TAOS, NEW MEXICO’S ARTS AND SKIING MECCA, represents different things to different people. It all depends how you look at it: in a gallery, from the top of a mountain or back in time. The history here gives Plymouth Rock a run for its money. The Taos Valley was settled by the Spanish in the 1600s, and the historic plaza has been the centerpiece of town since the late 1700s.
Most of the top meeting and event venues are within walking distance of the plaza. The spaces here tend to be best for smaller numbers, and Taos’ location—far from the interstate and major airports— adds to that dynamic.
It’s difficult to ignore the intersection of history and art. The Taos Society of Artists sparked the town’s legendary arts scene in the early 20th century, luring Georgia O’Keeffe in 1929. Mabel Dodge Luhan was the patron of local artists who hosted O’Keeffe, D.H. Lawrence and other artists and writers at her old 12-acre compound a few blocks northeast of the plaza, but a world away.
Now a lodging property and event venue, Mabel Dodge Luhan House and Conference Center can handle a maximum of 40 people in its classroom and has a breakout room and a log cabin for smaller sessions; the minimum group size is 12. Rates are per person per day for conferences, and includes lodging as well as breakfast and lunch; on-site dinners also can be arranged. Forty is the maximum number of people that can stay on the property at once in rooms and cottages.
Faith Welsh, fiber artist and instructor, co-hosted an October 2014 fiber art workshop at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House that had about 20 students. “The venue is fantastic,” she says. “It’s quiet and out of the way, so people can really concentrate. It’s really conducive to creative stuff.”
The house is hidden in plain sight, just a short walk through a park to the must-visit Historic Taos Inn, with a bustling watering hole and live music every night, and another block to the plaza and surrounding historic district.
On the chic side, another top Taos meeting venue is The Kessler Collection’s El Monte Sagrado Living Resort and Spa. The 2,400-square-foot Rio Grande Ballroom is the largest space, and there is more than 3,500 square feet in four smaller rooms. Lodging comes in the form of 84 rooms, suites and casitas, and there’s a top-rated restaurant with a wine cave, a slick lounge and a garden atrium.
Ken Walters, president and CEO of Evolve Federal Credit Union in El Paso, Texas, organized a strategic planning session with 13 people at the resort in 2014. He gives the rooms, service, food and spa all high marks. “They helped me set everything up,” says Walters. “It was really pretty easy.” The simple planning segued into a stress-free meeting, he adds. “It’s very relaxing. It makes [the property] conducive to a lot of good conversations. There’s a lot of good energy flowing.”
Three miles south of the plaza, Sagebrush Inn and Suites has the elbow room for larger meetings and events, with 156 units and 13,000 square feet of event space, including a 9,000-square-foot ballroom that divides into two identical 4,500-square-foot rooms.
The largest stand-alone event venue without lodging, Taos Convention Center became part of University of New Mexico in late 2013. Now known as Coronado Hall, there is a meeting space that holds up to 75 people seated theater-style and two smaller breakout rooms.
Palacio de Marquesa, formerly Casa de las Chimeneas, was acquired by Heritage Hotels and Resorts, remodeled and relaunched last April. There is no formal meeting space other than the community and dining rooms but the eight-room bed-and-breakfast offers high-end lodging for small groups that are meeting elsewhere or enjoying incentive trips. All guest rooms have wood-burning fireplaces, and cooking and art classes can be scheduled.
Ski Runs & Art Museums
Nearly 20 miles east and a half-mile above town, Taos Ski Valley is a can’t-miss local attraction. Centered on Kachina Peak, the largest ski resort in New Mexico has a number of lodgings that can handle small events for groups looking to mix work and play.
The longtime snowboarding ban was dropped seven years ago, and experts no longer need to hike to ski the double-black runs off Kachina Peak. A new lift started running to the top of the mountain during the 2014-15 season.
Of course, Taos is known for the arts at least as much as it is the skiing. Beyond the Mabel Dodge Luhan House, meeting planners can tap into that legacy at a pair of museums in town: Millicent Rogers Museum and Harwood Museum of Art.
Millicent Rogers Museum, located on the north end of Taos, showcases the jewelry collection of its namesake, whose family founded the museum, alongside Hispanic and Native American blankets, baskets and pottery. It can accommodate 250 for a reception throughout the museum or seat 75 in its largest gallery.
In the historic district, Harwood Museum of Art features a wide range of media and styles in its permanent collection and temporary exhibitions. The auditorium seats 125 people, and the museum as a whole can host events of up to 500 attendees.
Just north of town near Rio Grande Gorge, Taos Mesa Brewing opened in 2012 and quickly became a favorite of the locals, pouring pints of handcrafted beer and dishing up a regional take on pub grub.
The brewery served as the backdrop for more than 30 benefits in its first two years, and it’s easy to see why. The main building is a 6,000-square-foot Quonset hut with contemporary design and an all-glass east wall with a knockout view of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The brewery can accommodate 500 people standing or 250 seated for events indoors, and the venue also has an outdoor amphitheater that can handle 2,000 people.
Susan Dilger has coordinated several events with the Taos Entrepreneurial Network at the brewery. “It’s a super cool place,” she says. “It’s beautiful and it has beautiful views.”
While the beer gets people raving about Taos, arts aficionados, powder hounds and history buffs are all sure to be enthralled by the treasures of this quirky little town at the foot of the Sangre de Cristos.