The vintage neon thunderbird sign—taos inn, rooms, dining, cocktails, curios—is a welcoming beacon for a weary traveler. So, too, is the inn’s festive street façade, decked out in holiday finery. Once a cluster of adobe houses, this historic treasure now offers 44 recently upgraded guest rooms and a lively bar and restaurant, within walking distance of the town plaza. The Inn’s unpretentious atmosphere allows guests to enjoy a taste of the laid-back Taoseño lifestyle.
Seventy-five years ago, Helen Martin opened what was she called Hotel Martin. She designed the common areas to be vibrant art and music venues where locals and lodgers could relax and socialize. The front door opens into a spacious light-filled room, once an open-air courtyard, which is now the hotel lobby and lounge. Comfortable sofas, café tables, a fountain, colored glass cupola, and kiva fireplace add to the welcoming ambiance.
Each December the hotel sparkles with a live 30-foot Christmas tree with 10,000 lights erected in the hotel lobby, and illuminated after the town’s Lighting of Ledoux Street celebration. Locals refer to this communal space as “the living room of Taos,” as it has a long history as a gathering place for area artists as well as visiting notables. Early regulars included founding Taos Society of Artists members such as Bert Phillips, Ernest Blumenschein, E. Irving Couse, and Joseph Henry Sharp, with visits from Greta Garbo, D.H. Lawrence, and Wild West showman Pawnee Bill. More recent sightings here include Robert Redford and Jessica Lange.
My favorite guestroom (room 121) is tucked away on a balcony overlooking the lounge, with a window facing the street below. The room is decorated with antiques, including a writing desk and chair, and features a quaint alcove with built-in banco. More remote rooms are available in separate buildings for lodgers seeking quieter accommodations.
The Inn’s Adobe Bar provides live music seven nights a week, a happy hour menu Monday through Friday, and signature “cowboy Buddha” margaritas made with hand-squeezed lime juice. At Doc Martin’s Restaurant, Executive Chef Zippy White uses fresh local produce and food sources to create award-winning dishes, from an extensive light-fare menu to entrées with Southwestern flair, while Pastry Chef Gayle Glanz whips up a tantalizing array of desserts, including a truly decadent New Mexico Chocolate Crème Brûlée. Doc Martin’s world-class wine list has earned one of Wine Spectator Magazine’s Awards of Excellence for 22 years running.
As part of the 75th-anniversary celebration, Doc Martin’s Restaurant offers free dinner to anyone celebrating a 75th birthday, and the Inn is running a special: three nights for the price of two on all rooms through April.
From $75. 125 Paseo del Norte; (888) 518-8267; www.taosinn.com