Taos, New Mexico travel things to see and do

Adventure and Art in Taos, New Mexico

Looking for travel tips and things to see and do in Taos, New Mexico?

It sounds amazing so today we’re visiting Taos as part of our World’s Best Travel Destinations series with travel lover and New Mexico resident Jim O’Donnell as our guide.

Here Jim answers all your questions and spills the beans on the very best things to see and do in Taos, including where to shop, what to eat and how to get the most of your trip.

So tell me Jim, what’s the low down on Taos?

My town of Taos, New Mexico is a little town high in the desert mountains of the north-central region of New Mexico with a population of about 5,000. The town is close to the Native American village of Taos Pueblo and many other small Spanish colonial villages

Why did you go to Taos, New Mexico and how long have you lived there?

Actually, I have a very long history with Taos. I was born and raised about a three-hour drive north of Taos and we used to come to the Taos area often as kids so I’ve visited here all my life. I moved here permanently with my own children nearly 10 years ago.

Why do you rate Taos, New Mexico as one of the world’s best travel destinations?

The “charm” of Taos comes from both its tourist opportunities and the ridiculous amount of adventure activities from skiing to hiking to biking. Fishing, hunting and so on. Taos is a town of dramatic landscapes – high mountains, deep gorges and vast open grasslands. Taos has a rich art community and lots of galleries and museums. The culture of the town and area around it is steeped in a deep Hispanic and Native American past.

Rio Grande Gorge, Taos, New Mexico ©Jim O'Donnell

Rio Grande Gorge, Taos, New Mexico

Best Things to Do in Taos, New Mexico?

Let me give you a top five list with the understanding that I’m barely scratching the surface.

1. First of all, you have to fly with Pueblo Balloon Company. Take off at dawn, float down into the Rio Grande Gorge and then up over the immense Taos Plateau.

2. Number two? Rafting. Hit up Los Rios River Runners for an awesome array of river activities.

3. The 1000 year-old Taos Pueblo is a World Heritage Site. The famous multi-storied structures that make up the pueblo are still inhabited. The tribe offers some awesome tours and festivals and traditional dances here can be thrilling.

4. For some history, take an afternoon and drive the “High Road” along the rim of the Sangre de Cristo mountains, stopping off at all the tiny Spanish colonial towns and 400 year old mission churches. Perhaps the best time to go on this route is during the High Road Art Tour which is the last two weekends in September.

5. Take a day to hike or snowshoe into the Wheeler Peak Wilderness Area. While you’re at it be sure to hit the Colombine Hondo Wilderness Area too!

People should really feel free to contact me for help in planning their visit.

Taos, New Mexico Mountain Balloon Rally

Taos, New Mexico – Mountain Balloon Rally

Where should I stay?

Taos has a slew of options for lodging. Everything from camping to vacation home rentals to historic inns, bed and breakfasts to modern hotels. I’d suggest looking into the historic Katchina Lodge, the Sagebrush Inn, or the landmark Taos Inn. For the budget traveler, there are great camping spots along the Arroyo Hondo creek up towards the ski valley just northeast of town.

What and where should I eat ?

Another area where it is hard to go wrong in Taos is food. Northern New Mexico has its own particular cuisine developed from both Mexican and Native American traditions. While great burgers and pizza abound, try our local fare and places like Antonio’s of Taos and Orlando’s New Mexico Cafe. The best nachos in the world are at the Adobe Bar where you can also end the day with some beer, fine tequila, margaritas and music. They host great live local talent every single night. .

For some of the best coffee ANYWHERE…on your way out for that morning hike drop by Elevation or the World Cup.

Does Taos have any special events I should know about?

Our little community of three cultures and deep history makes for a great number of festivals and events that you really have to see if you’re around. From major art events to craft fair, wine and beer festivals, music concerts and film festivals, there is plenty to see. Taos Pueblo generously opens many of it’s religious events for the public. A printable pdf list of all the 2013 activities in our town is available here.

El Santuario de Chimayo

El Santuario de Chimayo in Taos, New Mexico

What’s the Best Way to Get Around?

You can’t really get around the area without a car. Taos is a small town in a fairly remote area of New Mexico. Many of its attractions are spread out. Public transportation is basically non-existent.

Getting a hold of a car is a must if you are to experience the area. Of course there are hundreds of miles of hiking and biking opportunities but you’ll need a car to reach most of these.

Is it off the grid or WiFi friendly?

Taos is full of cafés, bars and restaurants that have free WIFI. Additionally, the town is creating free WIFI hotspots in various places to make it even easier to get online. While in Taos, accessing the internet won’t be a problem.

When should I go? Are there any times of year to avoid?

To be honest, Taos has the best weather in the world. We’ve got something like 330 sunny days a year. We have four distinct seasons.

Cold snowy winters landed Taos on National Geographic’s list of top ten ski towns in the world. Spring can be windy but the flowers popping out all over the place more than make up for that.

