Discovering Taos: A Week of Art, Cuisine, and Adventure from Austin to New Mexico
Nestled in the high desert of New Mexico, Taos stands as a beacon of art, culture, and history, a vivid tapestry woven with threads of ancient traditions and modern creativity. This quaint town, with its adobe architecture and the backdrop of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, offers more than just picturesque landscapes; it’s a journey through time, where the past and present dance in a harmonious symphony.
Our anticipation for Taos had been building long before our plane touched down. Known for its vibrant art scene, Taos is a haven for artists and art enthusiasts alike, boasting an array of galleries, studios, and installations that span a wide range of styles and epochs. From the earthy, grounded works of the Native American communities to the abstract and avant-garde pieces inspired by the surrounding natural beauty, Taos is a place where art lives and breathes.
But Taos is not just about the visual feast for the eyes; it’s a culinary odyssey waiting to be explored. The local cuisine, a blend of Native American and Hispanic influences, offers a tantalizing array of flavors and textures. Each dish tells a story of the land and its people, a narrative woven with chilies, corn, beans, and an assortment of local ingredients, each adding its unique voice to the chorus.
Moreover, Taos is steeped in history, with every street, building, and plaza echoing tales from a bygone era. From the Taos Pueblo, a living Native American community that has stood for over a millennium, to the Spanish colonial churches and the remnants of the Wild West, the town is a living museum, inviting visitors to step back in time and experience the layers of history that have shaped it.
In this week-long journey from Austin to Taos, we were set to immerse ourselves in this rich tapestry, exploring everything from its renowned art scene and delectable food offerings to its unique accommodations and breathtaking natural landscapes.
Arrival and Day 1
Our adventure began with the ease and comfort of a direct JSX flight from Austin to Taos. JSX, known for its boutique air travel experience, transformed what is usually a mundane part of travel into a delightful prelude to our journey. The exclusive feel of the flight, with its spacious seating and personalized service, set the tone for the week ahead. JSX offers direct flights from Austin Executive Airport to Taos, making the journey there a quick two hour flight.
Upon landing, the first glimpse of Taos was like stepping into a painting – vibrant, serene, and utterly captivating. Our accommodation for the first few days, the Historic Taos Inn, was a testament to this town’s charm and history. A historic inn set within the majestic landscape of Taos, it offered us warm, Southwestern hospitality amidst its adobe-style architecture. Welcoming guests for generations, the inn stood as an emblem of authenticity, nestled in the heart of the town’s charming historic district and just steps away from the bustling Taos Plaza.
After settling in, we had a meal at Doc Martin’s, the restaurant at the Historic Taos Inn. The ambiance, rich with history and a sense of belonging, was the perfect backdrop for our first culinary indulgence in Taos. We savored enchiladas, a dish that was a celebration of local flavors. Each bite was a blend of spice, warmth, and comfort, reflecting the culinary heritage of the region.
After getting our rest first up on our itinerary was Chokolá, a place where the art of chocolate-making is pursued with a passion and excellence that’s rare to find. At Chokolá, chocolate isn’t just produced; it’s crafted from the bean with meticulous care. The array of chocolate-based creations we encountered here was not only a treat for the taste buds but also a journey into the world of fine chocolate. We sat down with the store manager who shared some of the award winning chocolate they make. Our favorite was the Maya Mountain with a profile of PIneapple, Caramel, Honey. Pro tip: Try the Chocolate Mousse – you’ll thank us. They ship nationwide from their website.
After indulging our sweet tooth, we spent the afternoon exploring downtown Taos. The area thrived with a vibrant arts scene, an array of shops, and an endless array of activities. The streets were lined with galleries showcasing local and international artists, and boutiques offering everything from handmade jewelry to unique souvenirs. Our visit to Two Graces, a shop known for its eclectic collection of art and artifacts, was particularly memorable. We spent some time chatting with Robert, who has been in the area since the 90s, about the town, how he finds the gems he has on display at his shop and so much more.This store offered a unique blend of traditional and contemporary pieces, each with its own story and charm.
We headed to Alys Taos Eats afterwards. This charming eatery, known for its fresh and delicious dishes, served us a gyro that hit the spot. With recipes inspired by their New Zealand roots, the cuisine here was a refreshing departure from the ordinary. The use of fresh ingredients in innovative ways exemplified the culinary creativity that Taos is celebrated for.
With our bellies full, we ventured to the Taos Earthships, also known as “The Greater World”. This off-grid community, sprawling over 300 acres, is a testament to sustainable living. Each Earthship, a self-sufficient dwelling, is built with natural and recycled materials, showcasing innovation in energy conservation. The guided tour provided us with insights into sustainable building techniques and the lifestyle of the community. The Earthships, with their unique design and environmental consciousness, were not only homes but works of art in themselves. The best part…. we stayed in an earthship for the last few days our our trip!
On our way back, we stopped at the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. This marvel of engineering is the second highest bridge in the U.S. Highway System and the fifth highest in the United States. Standing over the gorge, we took a moment to soak in the stunning views of the canyon and the river below, a reminder of the natural beauty and grandeur that surrounds Taos.
