One of the great things about my son’s 7th grade curriculum is that there are assignments which require the students to go out and explore their community. One such assignment is Quest New Mexico. This is a history assignment in which students must journey with their families to a significant historical site in New Mexico and then provide an oral presentation to the class summarizing what they learned. We did this same exercise with our daughter when she was in 7th grade visiting the Coronado State Monument in Bernalillo and the Petroglyph National Monument here in Albuquerque.
Since it was a long weekend, we decided on the Kit Carson Home & Museum in Taos. Even though Taos is a 2 ½ hour drive north, we didn’t mind because it’s such a beautiful drive up. The highway follows the Rio Grande River and goes through farming communities like Velarde surrounded by picturesque landforms, and before reaching Taos, one encounters the beginning of the Rio Grand Gorge (aka the Box, where river enthusiasts go for whitewater rafting).
Kit Carson’s home is located on Kit Carson Road just east of the center of town. It’s a very simple and unassuming building nestled between art galleries. There’s a nice courtyard with the museum/home on the left and a store on the right. The museum itself is small with 5 rooms. In one room, we watched a History Channel video on the early life of Kit Carson and looked at an exact replica of Kit Carson’s famous Hawken rifle. It was very interesting to learn about Carson’s 3 wives and many children. The Carson family lived in this Taos home for over 20 years during the very important career years of Kit’s life when he was involved with the Mexican-American War, the Navajo Campaign, and Civil War. I didn’t know that Kit Carson was a Mason and that the Masons had a large role in preserving and restoring the home making it the oldest museum in Taos.
We decided to complete the journey by visiting Kit Carson’s grave site. It’s located about 2/10 of a mile east, a short walk from the home and museum, in the Kit Carson Memorial State Park. Here in the small but intimate cemetery, many other famous New Mexicans are buried alongside Carson and his 3rd wife, Josefa.
It was a hot afternoon, so before heading on, we decided to stop and cool off at Caffe Tazza near the state park. This cozy café serves ice cream and light fare in addition to hot and cold beverages. The walls are decorated with colorful crazy dreamlike (some were more nightmarish) paintings. My husband and I ordered blackberry and chocolate chocolate chip ice cream scoops and coffee. The ice cream was very good and at the time we did not know the ice cream was from the famous Taos Cow (which would explain why it was so good). My son was hungry so he went for the grilled swiss and ham sandwich. This is a good place to stop for a quick bite without venturing into the busier section of town.
Thanks to 7th grade history curriculum, we had an enjoyable visit to Taos. Learning about New Mexican history can be a fun family activity! Don’t wait for a school assignment, I encourage you to take your family to one of the many historical sites located in and around your community!
- It took us about an hour or so to visit the Kit Carson Home & Museum.
- There’s a free parking lot about 2/10 of mile east of the museum on the south side of Kit Carson Road.
- Caffe Tazza does not take credit cards.
- Between Santa Fe and Taos, you can stop off at Pilar for a good view of the Rio Grande; it’s also a rafting entry point.
- Velarde and other small farming communities along the highway had fruits stands where many travelers stopped to buy fruits and chile ristras.
- The New Mexico Wine Trail is also on this route between Santa Fe and Taos.
- While you are in Taos, don’t forget to visit the famous St. Francis de Asis Church made famous by Georgia O’Keefe.
Date visited: September 2, 2012