A winter’s day in Taos offers high-speed thrills in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, snow-dusted strolls through the art-laden historic district and the unique opportunity to enjoy Taos during one of its most beautiful and authentic times of the year. But when the sun sets on the peaks and mesas, Taos’ many distinctive bars, restaurants and music venues come alive, offering warm places to experience a vibrant local nightlife with a lot to offer.
There are many spots to seek out, but here are some standouts that are sure to deliver a good time.
The Historic Taos Inn
You might make your first stop at what has long been known as “the living room of Taos.” The Historic Taos Inn has been an iconic Southwestern landmark for more than 100 years and is a destination where creativity is inspired. A beautiful lobby interior welcomes guests to the warmth of a roaring fire and the mellifluous sounds of live music every day of the year. The Taos Inn is located in the center of town, northeast of Taos Plaza on Paseo del Pueblo Norte — you can’t miss the neon thunderbird sign out front. Happy Hour is Monday through Friday, 4-6 p.m. taosinn.com
The Alley Cantina
If you’re looking to keep the party going late, chances are you’ll wind up here. The Alley Cantina is tucked down an old lane in the northwest corner of Taos Plaza. If you can’t find it, ask any local and they’ll tell you where to go and probably join you for a drink. Another option is to just listen closely for where all the loud music and excited yelping is coming from after 10 o’clock each night. You’ll know where to go, and when you get there, a bevy of local dishes will be available for late-night snacking. A local band will always be onstage to serenade you as you scarf down some delicious chile rellenos or fish n’ chips. All drinks are half-off from 5-7 p.m. alleycantina.com
Taos Mesa Brewing
Since its opening in 2012, Taos Mesa Brewing has expanded into many facets of the entertainment business, and has found success in just about every single one. Music and dance performances have been emphasized since the beginning. This place was designed — from the ground up — to be a music venue. With three professionally designed stages — two outdoor and one indoor — the venue regularly plays host to Grammy Award-winning artists. Throw in a 12-tap, home-crafted beer rotation, great food and 360-degree views of the mesa and mountains, and you have a winning combination that no visitor should miss. Head out on U.S. Highway 64 west toward the Río Grande Gorge. You’ll see TMB on the right side of the road. taosmesabrewing.com
KTAOS Solar Center
A variety of musical performances will be held at the sustainably powered KTAOS this winter. Show up Monday night starting at 7 p.m. for the “Off-the-Cuff” live concert series that features local favorite Jimmy Stadler — alongside a different musical compadre every week — playing tributes to songs by artists such as Tom Petty, Stevie Wonder and John Lennon. Every Wednesday night at 6 p.m., KTAOS hosts local favorite fun band Big Swing Theory. KTAOS is a great place for sports fans as well as every NFL game this season is shown with Happy Hour in the KTAOS restaurant and bar. Besides live music, the Solar Center is host of Art n’ a Glass every Thursday, 6 to 8 p.m. — a night of painting in a social setting. No experience required. Learn the fundamentals of painting with a special guest teacher. Admission of $20 includes all materials. Check the calendar at ktao.com for more information and events.
Old Martina’s Hall
Local three-piece band The Rifters play acoustic dance-oriented Americana music every Friday night from 7 to 10 p.m., in the Dance Hall. This longstanding, landmark restaurant and dance venue is right across the road from the historic San Francisco de Asís Church in Ranchos de Taos on State Road 68, just south of Taos proper. Chef John Lamendola’s kitchen offers New Mexican and American-style cuisine. For an updated list of events, visit oldmartinashall.com.
— John Miller
Scott Gerdes contributed to this article.