Hits and Misses of Taos, NM
We’ve been to Taos, New Mexico a number of times and it seems we’re always finding new adventures around the area…some good and others not so good! Overall I would call the small town of Taos eclectic, odd, artsy, historic, and most of it with an eco-conscious style.
This year we visited Taos at the first of February and the town was pretty darn quiet. We were the only RV at the BLM campground (besides the camp host), some days it snowed and some days it was 80 degrees, when we would belly up to a bar we’d be amongst only a handful of locals…it felt like the entire town was our oyster waiting to be cracked! Since we were staying at the BLM with no internet connection we ended up going into town most every day to eat, drink and get a little work done. After paying for a few experiences that were not so great we decided to keep track and share our thoughts.
Station Café 3 one 6 – We just popped into this little place for a quick dinner with friends…and we were sad we didn’t arrive just 15 minutes earlier for happy hour! Affordable, yummy, New Mexican food with several seafood and vegetarian options. That pretty much sums it up; we would have come back if we didn’t discover this place on our last day! (We did not try the WiFi.)
Vivac Winery – Plenty of good wines, and unlike much of NM their wines are not overly sweet. Our favorite wine is by far the 2011 Fire Vineyard, if you can get your hands on a bottle you won’t be sorry. To top off the tasty wine the chocolates are made by the owner’s sister and are very tasty! The House made cheese is a little pricey compared to store bought cheese but it’s crafted by hand and extremely smooth. We purchased the cheddar which has a texture of cheesecake…who needs crackers?!?
Taos Cooking Studio – Chef Chris Maher never lets us down! Last year we handmade pizzas in his custom pizza hearth and stirred up some yummy Thai dishes that made us want to fly away to Thailand. This year we prepared a Shrimp and Lobster pasta that knocked our socks off accompanied with steamed mussels, blackened green chilies and a host of local wines. Where else in the world are you invited into the home of a movie star and a James Beard recognized chef to cook and dine side-by-side? From the moment you walk in the door you’re like family, and once the first bottle of wine is uncorked the fun begins! This is the best food experience to be had in Taos and maybe in all of the southwest.
Taos Mesa Brewery – The Big Brown Beer is a limited release and EXTREMELY tasty (and high in alcohol)…I forgot what Nikki ordered but it was tasty too and we were happy. The menu was very interesting with tons of vegetarian options; we ordered the Tofu Larb Gai and the special Veggie Melt. The food was tasty and the service was great. Sad we weren’t there during the warmer months as the outdoor patio looks like the place to be for a day of hanging out and watching the sunset!
Wired? Café – Best WiFi in town, hands down. Skip the drip coffee and go for an Americano, a latte, or have them brew up some loose leaf tea. The people that work here are crazy friendly, even after they close the doors for business they most always let us stay on the internet while they cleaned up giving us an extra hour of online time. They also serve sandwiches and salads that are pretty darn tasty. They do ask you to purchase something every hour or to donate cash for the WiFi use, but they’re not too crazy about the policy, they just don’t want you to take up space for paying customers. Tip: If you’re clumsy don’t sit by the little stream that runs through the covered deck area, and if you need peace and quiet there is a “quiet” room.
Cid’s Food Market – a small town version of Whole Foods, maybe the best small town natural grocery store we’ve visited over the past few years of travel. Prices are on par with what one would expect from any natural grocer. Nice staff and a good selection of local food and beverages.
Manby Hot Spring – A beautiful hike down the gorge leads to a tiny natural hot spring along the Rio Grande River. The trail is well maintained and is a moderately strenuous 400ft elevation change, which can be tricky if you’re not used to the ‘high’ altitude. Bring a swimsuit, or don’t, and relax in the ‘healing’ waters. If you have kids make sure you prepare them for the potential nudity, we saw 2 old dudes bathing in their birthday suits but fortunately there’s a second pool. Best part is: the entire experience is free. (the springs are also called “Stagecoach Hot Springs”)
Pilar BLM Campground – This is the first campground inside the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument (from highway NM68). $15 per night, 50 amp power, freshwater connection, pay showers nearby, flush toilets and beautiful views…what more can you ask for (well…maybe a dump station nearby since we have unlimited water!). Cell phone service and internet is almost non-existent, but with our Wilson Booster we were able to get 3 bars for calls but not enough for data. The nearby Rio Bravo campground is directly on the River and has RV hook-ups as well, but there are only a handful of sites with hook-ups, and every other primitive campground was closed for the winter season. As with most public land there is a 14 day stay limit.
