How to: Visit Taos on a Budget

by  Steve Larese | Aug 3, 2015
Steve Larese
Steve Larese

Tucked between sage-filled high desert and snow-capped peaks of the Sangre de Cristos, Taos is a small mountain town in New Mexico teeming with natural beauty, culture and adventure. An hour's drive north of Santa Fe (and about two hours from Albuquerque), this beautiful bohemian town is rich with experiences -- and easy on budgets. Here are a few attractions that make Taos a road-trip destination favorite.

For Culture

Taos Pueblo: Taos Pueblo is the northern-most of New Mexico's 19 Native American pueblo tribes -- and is thought to be the oldest continuously occupied community in the United States. Its stair-stepped, multi-level adobe buildings are still home to tribal members, who welcome visitors from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. most days. The $16 per person admission fee includes a photo permit. Call 575-758-1028 or visit the pueblo website before your visit to make sure that the UNESCO site is open the day of your planned visit -- the pueblo may close occasionally for private community events and ceremonies.

Taos Plaza: The tree-shaded Taos Plaza, home to a war memorial as well as a bandstand, is a popular gathering space for locals year-round. In the summer, check out the free music concerts and dancing hosted by Taos Plaza Live. During the holidays, the Plaza’s trees are decorated and hundreds of glowing sacks called farolitos outline its pathways. Any time of the year, local shops and restaurants surround the Plaza and line its side streets, offering a range of art, clothing, souvenirs, snacks, and gourmet dinners. If you're traveling with children -- or have kids gifts to check off the souvenir list -- make sure to drop by Twirl, a not-for-profit toy store and free outdoor play space. 

Live Music: Taos’ laid-back vibe and intense artistic spirit marry to create an eclectic live music scene that occasionally sees big-time names jamming with local musicians as if they’re old band mates. The Alley Cantina, Adobe Bar, and Taos Mesa Brewery are just a few of the live music venues that showcase both local and touring talent -- and they're great places to mingle with the locals. In August, the Music on the Mesa festival brings headline acts such as Lucinda Williams and regional acts to Taos Mesa Brewery.

Museums Galore: Taos’ museums explore life in Spanish Territorial and American Frontier times, through the arrival  of the East Coast artists in the early 1900s that would go on to establish New Mexico as a major world art center. Martinez Hacienda, Kit Carson Home and Museum, Harwood Museum, E. L. Blumenschein Home and Museum, Taos Art Museum, and Millicent Rogers Museum are all worth exploring to appreciate the depth of Taos’ storied history and importance to American art and fashion.

Steve Larese

For Nature
The United States' seventh highest bridge -- Rio Grande Gorge Bridge -- spans 1,280 feet across the Río Grande that sparkles 565 feet below. Located 10 miles north of Taos along U.S. 64, pedestrian sidewalks on either side of the bridge allow you to safely take in the sights and get unobstructed photos of the Río Grand Gorge -- one of the most sought after shots in Taos.

For more active outdoor adventures, there's no shortage either. Hiking trails lead into the Sangre de Cristo mountains, such as the moderate Devisadero Loop that overlooks the City of Taos -- or the Bull of the Woods trail that starts at the Taos Ski Valley parking lot and eventually climbs to New Mexico’s highest mountain, Wheeler Peak. Rafting, kayaking, fly fishing, and mountain biking surge in the summer. In the winter, Taos Ski Valley is one of the nation’s premiere ski resorts. Despite its steep reputation, there’s plenty of beginner terrain to tackle (the renowned Taos Ski School caters to novices and kids) not to mention plenty of ski deals. Make sure to save enough time on your way home to explore the Village of Arroyo Seco, then have dinner at Aceq and ice cream at Taos Cow.

When to Visit
With centuries of culture and history to celebrate, Taos’ calendar is packed with parades and festivals year-round. May’s Lilac Festival welcomes spring with art and food booths, a pet parade, food contests, and other activities. July’s Taos Pueblo Pow Wow and Fiestas de Taos (featuring a Historical Parade) and October’s Taos Wool Festival are also all great ways to truly see the community of Taos.

Where to Stay
Taos has several historic hotels and bed & breakfasts that embrace New Mexico style. The Historic Taos Inn, La Fonda de Taos, Palacio de Marquesa are just a few cozy stays that feel more expensive than they are. Throughout the year, chances are you'll find rooms between $120 and $200 per night.

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