#TravelTuesday: Connecting Solo in Taos, New Mexico

by Haven Lindsey on October 8, 2019 in Travels,
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For a solo traveler, Taos will welcome you – and your dog!

Northern New Mexico has been referred to as God’s Country. Even those born and raised in Texas hold the serene, sacred space in high regard. There’s a lot to love about the high desert region surrounded by mountains, sacred Native American energy, and Taos – a town small enough to be charming yet big enough to offer something for everyone.

For a solo traveler, Taos is a worthy destination. Solo travel, the art of traveling somewhere alone (and in some cases with a pet), is the fastest-growing segment of the global travel industry. Pinterest recently reported a 600% increase in the search for ‘solo traveler.’

Perfect for solo travelers, and their four-legged companions, Taos is a welcoming, relaxed destination. And the annual Big Barn Dance is about as down-home as you’ll find – adults, kids, and puppies enjoy the camaraderie of good music and good times. Cowboy boots aren’t required, but always welcome. Photo Haven Lindsey

The solo segment’s growth is due to a combination of factors: technology has expanded our resources making it easier to travel alone, there are more single adults than ever, and both young (millennials) and older generations (retirees and baby-boomers) are motivated to stop dreaming and inspired to start doing. The rising confidence of women to live and travel on their own is also a contributing factor. The draw of solo travel is the ability to be as autonomous, or as social, as you want. Solo travelers across the globe agree that the ease of making connections is one of their favorite aspects of traveling alone.

At the Inn on La Loma Plaza, the adobe hacienda has been immaculately maintained and owned by Peggy and Jerry Davis since 1992. Each room has its own distinct ambiance, some with kitchenettes, and most with wood-burning kiva fireplaces. Photo Elias Butler

Anyone considering a solo travel experience with a pet will find a wealth of welcoming establishments in Taos. A frequent comment from a “solo” is wanting to feel comfortable and at home in their accommodations – when a pet has joined the party, sometimes that can be a challenge. Not so in Taos. There are many pet-friendly options and leading the way is the Inn on La Loma Plaza, a charming, adobe-style hacienda with meandering walkways and lush gardens. This historic landmark welcomes pets and the owners have two resident springer spaniels, Lacey and Winston, on duty to welcome their furry comrades. The beautiful grounds are encompassed by trees that practically hug the property – listed on the National Historic Registry.

Most shops in Taos are locally-owned and the pet-friendly vibe is strong. Time and again, store owners stepped out onto the plaza or street to welcome visitors with their dogs – many places had water dishes by the door. In one instance, two museum employees offered to watch my dog and encouraged me to enjoy the local artwork. I obliged, and found on my return to the reception area, it was my dog Gracie who had commanded the attention of employees and visitors alike.

People and pets are welcome to visit and take a tour at the Taos Pueblo and learn about the sovereign nation of the Red Willow People. Approximately 20-35 individuals and families live at the Pueblo, which has been continuously inhabited for more than 1,000 years. Courtesy photo

No stay in Taos is complete without a visit to the Taos Pueblo. It is a destination unlike any other and one of the few living Native American communities open to the public. Much like describing music to someone who has never heard a note, until you walk the grounds and absorb the centuries of history, you cannot truly appreciate the sacred space. The core sections of the buildings were likely constructed between 1000 and 1450 AD, and are considered to be the oldest continuously inhabited community in the nation.

Dining alone can initially be the most intimidating part of solo travel. Having a pet can help a new solo feel more comfortable but most solo travelers quickly discover that a meal “je suis seul” (French for “I am alone”), eaten at one’s own pace, is its own pleasant discovery. It is easy to find pet-friendly restaurants in Taos and the standouts include the Historic Inn at Taos where you can enjoy a meal or margarita (or both) on the patio. Bella’s welcomes people and pets to their inviting patio area. The family-owned restaurant, named after their baby girl, serves up homemade Mexican food and some of the best elote (aka Mexican street corn) you’ll find anywhere. If you enjoy the serenity of the mountains and an amazing selection of wines, you’ll want to check out Common Fire located on the edge of town in the village of El Prado. Their outdoor seating has arguably the best view in town.

A pet-friendly Latin-French jewel of a restaurant unassumingly sits on the Taos main thoroughfare. Open for breakfast and lunch, Gutiz serves homemade French bread and the Pollo Borachon (Drunken Chicken) is a local favorite. Photo Geraint Smith

If you are a music fan, there is no easier way to make connections than by stopping by the Big Barn Dance. Michael Hearne’s three-day music festival, held in early September, is well into its second decade. The popular festival sells a limited number of tickets and attracts folks of every age and distinction who enjoy music, dancing, and the spirit of community.

It’s called the Big Barn Dance for a reason – the large seating area is cleared out for the final evening to make room for everyone to dance. Photo Town of Taos Tourism Department

As any solo traveler will tell you, connecting with others is at first unexpected, yet a benefit that soon becomes the impetus to travel solo again and again. The beauty of solo travel, which is no longer a hidden secret, is that the art of making connections is up to the solo. It is easy to branch off, to hike, shop, or get lost in a book or a farmer’s market at your own pace, yet when the solo traveler wants to connect and meet others – it is easy to do so, especially in places like Taos.

Solos have figured out they can have the best of both worlds: autonomy and connection and Taos will welcome whichever traveler you want to be.

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Cover: For 17 years, Michael Hearne’s Big Barn Dance has welcomed singer-songwriters and their fans to Taos. Beat Root Revival, an increasingly popular duo now based in Austin, TX, wowed the crowd at the 2019 music festival. Photo Dave Hensley

Haven Lindsey resides in Austin, Texas. She is a freelance writer with more than 20 years of experience writing on topics including healthcare, addiction, public policy, education, travel, food and human interest stories. This article is the second installment of an ongoing solo travel series exclusive to Texas Lifestyle Magazine.