Taos Ski Valley – We didn’t hit the mountain this year but we have many times in past years. It’s a great local mountain with a TON of advanced runs. Typically the powder on this mountain rivals famed locations from both Colorado and Utah. A couple years back we did a scavenger hunt on the mountain with New Belgium Brewing if you want to check it out: https://www.gonewiththewynns.com/taos-new-belgium
Gruet – Possibly one of the best drinks to come from NM is the Gruet bubbly. Sure it’s made near Albuquerque but it’s cheaper in NM than other states so pick up a bottle in Taos and celebrate anything! Yum.
Friday Morning Weather Man
We don’t watch much television but with no wifi at our campground and crazy weather day to day, we found ourselves tuning in each morning and Fridays are a real treat. So, if you are in NM on a Friday morning, tune into channel 4 for the weather man and his tiny dog.
Check out our where the wynn’s blow map for locations and links to all of the above locations.
It’s not exactly fair to judge a place based on one experience, so please, by all means, if you’re interested in visiting these places please do and let us know we’re crazy for putting it in the ‘misses’ side of Taos. These are the places we walked away from thinking “it wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be”, doesn’t mean they are bad places, that’s why we’re calling it a ‘miss’:
Byzantium – We were told this is the “best restaurant in Toas” by several locals. We pulled up and were instantly in love with the building inside and out! The owner was our server and he brought out some of the yummiest bread and house made jam along with a complimentary cocktail in a beautiful ceramic cup (they only sell wine and beer, so the cocktail was on the house). What a great start…but the appetizers and entrées we ordered weren’t nearly as spectacular. We dined with 4 other friends and the general consensus was “Good Quality of Food, nice presentation but the flavors were lacking so we didn’t get that ‘wow’ factor”. Nikki and I dropped a little over $100 for a meal that in our opinion should have cost more like $50.
El Gamal – Ranked highly online we expected to taste some very yummy ethnic food. We were underwhelmed with the food and felt the prices were high for what seemed like side dishes and not entrées. We came for lunch around 1pm so we could miss the crowds and use their WiFi, but their internet was so slow we couldn’t get the backend of our website to load. Oh well.
Eske’s Brew Pub – This place has loads of vegetarian options. The pretzel was great, amazing even, probably the best pretzel we’ve ever had! We also ordered a green chili soup that was decent, but not even close to as good as the pretzel. We tasted 3 different beers and all were fine, but none really hit the sweet spot on our palate. WiFi was pretty slow, but at least it worked unlike many other locations.
Taos Ale House – Internet was supposed to be good, but according to the bartender it only works some of the time (it did not work for us). The atmosphere was cool the beer was pretty good, but most were heavy on the hops for our tastes…granted the bartender said their brew master is a total ‘hop-head’. This is a great spot to sit to and have a beer in winter thanks to the fancy fireplace and cozy setting.
Wired? Café – I mentioned it as a hit above, but there was also a miss: We were told the Glutien Free cakes were made locally and were better than normal cakes, “so good you’ll never know the difference”…a bold statement to tell a bonafide cake lover…we were disappointed. Also the drip coffee they use from Santa Fe wasn’t our taste; on the other hand the espresso is spot on.
Taos Public Library – Free WiFi is great but there’s a ton of distractions in this library. It seemed there was always a character walking around, or a kid playing video games while chatting online. The WiFi is free but it’s intermittently fast, so we found ourselves wasting time with loading pages depending on the number of people logged in.
RV Campgrounds – Many RV parks are closed during the colder months and the few we drove by that were open are basically parking lots…and for 40+ bucks per night they can go you-know-what! We’re so happy to pay a fraction of the price to be out in the “wild” of the BLM; even if it means we’re 18 miles from downtown Taos.