Our day concluded with dinner at Medley, where we indulged in perfectly cooked steaks and explored their extensive wine selection. The restaurant’s ambiance, coupled with its exquisite cuisine, made for an unforgettable dining experience.
The night was capped off at The Lounge by Rolling Still Vodka. This infused-vodka tasting lounge which is women-owned, started by two friends, has grown into a beloved spot in Taos. It encapsulates the spirit of the town – a place of community, art, and endless magic. We sat down with Nicle Barady, one of the co-founders, and learned about how after college she pointed to a spot on the map and moved there, that was 2001 and the spot was Taos. That same spirit let her and her partner, Liza, to start Rolling Still, which is now distributed in many states including Texas. A truly inspiring story!
Our third day in Taos began with a visit to the Manzanita Market, a cozy community café renowned for its commitment to organic produce. Here, we enjoyed a breakfast of a tasty breakfast sandwich and robust coffee, each bite and sip infused with the freshness and quality that only organic ingredients can bring. The ambiance of the market, friendly and inviting, provided a glimpse into the local community life and their dedication to sustainable living.
The highlight of the day was our exploration of the world-renowned Taos Pueblos. This UNESCO World Heritage Site, inhabited by the Red Willow People for over 1,000 years, was a journey back in time. The adobe buildings, some of which have stood for centuries, showcased an architectural marvel of the indigenous community. Walking through the Pueblos, we visited various shops, admired the unique buildings, and learned about the incredible history and culture of the Pueblo people.
In the afternoon, we grabbed a coffee and a bite at the Dawn Butterfly Cafe, located on the pueblo. This quaint cafe offered a range of delightful snacks and beverages, providing a perfect spot to relax and reflect on the rich cultural experiences of the day.
The day ended with our move away from the town and into the ski valley. We checked into our Earthship Airbnb in the mountains. These self-sufficient, sustainable homes, built from natural and recycled materials, offered a glimpse into an alternative, eco-friendly way of living. Our stay in the Earthship was not just a night’s accommodation; it was an immersive experience into a lifestyle harmoniously blended with nature. With the temperatures outside in the 20s, our earthship was cozy and warm all night by keeping the head in from the day – truly mind blowing.
The fourth day of our Taos adventure began with breakfast at 192 at Taos Ski. Nestled in the heart of the ski valley, this charming restaurant offered a warm, inviting atmosphere, perfect for a chilly morning. Their French toast, a symphony of flavors and textures, was a culinary masterpiece. Paired with a steaming cup of coffee, it was the ideal start to an action-packed day in the mountains.
The main event of our day was exploring the slopes of Taos Ski Valley. Renowned for its stunning scenery and diverse range of trails, the valley catered to both novice and experienced skiers alike. For us, particularly, it was a day of learning and adventure. Our instructor, Stevie, was not just skilled in skiing techniques but also in making the experience fun and memorable. For first-time skiers, her guidance was invaluable, turning what could have been an intimidating endeavor into an exhilarating and confidence-boosting activity. The slopes of Taos Ski Valley, with their breathtaking views and well-maintained trails, provided the perfect playground for our winter escapade.
As the day turned to evening, we found ourselves at ACEQ, a local gem known for its exceptional cuisine. This evening, the special on the menu was blackened cod, a dish that was a testament to the chef’s culinary prowess. Cooked to perfection with a harmonious blend of spices, it was a flavor experience that tantalized our taste buds. The ambiance of the restaurant, both rustic and elegant, complemented the meal, making our dinner at ACEQ a highlight of our trip.
Our fourth day in Taos was a blend of adventure, learning, and gastronomic delight. From the snowy slopes of the ski valley to the cozy and refined setting of ACEQ, it was a day that encapsulated the diverse and vibrant spirit of Taos.
Day 5 and Conclusion
Our final day in Taos began with a visit to Wake and Take, a local vegan spot that proved to be a delightful surprise. Their commitment to plant-based cuisine resulted in an array of innovative and delicious breakfast options. We had one of their burritos and a cup of coffee – highly recommended.
After breakfast, it was time to bid farewell to the enchanting town of Taos. As we made our way back to our JSX flight for our return flight to Austin, we reflected on the week’s experiences. Taos had offered us an extraordinary tapestry of art, culture, and natural beauty. From the historic charm of the Taos Inn to the innovative sustainability of the Earthships, from the culinary delights of local restaurants to the adrenaline rush of the Taos Ski Valley, every moment was imbued with discovery and wonder.
JSX, once again, provided a seamless and comfortable return journey. As we soared above the landscapes we had explored, it became clear why Taos is a must-visit destination. It’s a place where history is not just preserved but lived, where art is not just displayed but experienced, and where the beauty of nature is not just observed but embraced. Taos is more than a travel destination; it’s a journey into the heart of what makes life vibrant and meaningful.
Whether seeking artistic inspiration, culinary adventures, or just a break from the ordinary, Taos offers something for everyone. Its unique blend of culture, history, and natural splendor makes it a place that stays with you long after you’ve left its enchanting embrace.