Taos, New Mexico
A rolling mesa at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Taos has a magical quality. Its rugged beauty, majestic mountains, wild Rio Grande river and unique blend of cultures – Spanish, Native American and Anglo – have historically drawn artists and photographers, evidenced by the plentiful galleries, museums and festivals. To experience the Native American culture here, explore Taos Pueblo, where the Tiwa Native Americans have practiced their traditions for centuries. Finally, the Anglo influence is prevalent in the business district, with its shops, art galleries and some of the finest restaurants in New Mexico. Skiing is also a major draw, but the challenging slopes are geared to the more advanced crowd. There’s no rat race here; a fair share of non-mainstreamers have made this laid-back, low-key mecca their home. You, too, may not want to leave its tranquility and natural beauty.
A pretty drive back to Santa Fe would be the high road, which has been mentioned dozens of times here on the NM forum. It goes through some small villages in the Sangre de Cristo range, and it is windy, but no serious drop-offs or other obstacles. I highly recommend it for your return. Stop at Rancho Chimayo for lunch, then back to Santa Fe, and return via 285 and I-40.