Visitors Center and CVB – We try to call or stop by the visitors center to get help in figuring out where to spend our time in a town. This is always a hit or miss. Our first call seemed promising and they were supposed to help us plan our 10 days but they failed in a MAJOR way, and ended up being a total waste of our time. So Nikki and I regrouped and figured it all out our own, which is ok because I think our visit came out even better!
My parents moved to Taos about a decade ago, so we go to visit a couple times a year. Cooking classses with Chris Maher are a must in Taos! My favorite restaurants are 5 Star Burgers and Antonios. I’ve only been to Byzantium once, but loved everything I had. There are many great spas in Taos but it is well worth it to pay the extra for Monte Sagrado.
I’m retired and needing to come back to NM! How about renting a small place, apt to stay with small dog. I like plain living, walking and daytripping.
27 years in a row we have left the hell of the Dallas summer for taos. Now we don’t rv but what we do is stay in one of the multi million dollar homes in arroyo seco for nothing in summer. Two years ago we were next to Julia Roberts and her family and they had us for lunch one day. She is very shy in person but taos is her heaven from what she calls her fake life. Last year we stayed at Hollywood directors house and good lord was it cool. They crazy cheap nightly in summer. We love the place. Now if we could figure out how to afford a 5 million dollar house we would be done with big d.
A must do in Taos is the Plaza, with so many great local shops!
Also check out the Pueblo! I’ve never actually been to the Pueblo but everyone says that it is a must do!
Taos is a special place. Beautiful mountains all around. Amazing hikes and drives. Great people and not crowded. Try out the organic farm to table restaurant, The Farmhouse Cafe! And also visit the Hanuman temple. Do a 4 hour work trade at Cerro-Vista farm and leave with a huge bag of organic veggies. Also, as obnoxious as the internet problem can be, it can kinda add to the charm. 😉
Would you be able to give directions to the Pilar BLM campground from Toas? We are headed that way I. A couple weeks and are having such a difficult time finding somewhere to camp!!!!
It’s been too long and my memory isn’t that great. It would be best to call the local BLM office for directions.
Lived in Taos for five years. If you want to know what it’s like to live, (or visit), there pay close attention to the “misses” section. It is extremely overhyped and pretty much everything never lives up to what it’s supposed to be. Also, without a doubt, the most boring place my wife and I have ever lived. Isolated, unhip and extremely behind the times.
I love Taos!!
Eske’s: just sold to Blair…and The Eske’s are still there helping out I think! Try the Fatty, sometimes there’s evening music and when Marshall was doing special’s on the weekend’s he brought some flair!
Taos Ski Valley sold to new owner: he’s doing a great improvements with the new chair lift extraordinaire and other runs as well!!! He’s a shining star in my eyes!!
Cafe 3 one 6 is cute and they are the owners of Orlando’s and you must go there- always a great place to eat Northern New Mexican Cuisine! From the locals.
Cid’s is awesome- Sol is great- a grocer and juice and food place in Arroyo Seco! Taos Raw is really trying to be awesome- there is another small organic grocer next to the north Taos Diner….very cool they are open on Sunday as Cid is not.
There are so many more great places to experience in and around Taos like doing the Enchanted Cirlce or going to Ojo Caliente Hot Springs Hotel and Resort.
Taos Pueblo is a World Wonder I think. It is only the longest lived in neighborhood in the United States and has one million visitors every year, so please go visit when you go back to Taos. The Christmas Eve Procession of the Virgin Mary is open to all visitors- an outdoor evening event with 25 foot bonfires and lovely people from all over to celebrate the season.
See you there.
Thanks for all the great tips there were a couple we haven’t done yet and will check them out on our next trip! There is so much to do we couldn’t fit it all in one video!
It’s too sad that 316 closed…
As stated before, give Eske’s another chance. I’ve been visiting this area since I was 10 years old, and I visited Eske’s the first year they were open (I’m 49 this year!) We typically go once a year, and in the last 25 years I think we have missed 3 years. Wanda’s green chili stew is fantastic, and you have to try one of the big burritos. I like the Fatty with turkey, but they make a vegetarian version also. I love to sit out on the patio and enjoy the quiet, and you can sometimes meet some interesting people there too. There has been many a time that Eske has come out, sat down, and just talked to pass the time, he’s a really nice guy. We usually stay in Red River at Red River RV Park (NOT River Ranch, do NOT stay there!), but we will make the ~45 minute drive to Taos JUST to go to Eske’s.