Summer can start hot and dry but by mid-July fabulous afternoon monsoons cool it all off with showers and often thrill with some dramatic lightening storms. Fall? Well, simply the best time. Warm days, cool nights and mountains painted in the yellows and reds of changing leaves.

Valle Vidal in Taos, New Mexico

Valle Vidal in Taos, New Mexico

How did you get there?

As I said, I grew up not terribly far away and my family made fairly frequent trips to Taos when I was a kid, so the town was never far from my experience. It wasn’t until 2004 however that I ‘settled’ down here with my daughter to fight against a proposed oil and gas operation in my beloved Valle Vidal. The community came together and successfully fended off the oil and gas companies. It imperative for both our water, our air and our economy that the majority of these lands around remain wild.

Ultimately, that is why people come here.

Wow! Taos sounds amazing Jim, thank you so much for sharing your tips with us. I love the story of how the community worked together to preserve that stunning scenery. It sounds like a very special place so Taos is right up there on my travel wish list now.

Your photos are fabulous too and I highly recommend that anyone reading this who hasn’t visited your blog yet check it out now.

Guest post by Jim O’Donnell

Jim O’Donnell is a freelance writer, photographer and head monkey at Around the World in Eighty Years. He is the author of Notes for the Aurora Society and Rise and Go. A native of Colorado, he has traveled to nearly 40 countries and now lives in Taos, New Mexico with his kids where he plots another round of amazing journeys. Find him Twitter, Facebook.

Is Taos on your travel wish list now? Or maybe you’ve already been and can share the highlights of your New Mexico adventures with us?

Author: Annabel Candy

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Annabel Candy October 8, 2012 at 12:34 pm

Thanks for sharing your post with us Jim.

New Mexico got on my radar a few months ago and since then I keep hearing more and more about it. I’m keen to visit and hot air ballooning above or rafting on the Rio Grande Gorge looks phenomenal:)


Jane Rochelle October 9, 2012 at 12:34 am

Taos is one of my favorite places in the world! If it wasn’t so far away from everyone that I love, I’d be living there. So much goodness there! One thing that I learned recently was that Taos didn’t have any electricity until the early 1930’s, so artists stayed there during the summer months, but moved to warmer climates during the winter. This helped Taos and its artists become established and for their beautiful works to be shared to a wider area.
Thanks for sharing the great post ~


Annabel Candy October 9, 2012 at 8:34 am

Hi Jane,

Great to see you here. Some of the best places in the world are artistic hideaways. They always find the hottest travel destinations and move in:)


Jim O'Donnell October 11, 2012 at 7:33 am

Thanks Jane! Taos is still a bit “off the beaten path” but nowadays lack of electricity is a point of pride! Ha! The art community in Taos remains alive and well.


Jim O'Donnell October 9, 2012 at 4:05 am

My pleasure and thank you for posting chez moi. This was alot of fun. NM is awesome so come on over!


Colette October 9, 2012 at 4:37 pm

Wow, you have captured my imagination and NM now sits high up on my travel list! Too bad it’s so far away (I’m in Australia – everythign is far away!)

You sound like you have an amazing local knowledge – you should definitely consider listing an experience for Taos on Arribaa.com (maybe a food and photography ensemble? yum nachos!). It’s a great place to share your passion for Taos and spend more time getting out and exploring with fun people.

Thanks for the beautiful and enticing photos, keep on adventuring!


Connie October 9, 2012 at 7:06 am

Very cool :-) I lived in Taos for a little while in the mid-90s. I’ve been meaning to go back for a visit ever since. I worked at a sushi bar called Shogun and still remember the amazing tortilla burgers at Fred’s Place. The sky was just so big in Taos, it felt like it dwarfed the earth.


Annabel Candy October 9, 2012 at 8:36 am

Hi Connie,

Ah, another cool cat who likes to hang out in Taos. I am definitely going to have to find out more about tortilla burgers too!


Jim O'Donnell October 11, 2012 at 7:32 am


Both of those places are gone. Taos has changed but not as much as you might think. Come on home!


Mike October 9, 2012 at 10:15 pm

It’s feels great living in a similar place like a native American Village. Taos Pueblo is, based on I read, a good place for travelers. What makes it more interesting is Taos Pueblo is recognized by the World Heritage Site. Thus, there must some amusing place and historical background making a special place.


Jim O'Donnell October 11, 2012 at 7:36 am

Mike, I agree. Taos Pueblo is a very special spot and well deserving of the WHS status. When the USA invaded this part of Mexico in 1846, some rebels took refuge in the church at Taos Pueblo. US troops shelled and then set fire to the structure, shooting the Indians as they came out. Hundreds died. The distrust created by that incident has never fully gone away. Still, I find the people of Taos Pueblo very warm and welcoming.


Agness (@Agnesstramp) October 12, 2012 at 3:13 pm

I’ve never heard of Taos. Good to know. Looks like this place has so much to offer. I like the church the most :-)


The GypsyNesters July 13, 2013 at 8:19 am

We love Taos but haven’t been back in about 20 years. Thanks for the update, looks like we need to plan a trip.


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