rio Grande

The raging Rio Grande and calmer Rio Chama provide a white-water playground for rafters or funyakers (riders of inflatable kayaks). Several rafting tour operators operate half-day, full-day, or overnight adventures out of Taos - we recommend Los Rios River Runners, which has been operating in the area for over 30 years. Sign up for family-friendly trips on calm stretches of the Rio Chama, or for a white-knuckle Taos Box run, famed for its series of class IV rapids, right in the midst of the Rio Grande Gorge. Rafting-and-camping trips, as well as Pueblo Indian guided excursions can also be arranged. Regardless of your choice, be ready and willing to get wet!

Varies, NM, 800-544-1181; 575-776-8854, www.losriosriverrunners.com
Tags: things to do | whitewater rafting

Schuss the Slopes

The pine- and aspen-forested Sangre de Cristo mountain range - situated at the southern extremities of the Rockies and the site of New Mexico's highest mountain, Wheeler Peak (elevation 13,161 feet) - provides abundant outdoor recreational fun, as sunny winter days are met by feather-light powder across Taos Ski Valley. The family-owned resort, home to 110 trails and 13 lifts, is renowned for its challenging trails and ski school. Note that the resort just recently opened its trails up to snowboarders for the first time in its history. Ski season lasts from late early December to late March, dependent upon weather conditions.

20 miles north of Taos Plaza, NM, 505-776-2291; 866-968-7386, www.skitaos.org
Tags: skiing | things to do

Stroll Downtown Taos

Start your tour of Taos at its pulse - Taos Plaza - a small Spanish plaza bordered by art galleries, souvenir shops, and eateries; it's a terrific place to kick back and watch a typical Taos day unfold. Nearby, charming narrow streets lined with adobe buildings are reminiscent of Taos days of yore - don't miss a stroll down Ledoux Street with its museums and notable galleries, or winding Bent Street for its superlative shops (like at the John Dunn House Shops complex) and galleries.

Taos Plaza, NM,
Tags: things to do

Trek with a Llama in Tow

While indigenous to South America, Wild Earth Llama Adventures' 'llovable' gear-carrying llamas fare extremely well in Taos's climate and make great companions, along with a friendly naturalist guide, for navigating the terrain. Have the llamas-for-hire accompany you (and carry your gear) on a trek into the lush Rocky Mountain forest of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains from April to October, or into the high desert landscapes bordering the spectacular Rio Grande Gorge in March or November (operations shut down for winter). Treks range from the half-day "Take a Llama to Llunch" to multi-day, custom-tailored wilderness excursions with gourmet meals (the head guide doubles as a chef in the off-season).

Varies, NM, 800-758-5262, www.llamaadventures.com
Tags: hiking | smart splurge | things to do

Visit San Francisco de Asis

This impressive two-story adobe church, built in the late 18th century, embodies one of the best examples of Southwestern mission architecture. Many artists have captured its façade, including such luminaries as Georgia O'Keeffe and Ansel Adams. Visitors can also pop into the adjacent parish hall to ogle and learn more about the peculiar The Shadow of the Cross painting - when the lights are turned off, a mysterious cross appears over the left shoulder of Christ's image in the painting (be warned, however, that ticketing hours are inconsistent).

60 Saint Francis Plaza, NM, 505-758-2754
Tags: art | things to do | architecture

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