Vivac is by far the best winery in NM, by the way. We are pretty big wine snobs, in fact we just got back from our 2nd trip to Napa/Sonoma this year. Of course, Vivac wines are nothing like the wines of California, but they are making a good effort. When we decide we are going to make the drive from Red River to Taos, we usually go on ahead and go to Vivac first, then stop by Eske’s on the way back.
We go to Taos with our 2 kids at least twice a year, summer and winter. Our hits include KTAOS for live music, great beer, and an outdoor area that can’t be beat; Orlando’s for authentic NM cuisine; Taos Cow for brunch and ice cream (flavors like lavender and Mexican chocolate chip – so yummy!); The Gorge Bar & Grill for wifi, people watching over the plaza, and pretty good food for the price. All of the hits are family friendly, obviously. Also on the main drag near the plaza, Caffe Renato. Very relaxed, outdoor space, incredibly nice and helpful servers, and excellent food. There’s also outdoor seating in the back of the restaurant for more privacy. Thanks for your tips, we’ll check out some of them on our next visit!
Thanks for sharing Sharla!
If you ever get back – check out the Love Apple. It was amazing when we were there. Make sure to get a reservation.
Also – we love the margaritas at the Taos Inn Adobe Bar after a day on the slopes.
Lastly, we are wine junkies – check out La Chiripada winery too, it’s farther south of Taos but they have AWESOME wine in the a small family run establishment.
As a tried and true local be sure and visit surrounding communities of Penasco and Questa. Beautiful. Also stop at Fort Bergwin Research center for the archaeological digs. Pot creek as well. Plus Taos is sprinkled with fascinating Spanish traditions. Easter is “titulo” the main churches branch out to smaller Moradas that are one room “Capillas”. Plus in Spring you can get a sense of the acequia culture and farming in the area. Local water administrators allocate water portions to farmers based on how long the owner has owned the land AND the surface water rights. Finally, the Taos Fiestas in the summer are really fun.
Thanks for all the great recommendations Juan!
I know this is about Taos but don;t miss the Santa Fe Opera late June through August.
Oh yea, the opera house is a stunning building!
Hi guys! I work @ wired?- thanx for all the nice words! (And sorry the cake wasn’t your fave. Next time try the carrot cake 🙂 For the record even we’ve had some trouble with our internet connection recently. I think there is something going on with it in the whole area. Happy travels, see you next time!
Stella we must have visited Wired? five times during our stay, thanks for stopping by to say hi! and yes we will get the carrot cake next time it looked absolutely delish!
Thanks so much for this post about Taos! We were there last June and did a few of the things on your list. I have to disagree with you about the green chili stew at Eske’s Brew Pub. I thought it was excellent. Give it another chance! 🙂
A funny story about Manby Hot Spring — We met a local who told us about these great hot springs we had to visit but we somehow ended up at Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs. Definitely not free, but wonderful!
We did manage to stay in an earthship (The Phoenix), visit Taos Pueblo and the San Francisco de Asis Church, and drive the entire Enchanted Circle. All are highly recommended!
We’re headed back this summer and will check out the BLM campgrounds! Safe travels, all!
Hey Donna, we drove some of the Enchanted Circle, we just didn’t make the whole thing but what we saw was beautiful. The Pueblo, and church are on our list for next time. Did you happen to check out the campground at Ojo? We were curious if it was worth the $$.
The Ojo Caliente RV park/campground isn’t much to speak of — just a gravel parking lot and no true shade, although it is surrounded by trees. We travel in a VW Eurovan (not self-contained), so it wasn’t for us. But if I was in an RV and just needed elec/water, $20 per night would be worth it to take advantage of the hot springs, hiking trails, and fabulous restaurant/bar on site.
Whoa Donna, you were very busy during your stay! Thanks for sharing!
Best New Mexican food in town is at Orlandos – located just north of town center not too far from where you turn off to visit the Pueblo. The blue corn enchilladas are spectacular.
