Traveling with children can be challenging.
Especially if your destination is somewhere you’ve never been, so I thought a few easy suggestions might be in order; things to do with the children that won’t exhaust you! After all, presumably, you are on vacation!
Time passes slower in Taos, and it’s not just your imagination. The locals operate on what is known as “Taos Time,” meaning that no one’s in a hurry to get anywhere. The Big Sky and horizon for miles further adds to the vibe that you have arrived somewhere “faraway from the everyday.” The lazy pace of Taos is an invitation to slow down and allow yourself to relax. This somewhat sleepy little town, is just a two-hour drive from Santa Fe, so if your plan is to visit the City Different, I’d encourage you to add Taos to your itinerary.
Whether you’re on a road trip or flying in, Taos has plenty to offer a family traveling together, including breathtaking scenery in every direction, seasonal festivals and much, much more, here are five places you won’t want to miss while visiting the area this time of year, with children.
The Red Willow People have lived in the region for more than 1,000 years, and Taos Pueblo is the oldest extant dwelling, continuously occupied in North America. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, visitors of all ages can tour the historic Pueblo, which is located at the base of Taos Mountain, deemed sacred by the Tribe. Children under 10 are admitted free, and the Pueblo is open to visitors seven days a week, unless there are Tribal “doings” or “Quiet Time” is underway. A tour of the Pueblo is an opportunity for visiting families to learn all about the ancient adobe structures, as well as experiencing the traditional culture of the Red Willow People, who have tenaciously held on to their ancient ways through Conquest, conversion and colonization. They have led historical uprisings and have had lands returned to them by the Federal Government in an unprecedented manner. In 2020 the Tribe celebrates 50 years since President Richard Nixon gave back the area surrounding, and including, Blue Lake. Several annual events are held at Taos Pueblo, including the Bonfires on Christmas Eve. Check their site linked below for more information.
Rio Grande Gorge Bridge,
A rest area may seem like an unlikely site for hiking and checking out awesome panoramic views, but this Taos County rest area delivers. From downtown Taos, head north on Paseo del Pueblo (the town’s main drag) and turn left on Highway 64. Less than 10 minutes later, you’ll reach the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge and its attached rest area. Built in 1965, the massive bridge spans 1,280 feet and is the fifth highest bridge in the U.S. There is a hiking trail next to the rest area where Big Horned Sheep can often be sighted roaming the cliffs, along with several viewing platforms on the bridge itself. Local vendors flank both sides of the “Gorge Bridge,” as it’s known in these parts, selling locally made items, including dried chiles, sage smudge sticks and the like. Pick up one of each to take home with you; The ristras are made from chile peppers that are dried in the sun and can be ground to be used as a spicy seasoning, or simply hang it in your kitchen – or outside your front door as locals do – as a decorative reminder of your visit. The smudge stick will keep the unique scent of Taos with you as you travel home.
Taos Ski Valley.
Taos is nestled in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristos, which happen to be home to a world-class ski resort. Taos Ski Valley opened in 1955, founded by Ernie Blake and run by his family until it was sold to conservationist, philanthropist and hedge fund Manager Louis Bacon. Boasting more than 1,200 skiable acres, TSV is now also home to the highest triple chairlift in North America. The Kachina lift has a peak elevation of 12,481 feet. If you’re visiting during the warmer months, the Village of Taos Ski Valley still has plenty to offer the road-tripping family. Mountain biking, hiking, and horseback riding are just some of the activities offered in the Village of TSV. But as we head into winter, the resort kicks into full gear. You’ll not want to miss some time on the “mountain”. Taos Air has service to here from Austin and Dallas all winter, making it super easy to get to TSV and the town of Taos itself! Check the sites below for details.
La Hacienda de los Martinez
One of the few remaining, northern New Mexico style, late Spanish Colonial “Great Houses” in the Southwest. Built in 1804, this fortress-like building with massive adobe walls became an important trade center for the northern boundary of the Spanish Empire, at the end of the Camino Real trade route. Severino Martinez and his wife Maria raised six children in the Hacienda. Their eldest son was the famous Padre Antonio Martinez whose ongoing debate with the French Bishop Lamy in Santa Fe was the subject for Willa Cather’s 1927 novel Death Comes for the Archbishop, which documents the attempts of a Catholic bishop and a local priest to establish a diocese in New Mexico Territory. Martinez’ attempts .to preserve the Hispanic character of the Catholic Church in the region, earned him a somewhat mixed reputation, but he was in fact a powerful social reformer who founded the first coeducational school in New Mexico and brought the first printing press to Taos. Today the Hacienda’s twenty-one rooms surrounding two courtyards provide visitors with a glimpse of the rugged frontier life and times of the early 1800s, during the days when the West was still wild. The step back in time will delight the kids and give you plenty to discuss for the rest of your trip! Information about ongoing events, including demonstrations of the traditional arts and crafts of the region, can be found by visiting their site linked below.
Located on Teresina Lane, an alley just off historic Taos Plaza, Twirl is housed in a century plus adobe building in the heart of historical downtown Taos. Both Dennis Hopper and Agnes Martin were one time occupants of the space which was first renovated by Hopper’s brother David and Chuck Banner during the early 80’s. Following renovations added to the this unique property including a fish pond, wishing well, secret dragon staircase and Ali Baba fireplace. Still, Twirl is much more than the magical toy store it appears to be upon entering. This beloved local non-profit that does so much work in our community schools, is also a play and discovery space that serves as a gathering place for families who live here as well as those visiting. There is a beautiful well stocked playroom upstairs where music and dance classes, field trips and craft activities take place, and kids of all ages can get creative, while the outside boasts two enclosed courtyards with a myriad of play facilities. Twirl will give new meaning to the Land of Enchantment for your kids, who can let their imaginations run wild, while burning off tons of energy, ensuring you’ll have a relaxing evening before hitting the road in the morning!
For more on Twirl, please visit their site below.
For more on Taos and how to plan your trip, please visit Taos.org linked below
All images stock files except Twirl by Bill Curry