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New Mexico: Taos defies type-casting

Photo by Gak Stonn

Don’t let Taos’ official year of incorporation — 1934 — fool you. Home to the Native Americans of the Taos Pueblo for 1,000 years and colonized by the Spanish in the 1500s, Taos has been a community far longer.

Its past is still apparent. The Taos Pueblo, a World Heritage Site, is still inhabited and is a sight few visitors want to miss. Downtown still spins around a central plaza where cattle were once corralled. Historic buildings, some of adobe, others of Spanish architecture, are repurposed. Among them is a complex of buildings and courtyards that is the Taos Convention Center.

If a historic building is “not a restaurant, it is an art gallery or a little boutique,” said Jeanne Kitzman, sales and marketing manager for the Taos Convention Center.

Taos has many identities — arts community, ski destination and outdoor mecca among them — and that makes it a choice for meetings of many descriptions.

For example, each winter, the Keystone Symposia schedules one of its conferences there so attendees can ski.

“Taos Ski Valley is the second most vertical on the continent,” said Kitzman. There’s also snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling.

Its artsy and New Age aspect makes Taos of interest to arts-related organizations, the World Peace Conference, religious groups, even an organization that focuses on labyrinths.

Other organizations, like Rotary International and the New Mexico Municipal League, appreciate the town’s diverse hotel product, a result of an economy fueled by tourism.

Board meetings and high-end groups might opt for El Monte Segrado, a AAA Four-Diamond property built five years ago about a mile from the convention center. The 84-room hotel is known for its Four Diamond restaurant, De La Tierra, and an art collection that makes the hotel feel like a minimuseum. Part of the Kessler Collection, the hotel has 7,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 2,400-square-foot ballroom that opens into a foyer and a terrace.

The largest ballroom in town is at the Sagebrush Inn and Conference Center about four miles south of downtown; the Best Western Kachina Lodge with its 118 rooms is near the convention center and is often the lodging choice for groups meeting there. When large groups arrive in town, a complimentary shuttle is typically offered to transport attendees to the convention center, Kitzman said.

The optimum time for meetings is January through Memorial Day, before summer tourists arrive and before annual juried art shows and crafts exhibits fill the convention center from mid-September to mid-November.

Although part of the convention center was built by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), it and the rest of the buildings in the complex have had their share of upgrades. The convention center complex can handle teleconferences and webinars and has a seamless wireless Internet system throughout. It recently began offering carbon offsets to meeting groups.

With 100 art galleries, three art museums and the Taos Pueblo, there’s no lack of things to discover. And dining is equally rich. “We have a lot of four-star restaurants — way more than you would think for our 6,000-person population,” said Kitzman.


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