We had several mixed reviews about Orlando’s but we will hit it up next time!
We have eaten at Orlando’s in past years and to my recollection we had a lovely food experience…I remember sitting outside by the fire and sipping a beer while waiting for a table! Ahhh memories 🙂
Nikki and Jason, You guys hit a hot button of mine, that I hope will wake up several locals. Our lagging internet infrastructure. The trouble with the WiFi in many locations was more than likely not because of the ‘place’ or their systems. This is a problem with Taos as well as surrounding areas. The county did not support the installation of Fiber optic networks/ backbones. This has lead to a private enterprise having to foot the bill and attempt to install it on their own. Most places with WiFi only have a simple DSL speed connection of 1-3mb max and only .6mb upload speeds (even if the ISP’s claim more). There is no ISP competition leaving single monopolies in control. Many areas have no internet or cell service at all. I and several others who have come from locations that are ‘better connected’ are pushing for improvements. I hope you understand the situation and try not to hold it against the various locations too much. Many just have never seen what real connectivity looks like. Enjoyed your article.
Ron, through our travels we encounter lots of small towns with little to no connectivity. For us as travelers it’s a temporary nuisance (or blessing depending on your preferences) but i’m sure as a local it can become very frustrating. It really wasn’t too big of a deal for us and we found the free internet at Wired to be pretty consistently good (not blazing, but good).
It’s great that you visited all the local breweries as well as Vivác, but you missed La Chiripada Winery and Black Mesa Winery – both of which have tasting rooms in Taos within an easy walk of the plaza. Their wines are serious wines and mostly dry (it’s an outdated stereotype that most NM wines are sweet). Black Mesa’s wines, in particular, win medals in competitions all over the United States. (Full disclosure: I co-manage Black Mesa’s Taos tasting room.)
Hey Laurie, we didn’t spend much time in town this visit as we were trying to explore the surrounding treasures. Our next trip down, we will have to stop by Black Mesa and say hello.
Thanks! My friends Chris & Valerie Maher had a great time with you guys, and I hope you’ll come back to Taos soon. Cheers!
We loved having you all at Cooking Studio Taos! What a great review of the town and things to do. Someone mentioned Sushi a la Hattori, and you are correct – it’s great! We eat there when we eat out (chef husband makes dining out not as wonderful as you’d hope 😉 Cheers, Valerie
Haha, I’m sure it’s difficult to have Chris keep his opinions to himself when something isn’t up to snuff!
Nikki and I can’t wait to come back and cook with you guys again.
Great timing! We’re headed up to Taos in a few weeks and will be sure to check out the hits on your list. I’m especially excited for the hot springs!!!! Thanks for putting this list together.
Enjoy!!!! If you can make a res at Taos Cooking Studio, it is a truly unique experience.
Did you guys do the Enchanted Circle while you were there?
We did not attempt the Enchanted Circle, we have done much of it in the past but this time we were on a schedule to get to Austin for the SXSW music festival.
We’ve somehow given NM short shrift over the years, but we’re planning to correct that next year. Thanks for the excellent (as always) tips. We’ll be sure to add Taos to our must-do list.
OMG, you guys will love it. Especially if you can be there during fall/spring when its not too busy.
Fabulous roundup of the area. You hit many things we didn’t in that town. A few “hits” we enjoyed not on your list:
– Wild River BLM north of town. Another excellent spot to camp ontop of the rim. Some of the best views around
– Sushi a la Hattatori. I know, I know…a Japanese restaurant in the desert? But it’s good and in a super cute location with views and a sculpture garden. Plus it’s got outdoor dog-friendly seating 🙂
Hey Nina! We will have to try out the Wild River BLM and the sushi next time! Seafood in the desert is always risky, glad you were brave and tested it out for us!
Keep these coming!!!!
Awesome! Your dinner with Chef Chris Maher was definitely the highlight.
Thank you so much!
I hope to visit Taos in the near future, and your H&M list is a hit for me!
As always, loving your reports from the road,
Elizabeth in ND
Thanks Elizabeth! If you do make it and find any Hits we missed, let us know!