Ruth & I visited Taos many years ago and loved it. Our most recent trip there, in 2021, was far less successful. I do not recommend traveling there anymore because the focus in Taos has changed. The community has decided to go for youth culture with money, and ads feature zip lines, white water rafting, eating and drinking in expensive restaurants, and skiing. It takes plenty of money to do Taos correctly now and I’m not sure its worth it.
We tried. We booked the oldest accommodation in New Mexico, the Hotel la Fonda. It’s on the famous Taos Plaza and surrounded by stores. The lady who checked us in after we left our car parked on the Plaza at a parking meter was focused on shopping and the horrible traffic. The central core of Taos has become a sea of cars that all seem to be waiting for a light to change. The hotel did have a parking lot behind it that was supposed to charge us for parking but did not, perhaps because this practice was producing complaints. This hotel opened in 1922 but has been updated. I was not surprised to learn that there had been shops on this property before the hotel was built. Our room was small because the hotel is old, the walls were thin, and staying there has gathered lots of complaints. We will not be returning to it. There were plenty of restaurants in the area as we tried to walk around and enjoy this historic plaza, but we ended up walking to a nearby Albertsons to buy food and eat in our room. The famous guests that once stayed here like Judy Garland and Dennis Hopper are long gone. There was road construction on the way to the busy supermarket and lots of traffic. We had plenty of time to evaluate the shops in the vicinity of the hotel and bought nothing but food.
Actor Dennis Hopper fell in love with Taos and tried to live here. He bought the Mabel Dodge Luhan house at 240 Morada Lane and lived there for a spell before vacating Taos but then returning. Ruth & I toured this house on our first visit to Taos. Mabel Dodge Luhan was an early resident who married a Native American and bonded with anyone famous who was visiting what she soon considered her town. She especially doted on authors like Willa Cather and D. H. Lawrence. The Luhan house is now a hotel and conference center with no Hollywood connection.
People visiting Taos like to visit the pueblo. This is the only Native American dwelling place in America that is both a UNESCO World Heritage Site and National Historic Landmark. It’s also something of a cheat. Most of the natives who supposedly live here have houses in town. They only come to the 3 level pueblo for public ceremonies. Fees from tours of the traditional pueblo that represents centuries old architecture keep it going. Photography is strictly forbidden while taking a pueblo tour. Tours of the plaza and other places in town are conducted. The main activity for visitors, however, is encouraged shopping. There are a lot of fine art shops selling expensive decor. Vintage cowboy boots, Navajo silver, and trinkets are not hard to find but we learned in Albuquerque that a lot of the turquoise jewelry now sold as authentic is really plastic, not real turquoise, so be careful to authenticate.
The only time I felt comfortable at an attraction was during our morning visit to San Francisco de Asis. Women were grooming the exterior of what is called the most photographed church in the world. We stepped inside to see its traditional interior, but we did not see the “Mystery Painting” despite the fact that viewing it is said to be free. Other free attractions include the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge and some scenic mountain highway views. There are several art museums in Taos worth their admission price as is the Kit Carson home and museum.