taosAlso, you will want to kidnap a Lama!

Less than twelve hours after arriving in Taos, I am waltzing in the lobby of the Taos Inn. “We have danced here,” says Nancy Stapp, local radio host and Tao’s celeb, as she leads me across the wood floor. “We have a long winter. So we have to have dancing.”

Locals affectionately call this bar (located in the lobby of the Taos in)“The Living Room of Taos” because there’s live music every night and it’s nearly always packed.

When we finish our dance and turn to leave the “dance floor,” a man greets Nancy with a smile. “Jenny, I want you to meet someone,” she says. “This is John Nichols.” Yes, the author of the Milagro Beanfield War.

He’s there just like the rest of the locals in the packed room to enjoy the sounds of Mark Dudrow and Chipper Thompson playing folk ‘n’ roll and Irish ballads. The sounds fill the Inn and the lobby’s nickname makes perfect sense.

There really is something special about Taos. A buzz. Or, as some call it, a hum. I ask a local about the Taos hum. “It could be the lesbians,” Stacy at the front desk jokes. I think might have something to do with the smells. The air in Taos is always full of the most delicious smells.

“The smell of rain on sage and pinion smoke and your lover and roasting chilies. Smells like ambrosia and people buy them by the sack. Chile roasting season, that smell is pretty close to heaven. Those are my favorite smells,” Nancy says looking as if she can smell and taste them as we speak.

Or perhaps it’s the weather. The way the sun can be upon you and then, suddenly, you can actually see the rain approaching. “Everyone gets a little electric because of the coming rain. This rain walks in and you can see it walking across the Mesa and walking across the sage and walking across the mountains. And the sound is like the ocean to me,” Nancy explains.

I spent a whirlwind five days in Taos. I meandered the Mabel Dodge Luhan house, Georgia O’Keefe’s old stopping grounds, walking the labyrinth and imagining how much writing a girl like me could get done there. I toured Taos Pueblo and marvelled at the dedication paid to the preservation of this inspiring culture.

I tried not to be too jealous at the Millicent Rogers Museum as I admired her copious collections. I saw so much art and beauty at the Blumenschein Home and Museum and the Harwood Museum that I thought I might never leave. I fell in love with the shops and galleries along Kit Carson Road, especially the heart-stopping photography of Lenny Foster.

I plotted to kidnap a llama named K2 who trekked with me tirelessly. My heart stopped when I dined at Old Martina’s Hall on the terrace with Nancy where there is a perfect view of the San Francisco de Asis Church that Georgia O’Keefe so brilliantly painted. And I soaked in the waters and muds of Ojo Caliente, where I swear I could disappear to and live forever.

Most importantly, I asked Nancy what should not be missed on a visit to Taos.

So, here it is The five things a lesbian visiting Taos must do.


1. Dive into some incredible culture at the Taos Pueblo.

Taos Pueblo is the only living Native American community designated both a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and a National Historic Landmark. The multi-storied adobe buildings have been continuously inhabited for over 1000 years.  It’s worth paying a small fee for a private tour.  Sit on the banks of the Rio Pueblo and share some freshly baked fry bread.

2. Get moving.

If you’re in shape, hike New Mexico’s highest peak Wheeler Peak.  The best time of year is late August or early September.  You’ll feel quite butch when you reach the top and make sure to pack a delicious lunch.  It’s well worth carrying a small thermos of good coffee or hot chocolate.  It’s always cold at the top but you WILL see God! There are hundreds of hikes for all levels of walkers or hikers.

Stop by the Taos Visitors Center for maps and all kinds of interesting information.  Ski or board the sun on some of the lightest freshies on the planet at the Taos Ski Valley. Get on a bike. Take a river trip or just stroll on any trail.  The sunrises and sunsets will knock you out.  Enjoy a cup of coffee and watch the sky turn to sherbet.  Whatever you do… Get outside!  It’s a must.

3. Experience Christmas Eve at Taos Pueblo.

You won’t want to miss the huge bonfires, a tribute to the Sacred Mother combined with indigenous traditions, including firing shotguns and dancing that dates back to the Moors.  Dress warmly and take in the Pinon smoke, soft faces, hypnotic drums, and song.

The Buffalo Dance on Christmas Morning is the most primal, otherworldly thing I’ve ever experienced. If this doesn’t change your life, you should head to Santa Fe and buy a ceramic howling coyote.  And also check out Pow Wow and San Geronimo Day with the surreal pole climb.  You just have to come and see what I mean.

4. Learn to Two-Step New Mexico style, which is slow, slow, quick, quick slow, not the other way around like in Texas.

No offence, pardner. Get your cowgirl on and hold a sweet girl close… wait, where was I.  Yeah, it’s that good. Taos is very open to girls dancing with girls.  You’ll feel right at home whether you’re boot scooting at Old Martinez Hall in Ranchos de Taos or at the Taos Mesa Brewery or any of our other great music venues.  Taos has more artists and musicians per square inch than any place I know of in the world!  And the Barn Dance is a must.  Three days of dancing under the clear skies to some of the Americans and Country Bands in the country, always the weekend after Labor Day.  If you don’t know how to dance, ask someone.  This is a very friendly place.

5. Hit the museums.

Take a walking tour downtown and don’t miss the Agnes Martin exhibit at the Harwood Museum.  There’s more to Taos than the Plaza. Get over to Le Doux Street and Kit Carson Road. Go to St. Francis Church even if you’re not Catholic. The architecture is sublime. Go into the galleries and meet the artists.  Drop a little cash and support one of the real deal art communities.

And for sure have some traditional Northern New Mexico Chili.  Orlando’s does it hot and authentic. Order Christmas style which is red and green chilli together, and you’ll sound like a real Taoseno.  For a more upscale culinary experience, Old Martina’s Hall and Lamberts are great picks.  Taos Inn rocks on the blue-crusted chilerelleno. Just eat here.  It’s all great.  Anything with green chilli!  For the great view and best margarita, try Sabroso’s in Arroyo Seco. Talk to people, take your time, and enjoy the clean sparkling rivers and pristine wilderness.  You just might find you’ve come home.

Nancy’s biggest piece of advice is harder to follow. But awfully tempting after even just a few days there. Move. “It’s something. I love this place. I honestly feel sorry for people who don’t feel this way about a place. Move. If you can. Move.”


For more events, visit taos.org.  And it’s not too late to catch Taos Pride August 14- 16. You can go to taospride.org for more information.